A little over a year ago I wandered into this vacation rental business, first signing with VRBO- then Airbnb. 2 very different platforms – 2 very different types of clientele.
We had our first booking within 20 minutes of going live on VRBO and within 24 hours had 2 more confirmed weeks by different families. (We only rent multi-day/weekly rentals). Now granted I was smack dab in the middle of my town’s ‘season’, but we continued to book up to capacity for the next 5 months. We spent the summer booking 2 of the 4 weeks of each month, allowing my family time to spend in our home.
The Airbnb platform was new to me and at first this was not a good fit. Being paid for my rental 24 hours after guests checked in was not conducive to renting an entire home ($500-$700) nightly rate. Nor was billing guests months in advance and sitting on thousands of dollars until check ins. On the other front – the cancellation policies that allowed guests to cancel just days before a scheduled check-in with little to no repercussion could cause the home to sit empty due to the initial turning away of previous guests also wishing to share that time period. When these detriments were discovered I had to respectfully decline doing business with Airbnb. At this time I was contacted numerous times and ‘courted’ for my business. I stood firm – the terms would simply not work. Airbnb relented giving me a 30 day prior pay out period and a strict cancellation policy to guests. Perhaps now we could do business.
My itinerary of guests throughout the year bounced back and forth between VRBO, Airbnb & my website. All my guests were kind, gracious and took extremely well care of my home and property.
Until lately ~ 2017 came in a like a LION
2 Airbnb groups back to back.
The first group were a WILD bunch.
Numerous complaints from the neighbors to the noise from the teenage boys.
I had to ask for them to keep things under control.
A broken pool due to the diving/jumping of rowdy teenage boys from the sides (pool coping broken off – skimmer broken – $400 repair bill)
Although this group partied like it was 1999 – they did pick up after themselves and left the rest of the home in good condition.
We did NOT ultimately turn this claim into Airbnb – as we had our hands full with the below folks and the husband said it was not worth the time & grief to have both cases going. Just get thru the big one and say goodbye to Airbnb.
Then comes group 2 – and Good Grief is all I can say to describe them.
I have been a landlord in my home state for 22 yrs. I have seen the ‘best’ of them come and go. What is TRULY frightening about this group is they only had possession of my home for FOUR days. And in those 4 days they turned it completely upside down.
I blame myself in the onset – the contact was very difficult to work with. After booking I sent documents for signatures and had to ask 5 times over a weekly period to have them returned. We require copies of driver license to accompany docs. It did not come – 5 more times over the next few days I reminded guest docs were not complete until the DL arrived. On the 4th day of asking I finally received. As the time for check in approached I contacted guest as to her arrival time so that the caretaker could meet up with her. This contact began on a Monday morning – for a Friday check in. No response and each day I asked again and again. I was finally awarded with an answer Thurs evening at 7pm. This inconsiderate action on her part waiting to get back with us caused my caretaker to keep his entire day open on Friday to receive them.
Upon arrival at the home on Friday at 4pm – the caretaker met with guests. He gave them their personal codes for the home. He showed them how to use the locks and then gave them a complete tour of the home answering any questions they might have. – For his services the guest gave him a score of a 3 on Airbnb’s review system. I do not know what MORE she could have expected from him – her dinner made and sitting at the table upon her arrival???
1 hour later after her settling in – I called to say “Hello and welcome to our home” and see that everything was in order or if there was anything that needed to be addressed. I was told that we had a beautiful home and they were very excited to be there and everything was just perfect!!
7pm my phone rings. “We have no power” – what happened? Is the neighborhood out? She could not answer either of these questions. I called a neighbor to confirm. The neighbor stated that while the rest of the street was in good condition – my home gave her no surprise that the power was out. She told me she was “surprised that planes were not landing on the lawn mistaking my home for the airport and runway. Everything was that lit up”. I knew then we had blown breakers. I called the guest back asking her if she knew how to flip breakers to which she replied she did. We walked thru the panel and found that there appeared to be no tripped breakers. I let her know I would call for backup and to hang tight.
Calling my caretaker to find that he was out of the area, I called upon another individual who helps with the maintenance of the property. He and is wife went over to the home and checked the breakers. They too could find no problem and at that point we called the electric co. The gentleman gave the ladies a box of emergency candles (reminding them to NOT set them on anything – to which they responded that they KNEW information like that already). As an inspection of the home was made at that time it was determined that EVERY electrical device that could be found was activated. Every switch in the home on (interior/exterior/floods), every appliance running, all their personal items plugged in- the home was completely over-loaded! He explained to them that even though there is an outlet/switch on every wall – there is no home that can support EVERYTHING in the home running full force along with every personal item that they brought at the same time. It is also at this time they he witnessed the home becoming in complete disarray with clothes, personal items strewn about, half-eaten food, dirty dishes, furniture moved and items just generally tossed about. (A stmt letter was supplied to Airbnb of his findings).
The power company gave us a 2 hour window to get to the home- putting them there no later than 9pm. However, we STILL did not know what the source of the problem was as the breakers were all in good condition. I imaged that I might have to bring an electrician in to check wiring if the power co was unable to restore power. While we were waiting for this to happen – I called the guest and explained to her that IF the power could not be restored I would put them up in a hotel (16 folks) and have an electrician work through the night to remedy. Or – they could stay in the home and ‘camp’ (while electricians worked) and I would refund their night. They elected to stay in the home. I told them then we would wait to see what happened at 9pm.
At 9:06 pm the power company restored the power to the home by flipping one of their main breakers outside the home. Yes, they had used SO much power that they blew it OUTSIDE. After the home was back up and running I was confronted by ANOTHER member of the party that I still owed them a FREE NIGHT as they were without power for 5+ hours. (They checked in at 4 – the power blew at 7 – it was restored at 9) – I reminded them of this. They argued about the inconvenience – I didn’t bother arguing back that THEY caused it. Out of the goodness of my heart I gave them a refund of 1/2 nts stay ($280) – they were without power 2 hours – they had 22 more hours to spend – that was ALL I was doing I told them. They accepted it. As they should have been more than ELATED to do so.
All was quiet through the night. In the morning I noticed that they still had on all the flood and exterior lights burning. I called and asked them to please turn off during the daytime. They said they would. They never did. And although repeated calls and texts were sent to them for the next 3 days – they never turned off any of the exterior lighting on the home or even acknowledged me. I gave up. (Fast forward to my electric bill: These guests used $110 of electricity for 4 days – avg over $27 a day in usage – comparing the graphs to other guests usage the highest we ever had was a wedding party of 22 folks at $17 a day) and the temps during these guests stay was in the low-mid 70’s – this was NOT A/C usage).
On the last night I called to wish the guests a safe trip home and to remind them about the checkout procedures list that they had agreed to and signed. They assured me no problem – we are taking care of it. I volunteered them to stay in the home til noon and they told me they had to leave at 9am to catch flights home. I wished them well – and that- I thought was the end of the story.
My alarm system tells me they exited the home at 3:39am the following morning. At 8:45am I called my caretaker to do his exit walk-thru. My caretaker arrived at the home to meet the pool cleaner in the driveway. They had a quick discussion as the pool cleaner described the ‘carnage’ around the pool area. He also told the caretaker that he was ‘screamed at’ by the guests for interfering with their vacation when he came the previous day to check on the status of a repair (that being the previous guest mentioned ‘coping broken’)
At 9:30am my caretaker entered the home – called me and said, “Oh.My.God.” as he walked thru the front door.(The caretakers letter was also submitted to Airbnb as evidence) He then proceeded to take me on a ‘virtual tour’ through the home describing to me his findings. – Including an empty left on coffee pot sitting burning on the counter.
I immediately called Airbnb – was treated rather RUDELY by a CS rep. At this point we had NO idea to the true extent of damages to the home. I was only ‘reporting’ that we had an issue. He told me that I would need to send in pictures, etc. After we had a telephone discussion he sent an email giving me a link to respond. The caretaker took many pictures, sent them to me and I forwarded to the email supplied by Airbnb.
I then called the owner of the housekeeping company. She sent a team over to access the carnage. I asked if I should come – she said, “No – it’s BEST if you stay away”. To which I took her advice. The housekeeping team returned the next day and they spent 12 hours over the next 2 days cleaning, re-organizing and putting the home back together again. For this I incurred a $600 cleaning bill. The guests were charged $280 at the booking.
Numerous more pictures were taken, statements recorded from the cleaning company owner, caretaker, maintenance man and they were all forwarded to Airbnb the next day.
2 days after that I get notice that the guest has written a review on me. Are you kidding me? She trashed my home and wrote a review? I didn’t really know how to respond just yet to this information. With Airbnb no party can see the others review until both are written or 14 days comes up if one party fails to write. I pondered LONG and hard on her review. I knew I needed to wait to write it until it could be written from a fact-based point of view instead of a emotional one. I was still very too RAW to comment on the issue.
On the 13th day I wrote a review. And I wrote a review that my MOTHER would have been proud of. It was short & to the point. I stated that due to the condition that my home and property was left in I would NOT recommend the party to other hosts. And that I had to contact the Resolution Ctr because of damages.
I was now privy to the guest review. It was short and sweet – ‘Big beautiful home for a very large guest party’. Then she proceeded to give me all 3 stars – for cleanliness, ease of checkin, working with her, location, amenities, etc…. In her notes to ME – she stated that my water smelled like SEWAGE and that she recommended that I get it checked out. And who KNOWS what she said to Airbnb behind the scenes.
I was LIVID with this review and her comments! 3 stars for a host, caretaker, maintenance man that BENT over BACKWARDS to help & accommodate her.
Then to trash my home – tell me that my water smelled like sewage- I believe the smell came from the garbage that was hauled from the home (7 trash bags full picked up just from AROUND the home and pool area). I have had NOTHING but 5 stars from EVERY guest that came through my door. I am hosting guests now that are coming time and time again. If I HAD a sewage problem I would have KNOWN about it by now.
I contacted Airbnb about this review and how it needed to come down as SHE trashed MY home and this review was unfair/unjust. And you know what they did??? They took MY review down. That’s right. They informed me that my review was in violation of their ‘terms/policies’ and that I mentioned that I had to contact the Resolution Ctr and that is NOT information that is given to other hosts. WHAT?????? That is EXACTLY what other hosts need to hear and know. WHY would I rent to someone that was not even cooperating with a host and the case had to be mediated? So now – this woman is out there in Airbnb land. No reviews – and maybe she has already done this to others, who knows. But now other Hosts are exposed to her and they have have no protection.
This is something that AIRBNB is really WRONG about – and this is one of the MANY reasons I will NEVER use Airbnb again. This is deception by Airbnb at it’s very best!
But backing up a bit before the review issue – I am still trying to get satisfaction on my case – and I am being put through one ringer after another.
Below is a timeline of what Airbnb had done to me so far:
DOCUMENTED Emails & calls relating to this case:
1/18 12:24pm – CALL – house trashed – was treated VERY poorly by MARK R.
1/18 12:46pm Mark R sent request to turn in info
1/18 1:46pm all info was returned to Mark R
1/19 10:10am more info to Mark R
1/23 8:00 am –CALL – WHY have I heard NOTHING
1/23 8:05am STOCK canned response from response @airbnb – send us your info
1/23 8:30am -CALL – how do you NOT have my info?? rwestmoreland – send it to me personally
1/23 9:05 – 9:07am 1, 2 & 3 info emails sent AGAIN to @response
1/23 9:05 – 9:07am copies of emails of info to Rwestmoreland
1/27 9:20am CALL – WHY are you not doing anything???
1/27 9:26am Richard J – send us information about your case
1/27 9:30am sent SAME info AGAIN + a Resolution form this time
1/28 2:15pm Another request for the SAME info AGAIN from Richard R
1/28 2:30pm CALL – are you people freaking crazy???
1/31 7:00pm Thank you for submitting your forms – the team
2/2 10:17pm – Another discovered damage – email, pic sent to – the team
2/6 2:07pm Lizz – You are in violation of your review – it’s being removed
2/6 6:19am ME: Unfortunate you are hiding review from other hosts -cancel my acct
2/6 7:17pm MEL: We are not covering your cleaning – send your info again
2/6 9:04am Lizz: We have final say about your review- cancel your acct & there will be repercussions
2/7 12:41pm ME: Please clarify where damages are not covered
2/8 6:01pm – ME: still waiting for a response
2/9 12:45am Give us your feedback – tell us how we are doing….. yeah – right!
2/9 7:06pm MEL– we are NOT covering your damages – you have 72 hrs to send us your info again
2/9 9:37pm ME: Have I died and gone to hell or something?
The day after the review issue I get another email from Mel; We do not cover cleaning costs. WHAT????? Why? It’s not part of the terms/policies. No cleaning is paid for if the property can be restored back to it’s original condition. Is that NOT what cleaning is??? Putting things back to their original condition? What is the DAMAGE Dep for then? Well, we don’t ACTUALLY collect any money from the guest. If you have a problem – you go to them and ask for your money – if they won’t give it to you – that’s when we get involved. This is a joke- right? WHY would a guest that trashed your home then willingly GIVE you money to clean it up simply because you asked? This is STRIKE 2 against Airbnb. The amount we are allowed to put on our listings for ‘damage’ deposit is a farce – it’s a feel-good, because there is NO damage money collected.
After that the communication just STOPS with Airbnb. And that is when I take it to Social Media. I have a personal Twitter Acct that was not tied to my vacation home. I started tweeting out photos – Airbnb got wind of it and had no idea who I was. They started sending messages to please contact them. I realized I had them over a barrel and I kept tweeting. And the requests kept coming. Finally I sent them a message so that they could contact me. They sent (what I would later discover is just another CANNED response they send to shut people up).
I waited for help, and I waited. And then I went back to Twitter and I started beating the heck out of them. My follower count started climbing like crazy (I already had 67,000+ followers) – in one week I gained another 2000 followers. To make matters worse for Airbnb I started re-tweeting everything coming over their help timeline. Folks were eating it up and we were letting them have it.
I have tweeted to various media outlets, wrote a BBB complaint, wrote a letter to my Senator (I understand there has been a special committee formed to investigate the practice of Airbnb and the consumer complaints) – and generally have been a pain in the neck for Airbnb on social media, And I will NOT let up.
Last night I get another email from them. We want to work with you. (I bet you do) – let us know what it is you want – replaced items or repairs and we want to let you know that we have received authorization to get ALL your items repaired and we can talk about those that can’t. That’s beautiful. It really is. However, they are forgetting about the 12 hours that we had to have the place cleaned up. They are forgetting about the utilities that the group blew through, or the time and expense I have with having main. man come try to fix a problem guest caused and the $280 I gave BACK to guest. Or the extra time caretaker was paid to document, inventory & take photos. They are forgetting about all the grief and time I have spent chasing this case when I should not have had to.
I have yet to respond to their email. I am ‘thinking’ on it – but I promise they WILL be made accountable for their actions and in-actions. As I am NOT finished with them yet – not by far….