Assessing Risk in Peer to Peer Renting

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Peer-to-Peer Renting: Safety Risk Factors

Five safety risk factors that influence customers using peer-to-peer rental booking sites include neighborhood safety, risk of physical harm, the safety of personal belongings, safety accommodation for guests with special needs, and risk of disease or injury.

Neighborhood Safety

Risk of Physical Harm

  • While Airbnb encourages hosts to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, the company does not confirm the presence of these devices.
  • Limited academic literature exists on the prevalence of sexual assault and other forms of violence in Airbnb stays, but many stories have come out in the media of guests encountering physical harm at the hands of their hosts, even those who were verified by Airbnb's system.
  • Surveyed Airbnb guests generally viewed cases of physical harm as isolated incidents.
  • However, many female guests seek female hosts and attribute the preference to wanting to avoid the risk of sexual harassment or violence.

Safety of Personal Belongings

  • Many guests in Airbnbs seek lodging in which they have their own key to their room and are able to lock up their personal belongings.
  • Airbnb users report frequently carrying money and valuables on their person to avoid the security risk of leaving them in the Airbnb, especially if the lodging has multiple guests at a time.
  • The possible lack of smoke detectors could also represent a risk factor for the safety of personal belongings.

Safety Accommodation for Guests with Special Needs

  • Not all Airbnb hosts may have their lodging equipped for travelers with children, pet allergies, or mental or physical disabilities, which can be a major risk factor.
  • Travelers with children expressed concerns especially when the Airbnb had multiple guests at the same time.

Risk of Disease or Injury

  • In a survey of Airbnb guests, several expressed concerns over catching a disease from the host or other guests.
  • One study reports that only 36% of Airbnbs report having first aid kits, and the actual numbers could be much lower.
  • This risk influences the way that customers use their lodging; for example, one guest reported that she would not shower if the bathroom of an Airbnb appeared unsanitary.

Additional Sources

  • This study reviews complaints against Airbnb to provide insight into guests' perceptions.
  • This study compares customer perceptions of hotel and peer-to-peer rental booking options to determine the advantages and risks presented with each, and their influence on customer decision-making.

Research Strategy

The majority of the information that our research team uncovered came from one study that reviewed safety risk factors for Airbnb guests and hosts. Our research team did not find any relevant academic literature about other peer-to-peer rental booking options like VRBO, Homestay, or others. Because many academic articles are only available to those with a paid subscription, it is possible that more detailed information on safety risk factors exists besides that which is included in this brief.
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