Airbnb Takes No Responsibility for its Hosts

This is my Airbnb horror story from my stay in New Orleans with my sister. I will preface by saying that both my sister and I have traveled the world, been to many different countries, and stayed in hostels many times, but never had an experience like this.

We booked a room in a house in New Orleans. The house stated that it was on Frenchman Street. For those of you who are not familiar with this area, it’s a popular destination in New Orleans, lined with bars and restaurants where all the locals go to listen to live jazz music. Unfortunately, Airbnb does not disclose the exact address of the house until the day before your stay; they give you a radius to give you a general idea of where it’s located.

Well, when we arrived at the house it was on the very far end of Frenchman Street, not at all walking distance to that area as described (nor would it have been safe to walk, day or night, male or female, ever). It was in a very bad, crime ridden area with bars on many of the windows and doors, and wood paneling covering windows that had been blown out. The house was not at all how it was described in the ad.

We stepped outside for a moment to contemplate if it was safe to walk just around the corner to Walgreens, and within a few minutes someone made an attempt to rob us. I will spare the long details of this but luckily we escaped the situation unharmed.

When we ran back into the house we discovered that someone left the door to the back patio unlocked. This was a shared space, meaning other guests were staying in other rooms just down the hall. Luckily no one had entered the home from off the street but we feared that if the guests accidentally left it unlocked again, someone could enter the home in the middle of the night and rob us… or worse. There were no locks on our bedroom door, leaving our belongings at risk while we were out exploring the city.

I realize that New Orleans suffered awful devastation from Hurricane Katrina and is still recovering. It’s really sad, but Airbnb should be more forthcoming about the state of these houses/rooms. This place was completely misrepresented. It said there was a “porch overlooking the yard as well as the street… and two sets of French Doors that open up onto Frenchmen Street, letting in plenty of light and allowing for prime people watching.” The French Doors in the kitchen were bolted shut, and the only view from the porch was a very tall fence that separated the back of the house from the street. We couldn’t view the street as stated.

In addition, the house was unsanitary. The pillows were stained brown (very brown, spotted, disgusting – see pictures attached), the towels that were folded and placed on the bathroom counter were damp and smelled like mold, and the toilet wasn’t completely bolted down to the ground. We did contact our host and were as nice about it as we could have been about our complaints (although in hindsight we shouldn’t have been).

Overall, the conversation was amicable but he was very defensive and didn’t seem to care very much. He said that what happens in his neighborhood outside of his home is out of his control – which I agree with, I blame Airbnb for that portion. When it came to the pillows he didn’t seem to care; I don’t know how you can look at those things and think it’s okay to let people sleep on them. Unfortunately, Airbnb has a refund policy that protects them from just about anything.

We contacted their customer support line immediately and worked with a case manager in an attempt to get a refund, but they refused. They said that they cannot refund anything due to neighborhood factors, only things pertaining to the house itself. We sent the pictures of the house and everything inside that was dirty (including those nasty pillows) but they still refused. We were also shocked that there were no prior reviews about any of these things, which led us to believe that perhaps the negative reviews are being deleted.

After the incident I decided to do some more research on the company and found that other people have experienced the following situations (also without refunds): door locks being broken when you arrive, getting kicked out of the house by disgruntled ex-spouses, cancelling people’s stays hours before their reservation, hosts openly using drugs in common spaces, getting kicked out by HOA reps because the host doesn’t have rights to rent, not refunding people who were supposed to stay in Napa Valley during the devastating fires.

I don’t care what their policy states; they should operate by what’s right and what’s wrong. This company has no moral compass whatsoever. It sounds like just about anyone can qualify to rent their space through Airbnb and misrepresent it in their ad. I would highly advise against using this service.

Hurricane Irma Evacuees Find No Escape With Airbnb

My wife, our two children, and I decided to evacuate our southwest Florida home in Lee County based on our governor’s mandatory evacuation. Our son had a good experience using Airbnb and had a pleasant stay at one of their listings. My wife and I decided to give them a try at the last minute instead of being housed in a hotel room with all of our important possessions (i.e. family photos, documents, jewelry, etc).

Based on Hurricane Irma’s path, we decided Louisiana would be the safest destination out of the storm’s way. We found one of a few places that were left available and based on the description of the listing, it sounded pleasant for the needs of our family and two vehicles.

Upon arrival we observed this home was in a bad neighborhood. We had to park on the city street (whereas the listing stated “parking on premises”). My wife an I proceeded to the locked gates (first sign of a bad neighborhood). With our two kids each in one vehicle parked on two different streets, we met with a much older gentlemen who was not the host; he stated he was 87 and had a brain tumor. This man had a foul smell to him and proceeded to show us the apartment.

Once we were inside we observed the same foul smell throughout the apartment. There were water stains on the ceiling and it was dirty inside. The old man proceeded to tell us that the health department had been trying to shut him down since Hurricane Katrina had flooded the building and the city had not been through his part of town to give them the proper permits to renovate the apartments. With our youngest son having had asthma, we knew we couldn’t stay there.

After the older gentleman showed us the place he went on to add that the place was used as a prison during Katrina and was a drug house prior to him owning the building. After having traveled 14 hours to get here, my wife and I got back in our cars and got out of there and out of that area of the city as fast as we could. Unfortunately we could not find another room that night since millions had evacuated florida; we ended up sleeping at a rest area on I-10. To be honest, that was a lot better than even thinking about staying at the Airbnb in New Orleans.

Beware and avoid places like this on Airbnb: false representation to be family friendly, parking on premises, all the way down to the host (who we never met). We don’t believe the reviews of this place prior to our reservation are credible. We have been in contact with Airbnb and they said a case manager will be in touch with us. We will also be contacting our Attorney General here in florida who stated that they will go after people who have taken advantage of its citizens during its state of emergency. The owner of the Airbnb was well aware of our family’s situation and was not honest with his accommodation in the listing. In fact my wife and I believe that the host does not exist. We just want a refund for services not rendered, nothing else. Let’s see if Airbnb stands up for its guests and refunds our money.

Host Canceled One Week Before Halloween Trip

We booked our vacation to New Orleans four months in advance through Airbnb. It was for Halloween, the second busiest time of the year after Mardi Gras. About two weeks before our flight and week-long vacation, I contacted the host about our arrival, getting the keys, etc. He never responded. His profile had been altered and he had no contact number. I did finally find his old number from an archived email and texted him. He said he was no longer a host for Airbnb and now lived in Texas. He claimed his profile had been taken down, but it was still up. Neither the host nor Airbnb had informed me of this. So, here my wife and I were, without accommodation, and almost all the hotels were booked up… a very stressful place to be right before your supposedly relaxing vacation.

Apparently, Airbnb hosts can just cancel on a whim with no financial consequences to them, but if you as a guest cancel, your penalties may vary from 50%-100% of your deposit depending on the terms to which you agreed. When I contacted Airbnb customer service, their response was apathetic and unhelpful; they just sent me about five links to other Airbnb properties that I could spend the better part of the next week frantically trying to contact on my own. What would guarantee any of these hosts from also canceling? Their response was that Airbnb is just a “Third Party Community Platform” that “brings people together” and they’re not responsible. I responded that this is the equivalent of me buying my plane ticket on Expedia, the airline not honoring my purchase, and Expedia simply denying responsibility since they “are just a third party that brings people together.” It’s pathetic.

In any case, I informed Airbnb that this is an appalling way to run a business. This would be the first and last time I would ever use their service and would be shutting my profile down. They never responded. Luckily, I was able to book a motel on Booking.com where our reservation would be Guaranteed. Truth be told, I never saw any big difference in price between Airbnb and their traditional hotel competition (at least not in NOLA).

Remember: your Airbnb host can cancel on you at any time for any reason. Planning your Honeymoon to Paris three months in advance at peak season? Watch out. I know lots of people have had great experiences with Airbnb, but the real test of a great company is how they handle problems and stand behind their customers, not when things go smoothly (which has nothing to do with Airbnb anyway – the host turned out to be good). So essentially, they take your money in service fees, but if things go wrong in any way, you’re on your own.