LOS ANGELES -- Karen Zalusky loves to use home-sharing websites while traveling, but she was shocked to discover the condition of a rental she recently booked through Airbnb.
An offensive smell overtook Zalusky and her husband as soon as they arrived. The couple soon realized that the homeowner kept pets inside without cleaning up after them.
Zalusky also noticed a carbon monoxide detector unplugged from the wall, a situation that can put a rental property's safety in question.
Airbnb gave her a full refund and removed the listing from its website.
Consumer Reports recommends that all rentals have working fire safety products, but a 2018 study found that only 56 percent of Airbnb listings had carbon monoxide detectors while only 42 percent carried fire extinguishers.
Airbnb maintains a web page dedicated to home safety, encouraging every host to install working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their listings.
But these are only suggested requirements, according to Consumer Reports, which means renters should always take a more proactive approach when using home-sharing websites.
"Vacation rentals are not regulated in the same way as hotels, which means you really want to reach out to your host before you book," Consumer Reports Home Editor Dan Wroclawski said.
Consumer Reports recommends asking the following five questions:
- Does the property have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors?
- Is there a working fire extinguisher on the property?
- Does the property have an emergency safety card?
- Is there a first-aid kit in the home?
- Does the property meet local safety regulations?
"Asking these questions will just give you a better understanding of how safe the property is and they might also bring up some other issues you might not have been aware of," Wroclawski said.