Safety questions to ask your Airbnb host

Vacation rentals found on Airbnb can provide a great alternative to your usual summer lodgings, but how do you know that what you saw online is what you're going to get? Even worse, could it be unsafe?

Consumer Reports takes a look at the features you should look for and what you can do before you book to make sure your stay is safe.

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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, and only 42 percent carried fire extinguishers.

Airbnb maintains a web page dedicated to home safety, which states: "We encourage every Airbnb host to install working smoke & CO detectors in their listing and to check them frequently."

But CR says these are only suggested requirements, which is why you have to take a more active approach. 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.

CR recommends asking these five questions:
  1. Does the property have working smoke and CO detectors?
  2. Is there a working fire extinguisher on the property?
  3. Does the property have an emergency safety card?
  4. Is there a first-aid kit in the home?
  5. Does the property meet local safety regulations?

Asking these questions will give you a better understanding of how safe the property is and might bring up some other issues you hadn't thought of.

Consumer Reports says it's essential to read the reviews with a critical eye. Look for Airbnb "Superhosts," those who have hosted at least 10 times in a year and received a 5-star review for at least 80 percent of stays. CR says these listings are a good bet for a happy vacation.
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