Why did the Airbnb host reject me? Hosts seek for travelers online

When a lady in her early twenties asked for Vicky Borman’s One bedroom listed cottage Something didn't feel right within the English village of St. Neots last summer.

The user had no reviews on her Airbnb profile, so Borman, the Superhost status on the platform, used social media to analyze.

There it was – an advert on the lady's Facebook profile for a celebration in St Neots. The intention was clear: the party was to happen at Borman's Cottage. She declined the request.

Half an hour later, Borman received one other booking request through Airbnb, this time from an older woman who was inquiring on behalf of her son. Borman had turn out to be suspicious and in addition checked her social media profiles. It occurred to her that the second requester's son was friends with the potential party host that Borman had previously rejected. She declined that booking as well.

That experience has made her more selective about who she lets stay on the cabin, Borman said. She said it's appropriate to ascertain potential guests' social media profiles if she's concerned their stay might cause problems.

Airbnb hosts research – and check, among other things, the social media profiles of travelers

“I know there are some Airbnb hosts who literally track every guest. I've wondered if I'm turning into some kind of super detective, but I'm definitely not that kind of person,” Borman said.

“If someone has good reviews, I feel like I don't have to do anything other than make sure they have a pleasant stay. But unfortunately, there have been at least three situations in the last few years where I've felt the need to check people's social media beforehand.”

Browsing social media

A Opinion poll A survey of 247 landlords from the UK, US, France, Germany and Canada conducted by home security company Minut shows that Borman's instincts were correct.

About 43% of property managers have experienced noise complaints of their rental properties, while 25% have had the police called to a property due to noise.

However, Borman is among the many 8% who said they give the impression of being at guests' social media profiles before accepting a booking. For Sebastien Long, CEO of the Texas-based company, that is a vital a part of the vetting process Renterthat gives short-term, fully furnished apartment rentals throughout Houston.

“When we have suspicions about someone, we comb through social media,” he said. “We check whether the story matches the information they give us as the reason for booking with us.”

Long said he also conducts a web based search of potential guests, searching for negative headlines and even arrests.

Credit card problems

Long said his company is taking these steps to handle one among its biggest problems: the misuse of stolen bank cards.

“Many people stay for a few days and then leave before the original cardholder has a chance to dispute the credit card transaction,” he said. “We pay particular attention to whether the person making the booking is using their own credit card.”

According to Long, Lodgeur's verification process resulted in about 2% of the nearly 1,200 bookings being blocked — a small but critical step in the corporate's commitment to detecting bank card fraud. The company's efforts have resulted in about 10 arrests amongst about 9,000 guests over the past five years.

“There's a trend of 'digital shoplifting,' where someone just spends a weekend at someone else's expense. Basically, it's petty criminals living large,” he said. “When this first happened in 2019, we were standing outside one of the properties waiting for the police. We saw them go in, arrest the guy and drag him out in his underwear.”

A 4.5 star rating isn’t enough

Airbnb Superhost Crystal Shell, who manages short-term rentals in Alabama through the management company Bailey Traildoesn’t check renters' social media profiles, she said. But she is strict and only accepts bookings from guests with five-star reviews on Airbnb or similar platforms.

Shell learned her lesson, she says, after initially accepting bookings from guests with 4- or 4.5-star reviews, but then finding that they weren't following checkout procedures, similar to stripping sheets and hanging them within the laundry room or leaving the property by 10 a.m. That's one reason she began her other business, Hello Guest Screen, which provides checkout and other relevant information on properties' television screens.

“The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If a guest breaks something or trashes your property, Airbnb takes forever to pay out insurance claims. Then if you have consecutive bookings, which is usually the case for me, you have to cancel another reservation because something needs to be fixed. That's why I write on my listings, 'Please don't try to book if you have less than five stars or zero reviews,'” Shell said.

An Airbnb spokesperson told CNBC Travel: “Stays rarely result in problems, but we offer free AirCover for hosts And for guestsand have 24/7 support and strict policies.”

AirCover offers hosts damage protection and reimbursements are made on average within two weeks or less, an Airbnb spokesperson said.

Airbnb also said that 0.03% of global bookings resulted in property damage of over $1,000, so hosts and guests are encouraged to communicate about their trip before confirming a booking.

Shell said she requires her guests to send a message before booking so she can confirm the type of stay – something she advises all hosts to do.

“People messaging before booking has saved us in most cases,” she said. “I turn down at least three requests a day because the response usually includes a desire to throw a party. That's also why we don't allow locals to stay with us.”

“Looked good on paper”

But for Borman, no amount of social media searching could have prevented the worst guest experience she's ever had, she says. She accepted a last-minute booking request from a man who said he wanted to eat out in the area with his wife and would rather stay at the cottage in St Neots than drive home.

The couple left that night after the man complained the mattress was broken and demanded a refund, she said. Borman said she immediately went to the cabin and found the bedsheets soiled with obvious signs of sexual activity — and a set of coasters missing. She sent photos to Airbnb, which denied the man's refund request and demanded that he reimburse Borman for the coasters and sheets.

Borman then looked him up online and found that he was a well-known and respected London businessman. The search also revealed that the woman was not his wife.

“If I had visited this man beforehand, I probably would have gone out and got him a bottle of champagne,” Borman said.

“He was also an Airbnb Superhost with a wonderful track record, so he looked great on paper. I didn't think I'd find yourself cleansing up after him with rubber gloves on.”

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