Airbnb Still Doesn’t Understand Local Tax

I collect hotel occupancy tax for the City of Galveston, Texas. We have a state tax rate of 6% and a local rate of 9% for a total of 15%. Without notice, in May of 2017, Airbnb began collecting and remitting only the state tax (6%). Additionally, Airbnb did not give owners a way to collect the local tax as part of the guest’s transaction. Owners would contact the guests and explain they would be charged an additional 9% upon arrival. Not only did the Airbnb reps lie to owners that Airbnb was collecting and remitting all taxes, but their reps lied to guests that there was no local tax to be paid. VRBO did the same thing in April 2019. We need to make this nightmare go away.

Unsafe Rental Under Renovation, Still Expected to Pay

I requested to book a three-bedroom apartment in Paris. The pictures made the place look wonderful. It was described as having a rooftop terrace with 360-degree views of the Eiffel Tower. The host asked me to confirm the names and ages of the people traveling with me. I responded immediately with all the information; I am traveling with two young teenagers. The host then confirmed the reservation, charging my credit card.

Five minutes later he messaged me saying I will be using just two beds, the place is under renovation – unsafe for teenagers – and the rooftop is unsecured. I told him that was unacceptable and wouldn’t work for my family. He then tried to get me to stay in another of his listings and if I didn’t take it, it was my loss and there is a strict cancellation policy; I would still be charged. I canceled immediately as to not hold up any future reservations. Airbnb has not helped at all in getting me a refund and said if he rebooks it then I can have my money back. It was cancelled within five minutes of him confirming (charging my credit card). The place is under renovation and unsafe, per his own words, yet I am still expected to pay. This is a complete scam.

Airbnb Edits Review to only Show Positive Feedback

We rented an apartment in Oslo, Norway for two nights early in November. Though offered, there was no Internet, wireless or otherwise. We needed to buzz in to the third floor apartment, but the buzzer did not work. We stood on the street attempting to reach the owner by phone to advise her cleaning lady to come down and let us in. A balcony door handle was broken so the apartment could not be locked securely. No paper towels or cleaning supplies were provided. We mentioned all these details in our review; our one positive comment involved how helpful the cleaning lady was in showing us the apartment and surroundings. This was the only part published by Airbnb.

Absolutely Insane Email Harassment from Airbnb Host

Never have I been more wrong judging a book by it’s cover. Here’s the scoop: this past weekend, my friend and I were outside Philly for a Harry Potter festival. She was covering the festival for work (she’s a reporter) and I was there because… Harry Potter. We booked a room in a house with a private entrance and shared bathroom. Most of the reviews were positive, but one raised a few red flags, complaining of overwhelming animal urine smells and poor cleanliness. I chose to disregard this, thinking it could not be that bad. Was I ever wrong!

The room itself was fine, relatively clean with a comfortable bed, but the hallway and stairs smelled like the pound. The floor was covered in dust and dirt; this was not the best for two people with allergies and asthma. We were using our inhalers constantly. I had emailed the host the day before our stay to inform them that due to my work schedule, I would be late and the other member of our party would be arriving first. I asked a number of check in questions and others related to parking, the area, and transportation. I received no response, which was disappointing and a little frustrating.

When we settled into the room, we noticed the window was braced open with an odd screen. The host told my friend that they had just removed the AC unit; when we tried to close the window, we could not. The host had given us no contact information and was very explicit about not entering or disturbing the family rooms on the first floor, so we emailed again asking about the screen; there was no response. In addition, the room was not as described or depicted. It looked like the wall of shelves and the desk were covered with sheets and being used as storage. That night, we went out to interview the festival hosts and coordinators as well as attendees, had a quick beer, came home at midnight, and immediately went to bed.

In the morning, we saw that the door stopper for our room was not actually brown, but orange and so coated in animal hair and dirt that the color was virtually unrecognizable. We were disgusted, but just left for the festival and were out all day. We returned by 8:00 PM and decided to stay in, watching Netflix on a tablet and drinking two beer bottles each, which we immediately put in the trash can (this is an important detail). We were freezing all night, because we could not get the window closed and the single quilt on the bed was not warm enough; we had to sleep in layers of clothes. The next morning, we packed all of our items, made the bed, collected all garbage to put in the trash, and even wiped down all surfaces with lysol spray; we’re neat freaks and whenever we stay somewhere other than home, we like to leave no trace.

Our hosts posted the following review:

Rebecca was great to host. She left the room spotless. We would welcome her back any time. Cheers!

My review was polite. I did not want to bring up any of my major concerns on the public review in case it impacted their business. They seemed like a nice younger couple renting out rooms in their townhouse for some extra cash.

The room itself was exactly what we paid for/expected, with a surprisingly comfortable bed. The location was great, and our room was very neat. The only issue we had was with the condition of the hallway stairs we used to get to our room. They were a little grimy and as someone with chronic dust allergies, it was rough. Despite this, check in was easy and the room was just fine.

I also sent a private message telling them I had three main concerns I did not want to air publicly:

1. They had not responded to my message.

2. The dirt, grime, smell, and dust. I know older buildings get dusty but as someone with allergies/asthma, the hallway should have been a little cleaner.

3. The open window. We could not get it to close, they had never responded to an email, and we were really quite cold.

As someone who frequently uses Airbnb, I expected the usual response of thank you for your concerns, I’m sorry to hear that, we are fixing it, etc. Instead, we received this crazy email:

SUBJECT LINE: You never sent a message! You tried to burn our house down! You are a loud drunk! You left the window open while the heat was on! What is your problem?

“You are an idiot. I have absolutely no email from you. The last time I heard from you was the day you reserved the listing. Did you take the screen out of the window to close it? I was pretty upset that we were running the heat and you were so rude to leave the window open. We are very responsive. Didn’t you notice that when you tried to burn the house down with the curling iron, we immediately unplugged it and turned the light off? Thanks for leaving a room full of booze bottles and food and trash. The stairs and hallway were mopped. You guys drug in all of the dirt from outside. Way to bang the doors all night. It sounds like you need to work on some respect yourself!!!!!!”

Needless to say, I was shocked. I responded with the following:

Your response is shocking, unprofessional, immature, and absolutely not what I expect from someone offering hospitality. Please see below- it is a screenshot of the email sent to you on 10/20/2016- note the time stamp (here I inserted a screen shot of the emails sent) I will be forwarding this correspondence to Airbnb as well. We tried to close the window multiple times- seeing as neither of us owns this home or is familiar to the peculiarities of your windows, we didn’t dare presume to remove a screen. I can only assume based on your response we would have received another nasty email about removing it. For future reference, if the screen can be removed, please inform guests- good ones will not rip things out of your window without permission. The room was completely clear and we have pictures to prove it. As a precaution, I always take a picture of an Airbnb room when I leave. We made sure the (4) empty beer bottles and all trash were put in bags, which is again proven by picture. There was minimal cleaning for you- we made sure of it! I find it shocking that you would make such false accusations, but then again, you probably did not realize we actually protected ourselves. Regarding a “curling iron”- we did not bring one. Neither of us used a curling iron. Perhaps you had another guest who used it? If you find yourself unsure, please see all of the photographs from Friday and Saturday depicting us with straight hair. We drug in no dirt- I was hesitant regarding the cleanliness, as I had read a previous review that discussed the smell and dust. I was trying to be helpful, not attack you. I understand older houses get a lot of buildup, but I also have numerous snapchats of the hair, dust, and dirt in the hallway and stairs, as well as the horrific buildup on the door liner for our bedroom. Frankly, your response seems like one to come from a defensive teenager. I’m sorry you feel like you need to respond to an honest review with such vitriol, and I hope in the future you can take a minute and find a calm, rational place to respond to guests. I’ll end with best of luck, because based on your attitude, you need it.

P.S. Opening a professional correspondence in the hospitality industry with “You are an idiot” is perhaps a little unwise.

I know it was snotty, but frankly I was pissed. This was completely insane, and as someone with a lot of experience in the hospitality industry, I was horrified. I got no further response, and made a report on Airbnb. No one responded to me, so I made a second, more detailed report and called the number someone thankfully posted online. I was told my case was being sent to the correct department and offered a refund. I didn’t really want one. I just wanted this handled so this couple does not flip out on anyone else in response to an honest discussion of their filthy house. I was told I would receive an email, but got nothing. The next day I called again and am currently waiting for that response. My haunting concern is the comment we “left booze bottles all over”; we drank four 12-oz bottles of beer in the room, and all four went into the trash before we left. Either they went into the room when we were not home and looked through the trash after we left, or just tend to make up baseless accusations. I’m not sure which one terrifies me more.

Anyway, watch out for Sarah and Charles Adams in the West Mt. Airy part of Philadelphia. It turns out they could rival Donald Trump when it comes to shooting off ill advised, combative messages. Thanks for listening.

Selective Airbnb Scammers: No Damage to Boat

We recently had a lovely stay on a houseboat in Italy. Only a couple of nights, and beautiful accommodation. However, a day and a half after leaving the boat (in exactly the condition we found it) we were accused of stealing a knitted jellyfish that had been hanging up in the boat, and accused of breaking the special toilet installed on the boat. Both my partner and I used the toilet before we left – and locked – the boat for the last time. It worked perfectly for both of us. There was no handover back to the hosts, as the boat was in a private secure marina. We simply locked it, and left the key where instructed. Neither of us have any desire to steal anything from anyone. We are not thieves, or vandals.

The host demanded we pay 200 Euros to repair the apparently broken toilet. When we asked for proof of any damage, none was provided. When we declined to pay, the issue was escalated to the Airbnb Resolution Centre. Having submitted all of the evidence in my possession (which wasn’t much), I waited for Airbnb to be in touch. Today (two weeks later), Airbnb emailed to say that they’d decided we should pay for the damages and, by the time I’d finished reading their email, had already billed my PayPal account.

The host had relatively good feedback. About 90% positive, and about 10% very negative. One or two of the negative reviews detail  experiences eerily similar to my own. The host alleging damage, theft or loss of items, which the guest claims were not damaged/stolen/lost. It seems very suspicious that the negative reviews are of a very similar nature to my experience. I’m very disappointed that Airbnb decided to rule on behalf of these con artists, and even more disappointed that I heard nothing from them until they decided to just take my money.

Please be careful with Airbnb in the future: take plenty of photos or even video when you arrive at the property, and when you leave.

Airbnb Nightmare: Transient Hippie Flophouse

This was my first experience with Airbnb and I will never recommend it to anyone. My lesson: Always use a legitimate hotel. I booked a long-term rental in a place that looked deceptively nice in the photo and description. I thought I would be staying with a woman and her children: a safe, family-oriented home, or so I thought. When I asked if the bathroom was shared, I was told it was but that Carissa, the “host” (a loosely used term because flophouse operator is more accurate), could work around my schedule. Unfortunately, Carissa didn’t tell me the bathroom would also be shared with any transient she could shove into any space she had. She tried to make it out to be some hippie idea of communal living, but her real colours showed when it came time for money. She is very much in this to try to squeeze as much out of unsuspecting renters as she can. I’m not exaggerating when I say she rents out every place she can: all the bedrooms, the basement, the shed in the backyard (for real), and a grungy algae-covered camping trailer in the driveway. And all these people use the same bathroom.

The biggest problem was that despite the numerous unknown characters lingering about, she left the doors unlocked to the house at all times and didn’t have a door that locked on the room I rented for me to secure my things while I was out. I stayed one night, only because I had nowhere else to go, then left. That started the second part of the horrible Airbnb experience. I tried to get a refund, but Carissa said it was “non-refundable.” I had booked for five weeks! She was going to keep all that money for one night. Finally, she said she’d look at how many times she rented the room during the time and give me a refund based on this at the end of the originally booked stay. I tracked that she rented that same room out for 13 days. But, when I contacted Carissa, there was no reply within the 72 hours she had to respond.

So I started the resolution process through Airbnb. After a number of emails, Airbnb told me I’d get a partial refund (so my one night stay in a hellhole would only cost me about $700 after the supposed refund). I was told the refund would reach me within five business days. It’s been seven business days and still nothing. When I tried to email Airbnb about it, the automated response told me the issue was “closed” so they wouldn’t be responding! I’ll reiterate: Stick with hotels. Don’t be fooled by seemingly normal rentals.

Airbnb Host’s Lack of Maintenance Costs Guests

We just got back from our vacation at Andy and Rachel’s Knotty Pine House in South Lake Tahoe. This was our first time AND LAST time to use Airbnb. The first night we were there, my four-year-old niece went to take a shower. She was the first one out of our group. When her mom went to turn off the water, the way you’re supposed to turn it off, the hot water knob came loose and sprayed water everywhere. The water dripped from the second floor bathroom down to the first floor bathroom and the kitchen (the first floor bathroom and kitchen share a wall). We contacted the Airbnb hosts immediately.

The homeowner was very frazzled and couldn’t believe that the knob could come off because he had installed it himself just six months ago. He made statements like, “There’s no way it could come off without using a wrench!” He had me running around outside to try to find the water main to shut off the water to the house. He had me look under a piece of wood that covered a hole on the front porch where he thought the water main was. It was not there. While I was talking to him, my brother was able to insert the knob in somehow to stop the water from leaking any further. After this, the host sent his wife over who was staying at one of their other vacation homes in the area because he was out of town. She came over with her father who walked around the house as if to inspect to see if we had caused any other damage, and when he couldn’t find anything, he proceeded to sit down in the living room and wait for his daughter. Talk about awkward.

Needless to say, the host’s wife, Rachel, walked through the bathroom and inspected the shower. She took pictures of the bathroom and the water that had leaked to the first floor. I mentioned to her that all the towels in the house were damp and unusable. She said that they had a back to back reservation and blamed her cleaning people for not getting the towels dried in time for our arrival. She also stated that this was a vacation home and not a hotel. I said that we were paying $329 a night and the least they could do was give us usable towels. She then went into the locked garage and proceeded to give us some dry towels… which she found out were still damp as well. She found five dry ones that she left for us while the rest were being washed and dried.

They were supposed to provide two rolls of toilet paper per bathroom, and one bathroom only had one roll and a half. They told us that since it was late (around 6-7 pm at the time) that they would get a plumber the next morning. So, now we were stuck with one working shower for the thirteen of us to share. We were gone on excursions the next day and thought the repair would be done while we were out. Of course the plumber didn’t come until after 6pm the next night during dinner time. Anyway, we finished our week there and went home and the next thing you know, I got an email from the hosts requesting we pay $180.00 for the plumber who came to fix the loose knob. I told the host that I did not agree with that and that it was their responsibility to keep their rental home in working order. I never heard from the hosts again because they took the situation directly to Airbnb to let them decide.

The evidence the homeowner provided was a picture that I texted her of the loose knob, a screen shot of a text message between them and the cleaning people to ask if the knob was fine when they were cleaning the house before we got there (How are you going to rely on people who can’t even get your towels clean? They couldn’t even put new rolls of toilet paper in the bathrooms, the oven had leftover crust everywhere that sent smoke through the house when we turned it on…), and a screen shot of a text message from the previous people who stayed there – they said that it was fine, but they had taken most of their showers somewhere else. The next thing I got was an email from Airbnb asking what our side of the story was. I told them. Then I got another email saying that they were going to charge my credit card because “there is no denying it happened while you were there.”

We are not denying that it happened while we were there. They failed to take into consideration that the homeowner installed it himself (he told me this in our phone conversation when I had called the number on the reservation to report the problem) and that there could’ve been a possibility that it was installed incorrectly. (The whole house reeked of non-professional installs, e.g. the toilet rocked back and forth, the sink fixtures moved around). They charged my credit card and “disengaged” from further conversation. I repeatedly asked for an explanation of how they came up with their decision and the only response I got was that they have the final say so.

I was so mad that I called the city only to find out that the city has no record of the homeowners pulling any permits for any remodel work done on that home. I believe that the homeowners should be held accountable for something. What if something worse happened while we were there? If there was an electrical fire while we were there, would Airbnb make us pay for it because we were there when it happened? There is no logic to their decision in this matter. My one-star review showed up for one day, but has magically disappeared. How is anyone ever going to get an honest review of the hosts or the place or the practices of Airbnb? According to all the reviews, it was a 5-star place, but of course it is since our honest one-star reviews didn’t get posted!

If we could at least WARN people about how Airbnb goes about making their decisions in matters like this, then hopefully this will not happen to anyone else!

Conclusion:

1. Because the homeowner did a shoddy installation job, Airbnb made us pay a professional to install the shower knob correctly.

2. Airbnb’s Help Center is a joke.

3. The number they provided routed me to someone in Asia who said she could do nothing except email the Airbnb “mediator” to ask her to email me back…I have yet to hear back from her.

4. The “mediator” only responded to my emails after 10:00 pm my time which led me to ask where they could be located. I found out that they are located all over the WORLD, which would explain why they don’t care about local laws that require permits to be pulled for remodel work of any home.

5. There is NO WAY to leave a bad review for the hosts or Airbnb.

6. Whatever the cost, DO NOT EVER USE AIRBNB! There are ALWAYS other options out there!

Airbnb Nightmare in Santa Margherita, Italy

My daughter and I were traveling in Italy and we decided to spend our last ten days on the Italian Riviera. We found an apartment in Santa Margherita that seemed to suit our needs: walking distance to town, two bedrooms, nice views. Our host, Angela, was super sweet in her responses to me prior to booking, confirming that she has wifi (very important to both of us) and the town was within walking distance. She said her English was not great but she communicated very well prior to booking. After booking, I had to ask her for the address, twice, as it was not given to me through our Airbnb booking. She also told me to converse with her son via WhatsApp instead of with her through Airbnb messaging. I told her that I do not have WhatsApp and would continue to contact her through Airbnb.

Incidentally, my daughter was sick so I was anxious to get to the apartment and get her in bed. When we got to Santa Margherita after a long train ride (without wifi), I found a message from Angela saying that we needed to copy our passports before she would allow her cleaning person to let us in to the apartment. I asked her where we could have that done (at 4 pm). The only information she would give us was to ask around a certain piazza in town… which we did – two places – and were told that there were no shops that had copying services. So we asked Angela if she would please at least let us drop off our luggage before we continued to look for a copy place and to please give us an actual address of a copy place (nowhere on her Airbnb page did it say that we had to copy our passports). My daughter and I had to keep going to the harbor to get free wifi to contact her.

This was Angela’s reply:

“Sandy, I’m telling You the way to reach the House, not going around the city. Piazza caprera, via palestro, piazza mazzini, via belvedere. from Piazza caprera to Piazza mazzini there are shops for the copy. You had to ask , no sing out of door. I’m sorry for Your daughter but I give You phone of my son , he speaks well , Why you haven’ call him? Why You havent’ call taxi? with heavy luggages and daugther not in well? I in Liguria the streets are steep, no good for person not in well and heavy luggages. Yesterday i give You a lot of facilities, but you wat speak only with airbnb airbn site!!! I you want to help must help!!! In my ad I specified that it was necessary passport copy ’cause you did not before ? I suggested You different formulas but you refused, how may can help You if you don’t want?”

Anyway, my daughter and I went to the apartment, which was up an extremely steep hill (not advertised). Angela’s housekeeper met us, at which point I started to cry as my daughter was so sick. The sweet housekeeper asked me for five euros and went into town to copy our passports but asked us not to let Angela know that she had let us in. The apartment was disgusting. The “views” were of a parking lot and a construction site. There was white powder all over the tile floors; we assumed it was for ants, which were everywhere. The TV didn’t work (no biggie), the shower didn’t work (could only take baths), the beds were horribly uncomfortable, the apartment above was under being renovated so we heard nothing but saws, and we could only get one of the burners on the stove to work, which was enough to make my daughter tea (but there was no teapot).

Once the housekeeper returned, I went back into town to use the free wifi and asked Angela four times for her wifi address and password. No response. So, I contacted Airbnb. No response. The next morning, I got a message from Angela saying that we had to go into town and PURCHASE wifi! Airbnb finally wrote back saying that it looked like my problem was solved because Angela responded. I wrote back saying that we were in an Airbnb nightmare. Airbnb called me. Mick, in Ireland, took our case and told me that he was stopping payment to Angela. I told him, in that case, we needed to pack our belongings as her correspondence to me was so mean (I have many examples) that she would probably confiscate our belongings. So, my ill child did just that and went back into town. However, Mick never loaded the right page to my Airbnb conflict page so I was unable to upload pics of the dirt, the broken window, and the things that weren’t working. I was sobbing.

Finally, I called, again, and got Brittaney in Denver, who loaded the correct page. Once she had our pics, she helped us find another apartment in the next town, Rapallo, with our host, Luca, who was such a sweetheart. And we loved his apartment. He met us, didn’t speak English but had a friend on his phone who acted as our interpreter, brought us espresso pods, milk, bottled water, and croissants (none of which Angela provided). Luca, alone, restored our faith in Airbnb. However, Angela then tried to get 1500 euros from us, although our total fee for our stay at her place was a little over 900 euros. It took two weeks but Airbnb finally closed the dispute – my guess is because she never proved damages – which, of course, there were none. I know that this site said it doesn’t want too many curse words but — Angela, you’re an asshole and shouldn’t be a host! I purposely left out that I am an Airbnb super host: five stars, with 80 ratings. This type of host ruins things for the rest of us. Angela still has her listing and no one looking at her listing will ever know of my nightmare experience, unless they happen to look here. Thanks for letting me vent.

Lying Host Leads to Last Minute Scramble in London

So we have been using Airbnb for a few trips and all went quite satisfyingly until my husband, my 70 year-old mother-in-law, and I booked our trip to Europe. We always plan our trips a few months ahead just to avoid any unforeseen circumstances so we can sort everything out with the host earlier if something unfortunate should happen. The guy with whom we booked has a few properties listed with Airbnb and has remarkable reviews so we thought this one shouldn’t have any problems. Exactly a week before we arrived, I messaged him regarding exchanging the keys. He replied straight away saying he will give us the keys face to face. Then my husband started to realise that the address he put on Airbnb is actually not detailed, only showing the street name and the suburb. So I messaged him again requesting the address two days after our last communication (which was five days before we were set to arrive).

There was no reply for three days. We messaged him again… nothing. Obviously, we thought he was probably too busy to reply; we had his phone number so we thought we could call him when we arrived. While we were transferring from Dubai to London, we were informed that our Airbnb in London had been cancelled. Without a reason, without any messages from this host. We couldn’t do anything as we were about to take off. I honestly cried for the whole flight as we also booked a few other places with Airbnb for the rest of our trip in Europe. We called Airbnb again and again at the airport, seeking an outcome. Nothing. They only provided us a few links to similar properties (but cost much more than the one we booked) plus a 10% credit, which could only be used with Airbnb.

We eventually booked a hotel that cost much more, as around Europe in July everything cheap had already been booked. I was furious as my 70-year-old mother-in-law was extremely exhausted after the 25-hour flight so I messaged the host and asked him the reason he cancelled. He replied after my repeated not-very-nice messages, saying he found out Airbnb double booked him a week before we arrived and called them straight away to cancel but Airbnb got delayed. He wasn’t sorry. He also tried to make it sound like it was my fault blaming him during all communication (or should we say arguments). I then called Airbnb again but they told me a completely different story, saying that the only phone call they received from him was the day before and he asked to cancel without any explanation or reason. I cannot afford anything like this to happen again so we just cancelled my rest of our trips with Airbnb and deleted my account. I would rather pay the penalties than deal with these dodgy people. Such a relief. To anyone who is seeing this: please do not use Airbnb. Please also pass this on to your friends and family.