Landlord Did a Bait and Switch – Kept Full Rent Paid

We are from Maryland. In July, we hosted visiting German relatives (a couple with two small children) who also asked to see New York during their stay. My husband had work commitments and could not go with us, but I and my 81-year-old elderly mother-in-law agreed to drive them there for a few days’ stay. Using AirBNB, we selected a property in the Bedford Stuyvesant (“Bed Stuy”) neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY at 138 Lexington Avenue, owned by a Crystal Elly Haylett. Here’s the link to the house: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3752035. The 5-star feedback on this property (which we later realized was entirely provided by visiting foreigners living outside the U.S.- should have been a red flag) gave no hint at all about the high crime factor in this neighborhood. While the landlord and AirBNB tamely describe Bed Stuy on the AirBNB site as “a neighborhood in-transition”, we later learned that this is a far more dangerous place that continues to show up in the high crime rate zone for shootings an murders (see the crime map for Bed Stuy for the time period we were searching, above). We used the positive feedback that Crystal displays in her AirBNB ad as our guide in deciding to book this property; feedback that we now realize could likely be edited since we were unable to leave details of our own bad experience. Once we discovered, to our horror, more details about the high crime in her Lexington Avenue neighborhood, it was clear that it would be a coin-toss for us as to whether or not we felt safe enough to roam the streets there after dark. When my own sister (who lives just an hour north of New York City) and a niece (who commutes daily into the city to Penn Station for her job) called and begged us to move our lodging to another, safer neighborhood in New York, that was the nail in the coffin for us, and we asked Crystal to change shortly after we booked her place. However, Crystal initially refused. Since all of our vacation money was tied up in her deposit (something we were clear on with her) we had little choice but to move ahead and stay at her property despite the risks. We told Crystal quite clearly in writing that, because we could not afford to lose our deposit (again, our vacation money for lodging) we had no choice but to stay at her property, regardless of our crime findings. Perhaps she feared that we would leave a negative review for her (which caused us to be suspicious since she professed emphatically that it was so wonderful there), because she soon wrote back to suggest we look for another property that we’d feel more comfortable with. I thanked her and made it very clear that we expected to get 100% of our money returned, something she never once disputed. But once we made the change she herself requested, and found a safer property elsewhere in New York, she refused to give us our money back (again, 100% of the rental fee). AirBNB is standing by her, even though it’s clear that she is the one who asked us to look for another property, and did not dispute our request at all for a full refund if we acted on her request. One can easily see why neither the landlord nor AirBNB would be more forthcoming about the high number of shootings and robberies in neighborhoods like this – it’s unlikely that more Americans would book them – and it’s likely the reason why she has nearly all unsuspecting foreigners staying there. And so, here we are today, out nearly $1300 thanks to Crystal Elly Haylett who pulled a bait & switch on us – encouraging us to book another property in the explicit full knowledge that we could not afford to surrender our deposit (full rent) and kept our deposit. AirBNB is doing little to assist us, and a lot to defend this landlord. We’ve reported the full details of our experience to The Better Business Bureau and are hiring an attorney to pursue action directly against the landlord. AirBNB has so far failed to provide us with Crystal Elly Haylett’s full contact information so that we can move forward with our action. Despite this bad, eye-opening experience, my husband and I have had three excellent previous experiences with AirBNB. But this latest one has likely burst the bubble for us. Travelers reading this: BEWARE. AirBNB has so far done nothing to protect us and everything to protect an untruthful landlord who effectively stole our vacation money. Our German relatives are not impressed either and have professed to spread the word over there about our bad experience with AirBNB once they return. We will definitely share our experience whenever and wherever we can. Moving forward, we plan to use VRBO to book future housing. I encourage anyone reading this to consider doing the same.

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

4 Comments

  1. P.S.: I’m sure you did not intend for your remarks to appear belittling but I’m sure you know the United States is 17 x the size of France. Our home is nearly the same distance as Paris is from Cologne. As hard as we try, we cannot conveniently be everywhere and truly understand the subtle nuances of every neighborhood in every city in our country. The best we can do is to educate ourselves about new places in advance of a trip. In our case, we did. What we initially found was a very tame description of a neighborhood that in reality has a higher-than-normal share of shootings and robberies. As I was traveling (without my husband) with non-English speaking visitors (with two small children under the age of 10), I took the unusual step of asking the landlord if she would be wiling to cancel our reservation and grant us a refund, despite her strict cancellation policy. When she initially said no, we told her, fine. We said we could not afford to lose the money we set aside for our vacation lodging and would stay at her home anyway.

    To be clear, at that point it was the landlord who then suggested we look for alternative accommodations. We told her we would act on her suggestion and that we expected a full refund, something she did not dispute at all. This is a case of deception – and not a naive “native American” who should have known better.

    • I dunno, Bedford Sty is pretty notorious for crime across the east coast. I find it hard to believe that you found a “tame” description of the neighborhood. I googled Bedford Sty crime rates and there’s plenty of information.

      I’m sure you didn’t mean for your remarks to appear belittling when you chided someone from another country about the size of the US but it sure sounds that way.

  2. Oh, I agree with you. Unfortunately, that’s not the point of my post. Again, we told the landlord we would stay ANYWAY despite the dangers — because we could not afford to lose our deposit. It’s not the fact that we did or didn’t know about the crime in the area – my issue is that the landlord encouraged us to leave after we expressed our concerns to her, and never disputed our request for a refund (something we openly asked for BEFORE we cancelled). An honest businessperson would say, “look if you’re that worried, you should look for alternative accommodations — but your request for a refund will not be granted and you will not get your money back.” THAT did not happen, even though we said (in writing) that it was our expectation to receive a refund in acting on her request. It was very deceptive.

  3. Hello !
    I am sorry to tell you that, but as a native american aware of the dangers of some areas, you should have checked the reputation of the district before booking, as the owner of this property didn’t lie on its location.
    Then, you write that the flat only have good reviews, as people who spent time there aren’t americans and don’t know the crime’s rate of this district. That only shows that sometimes, even a bad district can also provide a good accommodation, and that reputation doesn’t make everything. It also shows that this district has potential to to get better, as guests who have been there for a few days let a 5 stars notation.
    Might be that in Manhattan the price wouldn’t have been the same.
    My personnal opinion : this flat is proposed for short term reental, not for sell. I don’t understand why the criminallity rate woould change something for someone who just want to stay for a few days. In that case, I warn everybody that the crime’s rate in the US is bigger than in France, my country, so better come to my place if you want to feel safe.
    Fortunatelly for attorneys, people who exagerate exists !
    Sorry for being frank.

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