My story is a classic case of an extortion attempt by a host. I have stayed at several Airbnbs in four different countries, and have had unique and enjoyable experiences each time. Because of my past success in being connected to great hosts and accommodations through the website, I decided to use book an Airbnb for three months while I began my new job after college, before moving into a place longer term.
My first impression of the place was that it seemed nice enough. I simply wanted my own quiet room to sleep in with functional appliances and plumbing while I worked my full-time job over the summer, and it initially seemed on par with my requirements. Sure, the wallpaper was peeling off the bedroom walls and there was a board covering a hole in the wall at the foot of my bed with a rusty nail sticking out of it, but I felt that it wasn’t a big deal so long as I didn’t stab myself with the nail as I slept.
Unfortunately, as time went on, I uncovered a number of issues with the place that made my stay unenjoyable. The washing machine didn’t work for two out of the three months I stayed there, leaving me no choice but to walk a mile to and from the laundromat each weekend. Furthermore, the place wasn’t nearly as quiet as I’d hoped, with neighbors blasting music into late hours of the night.
Other issues included A/C that was kept at too high a temperature in the humid summer months near DC, a shower that would rapidly switch from hot to cold without touching the dial, and water pressure troubles in the shower that would essentially render the showerhead to a drip while trying to bathe. All of this was tolerable as I was not trying to complain to her too much as I desired to be left a good review following my stay.
About halfway through my stay, something happened that left me unable to remain silent any longer. The scam this host was trying to pull off on me centered around a restroom that is shared among two guests in the upstairs hallway. For the first month or so, this restroom was shared between myself and a girl staying in the room next door. I had no issue sharing the restroom with her, as she kept the restroom tidy. She moved out for a short time before a new guest moved in, and in that hiatus I had the bathroom to myself.
However, I was unaware that she had moved out at the time, and thought nothing of it when I heard activity from the restroom, as I thought it was just her. Since the bathroom was in the hallway, it was fully accessible to anybody in the home. I woke one morning to an email from my host saying there had been a leak in my bathroom, and when I went downstairs, it was clear the leak had spread downstairs and caused drywall and ceiling damage below.
I assumed there had been an issue with the pipes, but later in the day, my host told me I was responsible for the damage. When I asked the host what transpired, she claimed that I pulled up the sink plug, ran the sink, and left the sink to overflow and flood.
First and foremost, I didn’t ever touch the sink plug and there was no reason I could conceive of that would cause me to even need to do so. Second, leaving the sink on full blast and walking away in conjunction with the pulling of the plug is as improbable as it is false. What was most frustrating about this conversation with my host was that there was no discussion about the events – she simply told me to my face that she would give me the invoice.
I tried to explain to her that I was not responsible and there must be an alternate explanation, but she wouldn’t listen. She believed it was impossible that there was either another guest using the restroom (which I certainly heard) or a plumbing issue (which I experienced with the water temperature and pressure in the shower). Just because I was the only one supposed to be using the restroom doesn’t mean that I was. The myriad of prior plumbing issues makes her story suspect as well.
Time elapsed and toward the tail end of my stay, I didn’t hear anything more about the incident from her, though I did see some contractors repair the damage. I contacted Airbnb and explained my story, and they were understanding. However, since I didn’t hear anything else from her, they weren’t able to help unless she took action.
Two days before my reservation concluded, I received a request for money from her with for nearly $2000 with pictures of the damage and an invoice that she typed up herself. I promptly declined the request, explaining once more that I wasn’t responsible for the damage, and that I didn’t appreciate her extortion efforts. She then involved Airbnb, and that is where we currently stand.
In the images she provided, there is one that is clearly staged where the sink plug is up and the water is running, but you can clearly see the water is only half full in the sink (being optimistic here), and anybody taking the picture could have easily stopped it from overflowing. Additionally, there is a picture of the overflowing sink with the plug down, which is illogical because in a functional sink, the water would have just drained downward.
Moreover, while she told me she wouldn’t charge for anything beyond to the damages, she listed “oversight” from herself as a $250 charge. Not only is she using me as the scapegoat, but she is trying to profit from repairing damages that I didn’t cause.
I am remaining optimistic due to her poor evidence and fictional charges on the invoice, and am hoping the truth prevails here. If anybody has had a similar experience, I would encourage you to share it, as knowledge about how to handle these situations is one of the best tools of preventing hosts from taking advantage of their guests in the future.