Airbnb will verify every one of its rental listings by the end of 2020, in a reversal of long-standing company policy, according to The Verge.
For over a decade, the home-sharing platform has relied on agreements between guests and their hosts. The move follows a fatal mass shooting at one of its rentals this month, as well as a recent report on widespread scams and misleading listings.
CEO Brian Chesky said the verification plans represent “the most significant change to our platform” since it was first launched in 2008. The verification will employ a combination of direct monitoring and community reporting, which will include asking guests additional questions about their rentals.
Until the company can verify every listing, they’ll begin by labeling which has been verified so far.
“We’re going to make sure that we can stand behind every single listing, every single host,” Chesky said.
The company has promised to provide refunds for the full cost of booking if their accuracy standards aren’t met in listings, and if they can’t provide a rental of equivalent quality. They’ll also launch a 24/7 hotline with operators standing by, so that “anyone can call us anytime, anywhere in the world and reach a real person.”
An October report from Vice News revealed widespread scams and misleading listings across the platform. In some cases, guests would arrive to check in to an Airbnb only to find the rental had been canceled at the last minute. They reported being left with no choice but to accept an alternate rental nearby, often of much lower quality than advertised on the initial listing. Some guests reported that Airbnb refused to provide a full refund in these incidents.
After a mass shooting at a party hosted at one California rental last week, the company said it would ban rentals of “party houses.”
Airbnb now says it will do more to screen guests as well as hosts, with special attention to “high-risk” reservations, such as bookings of large houses in a guest’s hometown, which could signal a party rental.
Airbnb says the verification will require a “significant investment,” but that it won’t affect its plans to go public next year.
“Ultimately, we’re in the business of trust so we have to make these investments to protect our users,” Chesky said.
Adam French, a consumer rights expert with the UK advocacy group Which?, told BBC News:
“Steps from Airbnb to finally verify all of its listings are positive, but the industry must do more to ensure people are no longer being stripped of their money and having their holiday plans left in tatters.”