Ottawa Airbnb Nightmare: Kate the Con Artist

I’m currently fighting with Airbnb and this con-artist host to resolve this issue. I will post updates if possible. Here is the rundown of everything I sent to Airbnb, with a request for a full refund:

I’d like a full refund for this incorrectly advertised, poorly hosted, nightmare of an Airbnb rental. I’ll start off by explaining what was wrong with the property itself before I go into the more disturbing issue with the host. First of all, the advertisement was listed as: “massive downtown seven bedroom.” The description said it was a large home that was very spacious, with large bedrooms.

The first thing we noticed as we we drove twenty minutes past downtown was the location. A rundown, beat-up house in the middle of a bad neighborhood in the south end of Ottawa. We were disappointed before going in, but tried to make light of the situation. We walked in to a crammed kitchen, a tiny excuse for a living area, with what was supposed to be the rest of it converted into the first “bedroom”. The rest of the house was just as small and crammed.

The first thing we went to do, as a small group of six, was to sit down in the kitchen and start eating some of the food we brought with us. We went to go sit down and the table tipped over and almost broke. We lifted the corner of it and I messaged the host to tell her about the issue. She kindly told me where the tools were in her house in case I wanted to fix it. I told her I’d leave the table in the corner and wouldn’t use it instead; she had no problem with that.

The place was clean for the most part except for bugs. Only eight of us stayed the night, and only four bedrooms were used out of the six small ones available. The next day, we cleaned up what we could, except all the dishes, because we knew that was taken care of with the cleaning charge. We even swept everywhere before we left. I personally checked every bedroom and washroom to make sure the place was properly presentable and a five-star rating was completely within reach for myself as a guest. I locked the front and side doors and put the key in the lockbox happy with the overall trip even though the Airbnb was disappointing.

Then came everything afterwards. Kate messaged me asking me what I thought of the property and to give her a personal review. I gave her a review in a polite and respectful way and even praised her as a host, just to be nice. I don’t think she liked my review so that was the last I heard from her for the day.

I realized I forgot my wallet in one of the rooms and messaged Kate the same day to ask her if she could please meet me or do whatever protocol we have to go through to retrieve my lost wallet. It took her over 24 hours to reply, after I reached out to Airbnb support for the issue. This leads me all back to right now. The host just sent me a disgusting message and is outright lying in all her claims. It’s very shameful someone in a position such as herself, who manages multiple properties, would be this slimy and corrupt in an attempt to pull more money out of her overpriced rental property than she already has. I’d like Airbnb to call me personally to deal with this. The only claim that she was accurate about was us moving that 8×10 paper-thin sorry excuse for a ‘carpet’ she had on the living room floor. No one touched the TV, the windows or the screens. We never left the residence so no one was ever locked out. The host is trying to steal money and delete the mediocre review I gave her.

There’s more I have to add. The six pictures of evidence the host provided were lazy enough to help prove all of it was a lie. She showed one broken screen in the backyard of the house that we didn’t go near or had any reason to go to. She opened the garbage bag that we left outside of all the things we cleaned, and for some reason took a picture to prove something in her favor…? There were a few flakes of ash in a bathtub that they placed to take a picture of, and then there’s a picture of what looks like a perfectly good TV – no picture of the “pulled out” cord. No picture of any broken fan. Then a picture of the living room that also looks very neat and tidy. There was also one more picture of a window, one with nothing wrong with it. Apparently we broke two windows?

The house was “smoking allowed” so the years of stench from other people smoking was strong when we came in. I still feel like I’m dreaming because I can’t believe that people have to resort to this slimy low level just to make extra money. Anyways, I’ll fight this in court if I have to.

 

Airbnb Rating System Deceives Guests and Hosts

We’ve been hosting on Airbnb for six years. However, we easily went from being Superhosts to “your account might be suspended.” Why, you ask? A couple of malicious reviews and Airbnb’s rating system, which is not averaged. Because we had so many guests, we were unable to keep track of individual reviews and when we got five-star ratings for six out of seven of the features we assumed that we still scored a 4.8-4.9. That is not the case; we got proof recently when we received a review for a new listing. Our guest rated us four out of five stars for the Overall Rating, however he also rated us five stars for everything else (locality, cleanliness, communication, etc). Our listing showed a four-star rating when he was finished. Since we didn’t have any other reviews we were able to finally see why our overall rating on our listings dropped below 4.4 stars while all along we were receiving at least four- or five-star ratings out of the six. We called Airbnb and our guest. Airbnb quickly changed the rating from four to five stars. However, our guest said he never leaves a five-star overall rating, as that would be the equivalent of a room at the Hilton. We seriously don’t blame him. The star rating system for food and accommodations has been around forever, so much so that is almost a subliminal message. He genuinely thought that if six out of seven ratings were five stars, the overall 4.8 would be more than adequate for a $50/night room. That was not the case as apparently Airbnb is using the Yelp system without advising their users about it. This is not even a fair Yelp rating system. At the end of the day, they’ll give you a four-star overall rating even though we scored six out of seven five-star reviews and only a four star…

Airbnb Review was Blocked after Bad Experience

On my first morning, I refused room service because I was sleeping and the host contacted me later on the same day to give me a hard time. I decided to leave the room early, but I could have done that regardless as the cancellation policy was flexible. I left the room by following the official Airbnb process and wrote a negative review. My review was hidden because it “violated the terms of service by including social commentary” – even though that’s nowhere on the policy – and I didn’t receive any notification, nor did I have the chance to edit it. It simply got blocked, secretively. However, the same review was visible to the host, who retaliated with a negative review even though I was an exemplary guest. The host’s review – untrue, biased and vindictive – was posted on my profile immediately. After some back and forth with customer service debating the issue this is what I received: “As of now, your review has been removed from Cristina’s profile. This will be regarded as our final decision in this case.”

This seem to be a rigged system designed to protect hosts and curb negative reviews to create an illusory five-star marketplace where hosts and guests can only scratch each other’s back. I’m not the only one to think that. This system may seem pragmatic and effective at first but it’s not sustainable. By turning your back on the guests and censoring their reviews, eventually they will stop using this site, one by one, even though they have only five-star hosts. A straight and honest review system built Uber and the lack of it will shut Airbnb down.

Airbnb Screws Guests with Refund Policy

I’ll keep it short. I had a place reserved for a month on Airbnb and the host (Laila) did not have the apartment ready. She told me that she would give me a full refund, but then decided to change her mind that night. That was on a Friday night. She kept telling Airbnb that she would let my family and I stay (my wife and I have a two year old), but would ever answer our calls. Finally, after three days in a hotel, Airbnb cancelled the reservation on her behalf and gave us a full refund. That was on Sunday night. They did not take the word of the guest at all, only what the host said.

As Laila was not ready, I reserved another place in a last-minute situation to get my family somewhere to stay for the month. When I arrived at the apartment I asked the host if he was allowed to rent to me, and he said he wasn’t but that it was ok because he had just bought a house. I told him that I wasn’t comfortable with that, and to please cancel the reservation. He told me no, and to get out of his apartment. After he kicked my family and me out, I called Airbnb to explain. They then cancelled the reservation on my behalf, without my permission, and gave me a $2 refund on $2350. I called his apartment complex to confirm that he was not allowed to rent, and they provided me with the portion of the lease saying that he is not allowed to sublease or use online rental sites.

I let Airbnb know and sent them the portion of the lease, but they said that I needed to provide his full lease with his name and address. Seriously? They know that I can’t provide anything other than the contact information for the apartment complex so that they can reach out. I’ve been going back and forth with them for over a week, and they gave me an 80% refund, but at this point it’s looking like he’ll keep $600. Now I have to go through the process of filing a claim with my credit company in the hopes that their lawyers can resolve it. If you have the option, do not use Airbnb. There are other sites like HomeAway and VRBO that will provide you with a much better service, and offer protection for this exact situation.

Hour of Hell: Quick Glimpse at Potential Nightmare

This is the review I left on the host’s page:

I stayed for an hour. When I met Jason to pick up the key, which he was in a hurry to do so he could go watch a football game, he invited me and my under-21 kids to come back and “kick it” with him. He talked and talked about his job and how he broke his hand punching the wall. The bathroom had cockroaches as did the room I was going to stay in. The room is right next to the street so you hear all cars and anyone walking by. Around 8:00, in he came with a friend laughing, talking and turning the TV on very loudly. There is no trash can in the bedroom which I feel is needed. The entire home is very dirty with paint peeling, dirt and dust. My hour here was a nightmare!

This is the host’s reply…

First of all, I want to say that I take great care and effort in hosting Airbnb travelers in Charleston. This review is a slander in order to get a refund where this traveler ended up staying with one of their kids attending CoFC. I offered a complimentary bottle of champagne of which I do to some guests upon their arrival. The distortion of relayed information on how I broke my hand unloading my DJ equipment off a stage the night prior is in no ways hitting a wall, first and foremost. I have never even seen a cockroach on my property and considering the traffic my house sees with guests it gets cleaned daily. No trashcan in the bedroom is a first for a complaint [for this property] which has almost 50 great reviews… The timelines don’t even match up with an hour there when her check in was earlier and I never even saw her after check in. I really hope this isn’t a common practice with this Airbnber with her check ins abroad as it is wrong to a host to do such practices and falsify information. I took the high road and decided not to even leave a review for this Airbnber.

As of November 2016, I have sent numerous requests to the “Resolution Center” to no avail. I am now in contact with our company’s legal department.

Airbnb Changed my Review to Favor Host

Unless I have very bad recall of what I submitted, Airbnb edited my review to eliminate part of my comment about the “value” being over priced for what turned out to be the conditions of the lodging, and Airbnb upgraded the rating I provided in response to their question about “value”. Airbnb also upgraded my “cleanliness” rating from 4 to 4.5 stars. I have been unable to discover any method to communicate with Airbnb about this concern. Ten minutes after I submitted my review, I thought of something that would be a useful addition to my review for future customers, but there is no way to amend or augment the review after it is posted.

Airbnb Edits Review to only Show Positive Feedback

We rented an apartment in Oslo, Norway for two nights early in November. Though offered, there was no Internet, wireless or otherwise. We needed to buzz in to the third floor apartment, but the buzzer did not work. We stood on the street attempting to reach the owner by phone to advise her cleaning lady to come down and let us in. A balcony door handle was broken so the apartment could not be locked securely. No paper towels or cleaning supplies were provided. We mentioned all these details in our review; our one positive comment involved how helpful the cleaning lady was in showing us the apartment and surroundings. This was the only part published by Airbnb.

Terrible Bed, Dildo in Nightstand: Harsh Review

We booked a stay in an Airbnb for four nights in Toronto. The location was great. However, there were a few major issues:

  1. The bed was terrible. There was no box spring or support for the mattress, so it sagged badly.
  2. Not an inch of closet space or a single drawer was available.
  3. The apartment was not very clean.
  4. Living room was totally open and exposed for the neighbors to see; there were no blinds or curtains.
  5. The patio advertised in the listing didn’t have any furniture on it at all.
  6. Light bulbs went out and there were no replacements.
  7. The nightstand had dildos, vibrators and owner’s underwear inside.

I gave an average review on Airbnb. They cut my review and only posted the positive: the location. How would the next renter know about any of the problems? This is the second time I had a problem with an Airbnb rental. I’m not likely to rent through them again.

Host Lies About What Happened During Our Stay

I made a booking to stay at Surry Hill (Sydney) where Debbie was my host. However, in her review to me, she totally lied about what happened and blamed us for all the unpleasantness:

1. She sent me three messages through Airbnb, with general information about her place and how to get there. This was great, but later on during the message exchange, her information conflicted with that of previous messages, so I had to ask again to verify her information. In her review to me, she said that I did not read her email at all.

2. My reaction when she told me there was no lift or Internet in the house was “Ahh??” If that’s considered rude, I wonder what’s the definition of “surprise”? At the time my husband and I made that booking, we both saw the “elevator in the building” option available, but not Internet. However, when we checked again after moving in, that option was gone.

3. When we arrived, we noticed the house was clean, but the detergent she used left a strong odour in the house. We immediately opened all windows to air the unit out, because this is quite normal. After that, when we came back from dinner, the smell was not completely gone; there was still a strong smell near the bathroom, and in the kitchen. We texted the host to ask, but didn’t receive a reply. So we searched the house and noticed that the smell was coming from the dirty toilet, behind the toilet bowl, and from her spices in the kitchen. I spent an hour cleaning up the toilet, while my husband cleaned up the kitchen at the same time.

4. Our second night, when we came back, we heard a very loud humming sound all around the house. We called the host immediately. After three calls, there was no answer. So we went out to check the source of this sound, and noticed it happened to fill the whole block. Ten minutes later, when we already decided to use ear plugs to sleep, she finally called us and offered to help, saying that she’d contact management to settle it. I’m not sure what she did, but around an hour later, the whole block was in a blackout, and the humming sound only stop around 1:00 AM (one hour after the blackout), when my mother in law already passed her bedtime.

5. The next day, Debbie texted me to mention that the previous guest gave her an extremely high five-star rating, and mentioned that we could move out to the hotel across the road; she would give us the refund for the night we haven’t stayed. Although it appeared to be a fair offer, I found it ridiculous she mentioned other guests gave her five stars, which was no use to solve our problem, and also it’s not really fair as we all know how expensive hotels would be for an immediate booking. Therefore we did not take that offer, to save us time and hassle from the move.

6. On our last day, we cleaned the house as our general practice using Airbnb, but I made the mistake of forgetting the rubbish in the hall. I texted the hosts immediately because I already left the keys in the unit; I couldn’t access it to remove the rubbish. Both replied nicely that it was not a problem, which turned out to be a lie. She mentioned in her review as if I purposely left the rubbish in the hall.

I still gave her a good review because I thought it was my mistake forgetting the rubbish in the hall, but I regret my kindness now. The way she replied privately to me and publicly in the review gave me impression she’s a liar. This was my second try with Airbnb. Although the first try was wonderful, this second try really dissuaded me from using Airbnb again, and if there’s another host like that, I’d prefer to go back to traditional hotels.

Families Love This Airbnb! Sorry, No Kids Allowed!

After months of looking for a special location for a quiet family vacation in Wisconsin my husband and my kids decide to take the Airbnb plunge. A few people at my office suggested I was crazy. The phrase “Aren’t you afraid of being killed?” came up more than a few times. A very good friend suggested that we might be video taped. Sadly, it turns out it might have been better if I had been. But I digress. We were tired of paying for tiny overpriced hotel rooms with stiff sheets and cream walls.

I started my search in early August for a quiet fall October weekend. I had specific needs: seclusion, a fire pit, a stream, and trees. Right away I noticed the limitations of the Airbnb search engine. I could not search for these criteria at all. I could only search for the number of guests allowed, the type of living arrangement, location dates, and other qualifiers that did not apply to my needs. I couldn’t search for any key words in my listings… all 350+. So, I searched and searched and searched. I found that many listings did not even match their own descriptions. Places that were listed as “the entire place” when they were half a house or even just a room. Many places said two guests only, but listed additional pricing for more guests.

I started to read the reviews of the actual guests. They made everything sound so good. Always five stars. Rarely did I see a grumpy review. Some reviews were so glowing, they seemed unreal. Certain hosts have little metals by their names. How did they get metals?Tonight, after a long hard week, I gave my kidney, drivers license, social security number, blood type, references, and money to go to an adorable purple cabin in Birchwood, Wisconsin. It was an uncomfortable bit of data collection that was scary… like, NSA, Snowden, scary. Two nights for $465, seclusion, peace, and cookies (all the reviews said we’d get cookies). I sent a message to the host about our four-year-old son. I asked if he was okay to come as he is four and pushed our numbers above the “limit of four people with $15 dollars extra per additional person.” I figured this would result in a price increase… Nope, I got a confirmation.

It was so fast. All the stress of planning and searching started to melt away. Victory! About six minutes after I was charged and my money was whisked away I got a message: the cabin is not safe for kids. Immediately, my mind went to the “guest experience” reviews that lead me to this magical looking place… they would say “great place for kids,” “great place for my family,” and “everything your family needs.” I did not text the host anything except for a question about how to get my money back. I started to cry. The app began to malfunction. I spent an hour or so steaming. Then I got the most “it’s your fault” email I have ever received from a company. Basically, the email said that Angel (yes, her name was Angel) from Airbnb was available to help me and that it was my fault that the host accepted and gobbled up my money before reading my questions.

After several nights of research I did not see the no-children clause for this place so many families have enjoyed. They said, and I quote, “It’s in small red letters underneath the About This Listing section.” Tiny, small, little red letters which probably should have been part of the filters for Airbnb or at least a series of questions about guests and ages. In addition, the host thought my four-year-old would not have been safe around a spiral staircase. The advertisement stated that we should use our best judgement regarding the use of the apparently deadly staircase. My son is very physically capable. I used my judgement. Airbnb called me twice while I started to look for another place to go and their voicemail directed me to an email. They have offered to help me find a place to go via email. How about an apology? How about reviewing your host locations’ reviews to make sure they are consistent? I called their number back just to see what I would get. If I wasn’t having an emergency I should email them. I emailed them.

Tomorrow, my family will wake up to realize our vacation is not happening and our money is gone. The money should be returned in ten days… I guess I’ll take a second vacation then. My boss doesn’t care. It’s not like I work for a living or anything! I might have to call so they can explain this to my kids.