The Commonwell Mutual Insurance Group, a local home and auto insurance company, is launching a new policy to protect clients from issues related to home sharing rentals on sites such as Airbnb, and FlipKey. Known as Host Shield Insurance, the policy aims to help home renters in areas where they could easily be compromised, including theft, vandalism and innkeepers’ liability, up to $10,000 per claim.
As part of the launch, The Commonwell recruited former Toronto detective James Downs to give Canadian hosts tips on how to be safe and secure. Downs specialized in organized crime, drug and biker cases and is currently a co-founder and security consultant at MKD International Inc.
According to Downs, here are some best practices for Canadian hosts:
1. Get to know the renter:
The Commonwell says you should find out as much about the renter as possible. The firm suggests creating an online application form or a PDF to be sent to those interested in renting, which would ask for an individual’s picture and proof that it’s accurate. Furthermore, Downs says you should always ask for a copy of a drivers licence or similar provincial ID, credit card information, a cell phone number, social media handles and address.
2. Do some research:
Related to the first point, The Commonwell says that much of the above information can be verified by checking social media like Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram. Similarly, searching their names on Google, specifically in regards to past Airbnb stays, may reveal that they’ve been flagged by other home owners.
3. Charge in advance:
To ensure payments are legitimate, The Commonwell suggests charging both the total fees and refundable damage deposit upfront. If they don’t have enough credit or object to these charges, then you can decline the rental. Downs says while some Canadians may feel “shy” about requesting the fees in advance, it is perfectly reasonable to ask for.
4. Better to be safe than sorry
Downs says you’ll need to listen to your intuition if you notice red flags in guest behaviour. This could be anything from being reluctant to give out important information to having “elaborate” excuses for delays;
5. Have others help keep watch
The Commonwell suggests getting help from a fellow renter or friends and family to drive by your property to make sure everything looks in order. This will help protect your property even once it’s rented out to guests and you are away.
“Home sharing sites like Airbnb are realities of the new economy and many of our clients in small and rural communities are leveraging them for additional income,” said Tim Shauf, president and CEO of The Commonwell Mutual Insurance Group. “We needed to step up and offer them an affordable way to protect their properties against potential damages.”
Should anything happen, however, Airbnb does offer hosts protection as well with its $1 million Host Guarantee. Under this policy, hosts will be covered for up to six figures in cases of property damage. It’s worth noting that cash, pets, personal liabilities and other shared or common areas are not protected under this policy.
The full terms can be found here. For example, this guarantee helped Calgary hosts back in 2015 when their home sustained around $50,000 in damages as a result of rowdy renters.
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