Coronavirus creates new challenges for Airbnb renters

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Covid-19 changed cleaning protocols for rental homes, creating challenges for local renters.

Sophie Ryan

For many people who rely on income from property rentals on rental site Airbnb, Covid-19 has proved challenging.

Airbnb has grown massively since it was founded in 2008. People across the globe use the platform to rent out their properties, usually for short periods of time.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed operation protocols and narrowed the pool of clientele amongst those looking to rent out their properties.

“For the entire month of April and the first week of May, I lost all of the reservations,” local Airbnb owner Hayley Ali said. “There was no income from the Airbnb for the month of April last year and for the first half of May.”

In the early stages of the coronavirus, there was a need to heavily clean high contact areas such as bathrooms and bedrooms. Ali saw multiple sanitation protocols added to her to-do list for preparing her Airbnb for visitors.

“It’s more work keeping it up and maintaining it because we spend a little extra time doing the whole cleaning protocol and making sure to leave things like disposable masks and hand sanitizer out for our guests,” Ali said.

New coronavirus-related discoveries have provided further guidance for renters.

“As time has gone by, we realized it doesn’t live on surfaces like we first thought it did,” local Airbnb owner Grace White said. “It’s more of a respiratory thing, and I think the work has also decreased as time has gone by.”

With new cleaning and social distancing protocols, there was also a change in clientele for some local Airbnb owners. Many people have opted to staying Airbnbs as opposed to staying in hotels or with family in fear of spreading the virus

“Instead of it being somebody that was coming to Atlanta for work we had somebody coming to Atlanta to visit family,” O’Keefe said. “They would’ve normally stayed with family, but they didn’t feel safe staying with their family and possibly exposing them, so they stayed in Airbnb.”

With this shift in clientele, there was also a shift in how long the guests wanted to stay.

“Initially we did have people looking more for short term rentals,” Ali said. “Then that sort of slowed down a little bit, and in October, I got more people who wanted longer-term rentals.”

However other renters are noticing a different trend due to Covid.

“We have less people coming in for long term stays like 30 day stays,” O’Keefe said.

Ali reports that she is making less money now than before Covid from her Airbnb rental. This is partially due to the fact that she blocked off the entire month of April because the virus had just started spreading around the country.

“The entire month of April and the first week of May I lost all of the reservations so there was no one staying and no income from Airbnb,” Ali said. “Last year, even with the month of April blocked off, we actually made more as the year went on.”

Although the start of 2020 was tough for many local Airbnb hosts, it slowly got better as the year dragged on.

“[At first we were afraid] that someone would get sick and we wouldn’t be able to help them for fear of getting it ourselves,” O’Keefe said. “It changed as time went by. We realized how it is easier to protect ourselves, and that fear went away.”