After every check-out on Airbnb, guests and hosts both have the opportunity to leave a review for each other.

This review serves as a way to let future guests or know what to expect with this person. You can leave reviews on level of cleanliness, communication, amenities, etc.

These reviews are hugely important.

They can very much make or break both a guest or a host on the platform. If you have bad reviews as a guest, you may find it harder to book with hosts in the future. And if you have bad reviews as a host, you can almost certainly expect your bookings to decline.

It’s easy to give an honest review when everything going well. Five stars, a sentence or two saying how happy you were with the reservation, and you’re done.

It’s much harder to give honest reviews when things go poorly.

For one, some people have a really hard time deciding what deserves taking off a star (or multiple stars) for. The wifi was slow – but was it slow enough to matter? The location wasn’t great – but is that just because I didn’t have a car? The amenities weren’t awesome – but maybe I’m just being picky? It’s hard to know how to rate things on a platform where every single host makes up their own rules for hospitality.

The other reason leaving bad reviews can be hard is that some people are just nice people. You know a bad review might affect them negatively, and you don’t want to hurt their future chances of success, so you just keep your mouth closed. Or maybe you give a good public review, but express your concerns to the other party privately.

This may make you feel better, but it can create more problems down the road.

It’s critically important to leave an honest, public review when you check out. Last week’s story is an extreme example of why this matters so much.

Of course the vast majority of travel experiences won’t be anywhere near as extreme as that one was. But nevertheless, the principle is the same – people need to know what they’re getting themselves into.

After I checked out, I really agonized over whether to include the fact that we called the police in my review. But eventually, I realized that, although I knew it would probably hurt the host, these were the very kinds of things that the review system is designed to expose.

So I did mention the police report, as well as the drunk and angry husband. Eventually, Airbnb reached out to me directly, and they ended up shutting the host down completely.

I felt so bad. I even argued on her behalf to the Airbnb rep that talked to me on the phone. But at the end of the day, they were right. Having a loose cannon in the house like that is a liability, even if he never acts out again.

Safety is critically important.

In a traditional hotel, this is relatively easy to achieve. Install cameras, hire security guards, and have the same layout in all your rooms.

In a model like Airbnb or VRBO, however, safety is much more challenging. Every space is different. Every host has a different way of hosting. Every guest has different needs and expectations.

That’s why you absolutely MUST be honest in your reviews. I know it will be uncomfortable sometimes. Trust me, I’ve been there. But it’s the only way to keep a platform like this safe for its users.