My objective here is to raise awareness about how unsafe any vacation rental can be if you don’t ask the right questions early enough in the process. This is especially true if the owner has not taken even basic security measures, which Airbnb either does not require or does not concern themselves with. It is your responsibility as guests to ask.
This was our first and last Airbnb experience. Airbnb allowed us to walk straight into a mine field. Airbnb did not respond to our emails for help for 11 days. When they did, it was a form email requesting that we (1) get a police report; (2) document what was stolen; (3) prove our ownership of those items. For parents, if your children are the “guests” and you are not travelling with them, then a little forethought about what to do if trouble occurs would be good planning. If you are still going to use Airbnb, here are the top ten questions we did not ask but should have:
1. Is the villa an actual home or an investment rental property overseen by a management company?
2. Where does the villa owner reside? Are they in the country? What will be their physical proximity to the villa while you are renting?
3. Does the villa have a security system? Does it work? Are there instructions for use in the event one exists?
4. Is there a home safe in the villa? Is it operational?
5. Does the villa have external lighting or motion detectors?
6. Who has keys to the villa other than the owner? Have any keys been given to maintenance personnel or former contractors? Are all owner’s keys accounted for?
7. What is Airbnb’s policy for refunds for robberies/evacuation? While their refund terms and conditions state that you must report any dissatisfaction within 24 hours of arrival, why did Airbnb pay the owner when a complaint was already sent via email within 12 hours of our arrival? By the way: no one answers a phone at Airbnb. Do they even have customer support? Who takes priority, guests or owners, or neither?
8. What is Airbnb’s advertised response time to a serious matter such as a robbery? We arrived at the villa at 5:00 PM local time June 7th; the robbery was reported to them June 8th at 5:00 AM local/10:00 PM PST June 7th. We received an email response June 18th.
9. Does Airbnb know that their online availability calendars are excellent for determining when units are occupied and precise arrival dates? I’m guessing the best day for a robbery is the first night.
10. Does Airbnb know that their interior and exterior photographs are useful for would-be robbers to study floor plans and access points?
We were robbed on our first night in an Airbnb at 4:00 AM. We interrupted the thief (in a ski mask) in the third bedroom after he had already ransacked the first two (all the bedrooms were occupied). We chased him out of the house. The adjoining villa was also robbed where the thief knew exactly how to enter (broken door that was not obvious to guests) and had a key to our villa (from a former contractor). Thief took mostly cash.
The real terror occurred when the thief returned later that same day in broad daylight. The adjoining villa guest engaged him (slashed his tires, etc.). In retaliation, the thief called “friends” and within minutes a half dozen of his buddies arrived. Outnumbered and seeing no positive outcome, we reached out to local friends who found us another accommodation.
Robberies are not uncommon on Mykonos; it is a high-end island, with lots of private expensive villas and plenty of opportunities to steal. The police are not equipped to deal with the massive influx of people during high season; when they finally arrived at the behest of the villa owner’s management company we had alerted, they arrested the thief for drug possession. No cash or possessions were recovered. Knowing his “buddies” were still on the loose, not knowing his intent for returning, and knowing he had a key, we could not stay.
Sound security measures are available on Mykonos for those owners using common sense. At our next villa we found: external cameras throughout the property; external lighting and motion detectors; management residing across the street who lives on the island; home safes in villa that were functioning. These are basic security measures. The Greek people who helped us at the next villa were extraordinary. They too were upset that guests on their beautiful island were victimized. They value having guests and depend on tourism for their livelihood.
What is Airbnb’s responsibility? Is security ever mentioned in an Airbnb listing? Do they deliberately avoid the topic? It’s probably not good for business. Airbnb leaves it to you to address the security/safety topic. If you arrive at a villa and see that basic securities measures are lacking, it is not grounds for a refund. It should be. In one respect we were lucky: the owner was so appalled by our experience she refunded our payment directly to us that day. Ironically, the owner was afraid Airbnb would not be forthcoming or helpful. Mykonos is an amazing island, but you must use common sense and take responsibility for your own safety if you are using Airbnb. At every other accommodation we did not book through Airbnb (Santorini, Kefalonia, Zakynthos) we found all the standard security measures one would expect to find in a high-end property. Shame on Airbnb.