Know What You’re Getting Into Before You Book

In the city center of Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands of Spain, there was a cozy and quiet Airbnb apartment for rent in a building over 100 years old. It was newly renovated and in the historic center of Palma, located 150 meters from City Hall Square (Cort), 300 meters from the cathedral, and just 70 meters from the Plaza Mayor.

I would like to share my experience with you about this Airbnb host. I heard that Airbnb will start doing inspections and I am very glad for this. My last experience at Palma was not very good for a few reasons. I don’t want to make this story very long but I want it to convey what you are getting into if you are thinking about renting this apartment. The only good thing I can say about this apartment is that it was a good location if you like to be downtown. The rest I will be honest with you about; not a word of this is a lie. I have pictures and recordings to document my stay.

The stairs (she mentioned that there was no lift) are a nightmare. They aren’t meant to be used by older people; this should be mentioned in the listing. What she forgot to mention was that the building right beside the apartment (I mean less than two feet away) is under construction. The sound of drilling is still in my head. We had to leave from 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM. The noise seemed like they were actually in our bedroom. It was really terrible and extremely loud.

On a previous trip to Palma, we went to the beach and came back around 3:00 PM to take a nap. Not this time. One day we arrived at the apartment early and it was impossible even to talk because of the noise. I wrote a private letter to the host and the answer I received was not very good. He gave a very poor apology, saying that it was not noisy. I have this recorded.

There was also a very bad kitchen. It said on the listing that the kitchen was fully equipped, but there was not even a kettle to heat water. One knife that barely cuts.

The most important aspect for me was the safety. There was no fire escape, only two fire extinguishers in the second floor (people could be fighting over using them). I don’t know the rules in Spain, but this is unacceptable. An accident can happen when people smoke everywhere. There was no place to go in the event of a fire. There were also ants everywhere; the host was so “kind” that he left an ant killer spray.

Mykonos Villa Robbed, But Airbnb Nightmare Did Not End

My objective here is to raise awareness about how unsafe any vacation rental can be if you don’t ask the right questions early enough in the process. This is especially true if the owner has not taken even basic security measures, which Airbnb either does not require or does not concern themselves with. It is your responsibility as guests to ask.

This was our first and last Airbnb experience. Airbnb allowed us to walk straight into a mine field. Airbnb did not respond to our emails for help for 11 days. When they did, it was a form email requesting that we (1) get a police report; (2) document what was stolen; (3) prove our ownership of those items. For parents, if your children are the “guests” and you are not travelling with them, then a little forethought about what to do if trouble occurs would be good planning. If you are still going to use Airbnb, here are the top ten questions we did not ask but should have:

1. Is the villa an actual home or an investment rental property overseen by a management company?

2. Where does the villa owner reside? Are they in the country? What will be their physical proximity to the villa while you are renting?

3. Does the villa have a security system? Does it work? Are there instructions for use in the event one exists?

4. Is there a home safe in the villa? Is it operational?

5. Does the villa have external lighting or motion detectors?

6. Who has keys to the villa other than the owner? Have any keys been given to maintenance personnel or former contractors? Are all owner’s keys accounted for?

7. What is Airbnb’s policy for refunds for robberies/evacuation? While their refund terms and conditions state that you must report any dissatisfaction within 24 hours of arrival, why did Airbnb pay the owner when a complaint was already sent via email within 12 hours of our arrival? By the way: no one answers a phone at Airbnb. Do they even have customer support? Who takes priority, guests or owners, or neither?

8. What is Airbnb’s advertised response time to a serious matter such as a robbery? We arrived at the villa at 5:00 PM local time June 7th; the robbery was reported to them June 8th at 5:00 AM local/10:00 PM PST June 7th. We received an email response June 18th.

9. Does Airbnb know that their online availability calendars are excellent for determining when units are occupied and precise arrival dates? I’m guessing the best day for a robbery is the first night.

10. Does Airbnb know that their interior and exterior photographs are useful for would-be robbers to study floor plans and access points?

We were robbed on our first night in an Airbnb at 4:00 AM. We interrupted the thief (in a ski mask) in the third bedroom after he had already ransacked the first two (all the bedrooms were occupied). We chased him out of the house. The adjoining villa was also robbed where the thief knew exactly how to enter (broken door that was not obvious to guests) and had a key to our villa (from a former contractor). Thief took mostly cash.

The real terror occurred when the thief returned later that same day in broad daylight. The adjoining villa guest engaged him (slashed his tires, etc.). In retaliation, the thief called “friends” and within minutes a half dozen of his buddies arrived. Outnumbered and seeing no positive outcome, we reached out to local friends who found us another accommodation.

Robberies are not uncommon on Mykonos; it is a high-end island, with lots of private expensive villas and plenty of opportunities to steal. The police are not equipped to deal with the massive influx of people during high season; when they finally arrived at the behest of the villa owner’s management company we had alerted, they arrested the thief for drug possession. No cash or possessions were recovered. Knowing his “buddies” were still on the loose, not knowing his intent for returning, and knowing he had a key, we could not stay.

Sound security measures are available on Mykonos for those owners using common sense. At our next villa we found: external cameras throughout the property; external lighting and motion detectors; management residing across the street who lives on the island; home safes in villa that were functioning. These are basic security measures. The Greek people who helped us at the next villa were extraordinary. They too were upset that guests on their beautiful island were victimized. They value having guests and depend on tourism for their livelihood.

What is Airbnb’s responsibility? Is security ever mentioned in an Airbnb listing? Do they deliberately avoid the topic? It’s probably not good for business. Airbnb leaves it to you to address the security/safety topic. If you arrive at a villa and see that basic securities measures are lacking, it is not grounds for a refund. It should be. In one respect we were lucky: the owner was so appalled by our experience she refunded our payment directly to us that day. Ironically, the owner was afraid Airbnb would not be forthcoming or helpful. Mykonos is an amazing island, but you must use common sense and take responsibility for your own safety if you are using Airbnb. At every other accommodation we did not book through Airbnb (Santorini, Kefalonia, Zakynthos) we found all the standard security measures one would expect to find in a high-end property. Shame on Airbnb.

Renting Outside Airbnb Leaves Guest with Mud, Mice, and Ants

My hubby got a job in Tennessee and needed a quick place to stay, reasonably priced. The host I found on Airbnb texted me and told me to call her. She gave me her number in three different messages so that it could get through, i.e. first text or call XXX, second call XXX, third call XXXX to beat the ‘no sending phone numbers’ rule from Airbnb. We discussed prices and she said if I paid three months in advance she would take money off the price. She also canceled my reservation on Airbnb and told me to send her money via PayPal since we are now friends… she asked me to send it to friends and family so there are no fees for her on PayPal.

The hubby showed up at her house November 11th to stay for three months. The house was obviously in need of repair. There was mold in the shower, the toilet didn’t flush properly, and the sink didn’t drain. If there was water running anywhere the pressure in his room (a converted garage) trickled. There couldn’t have been more than dripping from the shower head. This is not a problem if the rest of the house knows you are taking a shower and doesn’t use water anywhere, but since there are four roommates that keep to themselves, the water pressure is a problem.

The owner does not lock the doors to the house. It is always unlocked. Although she did provide a key it was a bad one and didn’t unlock the doors; the house was never secured. The parking is not very good. If you are not the first two people home you have to park in the dirt. This was a problem since my husband was in a car accident that left him walking with a cane for the last four years. There were always slippery leaves on the porch. I wrote to the host and asked if I could stay for a few days when I came to visit. She agreed if I provided a few hours of housecleaning. I understood why when I got there.

The entire house was dusty; it had not been vacuumed for a long time (several months at my best guess). I sat down with her and shared only a few of my concerns. I told her that since my husband had a cane and needed it to be safe for him, she needed to get the wet leaves off the porch. She told me where a broom was and that I could do it myself. She also was not happy when I complained about the toilet not working properly. She said to me, “Perhaps the Morningstar House is not best for your husband. Maybe he needs to be moved to a treatment facility.” Really? because we didn’t like the dangerous slippery leaves?

There were mice in the house and mice feces in the closet. I told her about it and she said, “Yeah, but those are like a year old.” Oh, so that makes it okay? Obviously she knew there were mice because she admitted the feces were old. She told me that since she provided stuff (electricity, singly-ply toilet paper, and dish soap) that the price my husband was paying for what he got was a good deal… in other words, don’t complain.

After he was there for two months she asked for the next month’s rent. Even though we had paid three months in advance, she ‘required’ (didn’t tell us until he got there) that rent be paid 45 days in advance. She also wanted a cashier’s check. I told her that she’d have to wait until Monday for me to go to the bank so she said to pay with a credit card and that we’d have to pay the credit card fees. I told her she was going to have to wait then because I was not paying the credit card fees. Finally she said she’d take the payment and lose the fees herself, like it was killing her to pay the fees. She already had been paid in advance… this was just another way to get money fast.

There were cockroaches in the house, and ants in every room. Other roommates complained about ants in their rooms as well. The next month the host asked my husband to leave so she could rent the room to two female nurses (most likely to get more rent). She told my husband she would gladly refund him anything he had overpaid for. The following month she said that he could stay because it didn’t work out with the nurses. Basically, whatever was best for her was what she was going to do.

The last straw was the third time she went into my husband’s room and removed furniture that was suppose to be included in the room. When I texted her about it she said, “Sorry, I just wanted to paint my wicker.” When one of his roommates moved out she came to the room and asked for her table back. Apparently the host just gave him someone else’s table to use without asking the owner’s permission.

There was supposed to be an Apple TV box but it was password protected and could not be used. There was no cable, but she did provide wifi. When my husband moved out, the host refunded (in payments) $950. There is a balance due of $138.34 which she refused to repay, stating that she doesn’t rent rooms for partial months (it is a daily rental listed on Airbnb). I gave her ample time to refund the money amicably but she has refused and will not return my texts or calls. She doesn’t live in the property but she does have ‘circles’ with music and peace pipes, and weird religious stuff. She also has a library of books about goddesses and other religious media at her home. If this sounds like the place for you, feel free to rent it out.

How Safe is Airbnb Really if Guests Can Copy Keys?

Last weekend my girlfriends and I rented a super pimped out, amazing three-bedroom house near old Montreal. We’re talking high roller kind of place… after all, it was my bachelorette party, so we figured we would splurge a bit. The reviews were great, the host was nice, and the place was amazing. Everything was great until we got home at 3:00 AM on Saturday night to find everything ransacked, and all our stuff stolen. Not just a few things, but a lot of things: $20,000 worth of iPads, diamonds, purses, sunglasses… all gone. They even took one of my wedding shoes. That’s right, just one.

After dealing with the police, filing a report, doing all the things we had to do we were finally able to contact the host. He came the next morning, and as he was inspecting the place he told me that someone had rented his place a few weeks ago, under a false name and stolen credit card, and stole a bunch of his stuff. Why didn’t he tell us that before? The buggers probably copied the key to the place and just came back a few weeks later.

Which leads me to ask: how safe is Airbnb? Keys can be easily copied. A quick trip to a convenience store or home depot – that’s all it takes. You can’t tell me that every host changes their locks after every guest. I’m guessing that doesn’t happen. So really, how safe are you sleeping in a house that could have hundreds of copied keys to the front door? We were just lucky that none of us stayed in that night. The night prior, one of my girlfriends stayed in. If they came in on Friday things could have been much worse. All of this tell us Airbnb is not safe unless the host has a pin pad lock and changes the code after ever guest. Always ask, and really it should be mandatory by Airbnb. By the way, none of the host’s stuff was stolen, not a thing.

Twelve Days and No Resolution from Airbnb

My son reached out to Airbnb support on June 3rd to let them know that he did not feel safe staying at the Airbnb he reserved from June 1-26 after a nearby shooting and the fact the host’s description of the neighborhood had not been accurate. Instead of a vibrant up-and-coming neighborhood like the host had described, my son found a quiet and lonely street with little foot traffic, worn down buildings vandalized by graffiti, barred windows, and surrounded by construction sites.

This was not the first time that this host had been given a review that claims she is giving a misleading representation of the area where she lives, as stated on her profile. In addition, it appears the basement room she has been renting out is in violation of several health and safety codes. I also found out from Airbnb that there is at least one other ongoing case against this host. My son was told by Airbnb to cancel his reservation and work with his host to get a refund.

At first, the host seemed understanding of how my son felt, as a foreigner to the city. He spoke with her in person as he picked up his belongings on June 4th and later messaged her to thank her for her understanding, explaining the urgency of receiving a refund as he needed to find a new place to live. After this, his host never responded again. I tried calling her myself, leaving her a voicemail on June 5th. She never called me back.

I starting calling Airbnb the next day. I was unable to speak to anyone in the United States for days. While the representatives in the Philippines were very friendly and tried to be as helpful as they could, they continued to tell me they “only have so much power” and that their requests to transfer my calls kept getting pushed back. I was told the only thing that they could do for me is message my son’s former case manager, who told him to cancel the reservation, and ask him to reach out to me.

Not only did the case manager never reach out to me, but he was also “never online” the days I kept calling. When the representative from the Philippines, tried to reach out to the host on June 6th, the host told him she was “too tired and hungry” to deal with me, waiting at the other end of the line. The case manager then told me to fill out a form through the Resolution Center to ask for a refund, but warned me that I would have to wait for the host to respond or involve Airbnb after 72 hours of nonresponse.

The host read the message from the Resolution Center immediately after I filled it out with the representative on the phone. She would never respond through the Resolution Center, instead messaging me privately. In this private message, she accused my son of discrimination, saying: “This is a vibrant neighborhood as I stated in my description. People who are not used to diversity and seeing so many people of color, often mistake that for crime.” As a proud Latino hailing originally from Miami, my son was deeply offended by this accusation. She ended by telling my son, “This is really horrible what you guys are doing. And this deeply concerns me that you are creating this when you are here to work for [omitted],” leaving my son worried that she would go as far as to contact his place of work for feeling unsafe in her neighborhood and the room she rented out to him.

After days of countless hours spent on the phone waiting to speak to a case manager in the United States, my case was finally taken over on June 8th. This new case manager promised to reach a resolution given the circumstances. My son desperately needed the money to find a new place to move. She promised to update me every day as to how the case was going. After Friday, her first day working on the case, she stopped answering. The last update we got from her was that the host was not answering her calls. I emailed her every day since and received no response. I called Airbnb on June 13th and they informed me the new manager was on leave, and so she had not been working on my son’s case.

I then spoke to another case manager who told me the only person who could do anything was the one on leave, so I would have to wait until she came back on June 15th to revisit the case. He was extremely apologetic and even admitted that he would issue me a refund alone based on how my son was treated by the host. On June 15th, it will have been twelve days since Airbnb has continued to put off my son’s case. Airbnb has yet to acknowledge their host’s inappropriate behavior that goes against their mission to promote diversity and inclusion, has yet to speak to the host, who continues to ignore their calls and continues to be active on their site, and has yet to tell me anything other than “they have no power.”

This has been the worst customer service experience I have ever had. I have attempted all reasonable means through front-end customer service and am now taking to social media to resolve this issue.

Extremist Political Signs at Airbnb in Bozeman

I booked a stay in Bozeman, Montana with what turned out to be an unusual host named Stacey. When I showed up at the place, I noticed there were extremist political signs all over the front yard and in the windows. Venturing inside, I found much more. I texted her that her place was just too weird for me. She would not provide a refund. She seemed a little strange, so I expected that. What I didn’t expect was the runaround and no support from Airbnb. I did not feel safe at this host’s house, I spent no more than five minutes there, and Airbnb would not refund anything. To add insult to injury, they wasted a huge amount of my time on numerous emails back and forth for nothing. They would not even allow me to post a bad review on this crazy host’s listing to warn others about her. Airbnb Hell, please take my $5 donation to fight Airbnb.

Dirty and Unsafe Airbnb for Vacation in California

This was my first trip to California. I have wanted to visit since I was a child, so for over 40 years. Now with the whole family – my wife and three teen daughters – it was about to come true. I was initially going to use VRBO which I have used with great success in the past but found what I thought was a great deal on Airbnb. Since I heard all the buzz about Airbnb, I thought I would give it a shot. What could the risk be with Airbnb behind me? Ha ha…

The fact that the apartment was in Downtown LA was some concern to me but not having been to California and in the excitement of the moment, I neglected to research just how much traffic there really is in the area; I will accept responsibility for that. Prior to booking I did repeatedly ask the host about the safety of the apartment and the surrounding area and was met with the response: “It will fit you perfectly.” Upon arrival, the initial impression of the complex was acceptable with a nice looking pool, architecture and grounds. However, once we began the ascent into the facility I began to have that sickening feeling when something just isn’t right. Musty odors and the smell of drugs were present as we walked the halls to the apartment. Once we entered I immediately tried to remain calm,though I was not pleased with the condition of the beige carpet, paint peeling off the walls, and a refrigerator containing old food.

Needless to say, below is what I wrote to our host and a representative after I decided to leave the following day. Yes, we stayed the first night as we were all exhausted after the seven-hour flight and fighting traffic to the apartment.

Hello Mike,

After some careful deliberation, we have decided not to stay in your rental due to the reasons listed below. As a result I would appreciate a refund for the balance of the days we will not be staying as even a cleaning will not make up for the fact that my daughters are uncomfortable with the environment and I don’t wish to subject them to the marijuana odors that waft through the halls or patio doors. I would appreciate your cooperation and will leave the keys with the concierge.

– Dirty, not cleaned well or recently

– Carpets are dark with dirt blotches and contained some sticky substances. I was afraid to remove my shoes.

– Old food in refrigerator and cupboards

– Smells of pot were frequent and loud neighbors stomping and slamming doors

– Unsafe surroundings not as described. My daughters were harassed outside the apartment even by pool area

– Sirens going several times throughout the night

– Dining seats are all stained, not appealing to enjoy a meal

– Food spillage down the kitchen cabinets and stove top dirty, making it unappealing to cook.

Following the above message to the host, I received a message from Nick at Airbnb who indicated that I had not followed Airbnb policy (when in fact I did, other than waiting around for the host to provide a resolution… with only five days available and the severity of the situation, this was not possible) and that I could open a refund request in the resolution center, which I had already done.

My response to Nick:

My first email was to Mike the Airbnb host, and I then opened a case with Airbnb within the 24-hour period as per the guidelines. Mike has rejected my refund request, following which I selected the option to involve Airbnb. As to finding a remedy, this situation was not able to be remedied in a timely manner as we are only in California for five days and it would be unreasonable to believe the apartment carpets and seating could be shampooed and other areas brought up to a clean standard in a reasonable time frame. Please review the pictures, as I am not sure anyone could clean what should have been done before even stepping foot in the facility. I was not about to put my family through this type of situation any longer than was necessary especially for Mike to come by to talk. The only resolution suitable would be a refund as these are distrustful and manipulative tactics simply to rent out his location. In addition, the safety factor is completely beyond the host’s means to correct, along with the elements of drug use; they are out of his control. My primary concern at this point is to ensure my family has a safe clean location to spend the rest of the short vacation in the time we have left. Had the host represented the location as not suitable for families this issue could have been avoided. I even questioned the safety of the location and was met with: “It will fit you perfectly.” I have used VRBO and hotels without issue in the past so this was a very stressful situation and caused me to seriously not trust Airbnb fpr future bookings, especially if there will be no support or protection for guests. Perhaps the host should have been more thoroughly vetted, as I would be shocked if any family would find this location acceptable. I have initiated the process to involve Airbnb and get a full refund.

Nick’s Response:

Hello Adam,

Thank you for your patience while I reviewed your case. I appreciate the time you’ve taken to share your concerns and perspective on this experience. Based on the information provided, I have decided that any refund will have to come directly from Mike based on our refund policy which you can read upon within the previous email. Thank you again for your understanding and for your valued time and contribution.

Best wishes,

Nick

So even after providing pictures as to the poor cleanliness of the apartment and the fact that my daughters were harassed – two conditions specified by Airbnb as reasonable – our request for a refund was still rejected. This issue is current as of April 26th, 2017 and I am still trying to fight it. Although with no response to my emails and no contact information for Airbnb as they don’t clearly list any means of reaching a representative or manager, it is tough. I do appreciate the contact information for Airbnb found on this site.

Abusive Hosts: Forced out of Home, Police Involved

I’m posting this because the hosts removed the original room listing, and created a new account with a new title. This house is located in Geneva, Switzerland. I think it’s important for anyone renting this place to know what the hosts are really like, and reviews on Airbnb are the cornerstone of the website. Here is my review that was approved by Airbnb on the original listing:

I am a quiet and clean person, and have a professional career. I liked that this place had a good location, with an eight-minute walk from the house to a main tram (tram 12). The grocery store was also across the street from the tram stop. However, if you don’t mind that there are many “house rules” imposed on you suddenly and without prior agreement such as:

  • You do not get a private bathroom as indicated in the posting. You will share the bathroom with two people, the host couple. If their 25-year-old son returns to the house with his girlfriend, they will also share the bathroom. And sometimes the mother of the host will live in the house and also share the bathroom with you.
  • Your room is part of their storage room. The entire closet wall, three of the four drawers of the cabinet, and one of the two drawers in the table are used by the host family
  • As part of their “house rules”, you cannot take a shower after 10:00 PM
  • You will not be allowed to use the washroom when they have a party on Saturday. However, the only day they allow you to do your laundry is on Saturday.
  • The host family refuses to give you your room key, while the remaining family members of the house have door keys on each of their rooms. They can also freely enter your room without your permission.
  • You need to be prepared that the washroom lock can be opened anytime at the discretion of the host.

My original rental agreement was from October 2016 to March 2017. However, the host family gave me a short one-day notice to terminate the Airbnb rental agreement for not following their “house rules”, which were imposed suddenly. I even had to call the police for help, in order to stop the host family from abusing my right to close my bedroom door for the remainder of the night. When the police came, I was forced to move all my belongings to a basement room, that is dark, damp, and dusty, and which was currently occupied by one of their sons. The host only gave me half an hour to remove all my belongings from the house the next day. I was forced to live in a hostel for the next two nights, until I was able to find my next accommodation. I was so frustrated that I paid such a large amount of money, but was unable to receive the amenities that I was told I would be given. If you don’t mind these minor examples listed, out of many more examples, this is a good place for you to stay.

Physically Attacked by Host, Still Waiting for Airbnb Response

After complaining to my host that the swimming pool, described as “private” in the listing, was being used by their grown children and their friends (five kids between the age of 10 and 20 throwing a ball back-and-forth in a ten-meter  long pool is not exactly my definition of “private”), our host screamed at us to “get the f*** out of there” and ended up hitting my husband in the throat. We had to call the cops to be able to get out of there as the owner was blocking our car.

Airbnb’s reaction? I’m still waiting. It’s been three weeks. I had paid in advance for three nights, and spent only one there. I think it’s fair to ask to be reimbursed considering that we were forcibly kicked out, but apparently Airbnb considers it a sound business practice for hosts to pocket money in advance and then kick people out. Their lack of a reaction suggests so at least. In contrast: our host asked us for money, but did not have any grounds to do so. This complain was managed within days. So… what’s more important to Airbnb, people’s safety or money?