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Man’s story of father’s death at Airbnb rental goes viral

A man’s story about his father’s tragic death at an Austin-area Airbnb is going viral.

Posted Monday by a writer named Zak Stone on Medium.com’s Matter blog, “Living and Dying on Airbnb,” recalls a tragic incident two years ago when Stone’s father died while in town to visit family for Thanksgiving:

“The rope swing looked inviting. Photos of it on Airbnb brought my family to the cottage in Texas. Hanging from a tree as casually as baggy jeans, the swing was the essence of leisure, of Southern hospitality, of escape. When my father decided to give it a try on Thanksgiving morning, the trunk it was tied to broke in half and fell on his head, immediately ending most of his brain activity.”

The rope swing was in the backyard of what Stone describes as a “Texas cottage” outside of Austin.

In the rest of the essay, Stone explains that because of the lack of regulations in place for sharing-economy startups like Airbnb, his family was at a loss for who to blame:

“While my family may be the first guests to speak out about a wrongful death at an Airbnb rental, it shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise. Staying with a stranger or inviting one into your home is an inherently dicey proposition. Hotel rooms are standardized for safety, monitored by staff, and often quite expensive. Airbnb rentals, on the other hand, are unregulated, eclectic, and affordable, and the safety standards are only slowly materializing.”

Though Airbnb does have its own safety guidelines and resources for its hosts and users, unlike bed and breakfasts and other hotel operations, checks for things like portable fire extinguishers, automatic sprinklers, posted emergency guidelines or even standard cleanliness are nonexistent, according to Mashable.

The essay, which is largely framed in terms of New York’s regulations on short-term rentals and unregulated hoteliers instead of Texas,’ comes amid a time when Austin City Council is also looking to tackle how to address and regulate short-term rentals.

Find Stone’s full essay, which has also been picked up by Business Insider and Mashable, online on Medium.

Update: Airbnb has issued a response to Stone’s story:

We were shocked and heartbroken when we learned about these incidents and we continue to keep these guests and their families in our thoughts. Nothing is more important to us than safety. Over 60 million guests have stayed in an Airbnb and we are proud that accidents are incredibly rare. We know that every industry, every community, and every city grapples with safety issues and no one has an absolutely perfect record, but that’s what we strive for and we’ll keep working as hard as we know how to make our community safer for everyone.”

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