With the start of the new year and the thoughts of the money you'll spend making it memorable, you may find yourself thinking of ways to earn extra cash or income. Possibly another part time job, perhaps a freelancing stunt. You might even be thinking about renting your home out on a short-term basis using Airbnb, especially if you'll be away for the holidays. That seems like an easy way to get quick cash without really doing so much work, especially with the rising popularity of holiday rentals.
However, it is essential to note the risks involved in renting out your home to a total stranger. Even though Airbnb has a solid system for screening would-be guests and requires Airbnbers to abide by a standard set of rules, unforeseen risks may still arise.
So how do you do business through Airbnb, make cool cash, and mitigate some of these risks? Here are five tips for protecting yourself as an Airbnb host.
Guard your mail
If your mail were to fall into the wrong hands, you could fall prey to identity theft. The contents of your letters and correspondence contain a lot of sensitive information about you: your financial details, your full name, and the services you subscribe to, to name a few. If this information were to fall into the wrong hands, you would be in trouble!
Take extra care to ensure that your mail is protected while you are away. If your mailbox locks, then you're safe. Just lock it up and either take the key with you or stow it somewhere safe. However, if your mailbox doesn't lock, you may want to get a PO box. Your mail will be safer there. On the other hand, if you have neighbours who are trustworthy, you can get them to promise to collect your daily mail, though this tactic is not foolproof as they may forget on some days.
All in all, choose a scenario that works best for you. Worst case scenario, you can stop your mail from the post office altogether and pick it up when you return from your vacation.
It may seem like a lot of work, but it's better to be safe than sorry. And what's more, you have peace of mind wherever you are knowing that your personal details are not being poached by someone else.
Get a safe box and insurance
Though Airbnb has an insurance system that covers certain types of damage, they don't protect debit or credit cards, cheques or financial papers, jewellery, etc. Get a safe deposit box to store all your important papers, birth certificates, passports, and any other items that would be very difficult to replace.
The safe deposit box could be at home or at your bank, though I would advise you to get one at your bank. Just walk in and request a safe deposit box. It might cost you some money, but your security and peace of mind are priceless.
Also make sure you have your own insurance even after getting a safe box. Don't rely on Airbnb's insurance alone. Speak to your insurance agent and find out what your existing policy coverage is and what amendments you can make to suit your renting endeavours.
Protect yourself from hacking and malicious guests with a VPN router
Using an unsecured router will leave you vulnerable to cyber thieves and hackers, so it's best to protect yourself with a VPN router. VPNs are commonly used by people who want to ensure that their online activities cannot be traced, tracked, and ultimately hacked.
A router outfitted with a VPN will protect you as an Airbnb host. When guests connect to your home Wi-Fi, all of their browsing and online activity will run through the VPN. A VPN router gives all devices connected to the network a new, anonymized IP address, making it impossible to trace their online activity back to your home. A VPN router is essential because you never know if one of your guests may be engaged in illegal online activities, using your home network for their shady deals. The last thing you want when you come back from your holiday is a visit from the authorities--without a VPN, they could trace a malicious guest's internet activity back to your IP address and home, and you could be liable.
Screen guests by yourself and set an emergency plan
When someone requests to book your space, personally check them out before you decide to host them. You have the final say. Go through their profile and read their reviews if they have any. Search for them on social networks and browse through their accounts. It might amaze you how much you can learn from an individual through his or her social network platforms. And after doing all your reviewing, go with your instincts. If someone doesn't feel right, simply decline. Even if your insurance is 101%, don't take the chance.
You should also draw up a manual of in case of emergency. If there's a fire, it's important that your guests know where the fire extinguisher is. Make this piece of information very clear, conspicuous, and accessible on your home tab. This tab also includes important information like emergency numbers and emergency exit routes.
Get a security system
With a security system, you can monitor what goes on in your home. In addition, outfitting your home with a home security system may earn you more bookings as it provides your guests with an extra layer of security which may not be available in other rentals they are also considering.
Invest in a home security system that allows home automation. This would let you control your security system from the ease and comfort of your mobile devices, allowing you to turn off or on the lights, lock the doors, or control the heating.
However, before you install any security system, it's important that you're aware of the Airbnb security policies to avoid any legal implications. Avoid putting cameras in the guest rooms, but if you have off-limit areas, you could use monitors to track if a guest is intruding in your private spaces.
BONUS: Add a security deposit to your listing to help protect you in the event of any accident in the house or damages to your household appliances.