Dangerous Road and Smelled Like a Dungeon

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We fell for the “fabulous location” lie. The photos and description of this Airbnb disguised the fact that house was on a dangerous road with no verge. The photos didn’t show the steep, nail-biting walk on the yellow lines clinging to the brick wall trying to stay alive while cars whizzed past a hair’s breadth away. Much further from the parking lot than advertised.

It seemed impossible to get luggage to the door, let alone children. The photos didn’t show the dingy grimy unloved interior with just a hard wooden chair to sit on. No or patchy floor covering. The photos didn’t show the flypaper in the kitchen complete with fly corpses. Photos can’t convey the dank damp smell that hit you as you walked in. The photos don’t show the depressing feel of the place, nor the barbecue grid like mattresses.

I couldn’t believe anyone would so shamelessly advertise this house as ‘beautiful’. Because photos can’t convey smell or danger (would have died trying to photograph the house with a road in front of it), Airbnb ruled in the lying host’s favour. We lost our holiday and our money. Never again.

Silk Purse Description for a Sow’s Ear in San Diego

The photos on the Airbnb website of this full apartment on “Golden Hill” were outstanding. When we walked in, it was a very clean full apartment. However, after we had been living there for four days, it was clear the fresh paint and cleaning were bandaids on a poor foundation. There were so many problems with this property that this has to be a long review. Sure, the cosmetics were all attended to. The cleanliness was excellent, but things went wrong at every turn.

We arrived in the rain at 2:00 AM due to a red-eye flight. As we approached the apartment area, only ten blocks away, we encountered a tent city of homeless people. There were people walking around, in the rain, at 2:00 AM. This was discomforting. As we approached the residence, there was a liquor store on the corner. Turning onto a side street, there was a tattoo parlor. It was a neighborhood we totally didn’t expect from the polished guest reviews. In front of the tattoo parlor was a large black beach truck. Again, the fact people were walking around at 2:00 AM was disturbing. Across from the property was a disabled van in the driveway. The property was lighted. What struck me immediately was the heavy metal fencing and gates – unusual for a supposedly safe area.

Two days before the trip, we had a change in transportation and decided to rent a car rather than hailing a cab. I sent the owner a message asking about parking. He didn’t reply. Going back over the description, I found a statement that said, “There is ample street parking available.” The problem was when we got there there was no parking for blocks in every direction. Because of the neighborhood, I wasn’t going to leave my partner alone with the luggage or walk alone from where I parked. We both pulled our luggage in the rain for two blocks. The next day, I sent the owner a message asking about this. His reply: “There is ample street parking available. Yes, its very available around there. No one has complained about lack of parking.” Since I knew this was a lie, and the condition of the property wasn’t as described, I decided I couldn’t trust anything he said anymore and stopped contacting him except for the confusion with the gate.

We found the yellow gate mentioned on the listing. When I tried its handle, the gate opened; someone had already defeated the security system. I was also concerned when the owner gave me the codes to the gate and the apartment. He said they were the same and presented this as if it were a convenience to memorize. What it actually meant is that every apartment dweller or guest (for at least four units) also had the code to our apartment door. Why? Because they all needed the gate code to access the laundry. Going through the gate we entered a long completely dark hallway. It was dark because it had a motion light, a mercury vapor type which made it take a very long time to get bright enough to light the hall. We waited almost a minute in the rain for enough light to see.

The second night and all during the day, the gate lock was opened. I thought it might be broken. The third night, as we came back from dinner, the gate was locked. I tried the code. It didn’t work. After three tries it would no longer take new tries. We were lucky that the dinner included business, so I had all the rental paperwork with us. It provided three contact numbers. The first was the owner; I got his voicemail and left a message. The second was a female voice: also voicemail, left a message. I called the third number and got a live person who said he was the property manager. He said the code had been changed and he gave us the new code (which was not the same as the apartment code). The implications are bizarre: if the gate had not been open the night we came, we would have been stranded outside the gate at 2:00 AM because no one would have answered their phones.

Entering the apartment, our first impression was positive. It was clean, but there was clearly a big problem; it did not have a bedroom. The photos had been taken to make it look like there was a bedroom. The bed area was simply a screened-off section of the living room. The screen didn’t go all the way to the ceiling or across the room. This caught my attention because the description said: “When cooking, close the bedroom door as the smoke alarm is sensitive and will go off.” There is no bedroom door, because there is no bedroom. The lack of a closed bedroom isn’t a problem for a couple alone, but for four people, or if there are guests, it’s a big limitation on privacy. It also doesn’t allow a quiet space for someone sick or who wants to sleep. There is also no clothing storage in the bed area – just a night stand and a chair. Clothes could be hung at the far end of the living room. The other clothes’ storage was in a dresser in the living area. The bed area was very small.

The bathroom appeared bright and clean, but when we tried to use it, the problems became apparent. In front of the shower was a thick rug. The bathroom door wouldn’t open enough to get to the shower unless the rug was folded back. Even with the rug pulled up, the door stop was the wrong kind; the door wouldn’t open all the way so the rug could be folded back down. There were signs on the wall talking about conserving water: “turn the water off while soaping your hands”, etc. The old single handle water tap was defective; it wasn’t marked for hot and cold, so we had to guess and turn it to one side or another and let it run to find the hot water. Not knowing how long it takes for the hot water to kick in, it can run cold water for minutes before you try the other side. Once you find the hot-cold direction, setting the temperature is almost impossible. The valve jumps between hot and cold with the smallest adjustment of the dial you can possibly make. If you finally get it right, and then push it off, when you pull it on again, it doesn’t come to the same temperature. So, you spend a lot of time freezing trying to get it right again, all the time defeating the idea of saving water.

The floor mat in the shower has nothing like holes to let the water drain. If you leave it down, the water doesn’t drain. If you take it out, you slip on the tiles. The toilet is the smallest I’ve ever seen. It looks like a child training device. It appears they recently put on a cheap new plastic seat, but the material is so flimsy that anyone over about 120 pounds will make it slide. Every time you sit on it, it seems you’re going to fall in. If you close the cover and try to sit on it, it bends in the center, seemingly like it’s going to break and you’ll fall in. The sink is a simple pedestal sink. That means there is no surface area to spread out toiletries. The towel holders are positioned poorly. If you use the “hand towel” holder, the towel falls either into the sink or blocks the limited surface space. There was only one hand-sized towel (which means none for the kitchen).

The area partitioned as a living room was both the living room and dining area. The way the furniture had been set up, the roll-out couch faced the dining table. The TV, however, was on a dresser to the left of the couch. We didn’t even try to use it. To do so, you either have to always look to your left (which would cause neck pain) or rearrange the room. The clothes closet was in the living area at the opposite end of the room from the “bedroom”, but it wasn’t really a closet. It’s a walk-in cupboard. To go into it, you have to climb up an 18″ step and go through a small door. It was helpful and had plenty of hangars, but was “unusual”.

There are not enough power strips to plug in electronics. The wall plugs were behind the couch, or far from the couch. I couldn’t find an extension cord. There were plug strips already plugged in, but they were totally full already.

The kitchen floor was not on the same level as the living area. It had a steep six-inch drop off. Since the floors were both dark, the drop off wasn’t clearly visible. All three of us (including a visitor) fell off this ledge. It’s a serious tripping hazard and clear code violation without markers like railings. The refrigerator is defective. During the night, it started making a loud buzz. When I got up to check, there was water on the floor. That’s when I noticed rust stains around the legs. It turns out the floor under the refrigerator is also uneven. So by rotating the refrigerator, I could temporarily find a way to stop the buzz. It took three tries to find a place where the buzz wouldn’t come back after awhile. By then the refrigerator had been rotated so much, it was hard to access and someone would try to straighten it. The opening lines for the listing say, “There is a separate full kitchen… decorated and stocked to be your home away from home.” Well, the decorations are great. The only stocked part, however, was a good array of spices. We found a coffee maker and coffee filters, but no coffee. There was an open box of tea bags with only two left. There was a basket mostly full of sugar – no Splenda. No hot chocolate. This hardly counts as “stocked” – and we were only looking for the basics that would be found in motel rooms.

A number of comments mentioned the high fees. A $90 cleaning fee is extreme for such a small, sparsely furnished two-room (actual count) apartment. Initially assuming it was reasonable, that implied a large space – misleading and unjustified. Seeing an additional management fee show up was also a surprise, especially one that high. You don’t see that in motel charges unless they try to scam you for parking. As a first time Airbnb user, I was very disappointed. I’ve heard many stories of fraudulent situations, including one in the apartment complex where I live. I wanted to believe otherwise. This was not a good start. Furthermore, I sent this same review to Airbnb and never got a reply. The listing for the apartment is now gone, but the renters have a number of other places in the area as well.