Canadian Nightmare: Complaints Treated as Joke

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This is an ongoing story. We received no help from our hosts, Alex and Julie, who treated our complaints as a joke, and no help from Airbnb who made it very difficult to make contact. We arrived at the apartment in Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood during a snow storm. The apartment was obviously not ready to receive guests: no wardrobe space (closets full of Alex and Julie’s clothes, no provision for our clothing), no drawer space in the dressers (again full of Alex and Julie’s personal belongings), no space for our effects in the bathroom as the shelves and cabinets were full of toiletries belonging to the hosts. No allowance at all was made to receive guests. After everything we had heard about Airbnb we wondered if we were even supposed to be in the apartment. We took photos of the bathroom, the wardrobes, and the filthy oven in the kitchen and posted them. We contacted Alex and Julie about the problems with the apartment and our complaints were treated as a joke. We left the apartment early the next morning, leaving the keys in the mailbox. Airbnb has thanked us for our feedback.

Extortion and Invasion of Privacy: Illegal NYC Airbnb

I had a really unpleasant New York City host somewhere in the financial district. Superficially everything was nice until a few hours after we met. Here is how the interaction went:

Host: When will you be arriving?

Me: I will actually be in the city a few days before so I can arrive whenever is convenient for you to give me the key.

Host: Anytime after 2:00 PM on this end works.

Me: Okay I will be there around or before 3:00 PM then. Does that work?

Host: Okay.

(24 hours before said time)

Host: I cannot be here to check you in. You have to use the temporary key from the doorman. The permanent key is in your room. The temporary key must be returned very soon after checkout.

Me: Okay. When do I have to return this key?

Host: As soon as possible.

Me: Okay.

(Arrive at apartment at 1:54 PM. Remember: anytime after 2:00 PM is ok; check out the temporary key for which my ID is retained. I go upstairs to said apartment)

Host: Oh, I didn’t think you’d be here for a few more hours; the room’s not ready.

(One hour is not a few more hours, and I was within her “acceptable window”. This host clearly does not read her messages.)

Me: Okay, I will just leave the luggage here next to the shoes, no need to hurry for the room. I’m leaving probably till evening.

She shows me the room. I thank her, pet her dog (which is actually not allowed to live in that building), take the permanent key, and return the temporary key. Upon return of the temporary key I again have my state ID on my person. Six hours later I got a few messages from this host that she will be posting an $100 charge to my account because I did not return the temporary key.

Me: Of course i returned it. Is it true that the doorman holds your ID for that key? Okay. Then how would I have my ID otherwise?

(Host continues accusing me in a couple more messages that the key is signed out to me)

Me: Okay, it is the doorman’s responsibility to find it because I returned it but nevertheless I will go see for myself that what you say is true.

I return to the building from an inconvenient distance away, and it turns out the doorman did have the key. The mistake was on their part as the key was stuck in the crack of the machine that reads the key. The host apologized. I calmly went to shower so my muscles would be relaxed before the New York City Marathon. The host’s roommate came back to the apartment with a bunch of drunk friends. One of the male friends barged in on me while I was getting out of the shower. At least I had some tiny clothes on. I made small talk with the drunk people for a little bit then went to bed, at 2:45 AM (technically 3:45 AM because of daylight savings time). The host barged through the apartment in loud heels, slammed a couple doors, then stormed out.

Well, goodbye sleep. This was going to be an interesting marathon. About 3:10 PM after the marathon:

Host: Your checkout is by 7:00 AM please leave the key on the desk. You can leave the luggage in the common area if you want and get it later by using the temporary key.

Me: No, thanks. I don’t want another $100 temporary key incident.

(I didn’t see anything disrespectful here – I was just protecting my wallet from her)

I vacated the apartment at about 12:30 AM and took a picture of the state of the room I was in, with the key on the desk and a time stamp. I brought a friend to help me with the luggage and to make sure I got uptown at 120th Street safely. He also saw the key on the desk and we checked the apartment ten times to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. That whole piece of time was about 10-15 minutes. Maybe this host had work or something, but being reminded that I had to check out only 14 fours after a marathon is brutal. So I just preferred to forfeit this unpleasant experience and sleep uptown on the floor of a friend who was not evicting me.

The next morning when I woke up I saw a message that she did not find the key on the desk but that she is willing to not charge me the $150 it costs her to change her locks due to the trouble with the temporary key. I called Airbnb to complain and I said I will be requesting a $40 refund (from the $130/night it cost me) because I did not end up spending the night there. I also told the host that giving everyone access to the temporary key is a pretty bad security problem in her building. I obviously did not take her key. It’s of no benefit to me to keep a key from a place I would hate to live in, when I live about 2000 miles away anyway. I just needed a place close to the Staten Island Ferry for the marathon.

I proceeded to ask for a refund. The reservation was over; I had written the Airbnb review anyway so I was frank with this person. The Airbnb Resolution Center allows you to upload pictures so I showed her where the key was when I left.

Me: As you can see the key was left right there on the desk where I mentioned to you on the phone. You’re not accepting evidence by any other means, so I am sending it to the Airbnb Resolution Center. Accusing someone of theft is not only impolite but unprofessional as this is a business that you are running from this apartment. If you were the owner of the hotel, you would not be accusing your guests twice in 48 hours for items missing from the room before putting any effort into finding them. For example: at least double checking with the doorman that the key wasn’t lost by their own fault. The refund would be for the 17% of the total reservation time (from 2:00 PM Saturday to 7:00 AM Monday) that I did not spend in this rental. As I said before, it seems like your temporary key checkout is a security problem in the building so you should focus on that instead of throwing tantrums so you can charge your guests extra money. Feel free to cross reference the time at which I left your address with security footage. Also, I brought a friend over to help me with my luggage and so that I would get to 120th St safely at 1:00 AM. Therefore I also have one witness that the key was left in the right place. The very last thing I want to draw your attention to is that I left the door to my room closed on Sunday morning at 6:30 AM, and found it open at 4:30 PM, so someone went into my room while I was away. Have you even checked with your roommate to see that he didn’t stow the keys away somewhere? I am going to guess you have not.

Host: Hi, As I mentioned before, the key was not left on the desk. I apologized for the mishap with the temporary key, even after you arrived two hours prior (actually one hour and still in the time window she said was ok) to the time you said you would without asking. I did reach out to the doormen before contacting you. They were the ones that told me it was checked out under your name. When you spoke with them, they told you that the key was stuck in the reader and it did not register that you returned it. When you informed me of this I apologized and thanked you for letting me know of the mishap. You, however, were very disrespectful. As you can see from my house rules, you are not allowed to bring anyone into my apartment without announcing them to me and I charge a $20 fee (so by this logic should I charge her an $200 fee for her unannounced friends who saw me naked?) I do not appreciate that you brought someone to my home without asking prior. You can also see that my cancelation policy is strict. You cannot get a refund for leaving the reservation early. Therefore, I am not accepting this $45 refund. I was willing to waive the $150 fee and I might be willing to waive the $20 for the unannounced guest, so long as you do not contact me again. If I do hear from you again, I will be pressing charges and contacting my lawyer. You were the only person that had access to the temporary key and my apartment without me being there. There is video evidence of that as well as a record in the system of everyone with temporary key access. Due to this negative experience, I have removed my listings. Thank you.

She has not removed her listings and I will gladly privately share the link with you. In short: her drunk friends see me almost naked but I should get charged money for bringing someone to help me with the luggage through the subway at 1:00 AM, a time at which I’m leaving because of her irrational behavior? I was repeatedly accused of theft in my 48 hours of interaction with this psycho and threatened with an illogical lawsuit, but I’m disrespectful? Also she technically is renting two properties from what I can see in her Airbnb listings, so she can’t live in both of them at once. One of her Airbnb rentals is illegal by New York City law. I guess she forgot I can use this to get her an $1000 fine, right? NYC says rental types like Airbnb are legal as long as the host lives in the apartment during the guest’s stay. Here are all the messages I exchanged with her.

Bad Experience with Airbnb in Washington DC

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The apartment was described as “cosy”. It was not. The place was dirty, dingy, run down and misrepresented. After two days of a four-day booking we could not take it any more and moved out to a hotel for the rest of our stay in Washington DC. We have not asked for a two-day refund yet because we were just so glad to get out. I notified the hosts, “Steven” and “Jane”, we were not happy with the apartment (without providing any details) and thanked them for their help before we arrived and also for the cleaning credit. We have heard nothing back from them. Like many other guests, we never met them before this trip.

Steven and Jane call it their home. We saw no evidence that it was used as a permanent home. For example, a complaint from another guest this summer about a big hole in the wall where there was an electrical plug in the bedroom was still there in mid-October of 2016. The small gas stove was so filthy inside and out that no one would ever want to use it. The air intake in a hallway was covered in dirt and could not have been cleaned for months or even years. There was no evidence at all of any male presence… and no man would ever put up with a toilet seat that would not stay up. The bathroom tub was rusted around the taps and the ceiling was peeling off above it. The place had not been painted for years.

To us this apartment looked like it was simply a substandard rental for unsuspecting tourists. It is in a very old run-down building which, unlike many similar buildings in the area, has not been kept up. The hallway and front door outside the apartment is filthy. When we arrived the place had not been cleaned. I contacted Steven and Jane by text and was promised a refund of the cleaning charge. So far we have not received it. The only good thing about our short stay is that people in the area were all very friendly. The attached photos are only a small sample of what this “cozy” apartment really looks like. I could only post five photos; they did not include the hazardous kitchen wall plug that has several adapters added to accommodate all the appliance plugs. We will be filing a complaint with Airbnb and also with the Washington DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

Listings on Airbnb Can be Deceptive. Whom can you Trust?

Airbnb’s concept is fair, but you always take a chance. How do you know that the host is a decent, law abiding person? How do you know that the host believes in keeping his place clean and as advertised? I recently spent four nights in the Bay Area, and I can tell you that I used every ounce of patience and kindness towards my host. The host was an older person who had health problems. Compound that with an extended stay in the hospital and the inability to adequately clean their home, and I was bitten by fleas for numerous nights. The stench from not being properly cleaned didn’t help either. What’s more, even after speaking to the Airbnb personnel, I didn’t get the response I expected. I asked immediately to be placed in another unit at their expense. Their response was that I had to document the host’s offenses. I was doing some important work and told them that it wasn’t fair that I had to spend my time, not to mention the possibility of humiliating the host, with the conditions forced upon me. I didn’t get a refund except for the last night, and this was due to the fact that I left two days early and actually booked with a very nice lady in another part of town. I asked them to remove this host from their listing, but I haven’t checked and seriously doubt that they will do so.

Airbnb Nightmare: Chicago Bait and Switch

This happened over a year ago, but I thought I’d share. Two months before traveling to Chicago, I found a small apartment (in reality, the attic of an old Victorian) on Airbnb. I needed it for five nights and the description said there were three beds, a stocked kitchen, and a full bathroom. The price was right, so I booked it after exchanging emails with the host. In particular, I wanted to make sure it was safe and that I could prepare meals for my children. A week before traveling, I got a text message (off site) from the host. She said Airbnb made an error and because of that error the space is double booked. I told her that I didn’t know that was possible and, as I was the first to book, I should get priority. She didn’t respond.

We flew into Chicago and arrived at the place. It was adorable. However, there was one bed… not three. There was, however, a couch and a loft with a futon mattress. The kitchen had a sink and a hot plate. But, we could make it work. The first night, the host approached me by walking up the internal stairs (without knocking) and said that she will need us to move downstairs the next day. I was shocked. I asked why and she admitted that she was still double booked and that their business was economically better because the next family was spending a month; she couldn’t afford not to take their reservation. She said, “Not to worry… I have another space you can stay in.” I said, “Then make them stay there until we leave.” Obviously, that didn’t please her. But, she turned and left.

The next day, we went out to explore the city, returning at 9 PM. It was immediately obvious that there was a new rental car in the driveway. As we were getting out of the car, the host greeted us and told us she had moved our stuff downstairs and couldn’t wait to show us our “rustic cabin.” I was furious! But, I had kids and it was late so… what choice did I have? We were led downstairs and the host had the nerve to complain that we’d left dishes undone and towels on the counter upstairs. Well, yeah, we thought we would be returning to that room and planned to do our dishes then.

As soon as she opened the basement door, I was displeased. The stairs were steep, unlit and rotting. A string of Christmas lights had been hastily strung as lighting but it was dark. At the bottom of the stairs was an unfinished, stone basement. A small bathroom was crammed in this little area. The household boiler and washer/dryer were to the left. To the right was a room with drywall and a small fireplace. The TV was broken. The “bed” was a rock hard futon. There was exposed piping, wiring, unsecured chemicals, and spiders everywhere. But, worst of all, there were no windows or doors. Anywhere! The only escape was the stairs.

I told her this wasn’t what we signed up for (especially since my six year old was crying about the darkness of the place). She actually got offended and said, “I live here. I gave this up so you wouldn’t be stranded.” She said, “For your trouble… I can comp you.” As we had nowhere else to go, I said ok but asked for more lamps and lighting. The next day, we got up bright and early for a visit with family. When we got back to the basement, the host was in the basement, arms folded. She said she had thought it through and prayed about it and told me she needed to charge me still. I protested because this wasn’t right and the space wasn’t safe. She then said, “I told Airbnb to refund you, so we can do this in cash since I don’t have this apartment listed yet.”

I refused. I told her we would leave and she acted offended. I ended up paying $342 for a hotel. Airbnb did nothing! When I explained the safety concerns in the basement, they said they couldn’t address them because it wasn’t listed on the site. The only thing they cared about was her attempt to use cash. But, even that didn’t bother them because, again, she wasn’t attempting to get cash for the basement listing. In the end, she got away with it. Now, however, the basement is listed despite the safety hazards.