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Airbnb benefits Alaska, one local host says, but is it worth the risk?

Chris Reynolds surveys the damage left by an Airbnb guest at his rental home. Photo Courtesy...
Chris Reynolds surveys the damage left by an Airbnb guest at his rental home. Photo Courtesy of Chris Reynolds. (KTUU)
Published: Jul. 25, 2018 at 8:36 PM AKDT
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It's no secret that tourism is a leading industry in Alaska, and Anchorage host Chris Reynolds says Airbnb is a great way to welcome people to our state.

But is it worth it for homeowners to risk their personal assets with complete strangers?

Reynolds walked us through what he estimates to be around $12,000 worth of damage after a guest left the water running in the upstairs bathroom overnight in June.

"This all just came down by pulling the drywall. It's all completely soaked," Chris said in a home video documenting the damage.

And his next guest was coming in just two days.

"We had to be hands-on,” Reynolds said. “There wasn't a contractor that was going to complete it within the small time frame that we had before the next guest came in."

They made quick, patchwork repairs, and gave the next guest a 25 percent discount on their stay. Reynolds says he submitted a damage claim to Airbnb, and the initial claim process went smoothly.

But he didn't hear back for almost two weeks. He got the call Wednesday, he says, after Channel 2 reached out to Airbnb asking for their response to this story.

"They left me a message today saying, very customer service-oriented, saying that they were apologetic, that they hadn't responded to the claim that we had made," Reynolds said.

Online reviews suggest Airbnb has had similar problems.

"There's stories all over the internet about people who are incurred major damages that were not covered by the Airbnb,” Reynolds said. “There's also, to be fair, some good stories out there."

But Reynolds is holding out hope that Airbnb will live up to its host guarantee of property damage protection.

In a written statement to Channel 2 News, Airbnb acknowledged it had erred in the complaint resolution process in this incident.

"Our original handling of this case did not meet the high standards we set for ourselves," Airbnb spokeswoman Mattie Zazueta said in the statement. "We apologize to our host for the delay and are supporting them under our $1 Million Host Guarantee program. There have been over 300 million guest arrivals in Airbnb listings to date; negative incidents are extremely rare."

Will they continue booking? That depends.

"My wife Janice and I are going to reassess after the summer's activities, and after this is resolved, and see if we are going to continue to be hosting the future," he said.

While there are risks involved in monetizing personal assets, Reynolds says he thinks Airbnb is overall good for Alaska.

"Airbnb is a great vehicle for sharing Alaska and sharing the stage with people that don't live here. And of course that's a big part of Alaska's lives is tourism."

Channel 2 spoke with Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Clement of the Commercial and Fair Business division today. He recommends homeowners booking with Airbnb should read the fine print of the contract before signing, and even have an attorney present to iron out the details.

Airbnb recommends that hosts set clear expectations and guest requirements prior to a guest's stay. Hosts are encouraged to read the profiles and reviews of guests, and to get to know their guests beforehand.