This is under “host stories” but I was actually an unwilling host. A woman named Richelle rented an apartment in Vancouver from me on a 12-month lease ostensibly for herself to live in, under an ordinary tenancy agreement. However, I soon discovered she had it listed on Airbnb (and Craigslist) as a “luxury apartment”, charging $125/night in low season, under a profile name, “Ragna” (in which she appears in disguise). The ‘house rules’ in the ad advise guests to be “discreet” about their stay. “Ragna” has some 434 reviews for other properties on Airbnb – all very likely owned by people who have no idea that strangers are staying in their property over and over again. Of course, trying to contact Airbnb to have the ad removed is like going down a rabbit hole. How it can be that Airbnb would allow someone to post ads for a property they do not own without proof that the actual owner has given permission is perplexing.
I was full of joy and hopes for the future when I booked Nadia’s apartment that she offers as “Schöne und helle Wohnung – Ideal gelegen“. I was moving to Germany for a new amazing job and made a one-month booking to have a place at the start of my contract. We had chats over the telephone and WhatsApp weeks before my trip. We talked about my new job, about holidays destinations, and about the carnivals. I was even thinking I might have found my first friend in town. How lucky!
On the first night at her place she told me I had to keep secret that I came using Airbnb. I found it fishy. During the following ten days I realised, and Nadia confirmed, that she doesn’t own the apartment and that she isn’t allowed to list it on Airbnb. Subletting and having hosts is forbidden in her tenancy agreement with the landlord. I guess Nadia loves risk, and also loves to put others at risk. To make things even more exciting, her landlord is a real estate agency that owns the whole block and whose office is in the same building. Their front door, a full see-through glass door, is located at the ground level and you have to literally walk just centimeters away from it when you go to take out the trash.
I wonder if Nadia really thinks there is a chance they won’t discover there is someone unknown living for a month there. Even though it was inevitable that I be caught by the landlord, the need to make my situation legal in Germany speeded up that process. The lovely German bureaucracy requires paperwork from hosts that have guests. Failure to complete the registration costs up to 1000€ for the party that doesn’t cooperate with the administration, whether you’re a host or guest. The landlord finally discovered the truth.
I contacted Airbnb multiple times during my registration nightmare, which lasted for twelve long days. I got answers ranging from “we only put hosts and guests in touch, and that’s it” to “here is the invoice, try to register with it.” I asked to be relocated to another place where it was legal. They said if Nadia wanted to cancel, then I could take the money and get something else. But it didn’t seem to be a problem for them that she had a listing she wasn’t allowed to have. And of course Nadia didn’t want to cancel just like that! The only moment when she wanted to cancel it and refund me, was the morning when she realised I could register providing the invoice.
The chance of a confrontation with Nadia increased exponentially. By contrast, the relationship with her landlord and neighbor was smooth and cordial. She accused me of not following the rules of the house because she says I told her landlord. In fact, it was the German bureaucracy who did, but I am happy I could have the chance to meet the real estate employee, a really nice woman. The landlord didn’t ask me to leave the apartment, but the trust had been broken with Nadia.
The impossibility to get my correspondence and the discovery that multiple keys were spread among her friends was the last thing I needed to realise Airbnb should have done something about it. A case was open and I requested to be relocated once more. All that Airbnb offered was to refund half the cost of the rest of the days not consumed. I actually only needed relocation for six nights. I had already figured a solution for later. They said with that money I could get something in Airbnb for six nights for sure. Well, this wasn’t true. The cheapest price for a night was 50% higher than my booking price. With my booking cancelled at 8:00 PM, just a morning to pack and go, and no reasonable price options at Airbnb I ended up in a hotel. It was cheaper, easier and provided warranty.