Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
If you’ve ever been kicked out of your home and needed to find a friend (or stranger) to crash with, you can probably relate to Pete Holmes of HBO’s Crashing. The show, currently in its third season, follows a slightly fictionalized version of real-life stand-up comic Holmes, who couch-surfs his way through New York City as he establishes his career and reevaluates his life along the way.
While you hopefully haven’t been thrown out by your cheating wife like Holmes was, you may have found yourself in a situation where you need a bed for the night (or week, or month). While it’s ideal to stay with a friend, you may not want to inconvenience them for too long, especially if they’re not best equipped to host a long-term guest.
Fortunately, options like Couchsurfing.com and Airbnb can make it easier to find a temporary home in your city. There are a few things that you may want to keep in mind before you make arrangements to sleep under a stranger’s roof, though.
It’s tempting to just pick the cheapest or most conveniently located option on Airbnb or Couchsurfing, but it’s a good idea to read through reviews and references of the host. It’s there that you may be able to find out about some questionable situations other guests may have experienced.
Use the Site’s Messaging Feature
Both Airbnb and Couchsurfing profess to allow you to communicate with a host through the site’s messaging platform. By keeping your conversation restricted to the platform, you can hopefully have some modicum of clear, verifiable records of any arrangements that you and your host have made for your stay, and you can thereby avoid giving out your personal phone number or email address to a stranger.
Have a Backup Plan
One of Couchsurfing’s safety tips is to have a backup plan. Maybe the place you’re staying isn’t what you expected, or the host is making you uncomfortable. Plan an alternate arrangement, such as another host or a friend’s place, if necessary. After you arrive at your new destination, be sure to report any negative experiences to the platform you used to arrange your original stay.
Consider a Background Check
If you’re still unsure about a host and you have their full name, you can run a background check on them. The results can alert you to a host’s criminal record, if they have one, or even financial issues. Based on what you find, you can decide if you want to stay with that person. Please note however, that by law, you may NOT use the same services to review a possible (even short-term) tenant if you are the landlord, property-owner, host, et al. doing the background due diligence!
Trust Your Gut
Your instincts can be telling, even through text. So, if something feels off to you when you communicate with a host, you may wish to trust that feeling and look for another place to stay.
Having a place to crash for the night or week is super important. However, the most important thing is for you to stay safe. Follow the tips above and you can hopefully have a positive experience where you lay your head for the night.