Visitors planning a vacation face a modern dilemma: splurge in a traditional hotel or perhaps save a few bucks and rent someone's home on Airbnb?
NEW YORK is deeply divided over Airbnb rentals, and by now you've probably heard the horror stories about Airbnb, the tech start-up that connects travelers with complete strangers who make extra money by renting out their homes. Many guests complained about the hosts canceling the reservation at the last minute. Some even say the hosts falsely accused them of property damage and demanded compensation. And in rare cases, poorly maintained property has led to physical altercations.
But despite everything, Airbnb is proving to be an irresistible hotel alternative for travelers. Two million people worldwide stay in Airbnb accommodation every night, according to the San Francisco-based company. The benefits are tempting: Aside from the savings, some apartments are more spacious or in a better location than a hotel. But those benefits come with greater risk : you're at the mercy of a host with less at stake than a commercial venture.
Here's my advice for a smooth stay in an Airbnb apartment, including some tips.
LEGAL SITUATION IN NEW YORK
New York State passed some of the strictest restrictions on short-term rentals in the country in October 2016. In most parts of New York City, it is now illegal to advertise or rent an entire apartment on a platform like Airbnb for less than 30 days unless the host is "present," meaning living in the apartment. However, you, the tenant, do not have to fear any legal consequences, apart from the risk of being thrown out of the apartment by the inspectors.
READ ENTRIES CAREFULLY
This may sound obvious, but follow me: Read - don't skim - an Airbnb listing. Airbnb hosts and their homes vary greatly in quality, and you can learn a lot just by reading the listing and their reviews. "Prewar Building" a building built before the war is always bad news, poor water pressure, unregulated radiators, cockroaches etc. Apartments in New York are generally in poor condition, similar to the streets, unless they are new buildings. Don't automatically assume that an Airbnb listing will have all the amenities of a hotel because it's someone's house. Many hosts will be transparent in their listing and mention a lack of air conditioning or an elevator. Other hosts say they have strict house rules - for example, no loud parties after 10 p.m. Sometimes the hosts will say that the nightlife on the street outside their house is loud. If you google the neighborhood of the apartment, I would advise against apartments in the Bronx, anything in Brooklyn near Prospect Park, Spanish Harlem (East Harlem), Green Point and Rego Park area.
Hosts also have flaws, so read guest reviews to learn about them. Maybe the sheets were dirty or the apartment was missing toilet paper. Be careful of the reviews, some are “fake news” and written by the landlord himself.
A big compromise with an Airbnb apartment is that there are no security guards or hotel managers to help if something goes wrong.
It's up to you to protect yourself. For starters, try keeping all of your conversations in the Airbnb messaging app. This is a helpful protection in case something goes wrong. For example, if a host said on the messaging app that the house is handicapped accessible, but you find it isn't, send a photo to the host to complain. Likewise, if something appears to be broken, such as the dishwasher, you should document the damage with a photo so that you are not held responsible for it later. If you cannot reach an agreement with the host, ask Airbnb staff to mediate - and all of your communication with the host will be visible to Airbnb.
Airbnb has some other recommendations that sound a little excessive to me, such as: "Do a security check after entering the house and make sure there is a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher. If anything seems strange, contact the host and, if necessary, call Airbnb customer service."
To be extra safe, always have an emergency plan. Note a few attractive hotels near your reservation in case your Airbnb stay falls through. Hosts may cancel reservations for various reasons. I had a reservation canceled once in the winter when a frozen pipe burst and flooded the house. We are on site every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to help you personally.