Crime and Punishment under Airbnb’s Business Model

This morning I received a threatening robo-email from Airbnb titled “Remember: Cancellations impact your account.” I was charged $16 for speaking to a human at Airbnb, and had a threatening message telling me that “I’m off track” on my Airbnb Dashboard. The email listed the various penalties and punishments imposed upon hosts when they cancel a potential guest. Yesterday morning I cancelled my first guest because I felt that he was beyond creepy. Although I am super explicit about potential guests emailing me prior to booking to inquire about availability, this guest nevertheless used the Instant Book option at 3:00 AM (which I’ve since disconnected) to book a four-night stay, then modified to a three-night stay, two weeks in the future.

When I woke up in the morning, I checked him out and saw that he had only one previous Airbnb stay, which provided me with zero feedback about this person. Then I read his email, which began with “Hello, my lover” and it proceeded to go downhill from there. Needless to say, I was creeped out, so I cancelled the guest. Immediately, those dates were blocked by Airbnb and I was notified that I had been sanctioned.

Since yesterday, I’ve spoken to several customer service reps at Airbnb in an effort to get a resolution. That said, I cannot help feeling that there is a bigger issue at play here and it has to do about whether or not we, the hosts, and Airbnb are equal partners. If we are indeed partners, why then are we treated as adversaries? If we are partners, why does Airbnb threaten and intimidate us when we cancel a potential guest that makes us feel unsafe?

Hosts assume all the risk associated with having strangers in their home. I don’t have a problem with that. I have consented to having guests stay in my house. However, I have not consented to having someone in my house that makes me feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Airbnb demands that I make a quick decision, a judgement call, about whether on not to approve a guest. If I don’t act quickly, I get penalized. How can I do that when I have little to no information on this person? I’m not looking to waste anyone’s time.

As a seasoned traveller, I know that time is of the essence when guests are looking to book their accommodations.. Nevertheless, I also feel that I must be given the freedom to trust my instincts, which have rarely steered me wrong, especially when the site provides little or no data on a potential guest. All I’m saying is that safety must come first. Airbnb must take our safety concerns seriously, and not just pay lip service to the notion of host safety. If Airbnb were truly concerned about hosts’ comfort and safety, they would not punish hosts and make us jump through a million hoops when we dare to cancel a guest who makes us feel uncomfortable.

What would happen If a host gets seriously hurt or killed because Airbnb pressured him/her not to cancel a sketchy guest? I’m certain that Airbnb as a company would face a scandal and huge public backlash. The scandal would be “grist for the mill” for the many municipalities who vociferously object to home sharing. They could shut home sharing down because they would claim that it threatens public safety.

It would also most certainly become a PR nightmare similar to the one faced by Delta Airlines, when they somehow decided that it was a good idea to drag a 60-year-old doctor off an airplane that they themselves had overbooked. Delta had gotten away with treating passengers terribly for years, but that unfortunate incident focused a spotlight on the company’s greed, bad policies, and complete disregard for their guests. In short, it became a disaster of huge proportions. Everything was fine, until one day it wasn’t. If a host gets hurt because of Airbnb’s negligence, the Delta Airlines scandal will pale in comparison.

There are very few reasons that a responsible host would cancel a potential guest and forfeit making money. Most of us would do it only if we had real concerns regarding the guest. Airbnb is capable of tracking our bookings, our responses to guests, and the feedback we receive. The company is able to read guest reviews and determine how a host treats their guests. I am posting this because I am hoping that Airbnb will not be short-sighted, that they will think through their policies, and make host safety a priority and a core company value.

There are no “one size fits all” solutions. Perhaps cancellations ought to be judged on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps there should be a drop-down menu option, that allows hosts to cancel someone they deem unsuitable (even after they’ve booked automatically). Especially if the cancellation done within a reasonable time frame, which would allow the guest can find other accommodations. Please, let’s find a way that works for everyone.

House Completely Destroyed by Airbnb Guests

I rented my villa in Marbella, Spain to a guest from Ireland. He informed me his family were arriving the following day. Subsequently I found out that six or more young guys turned up and in the week they were in my house, they destroyed it. Airbnb has been ‘looking into this’ for five weeks now. They blocked two toilets with whole rolls of toilet paper, ripped a door off the hinges, broke my washing machine, made cigarette burns on my brand new couches, vomited on the bed and walls and around the toilet, made marks all over the walls, and somehow got them wet. I had to employ three cleaning ladies for eight hours each, fix the toilets and door, and purchase new linen, towels, and glasses for what wasn’t broken or thrown out. I’m not sure how many people were sleeping on the bed but the supporting boards were also broken and this was a €3000 bed. The damage and costs equate to around €10,000. At check out, when we were supposed to meet, they vacated the premises and locked me out of the house without meeting me or giving me the keys back. I had to employ a locksmith on a Sunday to change my locks. It has caused me a lot of stress and my house is ruined.

Crooked Host Holds Deposit After Long Stay

We arrived in Utah on June 20th, 2017 as a result of a military move from Arizona. This was our nineth move in 18 years, so my family and I were used to it. Utah was exceptionally difficult to find accommodations while we were waiting for base housing to become available. Air conditioning at the temporary lodging facility on base was broken and hotels were booked in the surrounding 30-mile area from the base.

I decided to give Airbnb a try. I found a property listing in Ogden. I messaged the host and asked if he would be willing to negotiate a deal on the property since I needed a place to stay for a month. He agreed and stated that there would be a $500 dollar deposit for the property that would be returned once his property manager determined there was no damage when we moved out. We agreed to the terms and paid for the stay in full.

Our stay was great with the exception of the condition of the mattress in one of the bedrooms and the downstairs sink that was cracked. The landscape outside was a mess: dirt and open irrigation holes were everywhere. The lampposts outside were on the ground and wires were exposed. We were assured that the landscaping would be completed soon. In the month we stayed, hardly any progress was made with the numerous half-completed projects. We never complained and just figured it was a money issue. We left the property on July 20th and moved into our house on base.

This is when the problems began with the host. We inquired when we could expect the $500 deposit to be returned. I was then contacted by the property manager asking about a shampoo bottle ring on the master bathroom shower shelf. I said it may have been caused by my wife’s color stay shampoo and we were glad to come clean it and see the stain for ourselves. We were assured we would have the opportunity to clean the bathroom and see the stain. We inquired several times over the next few weeks without any response due to the fact the invoice stated that the deposit would be returned in three days.

When the host finally responded, he said we would have to wait to clean the unit due to another guest staying there. We waited several weeks to hear from either the host or property manager but they never responded. I contacted the property manager six weeks after we moved out and asked about the stain and when we could expect the deposit back. I never received a reply. The next day my wife received a text from the owner asking for my email stating that his lawyer would contact me for to settle for damages. We are honest people so we gave it to him.

I received an email on September 11th from a bus stop bench lawyer located out of Orem stating that his client was not going to return the deposit and was in fact wishing to seek an additional $1575 for replacement of the entire upper vinyl shower piece. On the estimate, there wasn’t a itemized list of parts or labor, only a dollar amount and the name of a repair company. The estimate didn’t even have a business address. The lawyer also stated there were additional damages such as a scratch on “high end” furniture and stains on towels. The lawyer stated that I have received pictures of the damages; however, I have not. I have text messages from the property manager saying there were attached photos but I never received them and I said so in a response back to her. The unit was also supposedly occupied immediately after we vacated the property, which also calls the damages into question.

Be aware of staying in Ogden with this host. I strongly caution anyone to stay elsewhere. You will be opening yourself up to a money grubbing host looking to make a profit at your expense based on false claims of damages.

No Protection Against Deceptive Guests Breaking Rules

I had a group of five people book the minimum stay in my house for three nights and they ended up staying only one night, getting a refund for the others. I received a snotty email the next morning with a list of unbelievable reasons why they left. This was planned. They must have had another booking somewhere and needed just one night as a filler. My house is immaculate. I work very hard to make sure it is always so, but they managed to get a refund from Airbnb, because Airbnb does not care. My “case manager” never got back to me or answered any emails. They just let me get cheated by some rotten people who even were so low as to give me a one-star review, when everything was provided and spotless. I did everything I could: sent maps, was there to greet them… I told them if they needed me to just let me know. Never did they look me in the eye. They were fishy, because something was up. Had they communicated any problem whatsoever – there were no problems – I would have been able to act and would have done so immediately. Airbnb will not ever provide any means to contact them, so basically it’s a one-sided system. I am very upset about the fact that there is no protection against assholes.

Guests Trashed our Home, Airbnb Ignores us for Weeks

This guest and his family completely trashed  our home. We came home after five weeks to a complete infestation of flies, fruit flies, maggots, bed bugs and lice. This guest never took their trash out in five weeks in July; they simply left it in the house and, as you can imagine, the condition of it was deplorable. We found piles of maggot-filled trash bags inside our home. The smell of rotting food and trash was overpowering. The swarms of flies required multiple treatments from a professional exterminator, who said he had never seen anything like it. They apparently ate in every room in the house (living room, bedrooms, bathroom) and left spilled food on the rugs, couches, and bathroom floor. I’m not talking about crumbs; these were chunks of meat, broccoli, and tomatoes on our furniture just surrounded in flies and maggots.

They broke our TV, refrigerator, and dishwasher, ripped our brand new bed sheets and bedspreads, put tables on top of bureaus (why?), left the mattresses on the floor (had taken off the bed frames), and clogged up the kitchen and bathroom sinks with god only knows what. Our home will never be the same. It’s been over two weeks and the stench of these disgusting people is still in our home. We had to have exterminators come back twice to eradicate the flies and eventually had to throw everything away: beds, couches, pillows, rugs, sheets, towels. We hired professional cleaners to remove the dead bugs not once but twice. These guests lived like complete animals but that does not explain how as human beings, they could completely disrespect and destroy another person’s home.

We have been going all through the proper channels with Airbnb for three weeks and we cannot even get anyone to contact us regarding our claim for over $20,000 worth of damage. They supposedly cover up to $1,000,000 but I don’t believe it. We’ve been waiting on hold for hours at a time, and sending multiple emails with no response. Customer service agents claim to have no authority to do anything except send an email to a supervisor say they will contact us but they never do. We sent 50+ pictures of the damage to our home, videos, receipts for everything, a copy of the police report, and there has been nothing from Airbnb.

Our family has been displaced from our home for three weeks, having to stay in hotels and pay for and replace our damaged items completely on our own. Our lives have been put on hold and this incident has caused our family great emotional and financial duress.

Airbnb Fraud: Someone Cancelled the Reservation For Host

We were contacted after midnight by a guest asking if we could take him and his family on such short notice and check in at 3:30 AM. We worked our butts off to get the house ready for him and his family and accommodate them on short notice. My husband was in the backyard cleaning up the pool at 3:30 when they arrived. We greeted them and welcomed them to Dallas; they checked in and then out at 11:00 AM. In the morning I discovered someone on Airbnb had posed as me, canceled the reservation, and without even so much as a phone call or message, the payment had been removed from our account.

We have a strict cancellation policy which doesn’t allow cancellation without 24 hours’ notice and at 50% of the cost. The guest had concerns about the Internet and TV, which he just needed to contact us to get access. Instead he went around our backs to Airbnb and then committed fraud by logging in as me and cancelling the reservation. Airbnb sent me a message three days later telling me that our Airbnb host status was in jeopardy due to the cancellation. We want our money back and the cancellation removed. This is not the first time Airbnb has interfered with payments in the past. A guest was looking for a cheaper stay and they refunded the reservation, even though they didn’t give us notice and broke Airbnb rules by having a friend make the reservation and not stay there. Third party reservations are against policy. They took money out of our future reservations to refund them.

Domestic Horror at Airbnb Forces Guests to Call 911

My husband and I decided to use Airbnb for the first time because we were looking to spend a romantic weekend in the Poconos area of Pennsylvania. When we got to the house we were greeted by the hostess’ husband who informed us that his wife was delayed by a flight coming from Texas and he would go pick her up at midnight. My husband and I were offered beer and later this man asked my husband to go fishing. It all seemed wonderful and when they returned from their fishing trip we went to bed expecting that the man would go out around midnight to pick his wife up at the airport.

Sleep was difficult because the mattresses thrown on the floor were uncomfortable and squeaked at every turn. Nevertheless we had agreed to make the best of the one-night stay. Well, around 1:00 AM, I was awakened by loud cursing and yelling by a male voice, which I tied to ignore. Soon I heard more yelling and now a female voice was involved. I figured the hostess had been picked up from the airport and was settling home to go to bed. However, the voices got louder as did the cursing and it all seemed to be outside.

I looked outside our window and saw the hostess’ husband yelling at another man and later as the other man got back into his car the hostess’ husband kicked his car, which angered the man in the car (I later found out he was a taxi driver the hostess had used to get home). The man got out and the two men began to argue again, but eventually the taxi driver got in his vehicle and left. The issue did not end there as the hostess’ husband continue to argue with her, to the point of smashing her fingers on the door. This caused her to scream which caused us to come down.

We offered the hostess to call 911 as she told us that he smashed her fingers and also poured beer all over her luggage which was still outside the house in the driveway. We offered to assist bringing it in, but her husband would not allow it. When she tried to go get it, he tried to lock her out of the home. He escalated in his loud verbal attacks and threats to the point where we had to call 911 at around 2:00 AM. Once police arrived we waited to get the okay from them to be allowed to leave. We left around 3:30 AM and had to sleep in our car. While this ordeal was going on, we found out that the husband was never consulted by the hostess about her plan to make their home into an Airbnb, which he disagreed with. He informed us that he had assaulted another guest who arrived at the house around 10:00 PM on a night when the hostess’ husband was expected to work the next day. We found out from the hostess that her husband was on parole and has a criminal record. What a night.