How To Spot & Avoid an Airbnb Squatter

The now notorious Pashanin brothers showed the world how scam artists are taking advantage of  unsuspecting Airbnb hosts by squatting.  Follow these steps identify and neutralize a potential Airbnb squatter.

Note that we’re not talking about traditional squatters who usually target vacant and abandoned (i.e. unmaintained) but otherwise fine homes in this post.  These traditional squatters often aim to eventually take ownership of their target unit through a process called “adverse possession”. Instead, we are talking about the very few but very nasty squatters who try to take over your beautifully well kept Airbnb unit.

No 30 Day or More Stays

The mileage may vary depending on your state so make sure you find out but for most states, someone who is a renter of 30 or more days could then have squatter rights.  In most states, when you agree to 30+ day stays in your unit, you’re putting yourself at greater risk of being targeted for squatting. (NOTE: While this is true in most states in US, you should check with the locale statutes in your state/country to make sure.)

If you’d still like to do longer leases, make sure no one is able to do instant booking for these long stays.  Give yourself the opportunity to really get to know this person and see if they fit the profile of an Airbnb squatter.

Always make sure in your communications that any arrangement is strictly for the term of the agreed upon stay and that any extension MUST be in writing.

Require Prior History

Squatters tend not to have any prior guest history on Airbnb.  They’re trying to minimize the amount of money they need to spend in order to find a target unit to squat in so they won’t have the money or the patience to build a history of visits.

Be very discriminating towards guests with no prior history asking to book your unit for more than 1 month.   There are many first time users on Airbnb so definitely be open to renting out your unit to first time users for SHORT term stays (i.e  up to 3 nights).  For anything longer, you should be require past history of reviews from other hosts.

Don’t risk a huge headache trying to increase your rental returns with questionable guests

Verified Identity

An Airbnb squatter will likely appear like a ghost online and would be hesitant to share who they are via their online social network profiles.  Most regular Airbnb users will have verified their online identity by linking to their social network profile and their offline identity by providing some valid photo ID to Airbnb.

Contact Information

If you’re only able to communicate with the guest on Airbnb and they’re unwilling to share a personal email or phone number, have your guard up if they ask for a long lease.  Less of a concern for very short stays if all else checks out.  An Airbnb squatter will take care to hide their real identities.

Do a Credit Check

If you’re doing a long, multi-month arrangement, spending $35 dollars to do a credit check on the person could save you a lot of future headaches.  Just asking for the information to do a credit check will be enough of a barrier to turn away many potential squatters.

Leave a Trail

In your email and text communications, be sure to include language that makes it very explicit that the arrangement is ONLY for the duration of the agreed upon stay and that the guest MUST vacate without the expressed prior written approval from you to extend the stay and that the lock combinations/keys will be changed after their check out.  Or that the only way to extend the stay is with a separate agreement in writing.  If they do try to squat, you then have the right to lock them out.  If they break in and enter, well, that’s a crime that you can report them to the police.

Never Make a Deal OFF of Airbnb

It may be tempting to make a few extra bucks by cutting Airbnb out of the picture, but this is a really quick path to getting squatters in your unit.  Unsuspecting new hosts can easily fall prey to potential squatters with the allure of juicing their rental income.  Don’t do it!  By staying on Airbnb and conducting your transactions there, you get to have the full support of Airbnb if and when you come across annoying squatters.

What are other ways to protect yourself against a potential Airbnb squatter?  Share your thoughts below!

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