Airbnb Damage Policy: What to Do When a Guest Damages Your Property
As a short-term rental host, you probably put a lot of care and effort into managing your property. So finding out that a guest has damaged your rental or your belongings can be a harrowing experience – even if it was an accident. Repairs and damages can be costly and may even lead to loss of income if it takes time to get your rental up and running again.
It doesn’t help that there’s a lot of confusion around Airbnb’s damage policy. How does the company handle security deposits? How likely is it that hosts will be compensated for damages caused by Airbnb guests? And what happens if you didn’t ask for a deposit in the first place?
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about submitting a damage claim on Airbnb and the results you can expect. And we’ll also talk about how you can protect your rental with vacation rental insurance for owners.
Let’s get into it.
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What happens if a guest damages your Airbnb rental?
When you rent out your property on a short-term basis, you should expect some normal wear and tear. Small incidents – like guests breaking a couple of glasses or staining your towels with makeup – also tend to happen. While these things are annoying, they are a part of a property manager’s life.
The real problem arises when a guest causes serious damage to your rental. If something breaks and needs to be repaired or replaced, you may be looking at unexpected costs to your business.
Examples of serious damage could be:
A broken mirror or light fixture.
A dent in the wall or a hole in the flooring.
Carpets burned or stained beyond cleaning.
In such cases, you have two options to get reimbursed for the property damage, depending on whether you charged your guest a security deposit or not. If you did, you can make a request to collect your security deposit through Airbnb’s Resolution Center. If you didn’t, you can still request compensation from the guest and you may be eligible for reimbursement through Airbnb’s Host Guarantee.
Let’s break down these scenarios:
How do Airbnb security deposits work?
Hosts who charge a security deposit on Airbnb have a better chance at being compensated for damages than hosts who don’t.
There are two types of security deposits on Airbnb:
Airbnb-required security deposit: Airbnb sometimes requests that guests put down security deposits. This depends on the rental’s features and the timing of the reservation, not the information that Airbnb has on the guest. In this case, Airbnb determines the amount of the deposit.
Host-required security deposit: Hosts can also choose to ask guests to put down a security deposit. Security deposits provide additional security in the case of damages. However, they can put off some guests who perceive them as a sign of mistrust or extra charges. Hosts can set the amount of the security deposit, but it needs to be between $100 and $5,000 USD.
Airbnb handles security deposits differently depending on whether they were set by the host or by Airbnb.
In the case of Airbnb-required deposits, Airbnb places an authorization hold for the amount of the security deposit on the guest’s credit card two days before check-in. The guests won’t be charged, but they also won’t be able to access the held amount until it’s released. If no damage occurs, Airbnb will release the funds and guests will be able to access them again.
In the case of host-required deposits, on the other hand, Airbnb does not place an authorization hold on the guest’s credit card. Instead, guests will only be charged if something goes wrong during their stay and the host decides to collect on their security deposit.
How do I claim my damage deposit on Airbnb?
The Airbnb damage claim process works the same for both Airbnb-required and host-required deposits.
If you need to report an incident and claim some or all of your damage deposit, you can do so up to 14 days after the guest’s check-out or before the next guest checks in – whichever comes first.
Here are the steps to submitting a damage claim on Airbnb:
Log in to airbnb.com.
Go to ‘Resolution Center’.
Choose the booking that you’d like to collect your security deposit for.
Under ‘Select a reason’, click ‘Request compensation for damages’.
Click ‘Continue’. You’ll be taken to the next page where you can enter the details of the damages and the associated costs.
Before you go through this process, it’s important to take some preparational steps first.
Document all the details as soon as you notice the damage. Take photos (including close-ups) and videos of the damaged items or area. Take notes on exactly what happened, who noticed the damage (it could be you, your housekeeper, a friend you’ve tasked with taking care of turnovers), and when. You’ll need all this information when submitting your claim on Airbnb. The more detailed your assessment of the situation, the more likely it is you’ll get compensated.
Collect information on how much the repair or replacement will cost. Gather invoices, find links to replacement items that display the pricing, or request estimates from contractors. Airbnb will take these into account when determining if you’re eligible for reimbursement and how much.
Contact the guest and try to come to an agreement. Most renters will likely inform you if they accidentally cause damages to your property. However, some may try to get away with it. The best way to resolve the issue is to contact the guest through Airbnb (and not some other messaging platform, so you have proof of your conversation), and come to an agreement on how much money you’re going to be requesting from them.
Once this is done, you can go ahead and file your Airbnb damage claim. Your guest will have 72 hours to respond. If they accept it, Airbnb will release your payout in 5-7 business days. However, if your guest doesn’t accept or doesn’t respond, you’ll need to escalate the case by contacting Airbnb through the Resolution Center.
Handling Airbnb damages with no security deposit
If a guest damages your rental property or belongings but you didn’t charge a security deposit, you may still be eligible for reimbursement from Airbnb.
First, you need to try requesting compensation from the guest. The process is similar to the one described above: you can do it in the Resolution Center. If the guest agrees and sends the amount you requested, Airbnb will process the payment and send it to you.
However, if the guest refuses to pay the full amount, your next option is to request reimbursement under Airbnb’s Host Guarantee. Here are the steps to take:
- Follow the prompts in the Resolution Center to request reimbursement from Airbnb.
- Submit the Host Guarantee Payment Request Form, along with the evidence you’ve collected detailing the damage. You have 14 days to file a claim or before the check-in time for the next guest, whichever comes first. So if there is a checkout/check in the same day the claim must be filed before your listed check-in time that day. Claims must be filed before a new guest arrives, and that often means you only have a few hours to do it.
- A support specialist from Airbnb will contact you to help you resolve the issue.
Keep in mind that Airbnb’s Host Guarantee doesn’t cover everything – see the Host Guarantee Terms and Conditions. For example, it doesn’t cover any damages made by pets. So even though it’s a good option if you didn’t charge your guest a security deposit, there’s no guarantee that you will be reimbursed.
Some hosts have had good experiences with recovering costs from Airbnb, while others have struggled with trying to get compensated. It all depends on your unique situation – but be sure to manage your expectations.
What if your Airbnb guest refuses to pay damages?
As we mentioned above, if your guest refuses to compensate you for the damages they caused, you need to involve Airbnb.
If you asked for a security deposit, Airbnb can chase it up with the guest. On the other hand, if you didn’t ask for a security deposit, all that’s left is to see whether you’re eligible for Airbnb’s Host Guarantee.
In either case, you may or may not receive the amount you requested. It hinges on the completeness of the documentation you provide and the decisions that Airbnb makes.
3 ways to protect your Airbnb property against damages
1. Airbnb security deposit
The best and most simple way to protect your property against damage is to charge a security deposit. Airbnb hosts usually ask for a security deposit on top of Airbnb’s Host Guarantee as an additional layer of security.
If a guest knows that they could lose their security deposit if they damage your rental, they may be more inclined to take good care of it. Plus, if something does go wrong, you’re more likely to be compensated than without a damage deposit.
2. Vacation rental insurance
Another way to make sure that your property is protected is to take out vacation rental insurance. In fact, you should think of insurance as an absolute must instead of a nice-to-have.
Taking out insurance serves to fill in the gaps where the Airbnb Host Guarantee and Host Protection Insurance (an optional policy that provides liability coverage for things like bodily injury sustained in your rental) won’t protect you.
Depending on the insurance policy you choose, you’ll be protected against damages to your property that are not caused by guests (like a pipe bursting and flooding your rental) and loss of income – neither of which are covered by Airbnb’s policies.
It’s not easy to find insurance companies that provide coverage for short-term rentals. A standard landlord or homeowners insurance policy just won’t cut it.
You should absolutely opt for a provider that specializes in vacation rental insurance. To start, check out Slice, InsurStays, and Velocity Risk Underwriters and see if they are available in your area.
3. Guest verification
Seeking compensation is one way to account for damages. But you can also put preventative measures in place so you never have to deal with damages at all.
Guest verification is a good way to make sure that you’re only hosting guests who are likely to take good care of your property. As of right now, Airbnb does not vet every single guest on the Airbnb platform. They may ask guests to verify their identities, but this isn’t a part of the registration process.
To prevent unauthorized parties, Airbnb has introduced a protocol in the US that aims to identify and ban guests who are more likely to engage in such activities. This helps to prevent damages and protect neighborhoods and communities.
However, if you want to make sure that all your guests are who they say they are, and they’re not underage or assuming a false identity, you can choose to only accept guests who are verified on Airbnb. If you do this, Airbnb will ask your guests to confirm their identity by providing their legal name and address or uploading a photo of a government ID.
Airbnb damage policy: The bottom line
Damages to your Airbnb rental are a pain to deal with, whether or not you had a security deposit.
If you want to spare yourself the headaches and the potential repair or replacement costs, consider taking out vacation rental insurance and vetting your guests by requiring Airbnb guests to be verified before booking. If you do that, you won’t have to rely on security deposits or Airbnb’s Host Guarantee to compensate you for your losses.
And while it won’t protect you against accidental damages, being an attentive host and staying in touch with your guests throughout their stay helps to ensure they take good care of your rental.
Message automation tools like Host Tools make it easy to check in with your guest regularly and make them feel like they’re staying with someone who’s always ready to offer advice and wants them to enjoy their stay.
Don’t let your guests feel like they’re staying with a stranger. Offer personalized attention and hopefully, in return, your guests will take better care of your property.
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