I have been hosting two houses on Airbnb for over three years and until now I had never had any issues. I fear that this one is far from over.
A few months ago I got a request for a long term stay from a lady who claimed to be friends with my gardener, Harris (name changed). The money was good, and it meant that I didn’t have to worry about dealing with new arrivals for a while. I accepted the booking.
This ended up being one of the biggest mistakes of my life, which soon became evident when I received a call at 5:00 AM on the day of check-in. She was claiming that she was unable to access the property because the keys didn’t work. I drove over 15 minutes later to find her removing a fly-screen and attempting to climb through the window (note this lady is about 75 years old). I tested the keys; they were working fine and she was able to enter the property. I explained where the second and third sets of backup keys were hidden just incase she had any more issues, then spent the rest of the morning fixing the fly screen.
I didn’t hear from her for another two weeks, but then I got a call from her claiming that she had lost her keys and couldn’t access the property. I asked her about the two backup keys; she told me that they had been lost. I drove over to the property again with my set up keys to let her in. By the time I got there, she had found her keyring and I was shocked to find that she had connected the one main set and two backup sets of keys to the same keychain. I tried to explain to her that this defeated the purpose of having backup keys, but she just kept trying to assure me that she wouldn’t lose them again.
Now the story gets really interesting. I got a call from the police on a Friday afternoon looking for my guest. I find out that she has a history of mental illness and had been off her meds. Now her family who are 1000 km away have been trying to get her committed to a mental hospital (due to COVID they can’t leave the state). They had found out where she was when her accountant notified them that she was attempting to purchase a $1.4 million property.
The police came over and we headed to the Airbnb where she was nowhere to be seen. The police gave me their details and I told them that I would let them know if I heard anything. I sent her a message, let her know what happened, and advised her to contact the police and her family as they are worried about her. Eventually I got a message back and found out that she was shacked up in a caravan with my gardener Harris and they been avoiding the police for the past few days.
Eventually she got in contact with her family and they convinced her to check herself into the mental hospital where she stayed for the next six weeks. In the meantime, I got a call from her accountant and he asked me to retrieve some papers from the Airbnb. I went in there and found the most disgusting mess I have ever seen: cigarettes, incense, hundreds of sea shells, and rotting fruit. I even found that she had set fire to the fake LED candles.
The strangest thing was all of these pieces of paper everywhere with bizarre diagrams and notes (I have attached one of them). She had also started hoarding objects that she found on the side of the road. I got the papers and mailed them to her accountant, who also offered to extend the booking on the Airbnb and pay for the cleaning costs while she was in hospital. I could go on for a while about all the strange things that happened while she was in hospital but it would take too long. I will skip to when she got out, which was about four months ago.
She was released from the hospital, put on medication, and everything was fine for the first two months. The house was kept tidy; she wasn’t hoarding and appeared to be mentally stable. Then I noticed that my gardener Harris had moved in the house. Pretty soon her behavior started to go downhill again. The house started to get messy again, so much so that my cleaner refused to clean the house on a weekly basis, due to the smell of the incense and cigarettes, and that she was randomly hanging up her underpants all over the house.
I went over to talk to her and Harris about their behavior. The house was a mess and there was a whiteboard with the title “Night at the Opera” with what I believe to be sex acts listed below (I have attached a photo). Although I was concerned, they seemed receptive to keeping the place tidy and I attempted to find a cleaner that would deal with them.
The next week I found a cleaning company that was willing to clean the house and I tried to organize a time for them to clean with the guest. She claimed that she didn’t need a cleaner and was happy to do all the cleaning herself. I insisted that she let the cleaners come in but she said no and I left it at that. About four days later, she called me complaining that the cleaners hadn’t come. I reminded her about the previous conversation and then asked her when an appropriate time would be for them to come. After a back and forth, she said that she and Harris were on their honeymoon and did not wish to be disturbed. Again feeling very confused, I left it at that.
A few days later she changed her mind again and wanted a cleaner. I told her that I would get the cleaner but she had to clear up all of her clutter and get rid of the things she has picked up off the side of the road and is hoarding in the house and garage so that the cleaner can actually do their job. After I said this, she completely lost it and started yelling at me saying how dare I criticize her way of living.
After this I had enough and decided that she had to go. The next day, however, their neighbor (who is a full-time tenant of mine) called me up and wanted to have a talk about Harris’ strange behavior. She told me he had been cutting their trees and creeping around their lawn when he thought that they were not home. They said that he had also been parking his trailer in the other neighbor’s garage when he wasn’t at home (it’s a holiday house).
I sent Harris a text and asked him if he had been cutting the neighbors’ trees or going on to their property, and he denied everything. Now I had really had enough. I got in contact with Airbnb support, explained the situation, and asked if I could cancel her future booking that started on Feb. 28. After I listed a few of the things she had done they agreed to cancel the booking after I talked to her. I arranged to have a chat with her in a few days time.
When I got to the house, Harris was sitting on a couch that they found on the side of the road and put in the front yard. I said hello then knocked on the front door. The guest called out and she said that she was too sick to talk to me and asked me to go away. As I was angrily walking towards my car I notice Harris’ trailer parked in the neighbor’s garage. I asked him if the the neighbor was okay with him parking there. He told me that it was none of my concern, which kicked off a huge yelling match between the two us which eventually ended in me telling him that he had to leave.
The next day I logged into Airbnb to cancel the booking, but when I went to cancel it I got a message telling me that I would lose my Superhost status, no one will be able to rebook the dates that they were meant to stay there (it was a five-month booking), and other penalties. So I contacted Airbnb and asked them to wave the penalties, citing the previous support case that I opened. I got a different case manager who asked me to provide evidence, so I provided some texts and some photos. He sat on this for a couple of days and asked me to go over and takes some more photos.
By this time I was very frustrated, especially after I was previously told that it would be okay to cancel the booking. I told him that I was not willing to creep around the house taking photos while there were guests inside, as it is a really bad look for a landlord to be doing this. So I say to hell with the penalties and cancel the booking. I decided to get the penalties removed retroactively.
I then informed the guest she would need to be out of the property by Feb. 28. The next day the guest sent me a text telling me that I do not have the right to make her move and she intended to take me to court. I responded telling her that it has already happened, then sat there hoping that this whole ordeal was finally over. Two days later it was Australia Day, and I noticed that Harris has installed a flag pole in the front yard… seriously, a f—ing flagpole.
I’m sure that this ordeal is nowhere near over but I found writing all this out quite therapeutic and I needed to vent.