Airbnb’s Problems Are So Bad That The FBI Is Now Getting Involved

We’ve only stayed at an Airbnb once, back in 2016. It was down in Miami, for the night before we had an early morning flight to Havana. I suppose the stay was OK. I mean, the place was clean and it had what we needed in terms of 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom (it had a kitchen too, but it was sort of superfluous for our 10-hour stay). So it served its purpose. But unless I know someone really, really well, I just don’t feel comfortable staying overnight in someone’s house.

I wasn’t even super well-read about Airbnb at the time; in fact, it was the couple we were traveling with who made the reservation. It wasn’t until after our stay that I started hearing about the horror stories:

That’s on top of all the cities that have made Airbnb illegal, or have made certain rules law (i.e. in NYC, owners have to live on-premises), to help protect renters from all the ways owners have tried to work the system.

So I’ve been very hesitant to use Airbnb ever since. But now, after this past weekend, when the FBI has gotten involved in TWO Airbnb incidents? I’m staying FAR away.

Here’s what happened:

5 dead in party house turned murder house

An Airbnb rental in San Francisco being used for a large “mansion party” became the scene of a shooting, with 5 people dead and multiple people injured. The neighbors called it “the party house” and said that the owner always used it as a short term rental.

The FBI was on the scene to try to figure out what happened and why, as well as get more information about potential suspects.

Airbnb has since banned “party houses.” How they’ll know a house is being used for partying is beyond me.

She accidentally stumbled upon a nationwide Airbnb fraud scheme

Allie Conti is a senior staff writer at VICE, a Canadian-American print magazine focused on lifestyle, arts, culture, and news/politics. She had gotten scammed by an Airbnb owner in Chicago and while trying to find him/her, discovered a multistate scam that included lies, bait & switch, and, not surprisingly, no help from Airbnb. Her article about this (you can click here to read it – it’s a long read but, IMHO, pretty fascinating) was post one day and the next morning, the FBI had contacted VICE about the claims she had made in the article.

So we’ll see what happens with that.

The ironic thing about all this

The funny thing (not “haha” funny; more like, “Are you freakin’ kidding me?” funny) about this is that in May, Airbnb hired Sean Joyce as Chief Trust Officer. Joyce has a 26-year career with the FBI.

From Axios: “Trust and safety are crucial to Airbnb’s business, which essentially asks people to open their home to strangers. Over the years, the company has faced a number of challenges in the area, including guests damaging homes, guests experiencing unsafe situations and racial discrimination.”

Now, I get it. Airbnb hosts 2 million people per night. Not every one of those stays is a scam or is dangerous. People can stay in dozens and dozens of Airbnbs with no problems whatsoever.

Until you’re unwittingly the victim of an Airbnb scam artist and you have nowhere to stay in Chicago except a flophouse. Or you visit the place your friend is renting from Airbnb & people get shot. Or a video of you and your partner enjoying some adult recreation at an Airbnb is posted on the internet. Or dozens of other incidents happen.

I think Chief Trust Officer Sean Joyce has a whole lot of work to do.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

6 thoughts on “Airbnb’s Problems Are So Bad That The FBI Is Now Getting Involved”

  1. I had a horrible experience with an AirB+B in Manhattan. I should have known something was up since there was no photo of the bathroom. I could not take a shower in the horrible tub. There is no cleaning service. Never again.

    1. I had let go of all of the issues we had on our vacation in Aruba less than a year ago. Today I saw that there was a review by a host that was slanderous & false. Their listing on Airbnb said Tv’s in both Bedrooms & internet. When we got there none of these worked. We were told to go to the rental next door and hook up with their internet and they fixed the TV’s rather quickly. We did not want to go to the strangers next door and ask for anything as I had emailed prior to coming to the airbnb that we needed the TV’s in each Br & working Internet as we are both businesswomen. It started with a very incompetent manager (that lives there) not being able to give us good directions to the unit. We had called & told her about the Large Hotels that we saw when asking for directions and after driving around for over an hour and found out that our rental was within 5 minutes of these landmarks. The local told us to meet her somewhere and we did and followed her there. I’m a realtor and their directions were terrible. Also, this person did not know the names of any of the main streets and thoroughfares. Once that we had our TV’s and internet in a day or so, we were harassed & threatened to be asked to leave by this same person. I was in shock. All we did was nicely ask to have the things promised taken care of. At that point the harassment started and I asked where do the rules say that if we find things that dont work and report that we would like them to work as advertised & emailed to us that they did work prior to coming, that it was something we were not supposed to do and that we were asked to leave. At that point, I got any & firm. Airbnb called and said the owner wanted us to leave. We were shocked. We said “No we paid and we are not leaving, please do not interrupt even one more day of our vacation. I refused to answer calls from the harassing manager and three days before we left we reported gas leaking in the laundry room. The gas line was wrapped with rags. This was reported, with a picture sent to Airbnb over 3 times. Airbnb did not seem to know what I was talking about each time I called for a refund due to false advertising, harassment, safety issue & being treated. Airbnb brushed me off. After leaving the picture of the rags wrapped around the gas line were sent to airbnb more than once. We were afraid they would literally kick us out as the owner/host had been threatening to for days until I put a stop to it and told them to STOP harassing us. It was the most unbeleivable thing I have ever been through – it ruined most, if not all, of our vacation as we lived in fear of harassment and eviction (only for reporting things that were wrong and not working – in a nice way, no less). We were afraid to report the gas leak. Once we did the walk-through with the host/manager & another manager that she brought with her when checking out we showed them the rags and told them about the strong fumes coming from the laundry room. The review also said that we left stains on the linens – untrue! We actually, even though we were treated like we were treated, we did the right things and put our towels & washcloths in the laundry and left them drying in the dryer so they could fold and put away as we did not want to bow to their standards. We did the right thing. My breaking point was today 11/7/2019 when I looked at a review from the owner that was a accusatory, false & slanderous. I’m looking into all of my options. Please let me know if anyone has had similar issues. Thank you.

  2. I know we’re in the minority here, but I totally agree. I’ve used Airbnb twice. Both times I stood in the rain on the front porch waiting for an owner to arrive who was running late to give me the keys to the place. The second stay the shower drain backed up and couldn’t be used. We were only there for one night and the owner didn’t make it over in time to fix it so I had to get to my meeting without taking a shower. For our family, you always know what you’re getting with a hotel room

  3. As an AirBnB host and someone who stays in AirBnBs, I’d say that just like hotels, there’s a chance that you can have a bad experience but if you do your research (choose a SuperHost or AirBnB Plus host, look at the pictures and reviews, choose an AirBnB that sends you a key code unique for your stay, etc) you’re going to be just fine and probably have a great experience. Hosts like myself did used to be able to tick a box saying that large party’s were okay and guests could sort by this feature, so hopefully that helps give you more info and I think perpetuating one sensational story about a party gone bad has less to do with the AirBnB itself and more to do with the guests who booked it and what they choose to do there. Here in Denver there are lots of regulations that protect guests and owners.For those of us who are AirBnB owners/hosts, please don’t let a few bad apples and a lack of knowing how to vet and choose a good host and place ruin it for others. Thanks for your time.

  4. I’ve been an Airbnb Superhost for several years. I’ve been on the Airbnb Platform since 2010. I also use it many times when my family and I travel and it’s wonderful! These types of cases are very rare.

    However, I have a complaint from the rental owner side. A few months ago, Airbnb sent me a verified rental. My property manager did the check-in and then AFTER we did the check-in, Airbnb asked us to ask the client to leave. It was a horrible situation as we already checked them in. We assumed Airbnb made sure credit cards weren’t fraudulent BEFORE they sent a booking to the owner. It was an awkward situation asking a rental guest to leave after we did the check-in. They already left for the night (it was a Friday night) and we had to evict them the next day.

    I turned away another rental guest because Airbnb locked the calendar and I had to accept this guest. The worst part of this experience was that they actually fought me on paying me for the rental. I had to fight with them with several emails even having to ask to have my email sent to their CEO.

    Airbnb needs to seriously work on making sure credit cards aren’t fraudulently used before they send them over to a property owner. Asking to kick a guest out right after you check them in is NOT a viable option. I’m not sure how wide stream this issue is but it happened to me several times with them sending over a reservation and then saying the credit card used for it was fraud.

  5. As an AirBnB host and regular guest, I think that the problem lies with the concept of AirBnB itself rather than anything else. I have been on the receiving end of fraud as a host and it has cost me many thousands of dollars.

    I rent out a vacation home, a practice that has happened for many many years and pre-dates AirBnB. But I used to do it through a rental agency, which sorted any problems out, whether at the host or renter end. AirBnB has driven all the rental agencies in my area out of business so we are left with just them, and a weakened HomeAway. AirBnB as a platform has no ability to police what goes on, and doesn’t even try. My experience as a SuperHost is that it leans very heavily in favor of the guest but doesn’t follow through when there is a genuine complaint. And, with fraudulent guests able to sign up with no verifications, it’s method of doing business means that it doesn’t put itself in a position to police its users.

    Sadly, the invention of AirBnB is, in my opinion, a very retrograde step.

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