My family and friends’ families were staying in State College, PA for the Blue and White Weekend. We arrived at the Airbnb rental property at 10:00 PM on Friday night. When we arrived, the owner showed us the house and strongly encouraged us all to use the hot tub, despite it being late. We stayed the night, did not enter the hot tub, went to the game the next day, and came back to the Airbnb rental around 6:00 PM. We then played with the kids, all under the age of five, in the backyard, ate dinner, put the kids to bed, and retired to the patio and hot tub for the night. My three-year-old daughter is scared of the dark, so my wife was rocking her to sleep on the patio with us. Some of us went to bed with the kids, some of us were wrapping up the night, and some were having nightcaps on the patio.
A couple of us got in the hot tub at the owner’s suggestion. The hot tub was so full of water that it overflowed with just one adult entering it. As others got in, it continued to overflow. We knew this was odd, but didn’t think anything of it. We were sure to keep proper care of the hot tub, as my dad owns a very similar hot tub that we have used in the same manner many times. Around 9:30 PM, my 62-year-old father walked around the house to make sure we weren’t too loud, as the sign asked us to keep it down after 9:30 PM, so we started to wind down around that time. After all, a person can only really stay in a hot tub for 15-20 minutes. My brother and his wife had already gone inside and another couple was already in bed asleep. At 10:00 PM, the the owner came out from behind some bushes and started screaming at us, telling us we were being too loud, it was past curfew, we were breaking the rules, and we were misusing the hot tub. He said we had to get out of the house right away and the cops had been called (at this point he had already called the cops himself and reported a noise violation). When my 3-year-old asked why he was yelling at us, he turned around and yelled at her, scaring her and causing her to cry.
The cops came and when they arrived, they actually thought they were at the wrong house because it was too quiet in the front driveway. We explained the situation to the police and the police pleaded with the owner not to kick us out. We even apologized, despite not doing anything wrong, and said we would go inside and head to bed as we had seven children sleeping in the house ages seven months to four years old. He would not take no for an answer and had the police forcibly remove us. He showed the cops a video, allegedly from the surveillance system (it is illegal to film someone without their consent in a private setting, let alone in bathing suits). The hot tub is surrounded by three walls and leads to a yard with an eight-foot privacy fence, making it more than reasonable to expect this area not to be under video surveillance.
The cops said they had never seen anything like this, but they had to ask us to leave. It was very traumatizing, especially to the kids, who kept asking why we had to leave, and my autistic sister,who was crying throughout the whole thing because they said we’d have to go to jail if we didn’t leave, and our kids would be given to child services. This is a traumatizing thing for a parent to hear, especially without being given a legitimate reason. We asked an officer and the owner to walk through the property so they could all see there were no damages to the household in any way. The owner chose not to walk through after all the guests were removed (he did storm to the door to go inside before we vacated and was stopped by the police). We have video evidence of the walk through along with pictures of how we left the house. For being kicked out at midnight, we left that house in pretty amazing shape.
According to the police, “officers cleared the call at 12:23 AM on April 23rd.” As for the hot tub’s condition, after the owner jumped out of the bushes and yelled at us, my father observed him close the hot tub, and everything was still working fine at that time, including the jets. There was no damage to the hot tub. The owner turned off the jets and placed the cover on. Several witnesses saw the jets working after the abrupt exit, the hot tub was 103 degrees when covered, and there were no drinks in the hot tub. The only difference was that there was less water, which is normal in any hot tub.
Now this traumatic incident has continued to disturb our lives with this fraudulent claim that we broke his hot tub. We exchanged words about the capacity rating of the hot tub and we informed him that my father has a similar model and we treated his hot tub the same as we treat his and did not misuse it. I think it is also worth noting that we were in one of the largest college towns in America; the parties of concern generally involve many college kids with extremely loud music and absurd amounts of alcohol.
We had a few 35-year-olds with a 62-year-old grandfather on a patio deck. We were kicked out in the middle of the night, packing toys, pack n’ plays, food, clothing and toiletries and loaded everyone into our vehicles for a two-hour drive home with our children. My 2-year-old was wide awake on the ride home and continued to ask: “Bye-bye? Why?” We did not get to our friends’ home until 3:00 AM, and our poor kids were tired, confused, and saddened. Not to mention traumatized because the owner yelled, screamed, was rude, and inappropriate through the whole ordeal. We are all shocked and stunned and are still suffering. There were no noise violations, no warning, and certainly no understanding or empathy for children. My friends’ wives and my sister were in tears because he was so out of control.
When we found out, he had been videotaping us in the hot tub as “surveillance,” we no longer felt safe. We called the police Sunday and the sergeant was very nice. He complimented us on how we handled the situation and even mentioned the guy tried to charge us with a noise violation and public disturbance. The police said, “the first officer arrived at the house at 10:15 PM and was met in the drive by the property owner. The officer did not hear any loud voices or music.”
The owner asked the police to charge us with a noise violation and public disturbance. The police did not witness anything that would warrant such charges and called the district attorney’s office to see if they could charge us with anything. The district attorney’s office told them we were doing nothing wrong. They called it a civil dispute in their report. This cop even apologized for having to do it, and said he would not have handled that as well as we did. We did not break any of the house rules. We did not have a party; we were not given a chance to vacate the patio by 10:00 PM, as his online house rules state, as he jumped out at 10:00 PM.
According to the police there is no noise ordinance for that area anyway. There were no rules anywhere about hot tub capacity or use. The owner then tried to open a claim against us on Airbnb for damaging the hot tub. His evidence is screen shots of random hot tub services, an invoice (which I have no doubt is fake), and his word. Looking through this evidence, I do not even understand where he is getting the number of $750 that he thinks we owe him. There are mostly screenshots of estimates from the internet. All of the screen shots of hot tub services/values prove nothing. There is one invoice, which our we believe is fraudulent. We believe this was fraud to exploit innocent families and children.
The invoice is also for cleaning the hot tub, which there was no need for. Airbnb ended up denying his claim because of the evidence we provided showing his claim was fraudulent and ruling in our favor. The owner and his friend were laughing as we carried our children from the house. I don’t know what kind of human being does this to kids and families. We have pictures and video evidence that we left the house in great shape despite being kicked out in the middle of the night. We tried to resolve this issue through Airbnb. Our first case was opened and seemed to be making good progress, but then communication stopped from Airbnb’s case manager. I called customer service and it turned out they closed our case for no reason. I reopened the case thinking it was a mistake. It took weeks to even get a response from them. I called every day for four weeks to check on the status and provided many pictures, police reports, and accounts of this story. On my final call I escalated the issue to a supervisor of the call center. The supervisor didn’t get on the phone and just relayed the message that the case had been closed. They did not give any reason or explanation as to why they closed the case, but offered to open another case, which I did. I still have received no response from Airbnb as to their handling of this. It is awful that they would let a host treat families like this with no repercussion. We will never use Airbnb again.