Bed, breakfast, tenants from hell: Airbnb horror stories
Jesse Tahirali, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, August 8, 2014 8:30PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 8, 2014 10:39PM EDT
Airbnb has helped travellers find a cozy hotel alternative in more than 34,000 cities since first launching in 2008. The bed and breakfast booking site -- which facilitates independent listings and transactions for those seeking hotel alternatives -- has left its 17 million guests with a temporary home away from home.
But finding a cheap apartment to stay the weekend can sometimes turn into a nightmare. This week, Montreal landlord Manon Letarte Pettas was surprised to find her property being rented out to people in town for the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival.
Her tenant, turning a profit on her apartment, was nowhere to be found.
Pettas’ story is mild compared to what a few other Airbnb participants have endured. From a squatter staying put to a “XXX freak-fest,” below is a list of the top-five Airbnb horror stories.
$3,000 phishing trip to Barcelona
Though the company takes precautions against scammers by facilitating payments and chats only through their website, some people still fall victim to phishers.
One woman thought she had found the perfect place in Barcelona, but didn’t notice when the last message sent to her came from a slightly different email address than the previous correspondences. The woman was tricked into sending her money to someone at the now-defunct domain of “e-airbnb.com” instead of the legitimate “airbnb.com.”
As her boyfriend wrote when detailing the ordeal, “Hopefully, thanks to this post at least one person will save his money while booking on Airbnb. We have lost almost 2k Euro.”
Bed and breakfast for outlaws
But even if that woman’s trip went smoothly, she might have had a different problem upon landing. The city of Barcelona slapped Airbnb with a $44,000 fine for breaching their law of having rental properties listed on a tourism registry.
Many cities don’t allow properties to be rented out short-term as opposed to a lot of listings on the site. For example, it’s illegal in New York City to rent a property for less than 30 days without a permanent resident present for the stay.
The city had been in a months-long legal battle with the site trying to get data on those running “illegal hotels,” which ended in a compromise and a new warning to those trying to book a room in the Big Apple for less than a month.
New Yuck City
But the worst thing to happen to someone renting out a New York apartment definitely isn’t getting caught with short-term guests. Comedian Ari Teman found that out the hard way by unwittingly hosting a “XXX Freak Fest.”
Teman had rented out his apartment to a man who said his family needed a place to stay for a wedding. After returning to his apartment to retrieve a bag, Teman apparently discovered a freshly shut-down adult party that had been hosted in his living room.
According to Gawker, Airbnb almost immediately changed Teman’s locks, put him up in a hotel and wired him more than $20,000 as compensation.
Stealing more than just innocence
After a week away on business, someone who calls themselves “EJ” wrote about returning home to a “death-like smell” and a completely ransacked apartment.
“They smashed a hole through a locked closet door, and found the passport, cash, credit card and grandmother's jewelry I had hidden inside,” EJ wrote.
According to the post, the horror of coming back to a gutted apartment was compounded by the renter, known as “Dj Pattrson,” sending EJ text messages about how lovely the apartment was and how much they were enjoying their stay.
The incident led Airbnb to institute a “host guarantee” insurance plan for all renters.
What’s yours is mine, forever
And then comes the case of the tenant who hasn’t destroyed anything – except for the life of the woman he’s renting from.
Cory Tschogl took to Reddit to complain about what she called a “professional scammer/squatter” occupying her apartment. She accused someone who booked her California condo for 44 days of not paying past the first month, and then outright refusing to leave her apartment.
Tschogl, who has been chronicling her misadventure on her blog, says not only has her guest planted himself permanently, but he’s been trying to extort money from her, claiming the tap water made his brother sick, and that evicting him or cutting off power will cost him money as he works from “home.”
Tschogl now has an attorney involved in the case and is trying to figure out how to get her space back.
Why you’re likely still safe
Despite a few hiccups and hurdles that have come from the service, Airbnb does have a fairly extensive safety net for those using the service. In addition to offering hosts insurance and facilitating all communications and transactionsthrough the website or apps, they also have a system to verify the ID of guests using information from driver’s licenses and passports.
Airbnb also has a detailed FAQ and help lines available 24/7 for those who do run into any problems.