Humphrey Bowles, co-founder of GUARDHOG [Credit: GUARDHOG]

Insurance for home sharers: Humphrey Bowles, GUARDHOG

UK: ShortTermRentalz spoke to GUARDHOG co-founder Humphrey Bowles about providing insurance for home sharers in the sharing economy and the company’s launch of its latest product, “Deposit Cover”, which can be taken out by either the host or the guest.

  • Who are GUARDHOG? What services do you provide and who are you looking to serve?

The rise of the peer-to-peer (p2p) economy confounded existing insurers. They struggled, and still do struggle, to grasp an economy that blurs the boundaries between commercial and domestic. With the p2p economy, micro-entrepreneurs were created out of households and hobbyists overnight, everyone was suddenly able to harness a secondary, or potentially, primary income by utilising their assets, skills or time.

GUARDHOG was created by p2p and insurance geeks to fill this space. We’re insurtech innovators, responsible for not only creating and pioneering a new insurance sector but dismantling one of the key barriers to participating in the home-sharing p2p economy – think Airbnb, HomeAway, home-swapping, house-sitting.

  • What were the reasons for GUARDHOG developing the technology to integrate their platform with calendars on sharing sites, such as Airbnb?

We believe there is a huge importance of automating the implementation of insurance. This means cover has to be put in place where and when people want without them having to do anything; home-sharing can be stressful enough without having to remember to put cover in place.

When we built the GUARDHOG platform, our aim was to allow our customers to sync their multiple home-sharing calendars into one place and then our tech can flip our usage-based cover on and off, as and when needed. It allows them to manage their insurance, saving them time and cash, without having to do anything.

  • What is the “Deposit Cover” product that you are launching? What do you hope to achieve by bringing this to market and who will it benefit?

This is a new product we’re launching this spring to solve one of the biggest existing problems in the home-sharing community: deposits, and how to take them. Every host wants their guest to put down a deposit, but the process of being able to effectively take, hold, administer, mediate and facilitate that transaction all for a two-night stay is mighty cumbersome, irksome and trick-some for all.

Deposits are massively important though, for both a host and guest’s peace of mind and this is where our new cover comes in. It provides hosts and guests with an alternative to a traditional deposit and allows a more open, trust-worthy dialogue between the two when an accident happens. What is more, as a guest you can take our deposit cover to make you a more attractive guest and you’ll have the reassurance that you’ve covered yourself and host, just in case.

  • What challenges and opportunities are arising in the sharing economy market for insurance companies? How are they looking to capitalise on the potential of the short-term rental space?

One of the biggest challenges we face on a day-to-day basis is helping our customers understand why exactly it is they need our cover. There are a lot of misconceptions about what is and isn’t covered and who will and won’t cover these things. Until recently, there has been very little plain and simple information out there that that states exactly what is needed and why it is needed. Firstly, a lot of people don’t realise their home insurance policy won’t cover them, and may even be invalidated by sharing their home. This is why we launched a sharing friendly home insurance policy – around 65 per cent of home insurers don’t allow sharing, and almost all don’t cover the actual risks created.

In addition, a lot of “hosts” mistakenly believe they are covered by the “guarantees” offered by home-sharing platforms, (and a lot of the platforms don’t even offer this). These guarantees are not insurance and if you read the small print (as you should!!) they clearly state this in the terms and conditions and will strongly encourage hosts to put their own, proper insurance in place. The reality is that these guarantees are marketing and it’s a lottery about whether the platforms will or more likely won’t cover any damage resulting from guests.

  • How can companies like yours ensure insurance is not a barrier to people sharing homes, particularly in the future? What does this mean for the p2p economy on the whole?

The first question every host asks when they are thinking of home-sharing is how much money can they make? The second, what if something goes wrong? Properly understanding the downside is clearly a hugely important part of the decision-making process.

Have we solved the basic home-sharing insurance problem? Yes, but this is only the beginning. We’re not content with just smashing through said metaphorical barriers, we want to completely change the narrative. Protection is only one part of the answer, it needs to be built upon by prevention and prediction. That takes trust, tech and tenacity.

What does this mean for the p2p economy as a whole? Every p2p marketplace needs to help its users work through the downsides in a more open way. Creating a more transparent dialogue between marketplaces and users will subsequently create more trustworthy communities.

For more information, visit the GUARDHOG website here.

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