I loved my Airbnb business. I had repeat guests, made friends, and was proud to present a well staged, clean and secure environment. I personally made the beds, made sure clocks were set to the correct hour, made sure all the lights worked, and ensured that the towels and sheets were not torn or stained.
Everything was perfect until I received an email that Airbnb was canceling my account of 7.5 years due to a violation of its Terms of Service. Over a 10-year period I slowly accumulated properties that I professionally furnished and rented on a month-to-month basis. I started with VRBO/HomeAway and added Airbnb as a marketing channel in 2012. My locations included downtown Los Angeles, Glendale, Oxnard, Indio, and Detroit.
I had 14 listings on Airbnb. All, with the exception of Indio, had 30+ day stay requirements. I offered a fair price, a well appointed living environment, and an excellent experience. My units were always rented; there was rarely a vacancy. In fact, about the time that Airbnb cancelled my account, I was contemplating my retirement (or slowing down at 52 years), thinking that I could finally start living, albeit very modestly, on my Airbnb rental income. So what happened?
My Indio rental is 1.5 miles from the Coachella and Stagecoach music festival venues. For three back-to-back weekends I rent five rooms in a large home to attendees. This is the one property where I would stay in the house during a guest’s stay. I would stay in the living room; all guests were upstairs in bedrooms. I prepared guests breakfast each morning, either a Thursday welcome dinner or Sunday brunch, and would offer to drive guests, many of whom came from around the world, to purchase groceries or to take and/or pick up from the music festival.
This was a wonderful three weekend segment to my larger furnished rental business. Due to the number of guests that I would have during the music festival weekends, I would have a long-time family friend of 25 years and occasional boyfriend help me. He helped me shop and make food for the guests, move furniture around, and pick-up and drop-off guests. Again, this was only during the Coachella and Stagecoach music festival weekends when this type of service was offered as part of my Airbnb business.
During the second weekend of Coachella, my male friend was installing a planter in my backyard. I left to run errands from 2:00 to 4:00 PM. Apparently while I was away two female guests were leaving to go to the festival and my friend apparently made inappropriate comments to them. I did not learn of this until the woman who made the Airbnb reservation posted in her review that he suggested he would be having sex with them if I was not there. The girls did not say anything to me about this during the balance of the stay. I actually walked the girls to the front door and said goodbye on the morning of their departure.
I replied to the guest review stating that I would no longer allow this gentleman in my home while any guests were staying, as well as expressing my concern over the guest’s report. I asked my friend what happened. He said that he said and did nothing. The girl who wrote the review would not return my phone call to discuss, but rather texted me saying that Airbnb had called her to discuss what happened and was told by their representative that no further action was required of her. She refused to discuss the matter with me.
Airbnb, who I called and emailed several times requesting a phone call to discuss, never called me. The fact that they called the guest and not me, I feel, is unfair and biased. I wrote Airbnb asking that a higher level of authority review the case of my account being cancelled. In reply, Airbnb indicated that they have zero tolerance as to what happened. My account would be permanently closed. I replied that I too have zero tolerance, although I still have no idea what exactly happened.
The loss of my Airbnb account is an unequivocal financial hardship to me. Due to the location of my properties, and the fact that I run a short-term furnished rental business, the Airbnb demographic is the optimal channel for keeping my properties rented. I relied on the Airbnb income to make my mortgage payments. I have had, and continue, to have listings on VRBO/Homeway and on CraigList. The challenge is that these channels are widely used for rentals of a monthly furnished condo in downtown Los Angeles or for a weekend music festival, all of which appeal to a younger and on-the-move demographic.
To mitigate the financial hardship and stress I was going through following the sudden cancellation of my Airbnb account, I sold the property I knew would sell quickest – the one near Disney’s headquarters. I am now looking to sell the home in Indio. This is a difficult decision for me as the desert is where I grew up and is where I had a part time second home. I relied on the festival earnings to make my mortgage payments for six months. I have a few months to decide.
My downtown Los Angeles condos, of which I own three and are very fairly priced, well located, and beautifully furnished, have two vacancies. I have them on Craigslist and VRBO/Homeaway. I just listed one on Zillow. I have owned these condos for a range of six to eight years, always as furnished rentals, and have never had this amount and duration of vacancy. It is not due to the rent I am asking, as I have not raised the rent in two years in what is an escalating rental market.
As to the part-time boyfriend and 25-year family friend, that relationship too has ended. It is sad as this man has spent years helping my Dad as a friend and adopted son. He was part of our family Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. No more, as a result of the allegations and the personal hardship I am facing from Airbnb canceling my long-time hosting account.
Airbnb does not realize, or I would assert care about, the damage they do to people’s personal lives and financial well being by suddenly canceling an Airbnb account, especially one that was as seasoned as mine (7.5 years). The hardest thing for me to accept about this experience is that I did nothing wrong. What I did was work extremely hard for the business and reputation that I had with Airbnb. I am the victim of an allegation between two distinct individuals who happened to be on my property at the same time, one of which was my guest and the second a guest via Airbnb.