Video Surveillance Laws for Short Term Rental Owners
When Airbnb launched, it made immediate waves. Not only did it turn the mainstream travel industry on its’ head, but it exposed the somewhat underground world of standalone bed & breakfasts, tourist sites, and miscellaneous travel spots.
With this expansion of the industry comes new opportunities and of course - new challenges. Those challenges often come in the form of growth, but more often than not - they come in the form of regulation.
One of these new pieces of regulation? Disclosure of all types of surveillance in Airbnbs.
We’ll get to what that means in a second. In the meantime, consider this:
- 20.54% of people 18-29 years of age have a surveillance system in their home. That number climbs to 28.23% for people 30-49 years of age.
- An estimated 30% of Americans will have monitored security services at home.
- Drones are expected to augment home security services in the near future, providing an external view of a property.
As you can see, that’s quite a bit of security. How does this relate to Airbnbs?
A new way to think about surveillance
Last year, we ran an article talking about the different types of surveillance in a compound.
Read that to get some background on the whole surveillance debate when it comes to Airbnbs. Moving on...
In 1970 or so, a video camera watching a storefront was revolutionary. People started to fear that the world would become one with cameras everywhere and that privacy would become nonexistent.
Well, that fear came true in a larger sense, because surveillance is everywhere.
But it’s not just cameras. It’s microphones, smartphones, doorbells, ATM machines, fingerprint logins, eye scanners, anything you can think of that can monitor a person or a group of people - you can be sure that it will be used as surveillance.
So where does that leave Airbnb regulations?
The new Airbnb surveillance clause
For quite some time, Airbnb has had basic ground rules discussing surveillance. Obviously, you don’t want to walk into someone’s house and see a large camera with a fisheye lens in every room.
So, Airbnb did the best thing and laid down explicit rules regarding surveillance.
But what about some of those devices we mentioned earlier that aren’t as obvious?
Any passive devices that monitor surveillance and any device that can be used for surveillance purposes are still considered devices that need to be disclosed.
This is Airbnb’s definition of a surveillance device:
Any mechanism that can be used to capture or transmit audio, video, or still images is considered a surveillance device.
How this affects you - Airbnb guests
If you’re an Airbnb guest, congratulations! You will now be ensured a higher level of privacy any time you stay at someone else’s place.
That host is required to disclose all of their devices in the home that has a potential for being used to track you or else they will be out of compliance.
If they do not disclose the presence of these devices after booking, then you are eligible for a cancellation and a refund.
Likewise, you cannot spy on your hosts or record them without their consent. If you violate this, you risk suspension or removal entirely from the Airbnb community.
How this affects you - Airbnb hosts
As a host, you have less leeway than guests when it comes to this rule.
As stated before, you are required to disclose all of your devices in your dwelling that can possibly be used for surveillance.
This includes your web cameras, exterior facing cameras, Alexa and Google home devices… Anything you can think of that will detect sentient life - you need to disclose in your listing.
Take a walk through your house and make a list of everything that fits this category. Large or small, big or tall, write it down.
That way, you can detract or add to that list when you get rid of one of these devices or add a new one.
It will just make it much easier for everyone involved.
At this point, you may be wondering how you can disclose our product. Well, you can tell guests that there is noise monitoring hardware on the premises that does not record conversations. Tell them it only records noise levels.
However, we strongly recommend including NoiseAware in your listing because our motto is rather safe than sorry! If they have any lingering concerns, direct them to our site or have them speak with one of our account executives.
Here is how our Co-Founder and Superhost, David, includes NoiseAware in his listings.
As far as we know, we are the only “privacy-safe” noise monitoring hardware in our industry and we built this into our product from the get-go.
We don’t need to issue any patches, software updates, or V2s of our hardware because it’s compliant right out of the box.
This is why we have so many satisfied customers who rely on us again and again even when the rules in the game of short-term rental management keep shifting.
To wrap up, this new surveillance addition is nothing to really worry about - if you know how to handle it. It’s just another speed bump to make sure that everyone, guests and hosts alike, has a good experience that they can remember for years to come.
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Until next time, Rent Responsibly!
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