I’m glad I found this site. My story is horrifying. I don’t even know where to turn to seek legal counsel, but I am Googling it now.
I had booked a week’s stay in Tijuana in July. I stayed in a very affluent home, with several guests. The couple that owned it (different from the people I was corresponding with on Airbnb) seemed friendly and nice at first. When I first arrived, and told them my plans to stay longer, they showed me this sweeping private room with a bathroom on another floor that was still under construction. They said it would be ready in a week, at $700/month with a $700 deposit down. They said that the deposit was refundable at any time, and that there was no minimum or maximum amount of time to stay.
Within a couple days, I began paying them the $1400 to reserve that room. The process was a bit strange, but they received all their money within four days of my seven-day stay. On the fifth day, I had a horrible fall on a broken sidewalk in the shopping area, and twisted my foot badly. I came back to the home, trying to see if they could assist or direct me in any way. They sat, reading the paper, and sort of ignored me. I found the whole experience very offputting, but kept it to myself.
On the sixth day, I was outside chatting with another guest and smoking a cigarette (in a designated area), when the couple came outside and yelled at me about leaving a door unlocked. I hadn’t been the culprit, but they were aggressive and kept pushing the matter. I had – to be honest – forgotten to lock the door a night before, but only had stepped outside to smoke. This time I was not to blame, as the home has over four guest rooms (to my estimate) and a lot of foot traffic.
This accusation was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I told them I was no longer comfortable being in their home, and wanted my money back. They immediately pushed back, saying no. I told them that wasn’t acceptable, and went to my rented room to try to contact someone who could help (not easy to do when in another country).
Before I knew it, two fedarali were at my door. They told me to get my things, and get out (my lease officially didn’t end for a couple more hours). When I demanded my money, the woman who owns the house told them I had bought a big screen TV (they had, it was in the front room of their home. I’d seen it that morning.). Being a temporary visitor with no car, I explained to the officers I absolutely didn’t buy a TV, it made no sense I would do that at this stage. They seemed to half believe me, but were very intimidating.
The police made me sign a document in Spanish before they would let me exit the bedroom (they were acting in a way that I for sure felt they were going to arrest me, and don’t speak any Spanish). I also suffer from severe anxiety and PTSD, and this sent me into a fear spiral. I signed the document so they’d let me go, and was put in an Uber.
I had him stop to get what little money I had exchanged (I also realized what was left in my backpack was now missing). It wasn’t much, but while I was in the grocery store, the car left with my bags.
Now down to nothing, I was forced to walk for a couple miles to beg someone for help. I had to sleep on the street that night, and my foot was swollen to three times its size. I suffer from a degenerative bone disorder, and am basically handicapped. I took a picture of what my foot looked like the next morning.
The next day, I was determined to get my money, so I spent a couple hours in town finding a couple of bilingual high school students. I offered them money to get in the taxi with me to translate at the house. When we got there, it was worse than I expected. I was given $400, and before receiving it, was forced to sign another document in Spanish (I was so desperate, I did it).
At that point I was almost at zero dollars, in a town i didn’t know. They accused me of losing their keys (I absolutely did not. I know this because I have a chain wallet and left my keys attached to it for the course of the stay. When the federali escorted me out, I handed the key over then). According to them, they were going to have to get the locks changed and that would cost a few hundred more. In the end, they stole over $1000 from me, plus some of my luggage, and sent me into an anxiety spiral that took weeks to work through in therapy.
I am currently seeking legal representation, and would like any advice the community has. Thank you.