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Airbnb safety in the spotlight

Jason de Smidt, an Airbnb host in Plumstead, needed a hip replacement after an attack at his the guest house. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Jason de Smidt, an Airbnb host in Plumstead, needed a hip replacement after an attack at his the guest house. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 3, 2021


An attack on an Airbnb host in Cape Town has thrust the issue of safety into the spotlight.

Jason de Smidt was left with a broken hip when a group of men, who were searching for one of his guests, forced their way onto his Plumstead property late on a Saturday night last month.

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He claims the incident happened at about 12.30am, way after curfew, when the country was still on lockdown level two.

"They pushed me to the ground,“ recalled de Smidt.

”I have never had bone problems in my life before. I fell onto my left hip.

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“And when I tried to stand up I had absolutely no power in my left leg whatsoever.”

De Smidt, 64, had to have a hip replacement at Victoria Hospital days after the incident and although police came to the scene De Smidt has not laid charges with police.

He did tell Weekend Argus that he had running problems with the long-staying guest, whom he accused of excessive partying and drug use at his property.

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The client's booking was for a month but with the help of Airbnb, De Smidt managed to cut short his stay midway.

But De Smidt has criticised Airbnb, saying not enough protection is given to hosts.

And he is demanding a better screening process of guests.

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“Their (Airbnb’s) insistence that you must communicate on their platform and that the ID and phone numbers of the people are made available to you when they make bookings.

“But that is not the case when somebody makes a booking for somebody else,” he said, which is exactly what happened to de Smidt.

Airbnb in a statement to Weekend Argus, said: “We were incredibly concerned to learn about this incident, and are providing the host with our support and stand ready to assist the police with their enquiries.

“The safety of our community is our priority, and we deploy extensive measures and policies to help protect and support hosts and guests.

“Isolated issues are rare, and where they do happen, our dedicated community support team is on hand 24/7 to help.”

De Smidt said: “I am still in the process of making a claim for physical losses to the property.

“Remotes were stolen, and we had to re-programme all our remotes, my cellphone (which was stolen) and the damage to the back door of the garage which they (the assailants) kicked it in to try and get into my house.”

“My problem is that Airbnb is very unresponsive on whether they are going to compensate me for my personal injury.

“And I need counselling. I suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder),” said de Smidt.

“All the insurance and protection is around guests.”

Airbnb explained their rules around support for hosts.

They said: “We are in contact with the host to provide support under our host guarantee.

“Hosts can decline a request to book their listing, and our community support team is also on hand to help with any concerns before or during a stay, and we take action on issues brought to our attention.

“We are taking appropriate action with the guest in this case.

“Our host guarantee provides protection fee on every booking in the rare event of property damage caused by guests, and this is unmatched in the travel industry.

“Ratings and reviews allow hosts to see what other hosts have said about a guest, and our secure messaging tool enables hosts to ask any questions and to communicate.”

There are several Facebook groups exclusive for Airbnb hosts where they share their stories and experiences.

One group is named Airbnb Host Community: Vent, Recommend and Discuss.

Another is Airbnb Hosts Cape Town.

Weekend Argus reached out to several Airbnb hosts in the city to get a sense of their experience with the company.

Cassandra Bam, an Airbnb host from Muizenberg, said she has had no issues with Airbnb.

Bam recalled an instance once where neighbours in the apartment complex complained that the guests were noisy.

“Airbnb has a rate and review system so we just used that,” said Bam.

“There were no breakages at the Muizenberg apartment.

“I do know of a Airbnb experience host where I think he took his guests on a wine tram and they puked in his car.

“He claimed it back from Airbnb and they paid everything.

“He said it was a very efficient process.

“They do have liability insurance.”

A tenant who lives in a Muizenberg complex, who did not want to be named, said Airbnb guests in her complex have been an ongoing problem for sometime time.

She says she now goes on regular weekend away trips, just to avoid the noise.

She said she has complained to both Airbnb and the body corporate overseeing her building but little has been done to remedy the situation.

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