The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has sent a letter to vacation rental companies like Airbnb and Vrbo to urge them to require owners to disable residential elevators or provide inspection certifications showing that there are no dangerous gaps.
The CPSC’s letter follows the death of a 7-year-old boy at a beach rental home in North Carolina. The boy died after getting stuck between a moving elevator’s inner accordion door and its outer door.
The agency said residential elevators "can pose a deadly but unforeseen hazard to children” and that fixes should be put in place right away to address the risks.
"Children, some as young as two and as old as 12, have been crushed to death in this gap, suffering multiple skull fractures, fractured vertebrae and traumatic asphyxia,” Robert Adler, acting chairman of the agency, said in the letter. “Other children have suffered horrific and lifelong injuries."
Fixing the problem
The letter said vacation rental companies are “in the unique position to have direct contact information for both owners and renters of vacation homes.”
The CPSC said the hazardous gaps between an at-home elevator's inner and outer doors can easily be made safer by placing space guards on the exterior doors. Alternatively, electronic monitoring devices could be used to deactivate elevators when a child is detected in the gap.
"These fixes are relatively inexpensive and can save lives," the letter said.
In the meantime, the CPSC said vacation rental platforms should immediately notify rentals about this potential hazard and ask hosts to lock outer access doors or disable elevators altogether. In the future, the agency said the companies should also require elevator inspections at any listed properties.
“By working together, we can stop these agonizing deaths and prevent further harm to children and families,” Adler said in the letter.
Vrbo issues response
Airbnb and TripAdvisor said they were reviewing the letter from the CPSC, and Vrbo said it plans to follow through with at least some of the recommendations.
"We will share important elevator safety information with property owners who have residential elevators," Vrbo told ABC News in a statement. "This will include a recommendation to disable elevators until they can be properly inspected and common safety issues addressed. Vrbo has also posted elevator safety information to our Trust & Safety page, accessible by all guests. Our terms require property owners to abide by all safety-related laws and to keep equipment safe and in working order with regular maintenance."
ConsumerAffairs readers have shared mixed experiences with vacation rentals from companies like Airbnb and Vrbo. Hosts and travelers have praised the platforms for being easy to navigate, but some reviewers have said they experienced unsafe safety conditions upon arrival.
Abbigail of Ferndale, Michigan claimed that a vacation rental she found through Airbnb was “unsafe and difficult to access which was not accurately described by the rental property.” Samantha of Fort Lauderdale, Florida said her resort room got broken into, landing her in the hospital.
The bottom line? Consumers should make sure they do their homework on any rental property to make sure it's safe to stay in.