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.

 

Kicked Out of Airbnb Over Security Deposit

Upon arrival, this host asked us to pay an extra $90 for a security deposit that she hadn’t posted on Airbnb. It was strange because she didn’t care when she got it; she just wanted it to keep it. We told her that she hadn’t posted it on her Airbnb and we didn’t have enough money with us. In response, she threatened to kick us out right then and there. She then told us we had to go with her to the tourist agency and we told her we were already registered. She then told us we weren’t and told us that we can’t leave the country without a “white cardboard”. We had been in Montenegro using Airbnb for some time and no one else had ever asked us to register. All her messages seemed very threatening towards us. The apartment was unsafe because none of the doors locked. The wifi did not connect. We were very disappointed in this host and believe she should not have been able to host. She was very misleading and seemed like a scammer. Now we are out $154 because she told us if we didn’t give her more money we would have to leave. It does not seem fair to us that we could either leave or be kicked out and still be out of the money. We are young traveling college students who had really loved using Airbnb. I hope to still use it. I’m not sure if any money could be refunded; if it could, that would be wonderful. If not, she should not be hosting in the future. She tried to scam us and threatened us. Overall, we love Airbnb but please take this into consideration.

Airbnb Trips Turns into Extortion in DR

My friends and I went to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic on June 10-19, 2017. During our stay we had a couple issues: the grill not turning on, the fridge spoiling our food because it was not working. We booked an ATV riding experience and paid in cash on the spot because we wanted no surprises; some reviews stated the host had extorted money from guests for similar tours. We told them we had booked a catamaran with another company and they seemed a bit upset.

The next day we were told the catamaran company would pick us up at 8:45 AM. He said the company told him that; we were a bit confused by this because we had an email saying it was an 8:00 AM pickup. We thought maybe they worked together. We went on the catamaran. It wasn’t what we expected; it was boring, and even the best parts were mediocre.

After getting back we were then told the hosts had taken us on their catamaran (not the one we had booked) and they knew how to cancel our original PayPal transaction; they insisted we should send them the money after the tour. We were confused how they could do such a thing without our permission. They put it in a claim with the other company, saying they had come and taken us.

The next day the workers came again, telling us to pay $100 more then what we paid with our original plan. We told them PayPal had not given us our money back yet, and we would do it as soon as the money was received.

We left the 18th at night. One of our friend’s flight was later on in the day so she stayed. The host would not let her leave, brought security saying she couldn’t leave and the police were on the way. A guy friend of ours was in the same villa so he gave the host $350 and she charged the credit card that was on hold for $500 and the Airbnb account $720 in order to let our friend go.

We called the original company that we booked. They notified us they came and the host had said we didn’t want to go with them. We were also told they don’t issue refunds, so we payed for two catamarans. This host is a fraud and must be stopped. How can she live with herself, extorting people? She made a few thousand off of us for the Airbnb and extorted us for more. She told us a pickup time of 8:45 because we told her the pick up was at 8:00 AM. The company couldn’t reach us with all the security and they wouldn’t have waited 45 minutes. She set us up so we didn’t know we were on her catamaran.

Family Scammed by a Host in Seattle

My daughter and fiancé moved to the Seattle area. Upon arrival they discovered their apartment wasn’t ready due to mold issues. They had to retile the place and wouldn’t be able to allow guests to move in for another week. My family was stuck. They also had a sweet older cat with them. They had to book a hotel for the first night. I, being the helpful mom to my 22-year-old kid and her fiancee and kitty, wanted to look into an Airbnb rental so they could be comfortable.

I found this listing. If you scroll down on pricing it says: “Extra people: $48/night after the first guest.” It could be my mistake that I did not see this. I was going back and forth with her from Friday evening into Saturday late morning about the listing. Moving forward, I went to book and the price went from $80 per/night to $128 per/night. I attached the screen shots of our messages and my confusion on the part of the second guest. If you read this, you can see she is even confused and looks like she is saying that I was probably trying to book for three guests (myself, daughter and her fiancé) and she said I need to book for a total of two people.

I made the mistake of thinking when I put one guest I thought myself plus one guest. It was a dumb mistake on my part since I have booked with Airbnb before. However, in all the comparable listings in that area – I clicked through about twenty – the prices were always for two people; I didn’t think twice and booked it. The other thing, the host clearly saw me saying “them” when referring to guests and listing their names. I even told her their story in the beginning: how it was my daughter, her fiancé, and their cat (I did not include this screenshot, but I can if needed).

Here’s where it gets interesting. My kid had her number and proceeded to text the host that they were on their way. She texted my kid and said “your mom only paid for one person.” My kid asked how much it would be for two people and she stated it would be an additional $180. I told my kid that it was too much, thinking there are other places for that price that were private.

Did I mention that this host’s place was not private? She said it was like “one big master bedroom, but the kitchen and bathroom is shared.” She has it listed as an entire home/apartment but the room and living room was separated from the kitchen by a blackout curtain; her and her husband’s room is private in the back. $128 per night in that area? Why didn’t I just book a whole cottage for $100 per night?

You can see in my messaging that I was considering having them just stay the one night and not the rest of the week. However, I ended up canceling the whole thing and they stayed in a hotel. I also wanted to attach the text messaging thread. You can’t get each other’s number until you book for safety purposes. She and I were texting back and forth with this misunderstanding and I apologized profusely. I asked then if I would get refunded. She assured me I would. I told her okay, I would cancel and thanked her for the refund. I knew she had a strict cancellation policy but I figured she has been super nice and understood the situation was my mistake.

The next day I contacted the Airbnb resolution center on the site. All I wanted was to make sure she refunded me. They told me to request money from the host, so I did. There was space to put the reason and I typed “misunderstanding at check in, host agreed to refund full amount.”

What does she respond with? “Not truthful guest.” She then declined to refund me. If she would have said “no, sorry I can’t give you a refund” then I at least I could have paid the extra $180 and not be out $400. She basically has no one staying in her place for five days and Airbnb and the host got $450 (fees included) out of me. Even Expedia doesn’t do that. Once I accidentally booked the wrong dates and was out of the cancellation policy. They still refunded me and told me: “It’s ok. Sometimes stuff happens.”

I ended up calling my bank to have them dispute the charges. I had to tell them the whole story and send them the screenshots of the messages. When a case manager from Airbnb called me, he seemed nice at first, taking in my story. I even sent them the screenshots of the text messages where she stated more than once she would refund me. He said they are the final say in this matter. I received a call back from the case manager the next day. He stated the host said I lied and tried to “pull one over” on her, that I tried to book for one guest and was really bringing two. Like she didn’t know and capitalized on my mistake. Then she said I called her and harassed her. I did no such thing. If I were able to upload all the screenshots of the text messages then you could see I was nothing but apologetic and kind.

Now this host was so rude. He was talking over me, yelling at me, and bullying me. I was made out to be the villain. This host just joined this month and had no reviews. That in itself should have been a red flag. The Airbnb case manager made me feel foolish and said that this host has a strict cancellation policy; when I booked, he stated that it was a legal and binding contract and he cannot force the host to refund the money. He said she wasn’t going to refund the money at all and I am basically screwed.

First off he talked over me, then when I did the same he yelled at me. When I raised my voice he said over and over this was a legal and binding contract and in the end he essentially said: “Well, you have booked with us before. You should know how to book. This is your fault and you will not be refunded.”

He didn’t even offer a partial refund or a voucher. Nothing. I hung up and cried because I was just bullied on the phone over nothing, just an Airbnb listing. Why does this case agent even care? He should have tried to be a better mediator in this situation and look at my history of being a guest: I have never complained or done anything shady.

I’ve blasted Airbnb on Twitter. You may have seen them if you follow @airbnbhell because I copied them on Twitter too. The case manager emailed me and said “it was a pleasure talking to you this morning… blah blah blah” I responded with a lengthy email, told him he bullied me and yelled at me, and I was in tears afterwards. I mean I hate be the victim but this host acted like one and got $400+ out of it. Why can’t I tell the truth and tell them how I felt? I felt like a used pair of underwear.

When I emailed them back I also copied Belinda Johnson, who is Airbnb’s Chief Legal Council, and Donna Boyer, who is Airbnb’s Director of Product. Working in tech in the Bay Area (where Airbnb is headquartered) you can find out who these people are. Just about an hour ago I received an apology from Anthony with a $200 voucher. Really? Seriously? If I do not plan to use Airbnb anymore, what good is it going to do me? Just send me my money! At least send a voucher that is equal if not more than what I went out of pocket. I ended up rebooking another listing for my daughter through Airbnb and luckily that went fine. It would have been nice if this voucher was there before that since I just plan to use VBRO or VaCasa or something else in the future. Thanks for listening to me ramble.

Boyfriend and I Wanted a Unique Airbnb Getaway

My boyfriend and I wanted a unique vacation. We found a small place a couple of hours away that offered “glamping”. We figured it would be a fun experience. The strange thing is this boutique glamping hotel exclusively uses Airbnb as its booking platform. I wasn’t excited about that but figured I’d sign up and give it a shot.

It’s been nothing short of a hassle. First of all, signing up is pretty invasive. It asks for you to upload a picture of your ID or to give your social security number in lieu of that inconvenience. I don’t know about you, but no one is getting my social security number. I reluctantly uploaded a picture ID.

Secondly, have you read the terms and conditions? They are already assuming you are a dirty, messed up person and they are already thinking of ways to kick you off the property and keep your money if you have to cancel.

Apparently someone signed up for the same nights as me right around the same moment I made the reservation. Instead of contacting me, they just let the 24-hour period run. I got an email saying the host had not responded to my request and so I should simply pick another place. Another place? This place was the only reason I was on Airbnb in the first place. Why isn’t there an option for picking another weekend? Maybe it is because Airbnb really shouldn’t be used as the booking platform for a hotel. I had to go back through the system again and pick another weekend.

My second request was accepted pretty early and my card was charged at the same moment. That is fine. What’s not really fine are the hidden costs. The ad for the place reports you will pay $X per night, a $75 cleaning fee, and a $250 deposit. I thought the deposit seemed hefty, but I budgeted for it to be held. It turned out there were additional charges. On top of the things advertised above, they also charged me $56 just for using Airbnb (hefty – I’ll pay for the service but $56 seems like they’re gouging me). There was also a $27 occupancy tax, which I expected. All fine and done.

I received another email saying my host had requested even more money. $61 more was needed to cover taxes (6% county, 7% state of Texas). Taxes are taxes but I could not figure out how they arrived at $61. I calculated $50 and some change. I didn’t find the $11 worth asking or arguing over, so I sent the additional money while wondering how Airbnb could possibly be cheaper or better than a hotel. They’re currently sitting on $856 of my money (if you count the $250 deposit being held in suspense) for two days in a fancy yurt in middle of nowhere Texas, where you make your own meals, etc.

Is this an Airbnb scam? I start doing more research to see if others found it to be a little too expensive. Apparently Airbnb is being used to scam money out of people and seemingly not doing enough to stop it or help. I wish my $56 would go toward designing a more secure platform.

One week before we were supposed to check in, I received a call from the “host” (he claims). He was very nice but I was immediately suspicious. He went into a long, rambling, nearly incoherent story about how the property just switched owners and as a result, I booked under the wrong owner. He said (I think) that Airbnb wanted me to rebook with the right owner. He said it should be easy. He confirmed my email address and said I would receive an email asking me to “reapply the funds to [his] account”. I told him I would await the email.

It’s been three days and I haven’t received an email. I’m supposed to check-in in four days. I hope all goes well. I am already preparing myself to be kicked off the property or not booked due to a misunderstanding. I will probably pass on any hotels that use Airbnb as their booking platform exclusively from now on. I just feel it’s a bad business model. Why let another non-affiliated company have a say and a share in your business?

Update 6.12.2017:

I never got the email from Airbnb that the host said I would receive. I called Airbnb yesterday morning to ask about it.  They had no idea what I was talking about and put me on hold for 10-15 minutes. They then said they would look into it and contact me. I got an email this morning saying that my reservation had been canceled and that I had been given a voucher for what I paid with the option to reapply the funds to the same or similar place (like the host said I would).  I started going through the steps and realized the voucher does not cover the $88 in tax that I already paid. Airbnb wants for me to repay the $88 in taxes in order to complete this process. In addition, Airbnb is actually requesting that I reach out to the host to work this out… encouraging me to reach out to the host to discuss bookings even after all these scams they’ve been having?

It sounds like Airbnb and the host screwed something up and I am the one being inconvenienced.  I sent an email to the Airbnb team explaining how inefficient and frustrating this has been and this will be my first and last Airbnb stay.  Also, I asked the host to reach out to Airbnb if there is anything else he needs.

College Graduation Weekend Best Not Entrusted to Airbnb

My first time using Airbnb was horrible. We were late to the table for booking a hotel room for a college graduation weekend. A friend recommended I try Airbnb. After looking at a few possibilities, I decided on a king-size condo for six people close to campus that looked nice. I asked the hosts a few questions and decided to book the property. After I committed, I asked a few more questions, but never heard back from the host. “Oh well,” I figured.

Upon arrival at the “condo”, I was shocked to find a rundown student house that had been converted to hold four small rooms. Our room was about 300 square feet. The parking spot in the back of the home was a gravel mess and there was no sidewalk to the front of the house; we had to use the steep, uneven driveway (that was shared by many other houses and businesses) to get to the front of the house. There was a long uneven staircase up to the house that didn’t even have a hand rail up to the top.

In the evening there were no lights in the parking area or even the front of the house. I had paid extra for another person, yet there was no bed, sheets, blanket, pillow, or towels for the third person. Even though the three photos of this “condo” looked nice, the floor was filthy. I called and complained to the host. The following morning I used the microwave and blew the main circuit. We had to go to the graduation sopping wet. After three hours the host finally responded and told me to go flip the switch myself.

We decided to vacate the property because we felt unsafe. I contacted Airbnb when we returned, and they sent us through a silly process that accomplished nothing. To make matters more interesting, I did a Google search of the property and found that it is owned by a guy in Chicago; he had created a fictitious name to be a host. Airbnb told me that hosts often do that for privacy. They pretend to be someone else, and have all of my information? It’s kind of scary if you ask me. After all I went through they did not even post my review, which is wrong on their part. I believe Airbnb is all about the host, and have little hope for the guests. I will never use Airbnb again.

Fake Long-Term Rental, Scammers Pretending to be Airbnb

I was recently scammed out of $2,800 for paying what I thought was a security deposit and the first month’s rent for an apartment on Airbnb in Australia. I found the initial listing on Domain; it looked like a private rental with the listing asking any interested parties to email rentscall@gmail.com. I had a response back from the owner ‘Harald Grabner’ (lab.teacher@novartis-pharmaceutical.com) who explained the apartment to me, attached scanned copies of his passport and license (see above), and explained that as he lived in Germany the rental (inspection and handover of keys) would be handled by Airbnb.

He explained the process and said that in order for Airbnb to put me in their system there would be an upfront payment (the $2,800 mentioned above) which would be held by ‘Airbnb’ and released to him if I decide to take the apartment. If I didn’t like the apartment, it would be immediately refunded. He told me that Airbnb would be in contact soon.

I received an email from ‘Airbnb’ with deposit information, which looked exactly like the other real emails I had received from Airbnb in the past. I transferred the money and in a few days time got confirmation from ‘Airbnb’ saying the money had been received and that an agent would be in contact to make arrangement to view the property but wouldn’t be for a couple of days, as he needed to come from Perth. I was never contacted and the real Airbnb has no record of my payment or emails. Beware: the emails looked exactly like the real Airbnb emails. The real Airbnb will never ask you to transfer money off their site. Lesson learnt.

Beware of this New York Airbnb Scammer Host

I had a business trip coming up in the Chelsea area of New York City in June 2017 and found a decent looking apartment on Airbnb a couple of blocks from the venue when I was going to be spending most of my week in NY. I contacted the host Paul on his property listing and explained that I knew my arrival date would be Sunday, June 10th, but was unsure whether I would be checking out the following Friday the 16th, or Saturday the 17th. I offered to make the booking there and then as long as he understood that the departure date might be either Friday or Saturday depending on how my schedule shaped up.

He responded by saying that it wasn’t a problem if I wanted to just take my time and figure out my schedule; he would hold the apartment for me until the end of that month. Here is what that conversation looked like:

Me: Cool. Is the ‘hold’ solid and if so when do you need to hear back from me by? Cheers!

Response from Paul: I’ll hold the dates through June 1st and then check back in with you.

Seems pretty straightforward, right?

On May 30th, after I figured out my schedule, I sent this message to the host:

Hi Paul, I just wanted to confirm my upcoming travel plans with you. I am arriving in New York on Sunday, June 11th. My flight gets in at 3:08 PM. I will be leaving Friday, June 16th. What kind of arrangements would you like to make for me to get a key?

This is where it gets funny (not really…). The next response I received from the host on Friday, June 2nd was:

Hey Colin, I have another apartment in Soho that I am renting out which is available during the same days. I could give you the same price I booked this room out because I didn’t hear from you a bit. Thanks, Paul.

And then:

Well, I booked the apartment for another guest as they wanted the whole month.

There was no apology from the host for renting the apartment to someone else. On top of that, he had the gall to try and blame it on me, saying that he hadn’t heard from me, when he promised he would get back to me and hold the apartment until the end of the month. Even with that, I responded before the end of the month to confirm the booking. This host is a scammer. He went on to offer to rent me another apartment a considerable distance from where my work was taking me on this visit, and when I asked him for a discount for the inconvenience of having to travel a considerable distance, he offered me the same price advertised to the public for that listing.

Here are some of his other properties that I know of. Do not rent from this host under any circumstances. If you do, you are likely to get scammed as I did.

Stranger came to my door but I’m not on Airbnb

I am not a host or a guest. A week ago Friday we had a lady show up at our home saying she booked our property and wanted to get into our home. After a lengthy discussion with this lady, we looked at the Airbnb listing and it was indeed my address. However, nothing matched my home’s description. There were lots of misspelled words, and the “host” spoke about Satan. The whole post was a sham. We both contacted Airbnb several times to take down the post. We explained to them how it’s a safety issue and eventually someone will come knocking that paid for the house and wants in and won’t be as nice as this lady was. Airbnb has not given this guest her money back, nor have they taken down the fake listing. I’ve made several phone calls within a week to this place, as well as emailing and calling them out on Facebook. Nothing is being done. This is so ridiculous that I have to check online everyday to see if my home has been booked and if an unwanted person will be arriving. Why can’t they just take it down?

Airbnb Does Not Care if Criminals Want to Rent your House

Airbnb is a giant scam. Beware. Their customer service sucks (both as a host and as a guest). But that is only the tip of their iceberg. Hosts (especially) should use VRBO or other vacation rental resources, and travelers and guests are advised to do likewise. Airbnb claims to verify their renting guests, and puts many hurdles in the way of hosts trying to require potential guests to fully identify themselves. Only owners or hosts who own fleabag properties would allow any Joe Schmoe to take possession of their property without providing full ID – SSN, Drivers License, DOB, full name, mailing address, etc. – and permission to run a credit check. Maybe that is why so many Airbnb properties are fleabags.

We have properties worth over $1 Million with valuable furnishings and artwork and there’s no way are we going to give the keys to someone Airbnb will not let us verify. I am a realtor and attorney, and I can tell you horror stories when owners do not fully vet guests themselves.

We recently tried to check on one “verified” guest, only to find that their cell phone was really someone else’s (same first name, but different last name and no idea who the “guest” was). No other information Airbnb gave us access to checked out either. We tried several ways of contacting the booking guest but only got one reply – through Airbnb’s anonymous contact email, which was clearly written by a non-native English speaker (even though their name was listed as “John Smith”; I am using a pseudonym here, do not want to implicate anyone directly).

I am guessing they were Eastern Bloc scammers who had cased our Airbnb listing through the pictures, booked for a weekend, and planned to simply rob the entire place during their stay. When I called Airbnb to report my reasons for thinking this was a scam and cancelling the reservation, they penalized me and said I was being unreasonable in the information I was requesting from the guest even though my listing clearly stated what I require prior to a stay.

VRBO has no problem with me getting full verification and ID from guests. Airbnb claims they have a $1 million dollar insurance policy on each rental. When the bandits steal all my valuables, I then get to argue with a third party insurer who has no relationship or loyalty to me (only to Airbnb, their real client), prove my losses to their satisfaction, and hope that I am ultimately made whole (of course, after paying out of pocket for six to twelve months to refurnish the property, not to mention trying to replace irreplaceable artworks, which I enjoy sharing with my otherwise respectable, and fully vetted, guests).

Any legitimate business model would give paramount importance to securing the person and property of the owners and hosts. Any hotel around the world will make you show authorized IDs (passport, credit card, etc.) for every guest before renting you a room. Only Airbnb thinks it can bully owners (increasingly sleazy slumlords and fly-by-night “re-renters” who have no real connection to the properties or neighborhoods they have on offer) into rolling the dice on any jackass who can present a credit card with a limit equal to a few nights’ rent. They then might steal or cause damages worth 5, 10 or 100 times that amount.