It took a bucket load of bad publicity and at least one trashed property, but Airbnb has finally launched its owner insurance scheme.
Central to the scheme is a $50,000 reimbursement to a property owner as a result of theft or vandalism by a guest who booked the accommodation through Airbnb.
The guarantee (as Airbnb calls it) is currently available only to property owners in the US, Canada, Australia, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, with a promise that other countries will be added in due course.
Airbnb is also talking up a string of new tools on the main site clearly aimed at rebuilding some of the fast-disappearing confidence and reputation surrounding the brand.
The system now includes a 24-hour emergency hotline, redesigned profiles for owners, verification dashboard (carrying profiles of users and social connections), pre-arrival calling system.
Now while some will scoff at the idea that it took a serious incident (an owner had their apartment trashed and wrote a blog post about it) before Airbnb took action, introduction of the guarantee scheme and a string of new tools coming on board so quickly illustrates how quickly Airbnb has had to grow up.
Cynics will also note that such swift action came rather coincidentally as the company was busily trousering $112 million worth of capital from a string of luminaries in the investment community.
Nevertheless, action is action and Airbnb will have gone some way to addressing the mounting concerns of recent weeks.
Perhaps one good move on the PR front is the appointment of ex-White House chief information officer Theresa Payton (of Command Consulting Group) to review the company’s security measures.
In terms of guarantee, clearly the devil with be in the detail. What happens when claims for wrecked apartments start flooding in (maybe Airbnb guests aren’t so cool after all), for example? What will be the oversight process?
The small print on the guarantee scheme says an owner can only be reimbursed for up to $50,000 in a calendar year, so multiple claims for the full or high price are just not going to happen, regardless of how often a property is damaged.
There is also the small matter of guarantees for guests – what happens, for example, if a guest is injured as a result of faulty equipment in a property (electrocution, falling fixtures or fittings, etc)?
At this stage Airbnb says it will only guarantee for the host. An official adds:
“However, guests can rest assured that our new 24 hour help line is available anytime at +1-855-424-7262. We know how important it is to talk to an actual person in an emergency, so when you need us, weâ€™ll be here to help.”