Airbnb Left us in the Lurch in Southern France

We rented an apartment for five months through Airbnb. We arrived at our destination and contacted our host as previously arranged. He did not meet us as planned but left a key in an empty mailbox on site. We were immediately disappointed in the apartment and its furnishings. We had paid top dollar only to find rummage sale furnishings, broken window blinds, stained carpet, a broken bed, a television with no user information, linens in poor condition, and a building filled with the smell of cigarette smoke. We contacted the host within the 24-hour window and requested remediation. He missed two appointments to address problems and didn’t even contact us until we were in our third day of this distress.

At this point we contacted Airbnb. We were contacted in swift succession by a number of Airbnb representatives. One of them indicated that it was clear we could not stay at the location. He recommended that we leave immediately and that Airbnb would pay up to $150 for a hotel. We were told to go online and cancel the contract. They did not tell us that this would mean that we would still be responsible to pay rent for the next 30 days. At this point Airbnb went entirely silent and basically abandoned us. There was no follow-up after being told to hit the street. We believed that the contract was cancelled because the landlord had not lived up to his contractual obligation and that we would be reimbursed. It turned out that “strict cancellation” means that the guest pays under any circumstances, even when Airbnb knows it was a bum deal.

Airbnb gave us no further instructions about arranging for another Airbnb property or about negotiating with the landlord for another property the the landlord had on hand. At that point we simply didn’t trust him. The host actually threatened physical confrontation. No one takes any responsibility at Airbnb. As it happened, a colleague rented another location from this “five-star” landlord to find that dozens of rats inhabited the attic. It took days to get that addressed. Airbnb does not oversee or caution hosts with serious complaints against them. Another money making racket with no concern for what it delivers. We contacted Airbnb again. After mediating with the host, Airbnb said that the host would return a mere $365 of the $1700 monthly rent.

Airbnb Long-Term Cancellation Policy: Buyer Beware

My husband and I booked a two-bedroom, two-bath condo for our 25th wedding anniversary. However, my knee gave out and I was unexpectedly forced to have total knee replacement surgery. We booked the condo through Airbnb and the owner had a 30-day cancellation policy. That was fine. We canceled three months and one week in advance because my surgeon did not want me to travel on a 5.5-hour flight over the ocean with no chance of stopping after undergoing the surgery, due to concerns about edema and blood clots. We were penalized 50% of our total amount because the hosts “have a super strict policy.”

First of all, we did not know about such a policy until after we booked; I was contacted by Airbnb when we attempted to cancel. The only policy we were given at the time of booking was the owner’s policy of a 30-day cancellation. Sure enough, on the Airbnb website, after much searching, I found the 50% penalty policy. Interestingly, it says in order to be afforded this tremendous opportunity, one must be “invited.” We weren’t invited; we never even knew about it. However, Airbnb says it is a policy for this particular listing. The owner of the condo says it is an Airbnb policy.

Whichever organization or company made the policy, Airbnb indicates that they have an appeal process, which we followed; my doctor wrote a letter explaining that I could not fly such a long distance until the very end of the year due to the possibility of complications (which I experienced with my first knee replacement). I even sent them my MRI results and an explanation of the surgery. They denied our appeal, again saying they “have a super strict policy.” To cancel over three months in advance and be penalized well over $1,300 is beyond absurd. So, when I can fly at the end of the year, we will never stay at this particular listing again (although we have stayed there many times), and we will never use Airbnb again (it was our first experience with this company). What a scam.

Cold House from Airbnb, Used Electric Oven to Stay Warm

This is my personal Airbnb Hell story. I was born in Canada but had not been there in almost 50 years as I had moved to the United States when I was very young with the rest of my family. However, I had no choice but to return for personal reasons. I arrived at the Airbnb listed as “Comfy Room” at a house located in Surrey on August 21st, 2016. At first, everything went well. In fact, I lived there for several months before things starting falling apart.

I began to notice the following issues. Every time that Lyn Taylor (real name Evelyn Mercado) would clean my room she would turn off the nightlight that I had plugged in so that I would not be stumbling around in the dark when I woke up during the night to use the restroom. The nightlight only uses 0.7 Watts. She later complained to me that I was leaving that light on – how cheap can you get? The weekly housekeeping started turning into every eight days, then nine days, then ten or more days. Eventually it got to the point where I had to get myself a clean towel as I could not depend on either Paul or Lyn to take care of that.

They have Instant Book so people would be checking in at all hours of the day and night, including 2:00 AM in one case. Many times they were not even there when people would come to check in and I would have to answer the door and explain to them that I was only a guest. Many guests were told that the key to their room was in the lock box outside the front door, but when they opened the lock box there was no key inside. They were staying in the basement suite underneath the house but it began to feel at times like they were absentee landlords.

I stayed there only because I had no close family in that area. At that time I had not driven in over four years and did not have a drivers license. The weather was turning cold, so I did not want to take the chance of going through all of that hassle to find another place that might be just as bad, or even worse.

One time I was having trouble sleeping. It was almost 2:00 AM; I heard noises outside my room and noticed that some lights were on. I opened my door and discovered that Lyn was cleaning downstairs, in the middle of the night. Another issue I noticed is that several times when I was taking a shower the warm water disappeared and all that came out was cold water. One time the water was so cold when I got out of the shower I actually felt warmer. They rented out all five rooms in their house and were staying downstairs in the basement. When the house was full there could be nine people or more using the hot water to take a shower, wash clothes, etc.

I also noticed that as it got colder outside that I would feel cold in the house even when I was wearing a flannel shirt over another shirt. I mentioned this many times to both Paul and Lyn and they would always say “the thermostat is set at 22 Celsius” even though I complained numerous times. I know that 22 Celsius is the same as 71.6 Fahrenheit so I knew that was not the real temperature; 71.6 Fahrenheit is a very comfortable temperature. I told Lyn that I was feeling cold one time and she told me that “I am sweating inside here while I am working.” Of course this ignored the fact that she was dressed in very cold weather clothing and was vigorously cleaning around the house. Many other guests also complained to me personally about feeling cold. Eventually it got to the point where my hands felt like ice even when I was fully dressed. One evening another guest who had also complained to me about feeling cold took their meal out of the oven and then told me that they would leave the oven door open for a while to heat the room up. I noticed that soon after he did that the room started feeling warmer. This other guest and I began to use the oven to keep us warm. Otherwise, we would have felt like putting on our jackets inside the house. That is how cold it felt. We did that for about a week.

The other guest left on a Saturday morning as he was retiring and moving to a property that he had purchased. I continued to use the oven every now and then to warm things up and on Sunday, the day after the other guest left, Paul and Lyn confronted me about using the oven to stay warm. I told them that I had only been using it for a week and had only used it because I was so cold. Lyn became very angry and told me that “ever since you have moved in our electric bill has gone up.” She told me that “I want you out of here tomorrow.”

I truly believe that she would have thrown me out then and there even though it was cold with snow on the ground outside except for the fact that her husband Paul said, “Nothing is going to happen tonight.” Lyn threatened to report me to Airbnb and give me a bad review if I did not accept their cancelling my reservation. I left the next day as they requested. Lyn sent me an email in which she accused me of taking hot showers even though it was “minus 5 outside.” What does she think I am going to do, take a cold shower when it is so cold outside? She also accused me of leaving the oven on when I went to bed which is not true. I owned up to what I did and told them why I did it. I would never have done that if they had not ignored my numerous complaints, as well as the complaints of other guests about feeling cold.

I had paid for the entire month of March yet I moved out on March 6th. I received a message from Lyn in a day or so in which she said that she and Paul were in line to become Superhosts and they would appreciate it if I could give them a good review as she felt I was a good person. Against my better judgment I gave them a good review and Lyn had stated that she would review the February and March billing for the electric and get back to me about a refund. I never heard anything back so I contacted Lyn in April about my refund. She stated that she was still having jet lag (even though she had returned home about two weeks before) and that she would get back to me by the end of April.

When May arrived I then contacted Airbnb to see what I could do as I was told by my bank that I had to contact them to see if I could resolve the issue as they were the actual merchant. Airbnb checked with Lyn and their last message stated: “Thanks for your patience. I wanted to give you an update on your refund request for your reservation. At this time, Lyn hasn’t agreed to issue you a refund for the adjustment to this reservation.” I have now filed a formal dispute with my debit card issuer as I am owed for the 25 days in March that I paid for and did not receive. The only refund I received was $18.00 Canadian dollars and a $75.00 credit from Airbnb. I am owed about $840.00 Canadian dollars. It is obvious to me now that Lyn never had any intention of refunding my money and just tricked me into giving them a good review to help them become Superhosts. I feel used, to put it lightly. Basically I got ripped off big time. I will never use Airbnb again. I could care less about the $75.00 credit they gave me.

Airbnb Customer Service Handles Lack of Wifi Poorly

I booked an apartment through Airbnb in Madrid for a long-term stay, about 60 days. I never met the host. This wasn’t a problem, as I was shown around by her friend who was also the person I was to solely communicate with about any problems. The first thing I did when I arrived was check the wifi signal, as it was listed as an amenity on Airbnb. The connection was terrible and always disconnected due to the router being three floors away and shared by a number of other guests. I told the host’s friend about this problem as well as the host herself and they mentioned that they would bring a signal booster around within the next couple of days. I waited patiently whilst delaying my work and losing some income.

Eventually the host’s friend arrived with the signal booster which we set up and tried but it didn’t make a difference at all. The host’s friend also mentioned that some guests have had problems with the wifi in the past too. After fiddling around with the signal booster by putting it in different positions for about an hour the host’s friend gave up and left. At this point I phoned and complained to Airbnb, who told me that they would help me find a new place before my next installment of £1000+ was due. However, they did not keep their promise and this forced me to cancel my booking.

When cancelling my booking the website told me the amount due was for the next 30 days; to cover myself, I paid this so that after the 30 days were up I could move somewhere else. However, this was not the case. Upon canceling my booking on the Airbnb website it stated that I must pay for the following 30 days but it didn’t tell me that I was not entitled to use the apartment for these 30 days that I just paid for. At this point, I was in such a panic and contacted the host telling them what I had done. Luckily they agreed to still let me stay (as they should – I paid for those days). During the 30 days I was staying there I complained a number of times to the host and the host’s friend as well as Airbnb and nothing was done about the situation with the wifi.

After the 30 days were up, I moved into a new place and this time talked to Airbnb to request half of my money back. After a few emails back and forth with the woman who was dealing with my case, she stated that according to their terms and conditions I am only entitled to four days of staying there as after these four days is when I cancelled… even though I paid for 30+ days and lost out on thousands of paid work. On top of this, Airbnb could clearly see in the chat log that the host was lying through her teeth as she said that I sent her a message saying that the wifi was working when there is no such message; there were only messages of me complaining about it. I am never going to use Airbnb again. I thought being a modern company they would have some ethical consideration and take things into account rather than blasting ”according to our terms and conditions” in my face.

To sum it up, I spent £1300 on an apartment for 33 days, and they told me I was only entitled to four days’ refund as I cancelled my booking to prevent myself from losing out on more paid work due to the amenity problem. If Airbnb reads this then they can be assured that they’re going to lose a lot more money than the modest refund that I requested for being screwed over by them and the host.

Airbnb System Allows Everyone to Request Same Dates?

This is my second time booking through Airbnb; the first time was fine. I sent a request for one apartment for two days and the next day the host declined it, saying that “it conflicts with another booking.” Now, my first thought was: what? What other booking? Shouldn’t my selected dates become unavailable for other people to book? Or does Airbnb allow everyone to send requests for the same dates, so that the host can then dig through them and pick her favorite one? On top of that, after I had been declined, that property was still available to be requested for the selected dates. I messaged the host, asking her to explain, and she said she is “waiting for confirmation for a couple that are looking to book for more days.”

Apparently, it’s true that Airbnb allows unlimited requests to stack up for the same dates. That’s a terribly immoral business model they’ve created, creating competition between guests for the host’s favor. Now, it’s understandable that hosts would prefer longer bookings over shorter ones. However, if their system allows requests for same dates to stack up, allowing the host to pick and choose, then people who need a short stay basically have no chance against longer-stay guests. It’s basically an auction system, where guests bid on who will rent a longer stay. Imagine if hotels started to operate on the same principle: there will be public outrage. Or, imagine if hotels would accept “bids” for a maximum price the guests are willing to pay per night. Then rich people would take all the rooms, leaving everyone else with nowhere to stay. It’s the same here, except with lengths of stay.

I’ve researched this a bit and apparently hosts can choose whether they want the requested dates to become unavailable for others, or not. Why is there even such an option? It puts all the power into the host’s hands. I don’t want to use Airbnb if the hosts will treat me as some undesirable scum just because I only want to book two nights. It creates inequality. Guests and hosts are supposed to be on equal terms.

So, in conclusion, to remove this horrible inequality, Airbnb should:

  • Only allow booking requests for the same dates one at a time.
  • Penalize hosts who decline booking requests for no good reason (as it’s still a major inconvenience to wait a day just to receive a decline, then wait another day for another one)
  • State that a short stay is not a good reason to decline a request (because there is already a minimum stay rule that can be added to the listing)

No Response from NYC Host, Keeps Half my Money

This was (and is) my first and only experience with Airbnb. I booked an apartment with Janine for nine nights in July 2016. I made the reservation in February, five months in advance. I then started seeing recent reviews about poor communication from the host, and difficulty with getting the keys to the apartment once in New York City. Since I would be traveling with a family of five, I wanted to work out any miscommunications in advance. I sent two messages to the host in February on the Airbnb website, and received no response. I sent an email to the address Airbnb had listed for the host in March. Still no response. In late March, I read more negative responses from recent guests about being told to say they were a relative of the host if anyone asked and more issues with cleaning and getting the key from a local café with changing hours of operation. This continued to raise my level of concern. I then texted the phone number listed for the host. Again, no response.

A week later, I called the number and left a voicemail. Still no response. At this point I began to wonder if I would land in New York to find that I had no place to stay. I could not locate any way of contacting Airbnb, so I cancelled my reservation more than three months prior to the arrival date. After cancelling, I discovered that the host keeps 50% of the money on all cancellations. Allowing the host to keep over $1000 for a place at which I never stayed and cancelled over three months in advance because she would not communicate with me at all does not sit well with me. After cancelling the reservation and requesting all of my money back, I got one simple response from the host, stating that I never contact her. She also declined to refund any of my money. The listing can be viewed here. The reviews can be viewed here.

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.

Host Cancelled my Long-Term Booking in Sri Lanka

Last November I booked a long term stay in Sri Lanka. I wanted to stay for ten weeks in order to have some time to write, as well as to look at properties to buy as I hope to move there eventually. I found the perfect place, booked from June through mid-August, and all seemed well. The place had very good reviews and seemed perfect. Last January the host began emailing me: Why was I staying so long? He didn’t think it was a good idea; better to stay a week in different cities; he didn’t serve breakfast. All of this was in short, separate messages. He wanted me to cut my stay to a shorter one and he would refund my payment. I explained to him that I am a retiree and did not want to move around; I wanted to stay in one place, relax, write, and look for a property to buy. He sent about ten such messages. I did not hear back from him and assumed he had accepted.

Then, recently I decided that I would indeed prefer to go in July not June so went to let him know this. I found that my entire reservation had been deleted from Airbnb, as well as all messages and notifications from him. I looked at his reservation calendar, and I saw that the months I had booked are now mostly open again. I booked for two weeks in July, which at first were accepted. I then wrote him to ask why he had cancelled without letting me know, and what we were to do about the down payment I had made. At first he seemed confused; maybe he did not realise I was the same person. Then he declined the reservation, and wrote me to say I had not paid. I have searched the Airbnb site up and down and there is no way to contact them about this. Since the reservation itself is not there any more, I cannot complain. They only allow discussions on reservations that are on the site, but mine has been completely deleted. I need a contact email ASAP. I live in Germany so calling is a bit of a hassle. What can I do?

Airbnb Scam: Fake Long-Term Listing in Geneva

I am sharing this because similar stories posted here about a scam in Iceland and Spain are what kept me from getting scammed. I will be collaborating with someone in Geneva for a couple of months and needed to find a place to stay (well technically, I still need to find a place). A friend who lives in Switzerland suggested that I use this website. On it, I found a listing for an apartment that was cheap compared to most of the other apartments in the area (610 CHF/ month for a one bedroom apartment). The ad was certified as ‘verified’. The ad was in French so I emailed the person in French and here is what they replied:

Thanks for your interest in wanting to be my tenant. My name is Klaudia Wannemaker and I’m 44 years old. I bought this apartment for my son during his studies. Now he is back home in Italy permanently. so I am renting the place for an unlimited time. Before we go any further I would like to know something about you, like how many people intend to live in the apartment, your job, and how old you are. The apartment is fully furnished but if you need it unfurnished, you can move the furniture into storage. The rent is CHF 610 per month and includes all utilities listed below:

• High Speed Internet

• Utilities (water/gas/electricity/heating)

• TV Cable

• Parking Spot

The lease is flexible, can be month to month, with a minimum stay of one month to a maximum of 8 or 9 years. The price will not increase monthly, it will remain the same for the whole period that the contract states. About pets: there are no problems if you have pets, as long as you clean up after them. The only inconvenience is that my job doesn’t allow me to leave Warsaw even for one single day. We just hired some new staff and I’m in charge of their training. But this won’t affect you at all. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

To me, it seemed legit although I found it odd that she was replying in English, and her not being around to show me the apartment came across as an immediate red flag. I continued emailing her because I was not sure yet. Also, I had already told her everything she had asked about me, and I had told her I was looking for a short-term lease. In retrospect, this was obviously an automated response, but what can I say? I was still young and hopeful then. Here is the next email I received:

Thanks for your reply. You seem to be a very nice person and I can assure you we will not have any problems. The apartment has been kept up properly and had a professional, top-to-bottom cleaning. Like I have informed you, the price you shall pay for one month’s rent will be CHF 610 and I also want a security deposit of CHF 1000 (which you will receive back at the end of the contract), with no extra taxes. As for the rent, I want to receive it monthly in my bank account, so I hope it will be no problem for you to wire the money. The apartment is ready for you; all you have to do is to check it and see if you like it. I’ve found a way for us to complete the deal safely and fast so you can check the apartment in less than three days. Nobody can help me show you the apartment because I don’t know the neighbors very well. The solution I’ve chosen is provided by Airbnb. They handle rentals for people who are unable to solve them alone, which are abroad, so they will take care of both the inspection and payment. If you are interested so please email me, and I will send the link with my apartment listed on Airbnb.

She did not answer any of the questions I had asked again (e.g. how far the place was from the University, etc.) and it just seemed more and more suspicious. Here is what I replied:

Hi Klaudia. Thank you for getting back to me. I’m really excited about the apartment, however, I am not comfortable wiring money for a place I cannot see in person. Indeed, I am in the United States and will not be able to come to Geneva until May. I’d love to Skype with you to discuss a solution, or send a member of my family to look at it (I have a cousin who works in Geneva). Please let me know if that would work. I am also invested in seeing the Airbnb listing for the apartment if that is possible! Thank you!

Her “reassuring” answer:

I want to take this opportunity to assure you that there is nothing to be worried about this rental. You can see on my announcement that I have positive feedback with Airbnb and they verified my personal ID. I will try explain to you step by step how this will work. Take a few moments and read my email carefully. First you must reserve the apartment and after you’ve made the booking, you must complete the payment. In 2-3 days after your payment confirmation the agent from Airbnb will come to show you the apartment and give you the contract. The contract is signed by me and you can choose to rent my apartment for a long or short term period. The monthly rent will be the same for whole period. Once you have inspected the apartment you have two options:

Option 1: You will take the apartment and sign the contract for a long or short term period.

Option 2: I don’t think you will use this option, but you’ll tell the agent that you don’t want to rent my apartment and Airbnb will refund you the money in 48 hours. End of the deal. I’ve chosen Airbnb because they offer guarantees for both of us. I will get paid only after you confirm that you will rent my apartment. I need your full name and a mobile number so I can send you the link to my announcement. Let me know if this is acceptable.

At this point, I knew it was all fake and I sure wasn’t going to wire her any money months before I even arrived in Geneva. I was curious to see what kind of Airbnb listing she would show me though, so I gave her my full name and phone number (that had been included in my email signature all along). Here was her final reply:

Hello. Here you have the link:

http://www.airbnb.com-online-booking.eu/booking/listing/79b710/?rent=1488357890?s=eRGFZrin

(NOTE FROM AIRBNB HELL: because this is a scam Airbnb site, we would advise against following this link, but thought our readers should be aware of the address).

To rent the apartment immediately please select the period for one month and click the ” Instant Booking ” button in the listing. On the next page review your purchase information. After you complete the Airbnb steps, they will send you an invoice with the payment details and the confirmation. The funds must be transferred to Airbnb. Thank you.

If you look closely at the URL, you can tell how it is fake. The ‘-online-booking-eu’ part gives it away. That is not the official Airbnb website although it looks just like it. It indeed said that she was a verified hostess: there was a picture of her, and comments of fake previous tenants. When I went on the real Airbnb website I of course could not find her apartment. Oh and about twelve hours after she sent this she emailed me again, pressing me to make the payment and let her know when I have done so because ‘she needed to know ASAP’. You can imagine how colorful my response was. Anyways, after I was done having fun, I reported her to Airbnb and Wgzimmer. Now I am writing this fun post to spread the word as this is apparently a fairly common scam.

Scammers Keep Adapting: Long-Term Apartment in Vienna

I was planning to find an apartment to rent in Vienna long term and used the website jobwohnen.at to look for a place. There I found a really good offer of a very nice apartment, with a really good price and an incredible location. I thought it was perfect and decided to write the person renting the apartment, Matilda Veracruz Barrera. The listing was in German and it seemed really nice. Since I speak Spanish and the name of the contact was clearly from a Spanish-speaking country, I suggested that we could communicate in Spanish. After a short time, I received this message:

“Hello, I just read your email regarding my apartment for rent located in Vienna, Austria. It has two rooms: one bedroom, one living room (51 square meters). I bought this apartment for my daughter during her studies in Austria, but now she’s back home permanently. I’m renting the place for an unlimited time. Before we go any further I would like to know a little something about you, like how many people you intend to live in the apartment, and for how long. The flat is exactly like in the pictures, furnished and renovated. The utilities (cold/hot water, electricity, wireless broadband Internet, digital TV , dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator, washing machine, etc.) are included in the price of the rent. You will have one parking spot, whose rent is 470 EUR month. The guarantee deposit is  1250 EUR, and you get it back when you decide to leave the apartment (you will have to give me at least 30 days’ notice). As for me, you can rest assured that I will never ask you to leave the apartment. My daughter is building her life here. I am too old to move to Austria, so we won’t disturb you. You can use my furniture, or you can also use your own if you prefer. If you decide to use yours, you will have access to a very large and well ventilated cellar, where you can store my furniture. Now, a little bit about myself so we can get to know each other better. My name is Matilda Veracruz Barrera and I’m 56 years old, Deputy Director of the chamber of commerce from Barcelona/Spain, planning to retire in the next two years. I have a lovely husband, Luis Veracruz Barrera, and a 25-year-old daughter, Luisa. I am very proud to say that soon I’m going to be a grandmother. Another member of our family is an 8-year-old Labrador which we all love, so I have no problem if you keep pets. The only inconvenience is that my job doesn’t allow me to leave Barcelona even for one single day. We just hired some new staff and I’m in charge of their training. This won’t affect you at all. I can make arrangements to rent the apartment from Barcelona (on my expense of course). Looking forward to hearing from you soon. All the best from Spain!”

This message to me seemed perfect but also strange, since I suggested that we could speak in Spanish but she responded in English. I thought that maybe this person had this already written in English and was just copying and pasting to anybody contacting her. Now I realize that the listing was in German and the sudden switch to English was weird as well, since I wrote her in German in the first place and just suggested Spanish as an option. I was very naïve and decided to write her back. I was super nice and super detailed with my moving date, and my purpose in Vienna, so that the person would trust me. After that message I received this:

“Gracias por su respuesta, Como te he informado antes, el precio de 1 mes de alquiler será de 470 euros con todas las facturas incluidas en él, y quiero también un depósito de garantía de 1250 euros (el depósito de garantía de € 1250 que recibirá de vuelta al final de la Contrato), sin impuestos adicionales a pagar. Quiero recibir el dinero mensualmente en mi cuenta bancaria, por lo que espero que no será ningún problema para que el cable del dinero. Estoy dispuesto a enviarle las llaves para que pueda visitarlo y ver que se adapte a sus necesidades. La entrega de las llaves y permiso de visualización (firmado por mí), se hará con Airbnb (www.airbnb.com) para asegurarse de que podamos confiar en el otro. Si estás interesado te puedo explicar el procedimiento, así que espero noticias de tu lado porque realmente necesito ocuparme de este asunto. ¡Gracias!”

This message seemed ok. I thought that it was the real deal since it was written in Spanish. The thing is that I gave so many details and this seemed to be a very cold message. Also the Spanish wording is a little bit weird and with some clear mistakes. I thought: mistakes from a Deputy Director of the chamber of commerce? If you put that message into Google Translate you get this:

“Thanks for your reply. As I have informed you, the price of one month’s rent will be 470 euros with all bills included, and I also want a security deposit of 1250 euros (you will receive the security deposit of €1250 back at the end of the contract), without additional taxes to be paid. I want to receive the money monthly into my bank account, so I hope it will not be any problem for you to do a wire transfer. I am willing to send you the keys so that you can visit and see that it suits your needs. The delivery of the keys and permission of visualization (signed by me), will be done with Airbnb (www.airbnb.com) to make sure we can trust each other. If you are interested I can explain the procedure, so I expect news from your side because I really need to deal with this. Thank you!”

Of course they used Google Translate. The whole situation still seemed so fishy but I decided to continue to read her responses. I wrote her a short message saying that I was interested and that I would like to know how the process with Airbnb works. I also told her that I needed the apartment for July and not immediately. I received then this back:

“Hello, the contract is made in your name, and yes, everything is included. First of all, I want to tell you that if you are ready to proceed with this transaction I will need to inform you the steps about how this service works. You will have two days to inspect the apartment before your final decision to rent. I will pay the shipping costs. This is how it works:

  1. I will deliver the papers to Airbnb.
  2. After I deliver the papers they will require your payment confirmation of the first month and the guarantee deposit (€470.00 + €1250.00=€1720) to the company. Airbnb will send you a delivery notification to let you know they have the keys and the papers in their custody. Also Airbnb will give you further instructions about the deposit.
  3. After the payment is confirmed the delivery process will start and when you receive the keys, you will have two days to inspect the property before your final decision to rent.
  4. If all is in order, you will instruct Airbnb to give me the money. Future rent will be sent directly to my bank account.
  5. If you refuse to rent the apartment, Airbnb will give you a full refund (€1720.00) and you will give them back the keys and the contract. If you are interested in renting the apartment please send me your information, so I can make the deal: name, address, city, postal code, country, phone number, a copy of your ID, passport or driving license by email (scan or photo) and a picture of you. Thanks!”

Again the conversation was switched back to English with no feedback on my elaborated details. It seemed so fishy at this point that I decided to Google this woman at the chamber of commerce of Barcelona, and I couldn’t find anything. Then I decided to look for Airbnb scams and found a very similar story posted on Airbnb Hell some days ago with a long-term apartment in Iceland. That’s why I’m sharing my story, because it is clearly a scam. I am not angry with Airbnb; they haven’t done anything to me. I cannot say that Airbnb is a good or a bad platform, since I’ve never used it before, but there’s definitely a bunch of idiots outside of Airbnb trying to use it to scam people. This post is just to show people out there to be careful with these kind of offers. Don’t fall into this trap. Fortunately I was careful enough in the end, but some people might fall for this and the amount of money they are asking for is quite a lot. I hope this helps others in similar situations and they will report it here or somewhere else. Please let me know where else can I share my story so people won’t be fooled in the future.