Airbnb Rentals – Tips for Evaluating Hosts and Host Contracts

by: R. Kurtz "Kurt" Holloway

For those unfamiliar with  Airbnb, it provides an online service that connects Hosts who have accommodations to rent with Guests seeking to rent. It provides an alternative to booking a hotel room when traveling. Hosts are often individuals and the accommodations can range from a mansion to a room in a house or apartment.  Airbnb is not an owner or operator of properties.  In order to access certain features of the Airbnb website and its tools, and to book an accommodation or create a rental listing, you must register to create an account and become a member. And, in order to do that you must agree to its Terms of Service. This is the contract you are signing with Airbnb.

Once you register as a member and choose an accommodation you must sign a separate contract with the Host. At that time you will pay fees to Airbnb for the use of its service of providing you with its listing of accommodations, reviews, verified identity of parties and some help with resolving any dispute you might have with your Host. The rent you pay for the accommodation is in addition to the Airbnb fees.

It is important that you try to understand the Airbnb contract (Terms of Service) and the Host contract. This article will explain how to evaluate the Host, his contract with three tips to follow to have a good experience with the accommodations you rent. There are other articles posted on our website explaining the Airbnb Terms of Service. To read about obtaining a refund through Airbnb see my article Airbnb Terms of Service: What Renters Should Know.

There are a number of reviews, both positive and negative, about Guest’s experiences renting through Airbnb. Some of the worst stories are of Guests who had their bookings cancelled by Hosts just days or hours before arrival , leaving the Guest scrambling for a substitute place to stay. Very often Guests in this situation settled for much less satisfactory accommodations or spent a good deal more money. Others found dirty or unsafe accommodations waiting for them when they arrived. Airbnb offers help but few reviewers felt its help was enough.

The contract you sign with the host is a rental agreement.  Follow these three tips to evaluate the Host’s contract and the Host to help assure that you have of a positive experience.

1. Understand the contract terms. Carefully read the terms of the rental agreement. If you do not understand it, ask someone knowledgeable for help. Look at the property pictures and description carefully. If you see an amenity in a picture that is not listed in the description ask the Host about the discrepancy. Read all rules that the Host establishes for the property to be sure you can follow them. A property with a number of rules can signify a Host that takes care of his property and is considerate to his neighbors. These are qualities to look for. Make sure you understand the Host's cancellation policy before signing his contract.

2. Learn as much as you can about the Host. A contract is only as strong as the integrity of the other party and his ability to provide what he promises. Look at the profiles and reviews of potential Hosts both on the Airbnb site and on other independent websites before you book. Airbnb recommends that you check for Airbnb verified phone numbers, connected social networks, and references. You can ask a Host to complete an Airbnb profile verification before booking. Look for a Host who already has a strong reputation on Airbnb. 

3.  Try to establish a good relationship with the Host before you arrive. A Host is less likely to cancel at the last minute or deliver a dirty accommodation if he has gotten to know and like the Guest. Start a friendly conversation with the Host about your expectations and plans. If you have specific needs or have chosen a particular accommodation because of some amenity or feature, talk to the Host about it to be sure it is there and in working order. Discuss house rules and assure him you will comply. Talk about the neighborhood and ask for tips about dining, shopping and emergency medical care.

 All contracts have risks that the other party will not perform his part. If you do your homework  and follow through you will give yourself the best chance for a good experience.

This article contains general advice and information. It is not intended as specific legal advice. 

Kurt Holloway

About the author
Kurt Holloway

R. Kurtz “Kurt" Holloway was admitted to practice in 1977 in Pennsylvania and later in the Eastern District Federal Court of Pennsylvania. Mr. Holloway’s areas of concentration are Estate Planning, Estate Administration, Elder and Disability Planning, Real Estate Law, Zoning and Land Development, Business Law and Municipal Law.

Read Kurt Holloway's full bio