If you thought Airbnb was just for college kids looking for a couch to crash on, guess again.
Airbnb is introducing tools today to make it easier for people to rent -- and hosts to offer -- accommodations for a month or more at a time.
Airbnb sees this apartment or property subletting as a new business line.
So if you are an unmanaged business traveler looking for an economical place to stay for a month or more while you are working on a project away from your hometown or if you are a student seeking off-campus housing for a semester, Airbnb is introducing tools to make your search and stay easier.
If you search for a two-month stay in Chicago, for instance, Airbnb is now displaying monthly pricing for the apartments, rooms, villas or houseboats its hosts are offering for rent.
Under the new system, Airbnb charges guests' credit cards by the month so hosts don't have to chase after guests for payments, the company says.
In addition, hosts can differentiate properties' pricing based on daily, weekly or monthly stays and can establish blackout dates and the minimum number of nights the property is available for rental.
And, guests get the convenience of paying for their "rent" with credit cards, Airbnb says.
Airbnb says its introduction of these new tools was spurred by guest behavior. Even before the launch of these new features, Airbnb customers have already booked more than 3,000 monthly rentals up to 10 months in duration.
At least one rental went for $46,000, Airbnb says.
"With this expansion we've now made it simple for people to add a property for rent or sublet for one-time only, automatically blocking off dates that the property is not available," says Joe Gebbia, Airbnb co-founder and chief product officer. "Our entrance into a new category is an example of our drive to continually innovate in order to better serve our community."
Airbnb's all-in entry into monthly stays makes this portion of its business appear more like traditional subletting -- as opposed to a weekend stay here or there -- and will provide more ammunition for some critics who claim Airbnb is encouraging tenants to violate their apartment leases.
Thus, to list your property "you may not and agree you will not ... offer, as a Host, any Accommodation that may not be rented or subleased pursuant to the terms and conditions of an agreement with a third party, including, but not limited to, a property rental agreement ...
Airbnb obviously feels that this provision safeguards the company from liability if a host violates a no-subletting provision in a property lease.
At any rate, Airbnb has expanded its marketplace role in facilitating longer-term sublets and this will generate a new revenue stream for the company.
It is easy to see Airbnb getting into the office-subletting business, as well, in the future, as other peer-to-peer accommodation specialists have done.
Airbnb's initiative with monthly rentals won't put brands such as Residence Inn, which is geared toward extended stays by business travelers, out of business any time soon, but it gives road warriors and others new housing and rental options.
The new business line also, however, could elicit more of a backlash from the hotel industry.
Airbnb says it currently offers rentals of all stripes in 18,000 cities globally.