Two Months Bouncing Around Airbnb Misery

My nightmare began in early February. I’d moved back to Chicago, having completed law school there in January 2017. I initially found a great and cheap sublet in Lincoln Square for January. Unfortunately, the tenant returned from traveling abroad in early February and Airbnb was my best alternative. I didn’t have time to go apartment hunting as I was deep in bar exam preparation. I selected a shared living situation with a host in Andersonville who had sterling reviews and claimed to be a very relaxed and almost guru-like individual, living in harmony and exuding peace. What I found was a middle-aged woman who believed she had psychic abilities, had recently had foot surgery, and was taking a lot of pain medication.

I had a very bizarre breakfast with her the first morning. She babbled on and on for a couple of hours and prepared mystery goo, clearly under the influence of her pain medication (and likely her delusions of psychic powers). I left in the early afternoon of that first morning to go study at the university library and was there until late into the evening. I returned, watched the tail of the Super Bowl, chatted with her, and then went to bed. The next day I went to work and returned home in the evening and resumed studying for the bar at a table she’d encouraged me to use for that purpose. At around 8:30 PM she brought me more mysterious food, and then at 8:45 she came over and told me she was uncomfortable with me for reasons unknown, as I’d barely been there and she’d certainly been the much weirder individual in our interactions.

Her name is “Ashqi”, a name some random guru purportedly gave her. She’s a paralegal in Chicago but she has no understanding of the law. I’d recommend running far away from her listing if you see it. As I began questioning what that was about, she proclaimed she didn’t like feeling like she was being unreasonable in her own home. Well, if you take someone’s money and offer them housing through a formal service that does only that, then you should expect to address the concerns of your guests, particularly if you express to them that they make you uncomfortable. She said she’d think about it and went back into her kitchen with her friend with whom she’d been cackling loudly as I was attempting to study. I let the situation sink in, and resolved that I would leave the next day.

Fifteen minutes later, after I’d been made uncomfortable to the point of returning to the bedroom and locking the door, she told me she needed me out that night. This was at 9:30 PM. I immediately got on the phone to Airbnb, eventually got through, and let them know that she was violating their user agreement (and local, state and federal housing laws to boot). They were surprisingly accommodating and refunded the total to my account so I could book another Airbnb that night. I had a fairly uneventful stay in a Lakeview apartment for the next five days. However, it was too pricey to remain so I booked with a couple who had a space that looked like a nice and stable place to stay in order to finish out my bar prep. The listing claimed it was a private room, living space, and private bath. The first two were true, but the bathroom was in their kitchen, while the bedroom and living space were downstairs.

Furthermore, what they didn’t disclose is that they had two young girls who made constant shrieking and running noises right above the bedroom from about 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. These girls and their babysitter were almost constantly in the kitchen, right outside the bathroom, and would stare icily each and every time I had to go use the bathroom. It made holding in it for hours at a time often the best choice. What was more, the laundry room adjoining the living space had three separate litter boxes in it (for one cat), all of which had heaps of cat feces and urine clumps in them for the entire two weeks, despite the fact that the cat never used them while I was there, instead going outside. It was really nasty.

They were also a very dirty family, which could be excused given the ages of their children, but it got to the point where I became very ill twice during the two weeks just from going on into their bathroom and kitchen. They left dishes out for days, and food uncovered on the stove overnight. They pled with me to leave them good reviews from the very start and complained about bad reviews they’d received. When I checked out, despite what was a pretty bad experience, I left a good review. They in turn criticized how much time I spent in the house. I told them in the initial message that I’d be preparing for the bar exam. They weren’t too bright and I guess assumed that meant I’d be out of the house like a tourist for reasons unknown.

Again I found another good place in Lakeview, but could only stay there for two weeks before it was booked again. I decided to pick one more place before I was able to move into my apartment in mid-March. I could only afford a place in Wicker Park at $28/night. The pictures accurately represented the hovel it was. From all appearances it would have served well as the kind of place where people are held captive secretly like in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: unfinished, one old crappy rug, a few extremely dirty cooking implements, and a twin bed that was probably salvaged from an alley. I was fine with all of that; I needed to save money for apartment move-in fees and other associated costs. I just had to grin and bear it. It was a place I actively avoided until I had to sleep, though that was difficult in the middle of winter in Chicago.

I booked for two weeks but found a place to stay earlier (I’d informed the host my purpose in staying there was to look for an apartment while I started a new job) and attempted to change my reservation to end five days early. The host had already messaged me in the middle of the night two nights prior, lightly accusing me of withholding payment from him (as if that was even possible). I informed him Airbnb guests are charged immediately upon booking and his issue was with Airbnb. He said he’d get in contact. When I requested the change, he immediately rejected it. I messaged him to let him know why I was requesting it, and he said he’d already turned someone else down in order to accommodate me. He clearly didn’t turn down an Airbnb guest because no one could have attempted to book it while I had it booked.

I gently insisted that I needed to check out and whatever his issues with payment were, they needed to be addressed to Airbnb. Again he refused, suggesting that he wouldn’t let me leave until he got paid. I suggested that it was likely Airbnb withheld funds from hosts as a policy until reservations had ended, specifically to ensure that hosts couldn’t withhold refunds or keep guests’ money and kick them out prematurely. He wasn’t interested in this rationale. I find myself currently a day away from a release from Airbnb hell, and yet still in the midst of it, currently listening to the same hold music I’ve been hearing for the last 90 minutes, waiting for some form of customer service.

Long story short: use Airbnb only for short-term vacation rentals and even then, be prepared to know your legal rights as a tenant in the jurisdiction in which you’re staying. Contrary to what many hosts and probably guests seem to think, Airbnb is really just a financial clearing house for rental situations. They are not in the hospitality industry and hosts certainly are not, despite the artifice they present of being a hotel alternative. You have rights as a tenant under these short-term tenancies that are the same as if you were renting an apartment. You have a right to notice before you are kicked out and in truth, you can’t legally be removed from the tenancy unless you’ve committed an unlawful act. A violation of the host’s house policies may permit them to cancel your reservation, but you are not compelled to leave the premises immediately upon that cancellation regardless of what the host insists upon.

The relationship is one of landlord to tenant, not host to guest. Knowing this, regardless of the length of your stay, should allow you to familiarize yourself with your rights as a tenant in the specific jurisdiction and assert those rights at all times. Really, just avoid it unless you have no other choice. There are a number of great hosts and guests but Airbnb does a really bad job of explaining to their hosts what their responsibilities are to their guests (tenants) and the nature of the contract they’re entering into each time they accept a booking. This is undoubtedly intentional from Airbnb, as allowing confusion and misunderstanding about the legal rights, responsibilities and remedies available to the people they have using their platform to persist mitigates the potential for litigation against them. Indemnification by misinformation and lack of transparency.

Finally, if you’re a guest, I’d suggest asking as many questions of potential hosts as possible, particularly in shared living situations. They owe you candor but most think they can adopt the rules that best suit them. Ask them what they are concealing from their listing or what might be misleading. Lead with the assertion that you aren’t asking in order to avoid staying with them, but to better understand what your living situation is. If they think they’re offering customer service in this mistaken fantasy they have of being a hotelier or B&B operator, they’ll be much more likely to be honest. That may be the only time you get any sort of honest action out of them, but it will help you avoid some of my nightmare.

Scammed and not Given Compensation for Barcelona Stay

My boyfriend and I had paid to stay in someone’s apartment in Barcelona as a last resort because there were no affordable hotels available on our dates because they clashed with a world congress gathering. We arrived at the address of the listed apartment (from a verified host with multiple positive reviews) which lead us down a narrow poorly lit side alley to a building with no lights, locked doors, and appeared to be undergoing construction. Keep in mind this was at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night in a foreign country. We tried phoning and texting the host and got no response. He turned his phone off when I continued to call so we left and found a safe place to sit with our bags while frantically trying to work out what to do. I had never used Airbnb before so never knew what to do in this situation. With help from both our families back home we got a place to stay. In total we had to spend £600+ on hotels for the three nights, which is significantly more than we had originally spent on the apartment.

We tried emailing Airbnb and didn’t get a response. When they eventually did respond they weren’t much help at all and by then we had already sorted out a place to stay. They have now eventually refunded what I originally paid for the apartment but nothing else, meaning we are £400+ out of pocket as a result of this guy’s actions through absolutely no fault of our own (other than not having insurance). I totally understand if I had had insurance that this could of been different but after reading several forums online of people being given compensation by the company I asked why I wasn’t given the same consideration. I was told “every situation is dealt with on a individual case by case basis.” I was massively let down by both this organisation and the host. I understand not every host on this site is a fraud and I probably got one bad egg out of a whole bunch. However, the possibility of this happening is very real even if hosts look reliable so I’d advise anyone planning on booking to learn from my mistakes and be more wary.

Careful Not to Book with Strict Cancellation Policies

I had reserved an apartment and then the airlines canceled our flight. When I requested a refund, I only received 50% of the paid amount. I gave the host four months’ advance notice. She claimed she had already blocked the dates and would not refund us in full. She could easily unblock the calendar and rebook the place. If I had canceled a reservation four months in advance at any normal hotel or business I would be refunded with no questions asked. This is what makes Airbnb a grind: greedy hosts and company. Be very careful about booking outside of the country these days. There are way too many scams happening abroad. And you really do not want to be stuck in a foreign country in a hellish situation. Stick with reputable hotels and inns. Go to Tripadvisor and get the latest reviews on an accommodation before booking. The reviews on Airbnb are often unreliable. I’m tired of dishonest hosts and listings. It’s not worth the time or money (not to mention frustration) anymore. Guests are not respected. The Airbnb model is currently dysfunctional. Trust and honesty issues are rampant when there is money involved. Don’t shell out your money in advance on often broken promises.

Good Enough for Secret Service, Not for Airbnb Verification

I signed up for Airbnb because I did not wish to stay in your average hotel; I wanted to rent a house. I guess you can say I am not your Average Joe, and have been quite blessed in my life and career. I am friends with former President George W. Bush, and even attended his daughter Jenna’s wedding in 2008. I was with Vice President Mike Pence on November 10th, 2016 in Indianapolis and then went on the air with Jason Fechner, news anchor of NBC Affiliate RTV6 in Indy, right after my meeting with the Vice President. The only reason I “name drop” is to prove a point. I am not overly wealthy, but am a well-respected businessman in my community and am a man of high morals and integrity.

I booked a home for the first part of our stay with no issue. The next day I attempted to book another home for the next half of the month, on a different island. This is when the hell started. I have never been through more hell trying to get “verified” in my life. The Secret Service never treated me like this, regardless of which President or Vice President I met with. After ten days of calls, poor customer service, and no emails, I received a notification informing me of my account cancellation and refund. It seems that Airbnb uses a flawed service to check “criminal records”. First off, I never gave them enough information to pull a proper background check, so they must deny someone if there is a close name match. If I can meet with leaders of America, why can’t I book a room through Airbnb? I own one of the largest computer-consulting firms in Texas and deal in top security issues on a daily basis. I pull background checks on my employees, and employees for my clients. Airbnb never acquired enough information from me to do a proper check. Do yourself a favor and do not waste your time with Airbnb. Use HomeAway or VRBO. I did and have two nice homes for our month in Hawaii.

Don’t Use Facebook to Verify your Airbnb Account

We had stayed in an Airbnb in Singapore and since we were asked for a review, we posted the challenges we faced during our stay in the most polite way possible. It was simple feedback on insects being present and some inflexibility. We had been very mild with the feedback since the host was a student. In reality, the place was dirty and messy. The host, on the other hand, replied maligning us in a very personal manner, and since we had used a Facebook account to verify our account, this information was also available. As a precaution to all people who are booking through Airbnb: please try to avoid linking it to a Facebook account. Try using a name which is not traceable. The system is highly unregulated and unprofessional. In fact, it makes me wonder about the authenticity of the reviews. It is better to pay more and book via Agoda or Booking.com and move into a decent place, where you would be more sure of what you’re getting. Our other experiences are similar to what many others have faced, including a feeling of intrusion, lack of privacy, and fear of persecution. All in all, Airbnb is not worth it.

Reservation Cancelled Last Minute in NYC

So, I had this wonderful, romantic trip planned for my girlfriend and me: tickets to a Broadway show and a “fantastic” room right in Times Square that I booked through Airbnb. However, less than two weeks before our scheduled trip, I received an email from Airbnb that simply said: “Unfortunately, your reservation has been cancelled.”

That’s it! No explanation, nothing except the option to credit my account or receive a refund. There is no option to contact the owner from whom I was renting. This is my first experience with Airbnb and will very likely be my last. How can one make plans under these circumstances? My son has several upcoming Airbnb reservations. I will advise him to cancel and book hotels. I would certainly never recommend Airbnb and have no intention of giving them a second chance. Oh well, back to Hotels.com.

my airbnb account has security issues and been hacked 3 times in the passing week.

I opened my airbnb account around the 15th on September, at first everything seemed great. As I compared airbnb to his competitors online, I was actually impressed, it looked easy, simple, friendly….

After our first booking the problem started:
First we found out that our account has been hacked, email address has changed, payment method has changed to bank-wire to account: XXXX-9000 – Not my account, I can’t edit or delete anything and all in perfect timing with a schedule transfer of the last guest.
So, I send an email and I call airbnb after.
They said that they will “freeze” our account, so no money transfer will occur… so I don’t get paid until they resolve it. When will it be resolved? I asked, “it’s top priority” they said, so I thank for a good service and I waited.

To make it short, It took THREE (3!) days to solve until our airbnb account security issue.
Every day waiting on the phone with them, hearing they can’t do anything, and “we are working on it”, “it’s top priority”. Only at the end of the third day, after being with them on the phone during the day, I got a call!
A nice representative named Malena called and she said she can see that I have a problem with my account , and that she will solve it. It took her 30 seconds to solve it; 30 seconds, 3 days wait.

So the money was transferred and it was going well….. for about 36 hours, when all the messages in my account where locked.
I couldn’t access any of them and my listing didn’t appear on search results. I found out about all of it by a future guest that send me a scared email about him being unable to find us on airbnb… I felt bad.
I called them again, I told them that it’s a really big deal, and that I need to know what to do. I got no answers from them, the “urgent call” service can’t do something.
They don’t have any supervisors, managers, colleagues they can transfer you to, and they can’t help.

24 hours passed before they solved the problem… and another 24 hours passed until it came back again, the same problem , again my account is shut down, the only difference is that this time, I had no one to talk to.

The airbnb representative said that this department is Not available at the moment and they can’t say when it will be resolved, they can’t even say when this department will be available again.
The only thing that they will tell you is to wait.
So I wait, I have 3 bookings starting tomorrow… don’t really know what to do anymore…

Do you have Any suggestions?
Do you know a good alternative for airbnb?

Alon