Dirty Airbnb Stay in San Diego with Bed Bugs

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Early this month two friends and I decided to take a much needed break and head down from northern California to San Diego for a relaxing getaway.

We arrived at the apartment late in the evening, and immediately noticed a few issues with cleanliness. The sponge provided to wash dishes was old and smelled musty, there was a sticky gunk in the side of the stove and on some places on the walls, the bathroom sink had some little hairs on it, and there were some stains on the sheets.

Because it was late and we were tired, we took some photos and planned to deal with it in the morning when we could speak to the host on the phone. However, about an hour later one of the guests noticed a bug crawling across her pillow case and jumped up to see it disappear down the side of the bed. She turned on the light and found another of the same kind of bug inside the pillow case. She took a photo; we looked it up and it appeared to be a bed bug.

Based on the state of the rest of the place, it was the final straw. We immediately packed up, hopped in the car, and started calling hotels to find a place to sleep that night and for the rest of our stay. Once we found a hotel around almost 2:00 AM, I contacted the host, explained the problem, and sent him the photos we took. He originally offered to reimburse us for the last two nights of the reservation, but not the total (cleaning fees and first night), which I declined as we were seeking a full refund for that horrible experience, plus we had to scramble to book another place to stay last minute which meant we shouldered an additional cost for that.

Two days later, the host contacted me saying he “had a company come look at the place, and there were no bed bugs,” so he’s refusing to refund us for any of the nights. However, he agreed that the place was dirty, so sent me back $42 for the cleaning fee. As I pushed that this was unacceptable, he started saying that actually, the photos we provided were “not even his sheets”, and it was “clearly not his apartment”, saying that he “can’t find a linen matching the one in the photo with the bug” and that he “took his own photos as evidence of this.”

Because he won’t share his “evidence” photos, I have no way of knowing if he changed the sheets after we left and took new pictures to make it look like we’re lying about the whole incident. However, the photos we have not only show a time and location stamp matching the first night of our reservation, but we also have video that clearly shows we are in his apartment when we found the bugs.

To make matters worse, the host left a (somewhat incoherent) review of me stating that I was “running a scam” and in all caps “DO NOT HOST”. What kind of scam could I be running? I have clear proof of the bed bugs and other cleanliness issues, I did not stay a single night in the apartment, and he still has my money. If anything, I’ve been scammed.

I have contacted Airbnb about the issue multiple times, and have received no response on my case. The most I’ve heard from them is when I took to social media to rant about their horrible service, to which they gave me the canned response of “we’ve escalated your ticket to the appropriate team,” and I’ve heard nothing since.

After doing some digging, I’ve noticed several other reviews on the host’s other listings mentioning the conditions being unsanitary (cockroaches, sand in the bed on the day of arrival, stains on sheets and towels, etc). Especially during the pandemic, hosts should be held to a higher standard for cleanliness.

Unfortunately though, Airbnb does not seem to care about guests’ safety at all, and this host is still collecting money and accepting listings as a representative of their platform.

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