In recent years, websites such as Airbnb have surged in popularity and are proving a true competitor to the hospitality industry as a whole. But while Airbnb is known for its cheap deals, what exactly are you paying for? Particularly when compared to a professional hotel rooms, Airbnb’s security for its guests and hosts relies heavily on trust. This is part of what creates the cheaper price. In this article, courtesy of Breamish Valley who provide cottages in Northumberland, we will explore exactly what you are paying for between an Airbnb booking and traditional hotel booking, highlighting security features and experiences.

The basics — Airbnb

First, let’s look at Airbnb’s list of basic requirements for a host. Note that these requirements are ‘asked’ of a host. This will give you an idea of the basic level you can expect when booking a room through Airbnb. This absolute minimum a guest should expect from their host is:

  • Essentials should be provided to the guest by the host. ‘Essentials’ are defined as: toilet paper, soap, linens, and at least one towel and pillow per booked guest.
  • Booking enquiries and reservation requests should be responded to within 24 hours.
  • Reservation requests should be accepted whenever available.
  • Avoid cancelling a guest’s booking.
  • Maintaining a high overall rating.

The basics — direct booking with hotels

We can compare these basic requirements to the minimum requirements of a hotel in order to gain the lowest AA star rating (one star):

  • Five bedrooms minimum.
  • All bedrooms must have en suite or private facilities.
  • Guests must have access to the hotel at all times once checked in. Staff must be, at least, on call all day and night for the guests. Staff should be available during the day and evening to provide information, light refreshments, and hot drinks.
  • Must have a dining room, restaurant, or eating area serving a cooked breakfast all week.
  • Must have a dining room, restaurant, or eating area serving evening meals at least five days a week.
  • A bar or area with a Liquor Licence
  • Open seven days a week during operating season
  • A clear reception area
  • Meet all statutory obligations and provide Public Liability insurance cover

It’s clear then that an Airbnb host would not meet the requirement of a one-star hotel. In fact, most of the requirements for a host allow for some wiggle room — the host is only required to ‘avoid’ cancellation, meaning there really is no protection for a guest in the event they do cancel suddenly.

Protection for guests — hotels and accommodation

Let’s look as well at the basic liability requirements of a hotel or guesthouse outlined by the Hotel Proprietors Act 1956. In particular, this covers what happens if a guest’s property is lost or damaged during their stay:

‘The proprietor of a hotel shall, as an innkeeper, be under the like liability, if any, to make good to any guest of his any damage to property brought to the hotel as he would be under to make good the loss thereof.’

Essentially, if the guest’s property is entrusted to the hotel, the hotel may be liable for any damage.

‘Without prejudice to any other liability incurred by him with respect to any property brought to the hotel, the proprietor of a hotel shall not be liable as an innkeeper to make good to any traveller any loss of or damage to such property except where a) at the time of the loss or damage sleeping accommodation at the hotel had been engaged for the traveller; and b) the loss or damage occurred during the period commencing with the midnight immediately preceding, and ending with the midnight immediately following, a period for which the traveller was  guest at the hotel and entitled to use the accommodation so engaged.’

The hotel is not liable for damage or loss to a guest’s property unless the damage or loss occurred when the guest was sleeping at the property, or the time either side of that (from midnight the previous day to midnight the following day) where the guest was still checked-in to use the hotel’s facilities beyond sleeping.

‘…the proprietor of a hotel shall not as an innkeeper be liable to make good to any guest of his any loss of or damage to, or have any lien on, any vehicle or any property left therein, or any horse or other live animal or its harness or other equipment.’

The hotel isn’t liable for any damage or loss of a guest’s vehicle or live animals, including the equipment on a live animal.

Now, for where the hotel would be liable for damage or loss, there’s a few more laws and regulations:

‘…his liability to any one guest shall not exceed fifty pounds in respect to any one article, or one hundred pounds in aggregate, except where: a) the property was stolen, lost or damaged through the default, neglect or wilful act of the proprietor or some servant of his;…’

The hotel only has to pay £50 maximum to the guest for one lost or damaged item, or £100 in total, unless the property was stolen, lost, or damaged directly by the hotel owner or hotel workers.

‘…or b) The property was deposited by or on behalf of the guest expressly for safe custody with the proprietor or some servant of his authorised, or appearing to be authorised, for the purpose, and, if so required by the proprietor or that servant, in a container fastened or sealed by the depositor;…’

The maximum liability amount is also waived if the guest’s property was given to the hotel staff for safe keeping in a locked container (for example, valuables in a safe).

‘…or c) At a time after the guest had arrived at the hotel either the property in question was offered for deposit as aforesaid and the proprietor or his servant refused to receive it, or the guest or some other guest acting on his behalf wished so to offer the property in question, but through the default of the proprietor or a servant of his, was unable to do so.’

The hotel is also liable to pay out more to the guest if the goods lost or damaged were requested to be locked somewhere safe, and the hotel staff either refused to do so or did not have the facility to do so.

‘Provided that the proprietor shall not be entitled to the protection of this subsection unless, at the time when the property in question was brought to the hotel, a copy of the notice set out in the Schedule to this Act printed in plain type was conspicuously displayed in a place where it could conveniently be read by his guests at or near the reception office or desk or, where there is no reception office or desk, at or near the main entrance to the hotel.’

The hotel can, however, be liable only for the £50 charge if they have a clear notice from the Schedule of the Hotel Proprietors Act 1956 printed and clearly visible to the guests, except in the three scenarios outlined from a-c above.

Protection for guests – Airbnb

But what about if a guest has their items lost, stolen, or damaged while staying with an Airbnb host? Look online and you’ll find plenty of horror stories about Airbnb hosts being stolen from or having their property damaged. Hosts are covered by Airbnb’s Host Protection Insurance, although this doesn’t cover personal items.

But what if you’re a guest and you have your property stolen or damaged during your stay?

Well, there’s really nothing to cover you through Airbnb in this instance. Your booking, (if it is paid for through Airbnb) is protected, but your items aren’t. As Airbnb itself states, ‘There’s nearly 5 million listings in 191 countries to choose from […] What makes all of that possible? Trust.’

What you’re paying for

At the end of the day, you really do get what you pay for. An Airbnb booking may well be the cheaper option, and if you’re not fussy about having access to a private bathroom area or dining area, then it can be appealing. But it is vital to keep in mind that you’re not just paying a little more in direct booking for a plusher hotel experience — you’re also paying for safety and security. In this digital day and age, that is certainly something to keep in mind.