Extortion and Invasion of Privacy: Illegal NYC Airbnb

I had a really unpleasant New York City host somewhere in the financial district. Superficially everything was nice until a few hours after we met. Here is how the interaction went:

Host: When will you be arriving?

Me: I will actually be in the city a few days before so I can arrive whenever is convenient for you to give me the key.

Host: Anytime after 2:00 PM on this end works.

Me: Okay I will be there around or before 3:00 PM then. Does that work?

Host: Okay.

(24 hours before said time)

Host: I cannot be here to check you in. You have to use the temporary key from the doorman. The permanent key is in your room. The temporary key must be returned very soon after checkout.

Me: Okay. When do I have to return this key?

Host: As soon as possible.

Me: Okay.

(Arrive at apartment at 1:54 PM. Remember: anytime after 2:00 PM is ok; check out the temporary key for which my ID is retained. I go upstairs to said apartment)

Host: Oh, I didn’t think you’d be here for a few more hours; the room’s not ready.

(One hour is not a few more hours, and I was within her “acceptable window”. This host clearly does not read her messages.)

Me: Okay, I will just leave the luggage here next to the shoes, no need to hurry for the room. I’m leaving probably till evening.

She shows me the room. I thank her, pet her dog (which is actually not allowed to live in that building), take the permanent key, and return the temporary key. Upon return of the temporary key I again have my state ID on my person. Six hours later I got a few messages from this host that she will be posting an $100 charge to my account because I did not return the temporary key.

Me: Of course i returned it. Is it true that the doorman holds your ID for that key? Okay. Then how would I have my ID otherwise?

(Host continues accusing me in a couple more messages that the key is signed out to me)

Me: Okay, it is the doorman’s responsibility to find it because I returned it but nevertheless I will go see for myself that what you say is true.

I return to the building from an inconvenient distance away, and it turns out the doorman did have the key. The mistake was on their part as the key was stuck in the crack of the machine that reads the key. The host apologized. I calmly went to shower so my muscles would be relaxed before the New York City Marathon. The host’s roommate came back to the apartment with a bunch of drunk friends. One of the male friends barged in on me while I was getting out of the shower. At least I had some tiny clothes on. I made small talk with the drunk people for a little bit then went to bed, at 2:45 AM (technically 3:45 AM because of daylight savings time). The host barged through the apartment in loud heels, slammed a couple doors, then stormed out.

Well, goodbye sleep. This was going to be an interesting marathon. About 3:10 PM after the marathon:

Host: Your checkout is by 7:00 AM please leave the key on the desk. You can leave the luggage in the common area if you want and get it later by using the temporary key.

Me: No, thanks. I don’t want another $100 temporary key incident.

(I didn’t see anything disrespectful here – I was just protecting my wallet from her)

I vacated the apartment at about 12:30 AM and took a picture of the state of the room I was in, with the key on the desk and a time stamp. I brought a friend to help me with the luggage and to make sure I got uptown at 120th Street safely. He also saw the key on the desk and we checked the apartment ten times to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. That whole piece of time was about 10-15 minutes. Maybe this host had work or something, but being reminded that I had to check out only 14 fours after a marathon is brutal. So I just preferred to forfeit this unpleasant experience and sleep uptown on the floor of a friend who was not evicting me.

The next morning when I woke up I saw a message that she did not find the key on the desk but that she is willing to not charge me the $150 it costs her to change her locks due to the trouble with the temporary key. I called Airbnb to complain and I said I will be requesting a $40 refund (from the $130/night it cost me) because I did not end up spending the night there. I also told the host that giving everyone access to the temporary key is a pretty bad security problem in her building. I obviously did not take her key. It’s of no benefit to me to keep a key from a place I would hate to live in, when I live about 2000 miles away anyway. I just needed a place close to the Staten Island Ferry for the marathon.

I proceeded to ask for a refund. The reservation was over; I had written the Airbnb review anyway so I was frank with this person. The Airbnb Resolution Center allows you to upload pictures so I showed her where the key was when I left.

Me: As you can see the key was left right there on the desk where I mentioned to you on the phone. You’re not accepting evidence by any other means, so I am sending it to the Airbnb Resolution Center. Accusing someone of theft is not only impolite but unprofessional as this is a business that you are running from this apartment. If you were the owner of the hotel, you would not be accusing your guests twice in 48 hours for items missing from the room before putting any effort into finding them. For example: at least double checking with the doorman that the key wasn’t lost by their own fault. The refund would be for the 17% of the total reservation time (from 2:00 PM Saturday to 7:00 AM Monday) that I did not spend in this rental. As I said before, it seems like your temporary key checkout is a security problem in the building so you should focus on that instead of throwing tantrums so you can charge your guests extra money. Feel free to cross reference the time at which I left your address with security footage. Also, I brought a friend over to help me with my luggage and so that I would get to 120th St safely at 1:00 AM. Therefore I also have one witness that the key was left in the right place. The very last thing I want to draw your attention to is that I left the door to my room closed on Sunday morning at 6:30 AM, and found it open at 4:30 PM, so someone went into my room while I was away. Have you even checked with your roommate to see that he didn’t stow the keys away somewhere? I am going to guess you have not.

Host: Hi, As I mentioned before, the key was not left on the desk. I apologized for the mishap with the temporary key, even after you arrived two hours prior (actually one hour and still in the time window she said was ok) to the time you said you would without asking. I did reach out to the doormen before contacting you. They were the ones that told me it was checked out under your name. When you spoke with them, they told you that the key was stuck in the reader and it did not register that you returned it. When you informed me of this I apologized and thanked you for letting me know of the mishap. You, however, were very disrespectful. As you can see from my house rules, you are not allowed to bring anyone into my apartment without announcing them to me and I charge a $20 fee (so by this logic should I charge her an $200 fee for her unannounced friends who saw me naked?) I do not appreciate that you brought someone to my home without asking prior. You can also see that my cancelation policy is strict. You cannot get a refund for leaving the reservation early. Therefore, I am not accepting this $45 refund. I was willing to waive the $150 fee and I might be willing to waive the $20 for the unannounced guest, so long as you do not contact me again. If I do hear from you again, I will be pressing charges and contacting my lawyer. You were the only person that had access to the temporary key and my apartment without me being there. There is video evidence of that as well as a record in the system of everyone with temporary key access. Due to this negative experience, I have removed my listings. Thank you.

She has not removed her listings and I will gladly privately share the link with you. In short: her drunk friends see me almost naked but I should get charged money for bringing someone to help me with the luggage through the subway at 1:00 AM, a time at which I’m leaving because of her irrational behavior? I was repeatedly accused of theft in my 48 hours of interaction with this psycho and threatened with an illogical lawsuit, but I’m disrespectful? Also she technically is renting two properties from what I can see in her Airbnb listings, so she can’t live in both of them at once. One of her Airbnb rentals is illegal by New York City law. I guess she forgot I can use this to get her an $1000 fine, right? NYC says rental types like Airbnb are legal as long as the host lives in the apartment during the guest’s stay. Here are all the messages I exchanged with her.

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