I have been a host in Miami for four years, and a Superhost for the last two. I had four properties: one I lived in, one my mother lived in, a little cabin, and a house only for guests. We started small just in our homes but when we noticed there were so many guests asking to stay and we were fully booked all the time, my mom and I rented out two properties just to do Airbnb has a side business. We were always full and had all five-stars reviews. We started getting many regulars too.
We had just rented a second house only for Airbnb since it was going so well. That’s five properties total in Airbnb under my name, bank account and social security. I paid the taxes for it every year and was happy to do it too. Please read this and avoid it happening to you.
We don’t live in the house we rent on Airbnb. We had to set up a security camera (after many bad experiences in Miami) in the main living room entrance to check the maximum capacity of each bedroom or the entire house… isn’t violated. The house has three bedrooms, two living room areas, two bathrooms, a kitchen/dining room, a front porch and a big backyard.
A few days ago somebody complained about the security camera in the main living room entrance, and I received an email from an Airbnb (6:00 AM on October 23rd) case manager asking me if I had informed them in the listing that the camera was there, where it was, and if there were any other cameras in the house. In this email, she also informed me that I had 48 hours to explain this situation and answered all her questions and if not I would be suspended from the site forever. In those 48 hours my account would have Limited Access. The email was harsh, kind of like a thread almost. I felt uneasy.
So you can understand the details: when I rent the house as private bedrooms, people are only allowed to sleep in their assigned bedrooms, but when I rent the house to a big party of people as an entire property, I had added a sofa bed in the second living room to accommodate an extra two bodies. The house could now accommodate eight with the sofa bed, instead of six. There are many pictures in the listing showing where the sofa bed is located, of both living room areas, of the bedrooms, etc.
I emailed the case manager the same day, the 23rd around noon, letting her know that the camera was in the living room area, entrance part of the house, and that I had indeed informed them of this in the listing. I thought the situation was resolved. I called multiple times since the day to ask what limited access meant. What should I do and was I still receiving reservations for that night? Nobody was able to tell me over the phone. I received no reservations that night and I had one empty bedroom that would normally be booked at the last minute… I was worried.
At this point I am assuming that if you are put in limited access, that means no reservations. I tried to request money from a guest that came with a dog without telling me and wasn’t able to do that either; I charge $10 for pets for a cleaning fee. That night I was very worried and wrote to Airbnb a second time. There was no answer that whole day. I intended to go to the house the next day and take some pictures and videos to send to Airbnb to show them the house and where the camera was, since I had 48 hours.
I couldn’t go that same day, so I was heading to the house the next morning. At this point it had been about 24 hours, since I received the email the previous morning, but it was too late. On the way to the house I noticed I was no longer able to access my Airbnb account at all. At the moment I noticed, I called again having almost a panic attack. Nobody could tell me anything; they couldn’t even see my account anymore, they keep telling me to email them, which I had, like four times at this point. I received no answer from her.
It was about noon. 30 hours had passed at this point from her original email, and there was no answer. My check-out time was approaching on October 24th and I couldn’t contact any of my guests. I was freaking out because I could not chat with any of my current reservations. I had all the rooms full except for one. Again, many of them were checking out and many more were coming that same day, with many other guests coming Friday and Saturday.
I was banned at some point in the early morning of Thursday, October 25th. Finally around 1:30 PM on the 25th I got an email; I knew it was bad. The email said:
“It’s true that the surveillance device is disclosed on the house rules, but the camera is located in the living room and as it is stated on the description of the listing, the living room turns into a private space when you offered it to fit up to two more people. We call this a “zero tolerance area”, therefore this decision. Pursuant to this removal, all of your pending and/or accepted reservations will be immediately canceled.”
It was a nightmare. Airbnb had received the answer they requested by email, the device was disclosed, but they acted upon a question they never asked, and unanswered by me: is somebody sleeping where the camera is? The answer is no. It would have been so easy to ask me straight up, but they never did. They only asked if I had informed guests about it in the listing. I had.
I was banned after four years and all my upcoming reservations were canceled based on this customer service rep:s understanding that the camera is located in my second living room where I have a sofa bed. The house has in fact as I explained in the beginning two living room areas. If they would have taken a moment to ask me or to even look at the pictures of the house where you can clearly see both living room spaces, this would have not happened. Or if they would have waited the 48 hours they told me I had, and would have received my videos and more pictures of the house specifically showing the camera location in more detail maybe they would have understood, but I was given no time and no chance.
October, November, December, January, February, and March… I probably had about 40 or more reservations. They cancelled them all in a jiffy, and it was the understanding of the guests that it was me who cancelled. I was contacted over the phone by maybe three or four of them complaining aggressively to me and asking me the reason I cancelled on them. I was sad, stressed over all the money – about 15k lost in future reservations – and now also scared because I have made some enemies… that are coming to the city and know my address, some of them very upset at me.
To try to explain here the emotional, and financial stress I have gone through in the past days, and also my mom, no matter what words I used, would be an understatement. Only the people that have been here before would know. My story isn’t new; Airbnb has been doing this to hosts all around the world since 2013. I have read most of the stories by now. I wish I had known this before and would have left Airbnb a long time ago. They don’t care about me, they don’t care about my Superhost status, and they don’t care for the guests since obviously they cancel 40+ reservations before even asking me a second question to be sure of anything.
That’s my story. If you are approached by any case manager at the Trust and Safety Department of Airbnb… brace yourself, answer quickly, answer everything, even what they didn’t ask you, be thorough, be detailed, send pictures and videos, don’t call, because they can only be reached by email. Don’t be surprised if your account is canceled forever without even reading anything you sent to them. I am currently uploading all my properties to HomeAway, Tripadvisor, Homestay, Booking.com and few others. Any tips or help are more than welcome since right now I have about 12 rooms, most of them empty. Thank you for reading and leave Airbnb while you still can.