Airbnb Takes No Responsibility for its Hosts

This is my Airbnb horror story from my stay in New Orleans with my sister. I will preface by saying that both my sister and I have traveled the world, been to many different countries, and stayed in hostels many times, but never had an experience like this.

We booked a room in a house in New Orleans. The house stated that it was on Frenchman Street. For those of you who are not familiar with this area, it’s a popular destination in New Orleans, lined with bars and restaurants where all the locals go to listen to live jazz music. Unfortunately, Airbnb does not disclose the exact address of the house until the day before your stay; they give you a radius to give you a general idea of where it’s located.

Well, when we arrived at the house it was on the very far end of Frenchman Street, not at all walking distance to that area as described (nor would it have been safe to walk, day or night, male or female, ever). It was in a very bad, crime ridden area with bars on many of the windows and doors, and wood paneling covering windows that had been blown out. The house was not at all how it was described in the ad.

We stepped outside for a moment to contemplate if it was safe to walk just around the corner to Walgreens, and within a few minutes someone made an attempt to rob us. I will spare the long details of this but luckily we escaped the situation unharmed.

When we ran back into the house we discovered that someone left the door to the back patio unlocked. This was a shared space, meaning other guests were staying in other rooms just down the hall. Luckily no one had entered the home from off the street but we feared that if the guests accidentally left it unlocked again, someone could enter the home in the middle of the night and rob us… or worse. There were no locks on our bedroom door, leaving our belongings at risk while we were out exploring the city.

I realize that New Orleans suffered awful devastation from Hurricane Katrina and is still recovering. It’s really sad, but Airbnb should be more forthcoming about the state of these houses/rooms. This place was completely misrepresented. It said there was a “porch overlooking the yard as well as the street… and two sets of French Doors that open up onto Frenchmen Street, letting in plenty of light and allowing for prime people watching.” The French Doors in the kitchen were bolted shut, and the only view from the porch was a very tall fence that separated the back of the house from the street. We couldn’t view the street as stated.

In addition, the house was unsanitary. The pillows were stained brown (very brown, spotted, disgusting – see pictures attached), the towels that were folded and placed on the bathroom counter were damp and smelled like mold, and the toilet wasn’t completely bolted down to the ground. We did contact our host and were as nice about it as we could have been about our complaints (although in hindsight we shouldn’t have been).

Overall, the conversation was amicable but he was very defensive and didn’t seem to care very much. He said that what happens in his neighborhood outside of his home is out of his control – which I agree with, I blame Airbnb for that portion. When it came to the pillows he didn’t seem to care; I don’t know how you can look at those things and think it’s okay to let people sleep on them. Unfortunately, Airbnb has a refund policy that protects them from just about anything.

We contacted their customer support line immediately and worked with a case manager in an attempt to get a refund, but they refused. They said that they cannot refund anything due to neighborhood factors, only things pertaining to the house itself. We sent the pictures of the house and everything inside that was dirty (including those nasty pillows) but they still refused. We were also shocked that there were no prior reviews about any of these things, which led us to believe that perhaps the negative reviews are being deleted.

After the incident I decided to do some more research on the company and found that other people have experienced the following situations (also without refunds): door locks being broken when you arrive, getting kicked out of the house by disgruntled ex-spouses, cancelling people’s stays hours before their reservation, hosts openly using drugs in common spaces, getting kicked out by HOA reps because the host doesn’t have rights to rent, not refunding people who were supposed to stay in Napa Valley during the devastating fires.

I don’t care what their policy states; they should operate by what’s right and what’s wrong. This company has no moral compass whatsoever. It sounds like just about anyone can qualify to rent their space through Airbnb and misrepresent it in their ad. I would highly advise against using this service.

Four Things You Can Do if Your Airbnb Host is a CREEP

1. Get the Airbnb hell out of there!
It doesn’t matter if you’re in a foreign country where you can’t speak the language. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a car and the host picked you up. If you feel your well being is in danger, no amount of money you’re saving by using Airbnb is worth it.

2. Use physical force 

In some cases, females Airbnb guests who booked with female hosts are dismayed and often threatened to find this was an outright lie, and their hosts are men with whom they haven’t spoken. Though some of these may seem perfectly innocent from the host’s side (e.g. “He’s my brother! What’s the problem?”), there have been cases in which both female and male hosts have become physically abusive.

When this is the case, it can make someone of either gender panic about the repercussions of pushing someone aside to escape, even when they feel their freedom and safety is in jeopardy. If you’re unfamiliar with local laws and don’t speak the language, it might be best to just disappear rather than reporting what happened to the police – this suggestion isn’t made lightly, but with the knowledge there are corrupt officers in many countries, even developed ones, and Airbnb users’ word may not be accepted if they can’t explain themselves in the local language or understand local laws may favor men over women.

3. Call for backup
If you’re in a position where you can’t easily leave, or feel like leaving would be dangerous because your host is physically intimidating or otherwise, try to stall… even if this means locking yourself in your room or a bathroom to put some distance between yourself and the host. If you have access to the wifi network, or a local cell phone number, call a friend or someone reliable to come over and escort you out; they’ll act as a witness if it comes to that. Call the police if necessary.

This isn’t always an option if you’re truly on your own in a foreign country and can’t speak the language with the police, but if there’s anyone you trust in the area, now is the time to call in a marker.

4. Report everything to Airbnb afterwards
This certainly doesn’t help you in the heat of the moment, but – let’s be honest – neither will Airbnb customer service. Assuming you can actually get through to a live person within minutes, cancel your reservation, and arrange for another, you’re still going to have to deal with a possibly belligerent host who is wondering why you cancelled. As we’ve seen here on Airbnb Hell, sometimes there are no happy endings when it comes to creepy hosts. Because the stay wasn’t completed, reviews may not be allowed. Because
you were rightfully more concerned with getting out of a bad situation, you didn’t record evidence Airbnb could use for a refund or to ban the host. If you decide to just leave and not involve Airbnb, you’ll still be charged for a stay and have to look for a hotel… but it’s better than the alternative.

Moldy, Faulty Wiring, Broken Windows, Next to a Prison….

Dangerous safety and health issues, among many other problems, prompted us to leave our Airbnb in Buena Vista, Colorado after one terrible night. We have stayed in comparably priced facilities in Colorado and have never encountered anything even remotely this bad. Good luck getting any money back. We aren’t the only ones to have problems with this property either.

1. The house smelled moldy, especially in the downstairs bedrooms. In the kitchen trash were the lids from two “Damp Rid Odor Genie” units which confirmed that the place had moisture and odor problems. We both had runny noses for the remainder of our trip.

2. The smoke alarm was in pieces on a shelf. In a house with iffy wiring (#3) that was of particular concern.

3. When I plugged in my phone charger in I found another plug in the socket, connected to an extension cord-type wire that ran outside through a hole drilled in the window frame. In the kitchen there was another jerry-rigged extension cord for a light fixture, with a broken in-line switch. Upstairs there was a light over the bathroom sink similarly jerry-rigged. It did not work at all.

4. During the night I got up to close the window, which was open when we got there. It would not work. The next day I saw that the closing mechanism was not connected to the window itself. When we left the next day we closed it and another window by going outside and pushing them shut.

5. In one bedroom there was a large hole in the floor that had various odds and ends stashed in it.

6. That bedroom contained a laundry machine which still had wet items inside from the previous occupants.

7. The kiva fireplace was blocked by a large TV set.

8. The wifi worked properly only in the kitchen.

9. Both bathrooms had problems. The tub downstairs was very slick, the cold water control hard to shut off, and the toilet seat was terribly discolored. The upstairs shower had the hot and cold controls reversed. When we hung a towel on the hook by the shower the hook came out of the wall.

10. The front door lock and deadbolt were hard to operate, somewhat of a concern given the men’s state prison a short walk from the house.

11. The sorely needed “warning tape” on the many interior steps was worn off in places.

We have photos to document the above. Per this KKTV report the owner does not like negative reviews, which is the only leverage customers have. In short, stay away.

Airbnb Host Locked Women out of Granada Apartment

My daughter just made an emergency call to us from Granada, Spain. She and her friend have a room in an Airbnb apartment, and went out for the evening. They came back about 3:00 AM and the host (a woman) would not let them in. They have been outside for hours, and called the police, the American Embassy, and Airbnb, and no one would help them. These are two young girls (about 22) who have recently graduated from college. Their passports are in the apartment, so they cannot get a hotel room or anyplace else, until they get their passports. This woman is horrible. They know she is doing this on purpose – this is a horrible and scary situation. Their bags and all IDs are inside this woman’s apartment. Airbnb won’t do anything. They should not have such despicable people as hosts that would abuse their guests… Airbnb has put my daughter and her friend in an unsafe and scary situation.

Mykonos Villa Robbed, But Airbnb Nightmare Did Not End

My objective here is to raise awareness about how unsafe any vacation rental can be if you don’t ask the right questions early enough in the process. This is especially true if the owner has not taken even basic security measures, which Airbnb either does not require or does not concern themselves with. It is your responsibility as guests to ask.

This was our first and last Airbnb experience. Airbnb allowed us to walk straight into a mine field. Airbnb did not respond to our emails for help for 11 days. When they did, it was a form email requesting that we (1) get a police report; (2) document what was stolen; (3) prove our ownership of those items. For parents, if your children are the “guests” and you are not travelling with them, then a little forethought about what to do if trouble occurs would be good planning. If you are still going to use Airbnb, here are the top ten questions we did not ask but should have:

1. Is the villa an actual home or an investment rental property overseen by a management company?

2. Where does the villa owner reside? Are they in the country? What will be their physical proximity to the villa while you are renting?

3. Does the villa have a security system? Does it work? Are there instructions for use in the event one exists?

4. Is there a home safe in the villa? Is it operational?

5. Does the villa have external lighting or motion detectors?

6. Who has keys to the villa other than the owner? Have any keys been given to maintenance personnel or former contractors? Are all owner’s keys accounted for?

7. What is Airbnb’s policy for refunds for robberies/evacuation? While their refund terms and conditions state that you must report any dissatisfaction within 24 hours of arrival, why did Airbnb pay the owner when a complaint was already sent via email within 12 hours of our arrival? By the way: no one answers a phone at Airbnb. Do they even have customer support? Who takes priority, guests or owners, or neither?

8. What is Airbnb’s advertised response time to a serious matter such as a robbery? We arrived at the villa at 5:00 PM local time June 7th; the robbery was reported to them June 8th at 5:00 AM local/10:00 PM PST June 7th. We received an email response June 18th.

9. Does Airbnb know that their online availability calendars are excellent for determining when units are occupied and precise arrival dates? I’m guessing the best day for a robbery is the first night.

10. Does Airbnb know that their interior and exterior photographs are useful for would-be robbers to study floor plans and access points?

We were robbed on our first night in an Airbnb at 4:00 AM. We interrupted the thief (in a ski mask) in the third bedroom after he had already ransacked the first two (all the bedrooms were occupied). We chased him out of the house. The adjoining villa was also robbed where the thief knew exactly how to enter (broken door that was not obvious to guests) and had a key to our villa (from a former contractor). Thief took mostly cash.

The real terror occurred when the thief returned later that same day in broad daylight. The adjoining villa guest engaged him (slashed his tires, etc.). In retaliation, the thief called “friends” and within minutes a half dozen of his buddies arrived. Outnumbered and seeing no positive outcome, we reached out to local friends who found us another accommodation.

Robberies are not uncommon on Mykonos; it is a high-end island, with lots of private expensive villas and plenty of opportunities to steal. The police are not equipped to deal with the massive influx of people during high season; when they finally arrived at the behest of the villa owner’s management company we had alerted, they arrested the thief for drug possession. No cash or possessions were recovered. Knowing his “buddies” were still on the loose, not knowing his intent for returning, and knowing he had a key, we could not stay.

Sound security measures are available on Mykonos for those owners using common sense. At our next villa we found: external cameras throughout the property; external lighting and motion detectors; management residing across the street who lives on the island; home safes in villa that were functioning. These are basic security measures. The Greek people who helped us at the next villa were extraordinary. They too were upset that guests on their beautiful island were victimized. They value having guests and depend on tourism for their livelihood.

What is Airbnb’s responsibility? Is security ever mentioned in an Airbnb listing? Do they deliberately avoid the topic? It’s probably not good for business. Airbnb leaves it to you to address the security/safety topic. If you arrive at a villa and see that basic securities measures are lacking, it is not grounds for a refund. It should be. In one respect we were lucky: the owner was so appalled by our experience she refunded our payment directly to us that day. Ironically, the owner was afraid Airbnb would not be forthcoming or helpful. Mykonos is an amazing island, but you must use common sense and take responsibility for your own safety if you are using Airbnb. At every other accommodation we did not book through Airbnb (Santorini, Kefalonia, Zakynthos) we found all the standard security measures one would expect to find in a high-end property. Shame on Airbnb.

Unsafe and Dirty Apartment in London, Still no Refund

Last month, my boyfriend and I booked an Airbnb in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London for three nights. The experience was unpleasant from the beginning. We picked up the keys from a coffee shop and the baristas were short with us and unfriendly. We then entered the apartment, which was advertised as a studio, but was completely misrepresented. The apartment did not have the amenities of a studio (it was nine square meters in total with only a microwave and small fridge, making it technically count as a studio). It was dirty, and had towels left in it that were already used and falling apart. The worst part was that the apartment was completely unsafe.

When I say unsafe, I mean that when we entered, the front doors to the apartment had been left wide open. It was easy for anyone to walk directly into this apartment building, go upstairs, and break into the rooms. The front doors were left open every single time that we entered and exited the apartment building. Our personal apartment door did not have a lock on it that was very secure, so we were completely vulnerable to any intrusion. It had the lock of a bedroom door, and a dent in the wall seemed to indicate that it had already been easily kicked in in the past.

We decided to call Airbnb customer service. Our customer service representative took down all of the information and ensured us that safety is the number one priority of Airbnb. We had to wait on the phone for 40 minutes (and this was an international call since we were not calling from our home country) and then explained the situation and how we felt extremely unsafe in the apartment for another 30 minutes. She told us to take videos of all of the extreme noise, dirtiness, and the unsafe and opened doors so that we could send them to her later. She also said that she would call us back within five minutes so that we could proceed with the case by sending all of these videos, and that most likely Airbnb would change our apartment for us that night.

The problem is that we never received a call back from Airbnb, and after a horrible night of sleep (the bed was caving in, there was noise directly outside the door, and someone even banged on the door in the middle of the night) we decided to check out in the morning. I am still shocked that there was absolutely no response from Airbnb when we had stated that we were experiencing huge safety issues. We tried to explain the situation to the host, but she was just rude and told us to deal directly with Airbnb, as the person kicking in the door was probably just drunk (this was clearly because this apartment scam has probably been going on for a while).

I had to look for another nearby hotel and spend extra money just so that we could sleep in a safe place, with no guarantee of a refund and no response from Airbnb at this point. When I arrived back home, I again called Airbnb and sent all of our receipts from the new hotel, all of our information (the videos I took, the photos, and the communications we had with the host and Airbnb), and spent approximately ten hours of my time going back and forth explaining this situation and sending all of my documented information. It is clear that we deserved a full refund, and even something extra, considering all of our time spent documenting, talking on the phone, and sending details over emails. It is clear that this shouldn’t even be a question as we were left with no response in an unsafe apartment.

However, first Airbnb offered us no refund (even though over a phone call, which customer service said had been recorded, they agreed that we should have a refund). After I insisted to have a second and third opinion on the case, we were offered only a one-night refund and a $100 Airbnb credit. This is the worst example of customer service I have experienced in my life. Our main contact told me over and over again that she had no decision making power over our case and that I was not able to speak with someone with decision making power. As stated before, she even agreed that we deserved a refund, but she was not the one deciding. How can it be explained that I could not even speak with an official decision maker?

It seemed like I spent hours playing a cat and mouse chase with no real winner and no clear answers. Why were we never given an explanation of how this refund was calculated? Customer service told me that we met all of the requisites for a refund, however in the end this randomized refund was offered to us with no real explanation of how it was calculated. It is clear that it is just in their interest to give no refunds to customers, as I had to even insist to get this partial refund; their first offer was no refund for no valid reason. I asked in various emails how this was calculated with no response.

I was also even told at one point that only my boyfriend could be in contact with Airbnb since the reservation was made on his account. So are only the guests that make the reservation valid guests? Do they discount all other members of the reservation in times of disagreement? This was also clearly a way of just trying to not deal with me, as I am a native English speaker and my boyfriend is Italian, so of course it was easier for me to be the one to explain this situation in my native tongue. I found this response one that just tried to avoid dealing with my level of discontent as no real answers could be provided.

This offer of a partial refund took almost a month to resolve. This is extremely slow, and as of today it still is not even listed as refunded in my boyfriend’s account. How can they explain that a company that is supposed to be prided on efficient service takes so long to answer a customer service query? I have never experienced such a terrible example of a company solely asserting their market power without caring at all about their customers’ experience. Clearly I won’t be using their services again and hope that this example makes others think twice before paying them for a service without any guarantee of true care for their customers.

Stranger came to my door but I’m not on Airbnb

I am not a host or a guest. A week ago Friday we had a lady show up at our home saying she booked our property and wanted to get into our home. After a lengthy discussion with this lady, we looked at the Airbnb listing and it was indeed my address. However, nothing matched my home’s description. There were lots of misspelled words, and the “host” spoke about Satan. The whole post was a sham. We both contacted Airbnb several times to take down the post. We explained to them how it’s a safety issue and eventually someone will come knocking that paid for the house and wants in and won’t be as nice as this lady was. Airbnb has not given this guest her money back, nor have they taken down the fake listing. I’ve made several phone calls within a week to this place, as well as emailing and calling them out on Facebook. Nothing is being done. This is so ridiculous that I have to check online everyday to see if my home has been booked and if an unwanted person will be arriving. Why can’t they just take it down?

Airbnb Fail, Kicked out of Barcelona Flat

On May 24th, I stayed for one night at a flat in Barcelona, and it was an absolute disaster. That night, things were very loud. Despite going to bed at 10:30 PM I wasn’t able to fall asleep until 3:30 AM when the party outside my window finally died down. These conditions were not conveyed to me ahead of time. I calmly approached my host about this the next morning at 8:40 AM. Rather than trying to resolve or talk through the issue, she canceled my reservation and demanded I leave the flat by 12:00 PM. I received a refund at 9:30 AM after which I frantically tried to contact Airbnb for support while I searched the website for alternatives. I couldn’t get ahold of anyone from their support team, and the website yielded “zero available rentals during my preferred time frame.”

By 9:40 AM, my host became hostile. By 9:55 AM, she was back at the flat demanding I leave immediately. She threatened me by saying: “We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Don’t make me call someone to remove you.” I tried to reason with her; I was afraid and alone, and I felt it best that I leave immediately. I hailed a taxi to a nearby hotel where I shelled out 500 euros per night for the remainder of my trip (2500 euros total). This was five times what I had budgeted for the trip – the host’s flat was only 80 euros/night. Seven days later, I still have not heard back from Airbnb support on this issue, despite sending the desperate email attached. I am massively disappointed with their vetting process for hosts, and for their lack of customer support in resolving the issue and making me feel like a valued customer. I have three upcoming trips planned with Airbnb over the next six weeks, and I’m tempted to cancel them all.

Extremist Political Signs at Airbnb in Bozeman

I booked a stay in Bozeman, Montana with what turned out to be an unusual host named Stacey. When I showed up at the place, I noticed there were extremist political signs all over the front yard and in the windows. Venturing inside, I found much more. I texted her that her place was just too weird for me. She would not provide a refund. She seemed a little strange, so I expected that. What I didn’t expect was the runaround and no support from Airbnb. I did not feel safe at this host’s house, I spent no more than five minutes there, and Airbnb would not refund anything. To add insult to injury, they wasted a huge amount of my time on numerous emails back and forth for nothing. They would not even allow me to post a bad review on this crazy host’s listing to warn others about her. Airbnb Hell, please take my $5 donation to fight Airbnb.

Driveway from Airbnb Hell in Montacino Italy

We booked a house in Tuscany through Airbnb last week. Unfortunately, we couldn’t even check in because the driveway road (a treacherous footpath) was so dangerous we were afraid we would destroy our rental car or get into an accident. This left us stranded at 1:00 AM, forcing us to find a random hotel 30 minutes away after driving for nearly three hours. We called Airbnb Customer Service immediately to file the report and even spent part of the next day capturing pictures of the road on foot. Despite all of this, Airbnb refuses to refund us, won’t reopen our claim, and wouldn’t even let me speak to a supervisor. I was a loyal Airbnb customer for four years but I will never use them again. Never.