Airbnb’s Model is Designed for Scammers

We booked and confirmed a two bedroom apartment in midtown Vancouver four months in advance. Everything seemed fine except the host told us she did not have “front desk” privileges and access would be via the side entrance. The host’s name was Ashleigh P. A few weeks before leaving for Vancouver, I noticed her listing had disappeared from Airbnb. I messaged her and she said she had to take it down because she was getting too many requests. She replied using the name Nicole P. One week before leaving for Vancouver I contacted Airbnb to discuss my rising doubts. I was told there was no need to worry. They were confident everything was above board. Why were they so dismissive?

Five days before arriving I got a message reminding me she had no “contract” with the management at her condo for concierge services so she would meet me personally to let me in and show me around. At 8:30 AM on the morning of the booking I was boarding a plane to fly to Vancouver and I got a text saying to meet her at a different address in Vancouver. I called Nicole/Ashleigh and she told me she could not provide the apartment to which she agreed as her access pass had been blocked but she moved us to a one bedroom in a different area of town. She was not prepared to explain or “argue with you about this.” The booking had been changed and she had no obligation to do more.

What transpired was that she had been subletting an apartment illegally in a building and the owner/building management found out and blocked her access. She had been doing it successfully for some time and had good reviews but now had been caught and barred. Obviously, the assurance she had given Airbnb was false. When I raised this with Airbnb they said: “We have hundreds of thousands of hosts. We can’t verify all their claims.” Airbnb cancelled the booking and helped us find another that we had to accept with just four hours’ notice. It was a long bus ride out of town and the unit was on a very busy highway. Our holiday was completely ruined.

What is my complaint? Airbnb said Nicole told them she had a last minute hiccup and they accepted her excuse. They agreed it was unacceptable but they had absolutely no plan to do anything other than help me find an alternative accommodation; after all, she was a successful host (i.e. she made big money for Airbnb). I was told this really did not happen often and I was unlucky. I was told four times that Airbnb took great care to look after their customers and that my experience was unusual. The bottom line is that Airbnb will keep Nicole/Ashleigh. She is a valuable source of income to them. They understand what has happened but if she tells them she is okay to offer an apartment then they will take her word for it. Airbnb’s model is set up to facilitate scamming and they know that, believing they can “manage” victims when they inevitably emerge. It’s a “let the buyer beware” portal. So beware.

Posted in Airbnb Guest Stories and tagged , , , , , .


  1. ” I was told four times that Airbnb took great care to look after their customers and that my experience was unusual. ”

    BULLSHIT. AirBnB will always protect the hosts because that’s how they keep making their money. They give zero fucks about guests.

  2. Airbnb type rentals are not allowed anywhere in Vancouver. It is the same story in most other major cities world wide. Staying in basically any rental that is provided on the website in Vancouver is illegal as they are not zoned as commerical, rather residential and any stay of under 90 days is against the law. Sorry but your ignorance to follow the local bylaws of the city you are visiting resulted in this senario unfolding. Sure she was playing the game as the city rarely enforces this bylaw, and in turn residential condo stratas are having to take the job on and do it themselves. And yes, airbnb certainly allows and facilitates this sort of behavior as it is essential to their revenue stream. A large percentage of people who rent their spaces on Airbnb do not own or have permission to sublet to you. If you are not comfotartble with this reality, then it is best that you stay at hotels or at least do your due diligence and research whether the local bylaws permit such rentals in the first place in the city you are visiting.

  3. I’d would simply lose my damn mind and chew out anyone in her position who stated that she would not “argue with you about this”. What the hell! And airbnb’s response to the situation is pure unadulterated CRAP.

  4. Airbnb is set up for people to take advantage of, simple as that. And they are. Sorry to hear about your bad experience.

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