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Travel accommodations startup Airbnb recently revised its policy regarding property owners, who suffer vandalism as a result of using the company’s marketplace of rental spaces.
The policy change is in response to the internet outcry of disapproval over Airbnb’s treatment of EJ — an Airbnb user who blogged about her experience dealing with the company after her apartment was ransacked.
Airbnb is now pledging $50,000 to protect a host’s property from damage by Airbnb guests who book reservations through our website. The new “Airbnb $50,000 Guarantee” program will extend to EJ and any other host that has reported property damage from Airbnb guests in the past, according to the company.
“I am gratified nonetheless that the extent of public awareness my story generated has encouraged Airbnb to implement real change to its product, its service and its community of users,” EJ wrote in a blog post today.
She also notes that while the company is finally making good on their offer to help, she’ll still bear the grief of the experience as well as the stigma of being called a liar.
“When we learned of this our hearts sank. We felt paralyzed, and over the last four weeks, we have really screwed things up,” said Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky on the company’s blog Monday. “With regards to EJ, we let her down, and for that we are very sorry. We should have responded faster, communicated more sensitively, and taken more decisive action to make sure she felt safe and secure. But we weren’t prepared for the crisis and we dropped the ball. Now we’re dealing with the consequences.”
In addition to the $50,000 property damage protection, Airbnb is providing a 24-hour customer hotline, doubling the size of its support staff and adding a safety department to the company. Chesky even lists his email address as another possible line of defense for hosts dealing with property damage.
The company also promises to implement verified user profiles with social integration, which will allow hosts to view potential guests prior to a rental agreement.
Given the public backlash against Airbnb, I can’t say that the company’s most recent response to property damage isn’t adequate. However, I am curious as to how long the company can sustain itself with all of these new expenses — which are bound to grow as Airbnb becomes more popular.
Airbnb recently confirmed a $112 million round — meaning it has money to burn for the immediate future.
The company declined VentureBeat’s request to comment further on the policy changes.
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