From Superhost to Homeless: How Airbnb Left Pregnant Woman With $300K Debt


Airbnb can be great for large groups who want to rent a home, or for staying somewhere that doesn’t have many hotel options. I’ve used it on Martha’s Vineyard, on the Texas Gulf Coast, and outside of Gold Coast, Australia.

But it can also be frustrating for guests, from the cleaning fees (when you’re also expected to clean), the chores lists, and unpredictable “hosts” who sometimes drop in on their property. At the same time, it’s a big risk for owners, too!

When you rent a car at the airport, a company hands you the keys to a $40,000 vehicle and trusts you to return it and not to destroy it – and all you’ve given them is your credit card and drivers license. With a home you’re likely talking about an asset worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Avis and Hertz can afford a loss. So can the major hotel ownership trusts. The average person renting out a condo?

Airbnb says they cover hosts up to $3 million. One San Francisco host shares what that coverage actually looks like in practice, when a guest clogged a toilet and created a leak from a separate upstairs unit into the whole home – causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. After six months, they want the owner to settle for about 10% of the costs.

The owner lives in the downstairs unit with her husband and pets. She’s pregnant. When their upstairs tenant left, they decided to Airbnb the unit. They planned to start a family and wanted to keep it available when out of town guests came to stay with them. That would make it possible for family to help with a newborn.

A guest checked out early from a month-long stay, and it turns out they’d (1) damaged a toilet’s water flow valve and (2) clogged the toilet with fecal matter and baby wipes. It overflowed and ran for 15 hours before they knew anything was wrong.

They wouldn’t consider a claim until the guest refused to pay estimated costs. So they finally got costs, had them entered into Airbnb’s system, and the guest… said no.

It took 7 weeks for Airbnb’s third party plumber to visit. They had to pay Airbnb’s plumber because “he didn’t trust he would get paid (by Airbnb).”

Then they received several reasons over the course of weeks why Airbnb’s coverage wouldn’t pay, eventually offering a $6,000 settlement.

After reaching out to everyone they could find who worked at Airbnb, past and present, they learned about an “escalation process…where the host isn’t getting anywhere, and they happen to know an employee..” 53 emails later they received a”final offer of ~ $31,000.” And Airbnb removed their Superhost status.

Airbnb is, in the end, just a two-sided marketplace where they take a cut of transactions both from the property owner and from the guest. Beyond that? Mostly at your own risk, which works out fine most of the time, except when it doesn’t.

As the owner relays it, Airbnb said that repairs needed to be completed before filing a claim. And it had tobe done within a couple of weeks. That is.. not possible in this case.

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