Our friends were amazed. They had been renting their apartment on Airbnb for the last year for the times they were not using their apartment. They were learning the hard way.
“The guests just took it, and it was an expensive coffee machine, outrageous!” They had been stewing over it for days.
I tried the obvious. “Well, did your cleaner tell you who took it?” For me, that would not have been a problem with Lesley my cleaner for many years. She had a good memory, and would have told me within minutes of arriving for a clean. She would even tell me if a book had shifted on the bookshelf.
It turns out my friends had a ‘manager’ who used a variety of cleaners to clean for her. No one knew when the coffee machine was stolen. No problem, she told them, we’ll just claim it back from Airbnb.
That was two weeks ago, and they haven’t heard back. Maybe Airbnb will just pay for a new machine, but I wouldn’t hold much hope.
What can you do in a situation like this?
Firstly, it reinforces the reality that primarily “It’s a cleaning business”. A good, steady cleaner is like gold, worth paying a little more for if you can get one.
However, in an urban apartment where the rental is just a commodity and cleaning is also a commodity, cheap and changing cleaners are a reality. You should expect some kind of trouble regularly. Factor in the costs.
You should definitely have a simple cleaning manual, mainly images of how you want each room presented. Often it would help.
There are various apps you can get where the cleaner clicks through an extensive checklist. Maybe they work, I don’t know, but they are another overhead to factor in for the app and for the extra cleaning time to tick the checklist.
Secondly, owners should remember to not leave out anything expensive that can be damaged or stolen. Certainly don’t leave out any precious family momentos that can be damaged.
In this case it was probably easier to leave out the expensive coffee machine than locking it away and having to lug it out when the owners came back to use their apartment.
Insurance? Chances are it wouldn’t be covered, or the excess would eat into the amount you’d get back.
A lot of new Airbnb users are finding out the hard way a short term rental isn’t an easy path to the high returns they had optimistically hoped for. They really need to do their sums and factor in realistic revenue, realistic costs and realistic overheads for things like damage and theft. Many jump in, regret it and give up.
What would I do about the coffee machine? I’d just buy a cheap replacement and move on.
What would you do?