Why AirbnbHell Exists – From the Founder

My name is Dan Weber, and I’m the founder of www.AirbnbHell.com.  I founded this website in July of 2013 after I personally experienced a loss of almost $3,000 US dollars due to the senseless and unfair policies of Airbnb, as well as the incompetence of a series of Airbnb customer service agents.  The following is a summary of my own personal story:

I had been a successful and enthusiastic Airbnb Host for almost a year when a young European couple in their mid 20’s booked one of my rooms for a 6 month reservation, a very long stay by Airbnb standards.  I welcomed them into my rental unit, and spent time with them socially on a few occasions during their stay as they were trying to learn their way around Los Angeles.  My wife even sold them her used car well below blue-book value, just to help them out as they seemed like a nice young couple and they clearly didn’t have a lot of money.  Everything was going fine… until the couple left in the middle of the night without saying a word two nights before their 6 month reservation was scheduled to come to an end.  I was surprised by that fact alone, but I was even more shocked when I received a notice from Airbnb saying that the couple had filed a complaint about me and they claimed there were mice in the condo!  It should be noted that I had over 40 perfect reviews from previous guests at this point, and there most certainly were no mice anywhere on my property. According to Airbnb, their “standard policy” when a guest claimed rodents were in the house was to refund 50 percent of the entire reservation, in this case almost $3,000 USD for 3 months of renting one of my bedrooms in Los Angeles, California.

I immediately tried to contact Airbnb to dispute this obviously fraudulent claim, but I was passed around from one customer service agent to another, none of them able to give me any explanation better than “this is our policy”.  I was furious.  After about 2 weeks of calling and emailing various Airbnb reps, I finally reached a “manager” who provided me with a copy of the scammers’ complaint including a photo of a mouse they had sent.  My rebuttal included written testimony from another guest who was staying in the condo at the same time, stating that there were no mice or signs of any other pests in the house.  Thanks to the wonders of google image search, I was even able to find the exact same mouse photo that the couple had used to file their complaint… it was originally posted on a blog TWO YEARS EARLIER!  I sent all of this documentation to Airbnb and asked them to consider my many positive reviews, and that their “policy” to refund 50% of a guest’s entire reservation for a simple (obviously fraudulent) claim was crazy.  Another week went by without my claim being addressed.  Airbnb kept my last payment from the European scammers’ reservation, as well as money from my next few guests, so in total I had lost almost $3,000.

After about 3 weeks of this frustration I finally had enough.  My last message to the manager at Airbnb was “Go ahead and keep my money.  I’m going to cost your company more money than you have cost me!”  That was when I launched AirbnbHell.com – I felt that others needed to be warned.

Now, almost 3 years later, AirbnbHell.com receives over 45,000 unique visitors every month from over 130 countries around the world.  Hundreds of stories have been shared by other former Airbnb Hosts and Guests who have experienced their own Airbnb nightmares.

Our goal as a community is not to whine for no reason, but rather to warn other potential hosts and guests about the dangers and risks associated with using the Airbnb service specifically.  Some of our authors hate the “sharing economy” concept in general, but I personally don’t agree with that.  I think it’s a great thing to be able to rent out my extra bedrooms for additional income, and I’ve personally continued as both a host and guest using other services such as VRBO and Wimdu.  In fact, we have an entire page dedicated to the many reputable companies cropping up all over the world to compete with Airbnb, you may view it here: Airbnb Competitors.  Which specific home sharing company will win in the long run is yet to be seen, but from my own experience I sincerely doubt it will be Airbnb.

Looking at the larger picture, it seems fairly obvious to me that society is moving more and more in the direction of shared resources.  Shared homes and vehicles are just the beginning in my opinion.  One might ask, “what will happen if this trend continues to a point where virtually no one actually owns property and everyone prefers to travel around and rent each other’s homes?”.  On the one hand, there is certainly a strong argument stating that when people do not own the space where they live, they generally do not take very good care of it compared to home owners.  This can be seen in virtually any apartment complex in the world.  There is a reason why most landlords require significant security deposits in advance, it’s because they know there is a very good chance that the tenant will not leave their space in the same condition in which they found it.  Most home owners not only take more pride in their property, but many of them also understand the direct financial incentive of keeping their property in good condition so it appreciates over time and they can eventually reap those rewards if/when they or their heirs sell the property.  On the other hand, this problem of “neglectful tenants” can and has been relatively well addressed by the implementation of security deposits.  I see no reason why this logic would not or could not continue on a larger scale within the modern “sharing economy” so long as the exchange of funds is handled either directly between the landlord and tenant, or is handled professionally by a dedicated and ethical 3rd party company.  In other words, Airbnb’s CONCEPT is great, but their execution, company culture, and individual policies leave much to be desired.  These problems are solve-able, and I’m sincerely optimistic that sooner or later a better company will rise up and crush Airbnb, much like Facebook crushed MySpace.  Right now the world likes Airbnb because they were the first to take the sharing economy concept to large-scale, but unless they make significant changes to their policies and corporate culture, they’ll soon be replaced by one of their more worthy competitors.

Thank you for taking an interest in this issue and for supporting our community.  Together we will create a safer and more pleasant residence sharing environment for all!

Dan Weber
Airbnb Hell