Dirty Airbnb House Not Suitable for Children or Adults

We rented a house in Massachusetts for $4,500 for one week for the entire family: adult children and grandchildren. The host told me we could enter the night before our start date. I thanked him and said my son would probably do that. At 2:30 AM, my son arrived at the host’s house. Early Saturday morning my son called me and said he was very disturbed by the condition of the house. He hadn’t even wanted to sleep there with his wife and three small children but felt he couldn’t find a hotel in the middle of the night. He reported to me that the house was not reflective of the pictures on the Airbnb website: it was dirty and in disrepair.

I phoned the host and told him what my son had reported, saying we could not stay in the house. Almost immediately he said he would return our money. Additionally, he said he’d drive from Boston and meet me there at 12:30. At 12:30, the host and a companion of his met me at the house. I was distraught over not only the inside but the outside of the house. It did not look like the Airbnb picture; it was overgrown with weeds, some of them four or five feet tall around the garage door. The three of us entered the house, and there was no resemblance to the pictures of the house I rented.

The host asked me to show him exactly what I was unhappy about, which I did. As a result, he got angry and said I was rude. All I did was document the condition of the house as he had asked. As an aside, I am not a rude person; I’m a psychologist and I’m accustomed to dealing with all kinds of people. My son arrived while we were going through the house. We continued to cite the unacceptable conditions of the house.

When the conversation became heated, I asked the host for our money back. His companion said: “Just give them their money back”. He said he would but we had to “cancel the reservation right now so I can rent it.”

My son and I went out to our cars and immediately canceled the reservation. I had no contact with the host after that morning. He was supposed to refund $500. We’re in a resolution dispute with Airbnb. They have not responded to phone calls and emails were returned as ‘Airbnb did not receive this email’. I believe that at one time this was a nice house and actually looked like the photos on Airbnb; however, it has been abused and neglected. It has not been thoroughly cleaned in a very long time as indicated by the considerable thick dust on top of the refrigerator and other areas. The insects, mold, and broken moldings, as well as the state of general disrepair are not only a health hazard but a safety hazard. I have 38 photos of mold, insects and filthy broken furniture. Screens with holes big enough for a child to climb through. I want my money back. My biggest frustration is that Airbnb will not respond.

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One Comment

  1. My wife and I booked a stay at a Beacon Hill area studio recently and we had a horrible experience. The experience was so bad that it will make us reconsider ever using Airbnb again as guests. Although we really like the idea of Airbnb and we have been strong supporters, we feel that we will likely be victimized by the poor way that Airbnb operates in dealing with guest complaints. We’ll likely loose a bit of money and be left out in the cold evnthough we have been champions for Airbnb and have contributed to their bottom line.

    The listing we booked presented the rental as the “Perfect Little Stay in Beacon Hill! LOW PRICES-3.” The unit was everything but perfect, was way overpriced, and was not safe for us at all.

    We have been using Airbnb as a host for some time now and we’ve had nothing but wonderful experiences with the guests who have stayed with us. The guests love our property and the services we provide and we love having them. These experiences led us to try out Airbnb as guests. This turned out to be a huge mistake.

    We selected the Boston property because of it’s location. Beacon Hill is a nice area we figured and the photos online for the property looked good. We communicated with the manager of the property online before arriving (initially asking if they had availability for a second night and if there was a place we could drop off a bag before checking in) and those communications went smoothly.

    But when we arrived, things started to go bad from the start. We were a bit surprised by the overall condition of the building–the front door had a missing lock, the entranceway was extremely dirty and in need of repair, there were boxes all over the entranceway that we had to climb over, trash bags and laundry bags piled all over the place, big stains throughout on the carpet, etc. We found the key and went to the unit only to discover that the door was unlocked.

    We dropped off our bag, but as we tried to lock the door we discovered that there were problems with the lock. Fortunately as we were leaving, the cleaning person came by and we told him about the problems with the lock and he told us that he would take care of it. He struggled with the lock as well and finally was able to latch it. This made us wonder about the security of the building and the bag that we were going to store.

    Our first impression of the property was that it looked like poorly managed student housing. But we figured this is what we selected and we’d make the most of it. Unfortunately, things got a lot worse.

    I came back to the room in the later afternoon to rest up. The room had been cleaned, but I was really surprised by the condition of the room. It was very tiny, poorly decorated, dark, very no frills, had lots of wear (the wood floor was badly scarred up, stains on the bathroom walls, the shower had mold, a window was painted over with latex paint, caulk peeling in the bathroom, etc.) I was hoping that my wife wouldn’t be really disappointed when she got there and really took a look around. But again, these “aesthetic” issues were only the tip of the iceberg. After resting in the room for a couple of hours and after turning the A/C on I started to get very ill-I was having trouble breathing, very congested, developed a bad headache, and felt nauseous. When my wife got there I felt really bad so she took a look around. She noticed several gallons of chemical products and garbage bags of stuff strewn about the stairways directly outside our room. She also noticed a bit of odd chemical smells. The longer we stayed in the room, the worse we felt.

    My wife suggested we go out for dinner to get out of the room and get some fresh air. We did and after about an hour I started to feel better. It was really scary. My wife suggested that we go look for a hotel to stay the rest of the night. Fortunately, we were able to get a booking at the Bostonian, not far away. We went back to the room and my wife made me stay out on the street as she went back in and packed up our things and took all of the bedding off of the bed as we were instructed to do by the printed house rules. We never really used the property, such as the shower, fridge, etc., as we spent so little time there. We were basically in panic mode because of the condition of the building and the fact that the building and room was making us sick. The whole experience felt like a frightening Steven King short story.

    Fortunately, we had a good stay at the Bostonian, we checked in around midnight, although this set us back as the last minute booking was very expensive. I feel that we made the right call as one’s health, safety, and well being should always come first.

    As bad as the limited experience with the property was (poor condition, toxic environment, false advertising, etc.) what was even more troubling was the reaction and later communication with the property manager (Paige) who listed the property. I sent her a message in the morning as soon as I got up to tell her about how the property made us ill. In one message she seemed concerned but then in another message she seemed to be blaming us for the situation. This is very wrong to do from a hospitality standpoint, something a professional would never do. I didn’t go into a lot of details about the poor condition of the property, but did tell her her we couldn’t stay in the unit and had to move to a hotel because of the condition of the property as something in the room or building was making us ill. I wanted to give the host an opportunity to fix the problem as I would if I were a host and one of my guest’s with a problem contacted me. She responded by saying that she would look into the matter and she offered to provide us with a 1/2 off refund. We never actually asked for a refund; we just sent her a note about the problem we had with staying in the room. I did respond to her to indicate that her refund offer would be acceptable since we didn’t spend the night there. She then turned around and changed her mind later in the day (after the Airbnb 24 hour complaint policy) about providing a refund, indicating that she felt we did stay here, which was not true. So basically after all of the abuse we suffered by staying here, she attacked our credibility by essentially calling us liars, and went on to say that she felt taken advantage of. That puzzled us as she offered the partial refund and then reneged. It became clear later that she was just working the Airbnb policy system about gusts complaints to her advantage. So for anyone who gets in this situation, be very careful. Make sure you find someway to contact management at Airbnb as soon as possible so that later sometimes be doesn’t try to hide behind a policy issue and refuses to do the right thing.

    The property we paid over $260 for to stay one night was really bad news. It was not at all clean, it was not at all advertised, it was not at all low priced. But the worst part was that the property was not safe. It had a serious environmental problem that effected our health. The host was not forthright and in our opinion using Airbnb to operate as a “slum lord.” My wife took a lot of pictures of the condition of the property and we have our hotel bill to show that we did not spend the night there. We’ll make an official complaint to Airbnb management to see if they can step in and provide some remedy, but from my quick research thus s probably not very likely or will take massive effort on my part. Problems like this hurt the Airbnb experience for all of us.

    I was always very honest and professional in my communications with this host, who unfortunately did not operate with the same standards.

    My best advice after having quite a bit of experience operating as an Airbnb host is that you have to be very careful when you rent a property as a guest. Airbnb seems mainly concerned about protecting hosts and not guests. They seem to make it really difficult for guests to contact Airbnb and make complaints. If an unprofessional host takes advantage of a guest there’s not to much a guest can do to get satisfaction. Evidentially this will come back to haunt Airbnb. Just look at what’s happened to Uber and the company’s CEO.

    My second to last point to make, and this is a very important one … In the earlier days of Airbnb many of the rentals listed were made available by actual owners of properties who took some care and pride in what they offered. This is really changing in a big way. Many listings that show up now (especiallly in competitive larger cities) are by sales people and shady real estate people just trying to make a quick buck by renting inferior properties by the night. They do not offer any kind of hospitality; they just want to make a big profit and exploit the marketplace. My wife calls these new generation of operators “Airbnb Slumlords.”

    After looking closer into the situation we encountered in Boston, I realized that this is what happened to us. The person we dealt with was operating as an agent with a group of others, marking up inferior properties, and trying to take advantage of less experienced guests. So called “hosts” like this know how to work the online sources such as Airbnb to their advantage. So, as a guest be really careful as this will likely become a much bigger problem with Airbnb. It could really hold back Airbnb’s growth if they don’t find a good way to deal with this problem.

    I will certainly spend countless hours contacting Airbnb and trying to inform the public about my experience and knowledge. Maybe something good will come of it. I’d love to hear from others about their stories related to this.

    Finally, Airbnb really needs a way to deal with environmental health issues and complaints related to rental properties. This is real science and not fake news and is becoming more and more important. A guest can easily complain about a rental property’s overall appearance, how clean it is, security, etc. but there is little opportunity when reviewing properties to point out environmental or health related issues to warn other guests. More and more people are having issues with chemical sensitivities, problems with toxins and molds, etc. so this really needs to be addressed.

    Thanks for hearing me out!

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