Illegal Properties, Two Weeks of Waiting for Airbnb

I’m currently dealing with a case where the host is breaking Vancouver’s strict Airbnb laws. All four of her units use expired business licenses. I don’t understand how Airbnb can force their guests to stay at illegal rentals, let alone expect them to go forward with their international travel plans with no resolution to their issue.

I have contacted Airbnb customer support countless times over the last week with no one being of the “correct department” or training to actually just take the moment to call the city of Vancouver and verify their laws. The host is also deceptively listing the units as apartments rather than what it actually is: a house split up into four Airbnb properties. She has no exterior photos and you only find out once you book the unit.

This breaks Vancouver’s strict short term and long term rental laws as it’s not her principal residence. You also cannot rent multiple portions of one home at the same time on Airbnb. Also without a private entrance I don’t see how these units can be safe during COVID-19, especially for someone going through quarantine. Two weeks of waiting for someone to call me back and my trip is now three days away.

Bad First Time Experience in Vancouver

My husband and I planned a vacation to Vancouver in August 2016. We had never gone the Airbnb route, but knew friends who had good experiences. We decided to book a studio apartment in the heart of Yaletown. This was in May 2016. Reviews for this place were excellent. The pre-booking responsiveness from the host was very good. As soon as she had our booking, everything went downhill. After the booking, I tried contacting the host, as I had a couple of questions about the unit. No response, even though I tried contacting the host via Airbnb messaging, email, and telephone (left messages).

A month later, I really began to question if we did the right thing. You really shouldn’t have to worry about this stuff when you’re planning a vacation. I tried calling the host again, but this time did a *67 so that my telephone number would be blocked. Sure enough, the host answered. She was in Costa Rica for a vacation, and said she answered because a “weird number showed up.” I told her I had been concerned because I hadn’t heard from her in a month and that I was relieved to talk to her. She apologized and said everything was fine and not to worry; we could meet up at the Starbucks at the bottom of her building at a specified time. Everything seemed good.

In August 2016, a week before our stay, I tried contacting the host to see if we could meet a bit earlier (flight issue). Again, there was no response, even with follow-up Airbnb messaging, email, and phone message. I contacted Airbnb the night before we were scheduled to arrive. They said they would help us find alternate accommodation if there was a problem. We arrived at the meeting spot, not knowing if the host was even going to show up. Fortunately, she did, and apologized, saying that she had been very busy. At this point, I was just relieved to see her and just wanted to get to the unit. She gave us the keys, did not come up to show us anything, and said she had Apple TV only, not cable (as specified in her ad). This was not a big deal, as we were on vacation and probably only going to watch TV in the morning or late at night. We told her we didn’t have any experience with Apple TV, and she said, “Just play with it. It’s really easy.”

Thankfully, the unit was okay, but it could have used more cleaning in some areas. There was salt all over one part of the kitchen counter, the top of the fridge was very dirty (only noticed because we were placing something there), the microwave oven was very dirty on the inside, and there were leftover items in the fridge from previous guests (not perishables, but used bottles, etc). The place also hadn’t been dusted in a long time. Thankfully, the bathroom was clean and the sheets had been changed. Even though I didn’t think I should have to do this, I did a quick clean of the place, as we were going to be there for a week. Not a huge deal, as the place was small, but guests should show up to a clean place: that should be a given. My husband spent about an hour and a half figuring out how the Apple TV worked. Of course these things are easy when you know what to do. All was good.

After about three days, the Internet and Apple TV died. We figured it was temporary, but after half a day, I contacted the Internet provider, and they told me the host didn’t pay her bill. Really? I was surprised they even disclosed that information to me. We had to play the contact-the-host game again, which I knew was not going to be fun, based on our past experience with her. No response, but no surprise. The next day, we contacted Airbnb to let them know about the host’s lack of responsiveness and the Internet issue. They also couldn’t get in touch with the host, and offered to find us new accommodations (including hotels). It was very late in the evening, and they couldn’t find a reasonably priced hotel in the area where we were staying.

We wanted to stay in the Yaletown neighbourhood, as we were vacationing with relatives, who had booked a hotel a couple of blocks from our unit. We were also concerned for the next guest, who was slated to arrive right after us. Airbnb told us that if they didn’t hear from the host within a specified time, they would find alternate arrangements for the next guest. This was communicated to the host, and all of a sudden she got back to us the next day. I suspect the only reason this happened is because she was afraid of losing the next week’s business. She apologized again, said it was a billing glitch, and that it would be resolved quickly. Thankfully, it was resolved within 24 hours. By that point, we had spent so much time and energy dealing with this that we decided to just stay put. We really didn’t want to use up more vacation time dealing with all this by moving to another place. Airbnb ended up crediting us $250 for our trouble.

In my post-stay review, I didn’t go into details, but said that the host’s post-booking responsiveness was terrible, and that, for that reason alone, I would not book that unit again. The host is then allowed to comment on your review. In a nutshell, she said she was troubled by my review, that the key passing went fine, and that I must’ve been a little worried about the check-in process and lack of concierge to check us in. Really? She didn’t get it at all. We were never worried about the check-in process. It was the lack of responsiveness that caused us issues. I don’t understand all the great guest reviews. Maybe we were just unlucky, or maybe people who had issues don’t post reviews, as it’s always more difficult to post a negative review after you’ve met the host, especially if the person is nice. If someone wants to be in the Airbnb rental business, getting back to guests on a timely basis is really important in my book. Not sure if we would go the Airbnb route again. Maybe we’d try it again if we were going somewhere nearby for a couple of days, but only with a backup plan.