A personal AirBnB host story: a fast growing start-up and nightmares that come along with it.

This isn’t exactly development related, but I’ve spoken about my own startup experiences on this blog.

The holy grail of tech business models requires massive scalability with limited lability.

When comparing AirBnB with another fast growing startup like WeWork, they look similar on the surface, but one is failing while the other continues to grow. One of the primary reasons for this is AirBnB managed to offload almost all of its liabilities to individual property owners; meanwhile WeWork is stuck with nearly 50 billion in lease liabilities.

So, back to the story. Back in September I purchased my neighbors house and moved into it. I’m considering selling my old home next Spring, but until then AirBnB looked like the best option for covering the mortgage.

My listing: link

We hosted our first guest mid October and it has been a wonderful experience. AirBnB had been mostly easy to get a hold of and deal with, and the guests have been respectful and clean. Overall its been a positive experience; up to our most recent guest.

Bad Guest (BG) timeline

Going forward I’ll refer to the “Bad Guest” as BG.

October 30th – BG books home for a single night and single guest. BG’s profile also notes that she lives in Seattle, which is about 15 minutes from the rental property. This might sound strange, but about half of our guests have been from the local area. BG messages us and asks for our phone number, we respond that we can be reached through the app, and that if they need anything we live next door so they can stop by.

BG does not respond and we do not hear from them again.

November 16th (Check in day) – We message BG with the login code and welcome them to the home. No response from BG.

The rest of the events take place on the date of check-in so I will be using timestamps from here forward.

2:00PM – We leave for a movie and dinner.

8:00PM – We return to the neighborhood to find the street filled with cars. Our driveway is blocked and I am unable to park.

8:05PM – I notice the rental’s windows are full of Balloons. I decided to stop by and check if the car belongs to the guest. I knock and the guest opens the door. The home is full of people and I notice all the furniture is moved. Looks to be about 20 or more people from what I can see. I notify them they are in violation of the rules and that they need to move their car. BG says they will move the car, and says they will wrap the party up.

8:10PM – I park my car and go inside my home. From what I can see the guests looked to be having a quiet and respectful party, even if it was against the rules. Since they said they are ending the party I decide that I will just charge them the extra guest rate and an additional cleaning fee.

8:30PM – I call AirBnB to notify them that the guest is in violation of house/AirBnB rules. They drop my call. I call back 3 more times, each time AirBnB drops my call when “transferring” my call.

8:40PM – I finally get through to a case manager, tell them the situation and they ask if I would like to cancel the reservation. I told them they informed me the party is being wrapped up so I just would like to get an additional cleaning and guest fee. They give me instructions for doing that through the app. I slowly see families with children trickle out of the house. It looks like the party is wrapping up.

9:00PM-9:30PM – More guests arrive, many carrying six packs and bottles of alcohol. Mostly younger people in their 20s. People spill out onto the deck, people can be seen drinking and smoking.

9:30PM – I message the guest and tell them to stop the party immediately. No response. I call AirBnB and get assigned a case manager who is extremely rude from the start of the conversation. I tell them I want the reservation canceled and the guest to notified they need to leave the property. AirBnB case manager notifies me I will not get the reservation or cleaning fee money, I ask if the guest is going to be refunded, the case manager says no they will not be refunded.

Confused I ask the case manager why AirBnB would keep the money for themselves due to someone breaking policy. Case manager tells me nobody is getting the money and it is just “gone.” I decide to deal with this later, and ask them to just have the reservation canceled. Case manager tells me they will contact the guest and get back to me.

10:30PM – More people arrive; no word from AirBnB. I call AirBnB and get a new case manager who tells me they are recovering from a cold, they sound very sick, but are extremely helpful. She informs me that they are unable to find the original case manager, and are unsure if she has left. The new case manager takes over my case and contacts the guest. Guest hangs up on case manager and sends calls from AirBnB to voicemail. New case manager informs me that the previous case manager was misinformed and I will still receive payout and the cleaning fee.

10:40PM – I head next door and start knocking on the door. I hear yelling inside but its in a language I do not understand. I continue knocking and they refuse to open the door or speak to me.

10:45PM – I call the police.

11:00PM – Police arrive. I speak to them and they ask if the person has a reservation, I tell them they did but it was canceled due to violation of house rules, and AirBnB policy. They tell me I need to give them their money back. I tell them that I don’t have the money and it’s held by AirBnB.

Police still haven’t spoken with the guest or approached the house. I inform them that the house is licensed, I have a local business license, and by local city and fire code it is illegal for me to even allow parties in a short term rental or have this many people on the premises. They ask me to return to my home and they’ll speak with the guest.

After speaking with the guest they come back and tell me they can’t ask them to leave because this is a “civil matter.” The police also tell me that “99% of the people there are extremely intoxicated and we really don’t want them on the road, we prefer if they stay through the night.”

So, the police inform me they won’t ask people who are now trespassing on my property to leave, and shame me for wanting them to leave.

12:00AM – I hear banging outside and see the guests are throwing trash into my compost bins and look to be leaving. I watch as they carry limp bodies out of the house, they lay one girl on the porch and allow her to throw up on the floor before loading her into a car.

12:15AM – While loading people into a car they put it in neutral and it begins to roll down the hill, almost crushing two people between it and another car. After lots of screaming and people scrambling around the car they get it into park, blocking my driveway again.

12:30AM – Guests are blocking the entire street with cars as they figure out who is able to drive. They begin leaving; they attempt to abandon the car in front of my driveway. I tell them to move the car and someone jumps inside of it and parks it two houses down (it’s still there currently.)

12:40AM – Guests are gone and I head over the access the house. The porch is covered in vomit. Dining room and kitchen floors are covered in some sticky substance. Paintings and artwork is removed from the walls and stored in one of the bedrooms. Small stains on chairs and couch. Random pieces of trash are scattered around.

Dirty, but overall no major damage.

Going Forward

Will be restricting single night single person bookings from locals unless they have previous reviews.

I plan on getting in contact with the local PD to discuss short term rentals and how to handle situations like this. This is relatively new to the area and laws regarding short term rentals just went into effect this year.

As far as AirBnB goes, I believe this just comes with the territory. I would advise anyone looking to host on AirBnB to not attempt it with remote properties that they do not have the ability to monitor closely. Do not expect AirBnB to handle guest issues for you, you’re on your own. Same for local authorities. Until this matures more there is going to be a lot of confusion for everyone involved when an incident comes up. With massive scalability comes a lot of growing pains.

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