Has anyone else been sexually accosted and verbally harassed in an Airbnb by their hosts? I am a single, professional executive female who travels domestically (US) and internationally extensively. I recently stayed in an owner-occupied Airbnb in Denver. This was my first time sharing a residence, though have been renting “entire place” Airbnbs for 5-6 years now.
In Denver, it’s now apparently illegal to short-term rent your space (it’s a felony) unless you – the owner – live inside the home as your primary residence. This made me a bit nervous, to share a residence with a stranger, as a single woman traveling alone, so I specifically looked for either woman-owned or couple-owned places. I found one owned by a male and female together. I was able to Google them based on their info on Airbnb and discovered the woman was an elected official in Denver, so felt even more comfortable renting a room there.
The first night I showed up, only the male owner and his male nephew were there. I arrived about 7:30 PM on a weeknight, only to find the owner seemingly very drunk (8-10 beer bottles on the kitchen counter). He showed me to my private room (note: in the listing, they do not say that they rent out up to three bedrooms at a time in their home, and all guests – so up to six – share one small bathroom) and when I came back downstairs to make some food in the shared kitchen, found the owner smoking pot (which is legal here in CO, and they do note in their listing that they are “420-friendly.”)
He began asking me about my kids, asked to see photos of my gay sons and said he’d like to “eat something as delicious as your boys sound.” Sadly, things got much worse from there. The female owner was out of town for the first half of my stay, and when I mentioned on my second day there that I needed to do a load of laundry (access to W/D is in their listing), I was told I “better hurry and get it done before [female owner] gets back home – she doesn’t like people in the basement and doesn’t like people using her things. Just do the laundry now and don’t tell her you did it.”
The female owner did return from her travels. I barely met her for a few minutes as I was not comfortable in the home, so was staying in my rented bedroom with the door locked most of the time (there were huge festivals and conventions in Denver that week, so nowhere else to move/rent).
One night when I knew the owners were out, I came downstairs to make some food and work on my laptop. The female owner came home while I was cooking, and had clearly been drinking. She continued to drink, began insulting me for being a single mother, asked why I had so many kids, how I got so many gay kids (implying I’d done something “wrong” to have this outcome), etc.
I was doing my best to exit the conversation and go back to my bedroom when the female owner got into my personal space, said “I’m going to kiss you now,” and before anything even registered, she grabbed my face with both her hands and kissed me full-on on the lips, then began crying. I made an escape to my room, very shaken.
I left their property less than 36 hours later for good (as soon as I could), but not before the male owner (fiance of the female owner) apologized for her behavior, asked if I’d sit and talk with her and said she had just begun trauma counseling – that was why she was blackout drunk, put her hands (and lips) on me and had said so many inappropriate, discriminatory things.
I did report them to Airbnb as soon as I left. They assigned a case manager to me, and I explained how traumatizing the whole experience is, as I am a sexual assault survivor from an incident with a work colleague in 2015. All Airbnb did was to refund my stay, say they’d look into it, and then cut off all communications with me. Both my attorney and I have repeatedly tried to reach Airbnb via email and phone and cannot get anyone to address my continued issues. It’s been two months now since the incident. If anyone has any advice based on similar experiences with Airbnb, please do share.