The Airbnb vibe is a friendly one; travel the world, make friends, live as the natives do. And it is true that most Airbnb stays are, if not totally successful, at least acceptable. Why stay in a mere hotel? Airbnb lists thousands of castles, tree houses, islands, villas and boats. The pictures on the website are stunning.
Let's talk horror stories: the Airbnb host who had his place totally trashed. The guy whose "guests" staged an o*gy. And the family who rolled up to a family friendly holiday house, only to find themselves in the middle of a drug den.
And let's talk reality. While laws vary across the global Airbnb network, their terms and conditions basically say that Airbnb has no responsibility for what a host posts. It could be all lies, but it gets even worse: they have no responsibility for what either guests or hosts do. Remember, Airbnb does not do identity checks. And let's throw in one more "beware" point: in some places, hosts and renters alike can be evicted for renting out their place or staying in them. So, be smart. Guests should read listings carefully, check out host feedback, and understand Airbnb fees (6%-12%). Plus, there can be cleaning fees, occupancy tax and cancellation fees (some hosts charge more than others). Thinking of using Airbnb? Don't worry, but read on. Here are 15 horror stories that will shock and educate you. Whether you plan to be a host or a guest, read on and learn.
15 Trapped, Scared and Assaulted in Madrid
Accord to The New York Times, Jacob Lopez was an American teenager on his own in Madrid. In July, 2015, he sent panicked messages to his mother's mobile phone telling her that his "host" had locked him in his 4th floor apartment. Even worse, the host was still there, "rattling" knives in the kitchen drawers and demanding that the boy submit to a s*x act. His mother called Airbnb, but the employees would not give her the address and would not call the police. Jacob claims that he was assaulted that night and that he eventually persuaded the host (a man who was living as a woman) to let him go. After this incident, Airbnb claimed that it had "clarified" its policies to make sure employees knew to call police if an emergency was reported.
Lesson: make sure you and your family have the address of your Airbnb place and be certain to note local Airbnb customer service numbers.
14 Viciously Attacked By His Host's Rottweiler
Another report by The New York Times; Mike Silverman, a 58-year-old American, and his wife were staying with a host in Salta, Argentina. He was attacked by his host's Rottweiler and landed in the hospital. And, to add insult to injury, he had to foot the bill himself. Many hosts fly under the insurance radar and do not carry liability insurance. When Silverman contacted Airbnb, he requested that they refund his rent money, together with his medical and alternative accommodation expenses. At first, they quoted their terms and conditions and said they would only refund his rental amount. But rest assured they did value him as a customer. With a little publicity, this position softened. By the way, the listing did not even mention the dog.
Lesson: ask questions, read the host reviews, and check whether the host is insured.
13 Squatters Refuse To Leave California Home
Business Insider reported that Cory Tscholgl had rented out her Palm Springs up-market condo via Airbnb. But the renters, two young men, refused to leave at the end of a 44 day stay. Easy to deal with you say? Think again. Because the renters had stayed 44 days, they were treated as monthly "tenants". That means that under California law, evicting them could take up to six months. And this isn't even taking into account legal costs. To make matters worse, the squatters claimed that they were the ones who were being harassed. And they got an attorney to back them up and threatened to sue her for, wait for it... blackmail. It took her months, but she eventually had them evicted. If you are a host, especially if you rent for longer terms, check your State law and current Airbnb policy.
12 Guest Reservation Cancelled Without Warning
Here's the thing: an Airbnb host can cancel a reservation or simply not verify a booking after a guest has paid. That's what Fox News reported had happened to Matt Lynley. The young man had snagged a job in New York and paid over $500 for a week's stay with a New York host. Messages between Lynley and the host led him to believe everything was fine. Then he learned the booking had expired because the host had not verified it. Okay. Let's have the money back he said, but Airbnb said, it'll take some time. So, the poor guy was forced to find another place to sit and wait until Airbnb got around to refunding his money. That took around a week to finalize.
Lesson: make sure you check the host's feedback that is part of the listing and make very certain the reservation is verified.
11 San Francisco Apartment Totally Trashed/Vandalized
A San Francisco woman who traveled a lot on business thought that renting out her apartment through Airbnb while she was away was an easy way to make money. So, Airbnb sends her a guest and she goes away on her trip happy. She even got nice little messages from the guest, saying how great everything was. But, when she got home Time reported that what she found traumatized her. The guest had smashed into a locked closet and stolen cash and jewelry. They took her iPod, found her birth certificate and social security card, and left her with wet towels and a trashed kitchen. A 19 year old woman was eventually arrested. This incident, and others like it, led Airbnb to bring in host protection insurance. Great. Just watch the fine print.
10 Airbnb Guest Scammed $1,200 For Amsterdam Flat Rental
In June of 2016, The Guardian reported a truly frightening tale of a savvy female Airbnb guest who had done just about all the right things, but still had been scammed out of some $1,200. Fraudsters had stolen a real Airbnb listing of an Amsterdam flat, changed its details, and set up a fake homepage. She was not dealing with Airbnb at all, but rather with a site set up by clever scam artists. There was no flat. What she thought was Airbnb had directed her to pay the money directly into a bank account. She thought it unusual, but went ahead and paid the money.
Lesson: never, ever pay otherwise than through the Airbnb internal payment system. Otherwise, Airbnb has no responsibility to refund your payment.
9 The Funny Man, The O*gy and The Law Suits
New York comedian Ari Teman went on Airbnb and rented out his garden apartment in the Chelsea district of Manhattan. According to The Daily Mail, it turned out that his "guests" staged an o*gy. It was dubbed a "Freak Fest o*gy" and had been advertised online. He came back to his apartment to find all the usual signs of "activity" and a trashed apartment. And to make matters even worse, Teman was promptly evicted from his leased apartment and became homeless. The o*gy, which had nothing to do with him, put him on a blacklist and most brokers refused to deal with him. Airbnb eventually paid him around $60,000. That's great, but all he wanted was a new home. So he did the American thing and sued his condo association.
Lesson: make sure Airbnb guests have been Verified through the site. Hosts can insist on this.
8 Wow! Great Pictures. Pity They Are Fakes
Ripoffreport.com reported the sad tale of an Airbnb guest who, based on the pictures a host posted, thought he was renting a stylish Chicago furnished loft with a kitchen at a price of $49 a night. According to him, when he got there, the place was nothing like the pictures. It was in a rundown area and offered a stained couch, no kitchen, and (rather importantly) no door. He complained to Airbnb, but only got back less than half of the $350 he had forked out.
Let's go back to the terms and conditions: Airbnb has no responsibility for what hosts post. So what to do? The site does offer a professional photography service, whose pictures are watermarked "Airbnb". Look for those in listings. Plus, always, always check the reviews and be wary of new hosts without a track record.
7 The Airbnb Apartment And "The Scene"
The Daily Mail loved this story; a pretty, blonde, 20-something Manhattan professional rented out her Midtown Manhattan apartment for what she was told was a military person's R&R, only to find that a prostitute was using it as a brothel. Apparently, escort agencies find such arrangements cheaper than hotels. Besides, private apartments are discreet, far away from the prying eyes of hotel staff. The host, one Jessica Penzari, also discovered that the police had been called to her apartment. Seems a disagreement between the working girl and her punter led to the girl being slashed. Airbnb, stung by a string of bad stories, put Jessica up in a swanky hotel, paid for cleaning and new linens. Remember: get IDs Verified. And it's probably a good idea to only rent to Airbnb guests with good reviews on the site.
6 The One About The Security Camera And The N*ked Lady
Okay. You're a German woman who wants to have a nice romantic Christmas Holiday break with your significant other. Go on Airbnb, find and rent a great place in sunny California, and then go to have a good time. That's what Yvonne Schumacher did. So, she and her partner did what you would do when you are alone. Only thing is, three days into the stay, Yvonne notice a blinking light behind some candles in the living room. What was it? It was a remotely controlled security camera. She did what any self-respecting person would do. She left the apartment and sued Airbnb. So, what does Airbnb do? It posts a "suggestion" to hosts: if you have security cameras, you should tell guests.
Lesson: always ask the host and get it verified in writing.
5 The American, The Flat in Berlin and The Angry Russian
According to Fox News, an American man decided to rent a flat in Berlin through Airbnb. Money paid, reservation verified and everything seems fine. Only problem is that the person who rented it out wasn't the owner. The guest moved in and everything seemed okay. Then one day, there is a heavy rap at the door. Turns out it's a rather large Russian man demanding to know why the man is in his flat. He's even got the paperwork to prove ownership. The guest said afterwards it was like being in a bad 80s movie. But his story had a kind of happy ending. The good news: the Russian let him stay. The bad news: he only got a voicemail at Airbnb. Always, always check the ratings for a place you plan to rent on the Airbnb site. The more of a history there is, the better.
4 Out On The Streets: The One About The Illegal Airbnb Rental
A guy rents an apartment in New York or Berlin through Airbnb and is evicted. A tenant in San Francisco rented out his place via Airbnb and ended up on the street. Maybe it's because Berlin thinks that short term Airbnb rentals are bad for property prices and they move to stop the activity. Or it could be that New York laws forbid short term rentals of apartments. If you are part of a condo association, there could be prohibitions on short term rentals. Ditto if you have a lease. Airbnb says it's up to hosts, to make certain they are compliant with local rules and regulations. What can happen? Eviction is the word for it. There are too many horror stories of guests and hosts being evicted. Make certain it is all legal and above board.
3 The Shining: Meth Pipes and Axe Marks On A Door
Troy Dayton rented out his Oakland, California, place via Airbnb. When he got back to his place, he told Tech Crunch, "There were meth pipes everywhere," holes had been battered into his closet, and there were scary axe marks on his closet door. Like something out of The Shining. There was literally thousands of dollars of damage. And to add insult to injury, they had taken his computer and his birth certificate. Turns out the guest was a meth addict with a stolen identity. Dayton's advice was simple: check IDs and phone numbers to make sure the guests are genuine. Airbnb gave him 21 free days and Dayton seemed happy enough with the outcome.
2 The Drunk Host, The Weird Text and The Freaked Guests
Sometimes hosts rent out places when they are away on vacation or for work. It didn't work out so well for Joseph Velardo and Robyn Finger. They rented a home in the Hampton Bays for a weekend of fun and sun. In the dead of night, they received a bizarre text from the owner. Then 45 minutes later, he showed up very drunk and just let himself into the house. Robyn stayed upstairs and Joseph eventually talked the guy into going, but Robyn and Joseph were so spooked that they left the place at 4:00am. After being contacted by the media, Airbnb pulled the listing.
Lesson: always complain if things are not right. It keeps Airbnb accountable.
1 The Absent Host, The Dead Drag Artist and The Spooked Guests
Jordan Ruttenberg and his friend Connor, snagged a sweet deal by way of a bargain of a summer rental in a cool part of Brooklyn. Reportedly, they never even met their female host. But then Connor checked their host's Facebook page and started seeing encouraging messages, like "hang in there". Then the absent host died in the hospital, and Jordan has said it was kind of weird in the place after that. No one even came to collect her things.
Then Newsweek reported the story of a Japanese tourist who was renting a room from San Francisco drag star Arturo Galster, when she found him collapsed on the floor. She ran into the street and with very little English, managed to get a neighbor to call an ambulance. Arturo later died and the shattered guest left, leaving the keys with a neighbor.