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How to Run an Airbnb with a Home Security System

Anne Dennon

Anne Dennon

Home Technology Writer

4 min. read

Responsible Airbnb hosting includes looking after your guests’ safety. That means having a working smoke detector, a stocked first-aid kit, and, potentially, a home security system in place. But some of the devices that make you feel safe can make your guests feel spied on. Balance security and privacy by placing recording devices only in public areas and disclosing the extent of your security and automation equipment in your Airbnb House Rules. 

If you are upfront about surveillance devices and keep all recording devices clear of private areas, you will ensure your guests’ comfort and your payout. If you don’t disclose your security equipment, guests are allowed to cancel with a full refund. (They may still be on the hook for cancellation fees to you, the host.)

Tell your guests about your surveillance devices, and keep them in public zones

Like Uber, GrubHub, or any other peer-to-peer service, Airbnb operates on a great deal of trust. When you open your home to visitors, you trust that they will respect your property and not leave the place a mess. Guests trust that, while they are enjoying the cozy comforts of a private residence, they will have the same freedom and autonomy that they would at a hotel. 

A smart home or home security system can support the trusting relationship between hosts and guests, but following Airbnb guidelines for such a system is important. 

Airbnb has just two rules: 

  • No recording devices in areas you expect privacy, like bedrooms and bathrooms
  • All surveillance equipment in or around your listed property have to be disclosed to guests

Airbnb privacy rules echo strongest state laws

Airbnb’s rules for recording and surveillance equipment are limited, but include a general injunction that hosts follow “all applicable federal, state, and local laws.”

As of now, there are no federal laws dealing with video surveillance. The Fourth Amendment guarantees people the right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches,” but technology-specific legislation exists only on the state level. And Airbnb’s two simple rules actually repeat the strongest state laws on surveillance. 

Attorney David Reischer of LegalAdvice.com points out that while none of the 50 states limit your ability to place surveillance cameras on your property, 15 states require notice be given to individuals who will be recorded. Thirteen states prohibit the installation of surveillance cameras in private places. 

Whether or not you live in a state like California, which requires notice of recording devices and prohibits recording in private areas, Airbnb’s code of conduct reiterates their requirements. 

Disclosing surveillance equipment

Airbnb requires that hosts disclose all recording devices to their guests — anything with a lens that sees or a microphone that hears — indoors or out. You need to disclose all such devices whether or not they will be actively recording during your guests’ stay. That means obsolete security system and turned off Echo Dots should still make it into the disclosure. And if the devices will be actively recording? That needs to be disclosed, too. 

If you are upfront about surveillance devices and keep all recording devices clear of private areas, you will ensure your guests’ comfort and your payout.

Include notice of all surveillance and recording devices in your listing under House Rules. They will appear to guests as “Things to keep in mind” alongside information about shared areas and your policy on pets and smoking.  

Keeping surveillance equipment out of private zones 

States with the strongest laws on video surveillance prohibit recording in areas that people should be able to expect privacy, like bedrooms and bathrooms. Rule of thumb: Any room in which a person is likely to get undressed is off-limits for recording devices. 

Depending on the size of your rental, the entire listing could be considered a private space. Which is why Airbnb hosts should seriously consider restricting installation of security cameras to the outdoors. You’ll have footage of everyone who enters and exits and, for security purposes, that activity log should be enough. 

Airbnb hosts are assured of privacy, too

Airbnb’s privacy rules for recording devices swing both ways. Guests are not allowed to use recording devices to spy on the host or any other party sharing the reserved space. 

Best smart home devices for Airbnb rentals

A smart home security system improves the safety and convenience of any household, but a few specific gadgets can be especially useful in Airbnb listings. Here a few that can make you a better host, and your property a better vacation rental. 

Smart locks — Unique, resettable passcodes allow guests to enter and exit during their allotted stay without you having to stash hard copy keys, make duplicates, or change out the locks if someone makes off with their copy. 

Video doorbells — Enable you to see when your guests arrive and depart, plus keep an eye on their visitors, and anyone else stopping by when you’re away. Since a video doorbell camera is trained on outdoor activities, you can monitor visitors without infringing on their privacy.

Smart thermostat and smart lights — HVAC and lighting controllable by smartphone can help you retain control over your guests energy use, preventing wasted energy and sky-high power bills.