My daughter and I booked an apartment on the Upper West Side of New York City several months in advance of our September 1st visit. I was in touch with the host via text several days in advance, who told me to tell her when I was landing, and she would give me directions on how to get to her apartment. Upon my arrival at the airport from Nashville and on the way to the apartment, I called her, at which time I was told that she was changing the location to her son’s apartment on the Upper East Side. I was also told not to tell the doorman that I was an Airbnb guest, but “a friend of her son’s girlfriend Zoe.” I was very upset and told her to cancel the reservation and I requested a refund of by $1,345. So far, in spite of repeated attempts to reach her and Airbnb, I have not received a refund. Help!
Here lies the problem. Airbnb Hell has only has two categories for posting: guest or host. Airbnb also only has two categories for complaints: guest or host. There needs to be a third option: neighbors of Airbnb. One by one, every time a long-term tenant moves out of my block, his home is taken over by estate agents running Airbnb units. In a year’s time they have gone from running one flat to six. On multiple occasions, I’ve had entire families in my stairwell sitting there when I get home, unable to get into the Airbnb unit. I’ve had people come down and knock on my door asking for help while I’m on business calls and Skype. There have been parties of 30+ people who have brought their own sound systems. The audible noise of people vomiting and urinating off of an unregulated balcony with no railings out back was particularly disturbing, as is the thought of a guest unknowingly tossing a cigarette butt down the 5-meter empty space beside the unit and causing a fire, or even worse someone falling down and killing himself.
The particular unit above me was listed with the intention of becoming a sort of youth hostel in a residential area. They list the property as ‘sleeps up to 12’ and ‘suitable for events’. It is an open plan unit with one official bedroom. What often happens is a large group books the unit for a big night out in London. The person with the key comes home first and passes out. All the mates come back later after the clubs close and ring every buzzer not knowing how to get in.
There’s something strange going on in unit to my left. The same three lads stay there every couple of weeks, always on a Monday or Tuesday. Once I could not sleep and went outside to view the properties from the street. I saw two people come along and throw rocks at that unit until they were let in. Turns out the host will hang out in the unit if there are no bookings with his mates and party it up. My neighbor who has a business above this property has complained to the host about weed wafting up while he has clients during office hours on weekdays. The host spat at him. He didn’t even bother to lie. I don’t care what recreational activities people take part in. I am as open minded as it comes. However, when my home life (or my neighbor’s business) is in serious detriment because of Airbnb, we have a problem. I don’t live in a warehouse space. I don’t live in a squat. I live in a contained flat that somehow I’ve been able to maintain for ten years and I’m very proud of that fact. The sharing economy can be great. Sometimes though, the sharing economy = the sharing of one’s sanity with strangers getting a good deal.
My neighbor is an Airbnb host, not me. I tried to contact Airbnb regarding issues and questions I had related to my neighbor’s hosting, and it’s impossible to contact them through their website without providing the host’s listing information. Seriously? There is no email listed on their website. So, my questions relate to Airbnb’s verification process and how they protect neighbors if a guest damages the neighbor’s property, attacks the neighbor, steals from the neighbor, etc; and so, I called Airbnb. They planned to refer it to their legal department, but they refused to do so unless I provided my neighbor’s information. Seriously? In what universe would I trust Airbnb with my privacy if they can’t even provide an email or phone number on their website in which to contact them? I can’t allow my neighbor to know I contacted Airbnb. So, I asked to speak to the customer service representative’s supervisor; until I through a complete and utter hissy fit and repeated over thirty times “I need to speak to your supervisor” did I get to speak to someone who could take down my information to get back to me. I wasted 32 minutes on the phone trying to get a few simple questions answered on top of trying to go through their website.
I would suggest a new category of victim for this website: Airbnb neighbor. My home and four other apartments in a small 6-unit building were all unwilling dragged into the pitfalls of the sharing economy. We had involuntary, front-row seats to the joy of when one individual volunteers access to your doorstep to the world without your consent and lies to everyone involved for her personal financial gain. Stephanie Browne is a serial Airbnb “host” who at one point listed up to three separate full apartment rentals in Bushwick, Brooklyn; this is illegal to do in NY for less than 30 days. Having reaped much financial gain as a full-blown gentrifier with two separate rental apartments in one building, she proceeded to expand her hotel room business by signing a lease in another small 6-unit apartment building. Our new “neighbor” proceeded to rent the apartment out as early as two weeks from when she moved in to the unit.
Why, we wondered, are families of five who obviously don’t know anything about the neighborhood carrying bottled water and coolers into a one bedroom apartment when our “neighbor” was nowhere to be seen? Sure enough, the apartment was listed on Airbnb for rent, with Stephanie Browne claiming to be the owner. This started a full year of random vacationing strangers parading through the building at all hours, with one guest at one point threatening the host by calling the police when she was locked out, and causing the entire building’s locks to be changed. She gave out building keys like party favors to the whole world. Meanwhile, she was not even residing in the country and had moved full-time to Europe.
Stephanie Browne is the diametric opposite of the “good actor” Airbnb claims makes up their hosts who only need to rent periodically to afford their rent. Browne, by holding three leases for apartments she neither owned or resided in purely for the use of temporary guests, is the exact cause of why everyone’s rent in NYC is going up. After much complaining and lackluster enforcement of the law by NYC Department of Buildings, she gave up the rental unit one year early. As a parting shot, she tried selling the books and furniture from her hotel room to her “neighbors” in the building and wrote this pitiful, inaccurate justification of her noxious lifestyle.
Meanwhile, she still continues to list two illegal rentals while living in Europe. Airbnb’s community complaint line is joke: they enabled her lies to the guests, the building owner, and the occupants of the building she put at constant inconvenience and risk. The moral of the story for other afflicted neighbors who become unwilling concierges to hotel rooms in their own building: know your rights, contact your management company, elected officials, local enforcement agencies, and get these hosts that are your neighbors where it hurts, their wallets.
My niece flew to a large city to surprise me for my birthday weekend. My wife had agreed that she could stay in an Airbnb instead of our hotel. I would not have allowed that if I had known. When we went to take my niece to her Airbnb destination I became quite anxious as we passed two streets which my uncle who lived in the city had informed me never to be on or in that neighborhood. The Airbnb room was up a separate stairway on the third floor. The host had to remove a cat from the room with a vacuum cleaner. I begged my niece to bail. She is a 20-something professional and refused.
I asked the host if this was a safe neighborhood and he said yes. I told him my uncle who lives in the City told me to never travel on Troost Avenue as it is not safe. The host admitted Troost a block away was not safe. We started driving to our hotel as it was close to being dark and noticed the gangs coming out on Troost. This location was in the middle of the ghetto. The hotel clerk told me that it would be unsafe for me to drive on Troost or be in that area at night. My wife texted my niece and told her I was upset and quite concerned about her safety and she agreed to come to our hotel in the morning.
After we left the host told her there was no TV as a previous guest had gotten drunk and broken it. The same with the lock that did not work on her door. My niece later revealed that other guests showed up at 2:00 AM on her floor and were quite loud. She obviously was quite frightened since there was no lock on her door. My niece was lucky she did not get raped or murdered.
Parents: please warn your children – especially your daughters – DO NOT stay with Airbnb. Also I did a quick Google search of that address and learned it had a rating of D- and F for crime. That there was an aggravated assault, armed robbery, another assault, car theft, and burglary all in one night near this house. I also learned there were 75 registered offenders within a mile of the address. All the reviews for this address on Airbnb were extremely positive. This would give credence to the theory that Airbnb deletes negative reviews. I find it hard to believe that not one person commented about the clearly apparent, dangerous area where this house was located. Is one’s life not worth more than the $50 a night?
OMG I just spend the last two night in a nightmare! Actually it wasn’t even a nightmare because I COULDN’T SLEEP! I rented a room on airbnb.com for the first time ever, and the crazy kids renting the room next to me were from europe and didn’t bother making the time adjustment, so they were literally up ALL NIGHT both nights smoking pot and blasting their music! I asked them to be quiet but they didn’t… I asked the Host to give me a refund so I could go to a hotel, he said he would “talk” to the other guests, but nothing happened. Finally I contacted airbnb and told them the story, and they ask me if I had any PROOF!! Right, I forgot to RECORD the crazy kids and try to document what time it was! Never using airbnb again, seriously. It’s just not worth it!