When Karen Zalusky travels, she loves to use home-sharing websites.
"We love it because it's a really cheap way to travel," Zalusky said.
But when Karen arrived at a home she recently booked through Airbnb, she was shocked to see the condition it was in.
"As soon as we walked in, you could tell that something wasn't right," Zalusky said.
Karen said an offensive smell overtook her and her husband and that they found the homeowner kept pets inside without cleaning up after them.
Airbnb gave her a full refund and removed the listing from its website.
Karen also said she noticed a carbon monoxide detector unplugged from the wall, a situation that can put a rental property's safety in question.
Consumer Reports recommends that all rentals have working fire safety products, but a 2018 study found only 56 percent of Airbnb listings had carbon monoxide detectors and only 42 percent carried fire extinguishers.
Airbnb maintains a web page dedicated to home safety, which states: "We encourage every Airbnb host to install working smoke & CO detectors in their listing and to check them frequently."
But Consumer Reports said that these are only suggested requirements, which is why renters have to take a more proactive approach.
"Vacation rentals are not regulated in the same way as hotels, which means you really want to reach out to your host before you book," said Dan Wroclawski, Consumer Reports Home Editor.
Consumer Reports recommended asking these five questions:
- Does the property have working smoke and CO detectors?
- Is there a working fire extinguisher on the property?
- Does the property have an emergency safety card?
- Is there a first-aid kit in the home?
- Does the property meet local safety regulations?
"Asking these questions will just give you a better understanding of how safe the property is and they might also bring up some other issues you might not been aware of," Wroclawski said.
Consumer Reports said it's essential to read the reviews with a critical eye. Look for Airbnb "Superhosts" - those who have hosted at least 10 times in a year and received a 5-star review for at least 80 percent of stays. CR said these listings are a good bet for a happy vacation.
NBC 5 reached out to Airbnb for comment and did not get a response.