Why You Should Take Photos Of Your Airbnb Before Checking Out

Founded in 2007, Airbnb has since transformed the way we travel. Splitting the uprights between budget-bending hotel costs and cheap yet communal hostels, short-term rentals ushered in a new travel landscape, allowing many of us to travel longer for less.

Introducing new lodging options, a rental house could easily accommodate a family of four, while a downtown apartment offered the amenities, space, and privacy sought by digital nomads. While prices of Airbnbs varied, travelers could typically find something that aligned with their preferences and budget, and best of all, Airbnb's review platform kept both guests and hosts in check. It all seemed pretty perfect. Ah, to dream.

Today, there are around 5.6 million active Airbnb listings spread throughout 220 countries, and around 4 million hosts welcome approximately 500 million guests every year, per The Zebra. Needless to say, with this large of a peer-to-peer marketplace, disagreements between guests and hosts are inevitable. 

And we've also all heard the horror stories, from secret house cameras to guests throwing 1000-person ragers. But more often than not, conflicts between guests and hosts simply pertain to cleanliness and house damage. While Airbnb has protocols to resolve conflicts, you can also take matters into your own hands by holding a well-aimed camera.

Take pictures upon arrival and departure

When a conflict occurs in regard to cleanliness and property damage, the disagreement will invariably include a guest-said, host-said scenario. And the disagreement may be an honest oversight by the host. For example, you walk into an apartment to find a large tear in the corner of a couch. You may shrug it off. Character, right?

But, unbeknownst to you, the host's housekeeper didn't notice the tear while cleaning the apartment after previous guests. Understandably, when the housekeeper reports the damage after your visit, the host pegs you as the couch-tearing culprit. To prevent this scenario, it's wise to take pictures of any damage and stains upon arrival. If it's serious damage, you may want to email your host immediately with attached pics, and if not too serious, you now at least have a timestamped picture if accusations arise later.

You'll also want to take pictures before you leave. If the next guest tries to pin damage on you (as the previous guest), then you're in a you-said, other guest-said, host-said situation. To cover your bases, simply take pictures of each room (and any damage) once you arrive and take more pictures before you leave. You'll have time-stamped proof of the property's appearance upon arrival and its condition upon your departure. It's the same idea as photographing a rental car.

Dispute any claims with photo evidence

If an Airbnb host feels you're responsible for damage or left the property in shambles, you'll typically find out via Airbnb message that the host is requesting an additional payment. You'll then have three days to dispute the claim. Otherwise, the payment will be automatically processed. If you dispute the claim, the Airbnb Resolution Center will provide a mediator to intercede in the situation.

To help the mediator find a fair solution, they'll typically ask you for three things to understand your perspective: a short explanation regarding the damage, any private communication you had with the host concerning the matter, and (you guessed it) any pictures or videos that support your defense to the claim.

While staying at an Airbnb can still be an excellent lodging choice, the peer-to-peer marketplace is filled with people with different perspectives and attitudes. If you travel enough, you may find yourself falsely accused at some point. Most Airbnb hosts aren't whack-a-doos, and Airbnb horror stories are the very extremes. But, to protect yourself, take a few photos that showcase your 5-star cleanliness.