The personal touch of an Airbnb is what draws so many users to the popular rental service time and time again. Staying in someone’s home or hosting others in your own home is a relatively new concept, at least at the level of popularity that Airbnb has enjoyed over the past few years.
However, some people still feel a bit uncertain about spending so much time in the company of someone they’ve never met before. How can you possibly know about the person you’ll be staying with before you meet them? Is there any vetting process?
Does Airbnb Background Check Guests?
Airbnb does background check guests and hosts in the US that have submitted their ID for verification. Airbnb doesn’t go into specifics on what they look for and how thorough they are, but users can be banned for having certain criminal offenses. In some cases outside of the US, Airbnb conducts criminal record searches where permitted.
Still a bit confused? We’ll explain more below!
What Kind of Background Check Does Airbnb Do?
Airbnb conducts criminal background checks (mainly in the US) on both hosts and guests. This can only be done if a user submits their ID for verification. According to Airbnb’s website:
“If we have enough information (usually at least the user’s first and last name, plus date of birth) to identify a guest or host who lives in the United States, we check certain databases of public state and county criminal records, as well as state and national sex offender registries for criminal convictions and sex offender registrations. If we have enough information (usually at least the user’s first and last name plus date of birth) to identify a guest or host who lives outside the United States, we may, to the extent permitted by applicable laws and to the extent available, obtain the local version of background or registered sex offender checks.”
In other words, Airbnb is looking for serious criminal offenses, especially sexual offenses, when background checking its users. Your profile shouldn’t be affected if you ran a stop sign or forgot about a parking ticket, don’t worry! They also check the OFAC list which includes international drug traffickers and terrorist organizations, so even if a criminal is technically from outside of the US they could still be flagged by Airbnb.
It should be reiterated that Airbnb does not conduct full criminal background checks on each user, and their system is not a substitute for properly vetting your guest or host.
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Can Felons Rent on Airbnb?
Airbnb does go on to state that a person’s past actions should not necessarily disqualify them from ever renting or hosting an Airbnb. A felony conviction is not necessarily a reason to be kicked off of Airbnb, but there are certain crimes for which Airbnb does not make exceptions.
Very serious violent crimes can result in a long suspension from Airbnb or even permanent removal. These include things like murder, terror offenses, and sexual offenses. Less serious convictions (Airbnb mentions disorderly conduct or marijuana offenses) will not result in any action being taken against someone’s account.
If an account is flagged during a background check and referred for further review, sometimes bookings may be delayed. If this does happen, the guest in question is allowed to cancel the reservation with no penalty while the review takes place.
If someone’s account does get removed from Airbnb, there is an appeals process where every situation is considered on a case-by-case basis.
Can I Get Scammed Through Airbnb?
Unfortunately, Airbnb scams are as rampant as any other scam. While you’re much less likely to be scammed on Airbnb’s actual platform, there are tons of fake third party scammers ready to pounce on both vacationers and hosts.
There are a few common scams on Airbnb that you can avoid if you know what to look out for. Airbnb lists the following on their website:
- Advance fee scams: Someone asking you to pay for something outside of Airbnb’s payment platform. They will often offer something special in return. Paying for any part of a booking outside of Airbnb is a violation of their terms of service and can result in account suspension. A host should never ask for outside payment!
- Phishing scams: Fake emails sent from someone pretending to be from Airbnb. They will often ask for passwords or other personal information. Airbnb will never ask for these!
- Travel scams: ! deal that seems too good to be true almost always is! In these scams, people will offer potential guests a crazy good deal if they transfer money or send a deposit over. Again, this is not allowed.
- Overpayment scams: A guest will pay the host more than the listed rental price and then ask for cash to make up the difference. This is a type of money laundering, don’t fall for it!
- Third-party booking scams: Third party “booking services” will offer to pay for an Airbnb rental using a different website. They often claim to have a secret coupon or inside deal to save you money. These are not legitimate!
Unauthorized guests are another huge issue (not to mention liability) facing Airbnb hosts. While not as much of a “scam”, per se, unauthorized guests do end up costing hosts money and time that they aren’t fairly compensated for.
Rental Recon Tip: Keep your Airbnb secure and free from unwelcome guests! Installing a security camera, such as the Ring doorbell, is a great way to be able to monitor your home from afar and ensure that the only people with access are the guests that booked the listing.
Just make sure you specify that you have a security camera on the premises. Read more about house rule violations HERE!
How Do You Know if an Airbnb is Legit?
Following a few common-steps can protect you from falling victim to an Airbnb scam. The scams mentioned above are some of the most common ones on the website, and a lot of them might seem legitimate to the untrained eye.
Be sure to watch out for threatening language or someone contacting you with a supposedly “urgent” matter. While urgent matters requiring your attention could possibly arise,
Airbnb will not threaten you with account suspension or some other serious consequence seemingly out of the blue. This is one of the biggest red flags out there and applies to a variety of popular scamming techniques that aren’t limited to just Airbnb.
If you’re wondering about the legitimacy of a listing, checking out past reviews is one of the best ways of verifying it. Dozens of reviews would take way too much time and effort for someone to make up and post, and so would lots of pictures of the property.
You should also contact the host and have a conversation with them. As always, use your best judgement and don’t enter a situation that you have a bad feeling about.
If you do need to back out of a sketchy situation, you are entitled to do so within reason. Make sure to read up on Airbnb’s cancellation and refund policy HERE!