Airbnb Adds Automatic $50 K. Insurance Policy After User’s Home Was Vandalized, CEO Apologizes: “We Really Screwed Things Up”

Mr. Chesky.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s first statement on the highly-publicized matter of the user whose home was burglarized and ransacked by an Airbnb guest was measured, mildly sympathetic, and denied any wrongdoing. The statement he just posted on Airbnb’s blog–“Our Commitment to Trust and Safety”–is just about the opposite.

“Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post trying to explain the situation, but it didn’t reflect my true feelings,” he writes, and goes on to intimate that he either second-guessed himself when responding to the complaint or  got some bad advice (perhaps from the usually-infallible Paul Graham, who insists Airbnb did nothing wrong?).

“In the last few days we have had a crash course in crisis management,” Mr. Chesky writes. “I hope this can be a valuable lesson to other businesses about what not to do in a time of crisis, and why you should always uphold your values and trust your instincts.”

Mr. Chesky now says he regrets the way the company handled the user’s situation. The victim first blogged about her bad experience just as Airbnb was closing a $112 million round and claims one of Airbnb’s founders asked her repeatedly to take the post down or update it with a “happy twist.”

The post details Airbnb’s new security measures, which include a 24-hour customer service line, doubling the customer service staff, “verified” profiles that show a user’s history on Airbnb, as well as customizable “trust settings” similar to the parameters used by Couchsurfing, so guests can restrict their search to only the highest-rated hosts and vice versa. The biggest announcement: a $50,000 insurance policy against theft or vandalism:

Starting August 15th, when hosts book reservations through Airbnb their personal property will be covered for loss or damage due to vandalism or theft caused by an Airbnb guest up to $50,000 with our Airbnb Guarantee. Terms will apply to the program and may vary (e.g. by country). This program will also apply retroactively to any hosts who may have reported such property damage prior to August 1, 2011.

“Terms will apply,” Airbnb says, although those terms don’t appear to be posted on the site yet. It will likely include a burden of proof such as a police report or successful prosecution–the safety FAQ advises users to get police involved immediately.

The post doesn’t say whether Airbnb has repaired its relationship with “EJ,” the user whose blog post inspired a public relations nightmare. EJ told Betabeat in an email that she’d have a statement this week, so we expect to find out soon whether Mr. Chesky can win her back.

Airbnb Adds Automatic $50 K. Insurance Policy After User’s Home Was Vandalized, CEO Apologizes: “We Really Screwed Things Up”