When you’re renting out your property for the first time, there’s a seemingly never-ending list of things to do. From automating check-in to sorting your vacation rental agreement, you’ll spend plenty of time perfecting each and every detail for your incoming guests.
But what happens when these guests aren’t what they seem? What happens if it’s a downright nightmare?
While the majority of Airbnb hosts and vacation rental owners will only have fantastic guest experiences to share, there are some very rare occasions when things don’t go exactly to plan.
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Disclaimer: Lodgify is an Airbnb Preferred Software Partner. This article, including any claims or statements within, is solely from Lodgify and is not endorsed by, directly affiliated with, authorized, or sponsored by Airbnb in any way.
Airbnb horror stories
Although we’re not trying to scare you, we’ve scoured the internet to collect some of the most utterly disastrous Airbnb horror stories of the last few years.
Hopefully, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief reading these tales, knowing that it’s highly unlikely it’ll happen to you. And remember: if you want to reduce the risks to a minimum, setting up some house rules beforehand may save you many headaches afterward. You can download our free Airbnb house rules template in the form above or at the end of the article.
Without further ado, here are some of the worst Airbnb anecdotes we could find!
1. The flat that became a pop-up brothel
In a time-old tale of trusting your gut instincts, Colin found out the hard way that an Airbnb guest who wanted to pay cash (rather than through the website’s secure system) should’ve been a red flag from the beginning. A quick Google of the guests’ names led Colin to discover they were actually high-profile escorts who had been using the property with their clients.
Upon arrival, he found empty wine and Prosecco bottles, along with used condoms and wrappers overflowing out of the bin. He suspects the escorts made a grand total of more than £5,000 during their two-night stay in his £85/night rental.
2. The “should have known” New Year’s disaster
When Rikki Campbell booked Christina McQuillian’s London apartment for “New Year’s celebrations”, the host didn’t think twice before accepting. A few hours and a few thousand pounds worth of damage later, neighbours called McQuillian to warn her of a 100-strong party that was happening at her London home. As well as leaving a stench of cannabis behind, the partygoers also managed to rip floorboards and pull a television off the wall.
3. The Airbnb apartment turned “junkie den”
In Sydney, host Holly rented out her apartment for 10 days, hoping the money she earned would help pay off some credit card debt. After check-out, Holly went home to check on her property and do a bit of cleaning – that’s when she found out the guest had lied about the purpose of her visit.
As well as finding drug paraphernalia, drugs and other unidentifiable substances strewn across the apartment, Holly’s home had been completely ransacked with valuable items stolen, expensive rugs used as ashtrays and the only towels left behind were blood-soaked. The guest and her visitors caused more than $10,000 AUD worth of damage in total. Yikes!
4. The Airbnb Experience gone wrong
Airbnb recently introduced the music experiences concept – with the idea of bringing people together for intimate, exclusive gigs. It did not, however, expect tourists to take advantage of this and hold all-night raves in locals’ apartments.
The party in question was fully equipped with a professional sound system and even a bouncer to approve tickets, squeezing an apparent 200 or so people into a one-bedroom apartment and partying until 6 am. All while the Airbnb host was away in Vietnam and couldn’t do anything to help…
5. The Airbnb guests that refused to leave the apartment
Cory Tshcogl rented her vacation rental apartment in Palm Springs to two brothers for six weeks. The booking process went smoothly and everything seemed normal. However, they refused to check out. They cited California’s tenant rights which makes it difficult to evict guests/tenants after 30 days without having to pay a relocation fee. Fortunately, the Pashanin brothers left quietly in the night after two months without any damages thanks to a firestorm of publicity and the help of a couple of lawyers. (Airbnb offered to pick up the legal fees.)
6. Getting a bad review from a guest that never stayed at the vacation rental
A woman with 5-star reviews on Airbnb booked a vacation rental for the MotoGP weekend. The owner had instant booking activated on her account so she was automatically accepted. The problem is that she never stayed at her property. Her fiancé and guy friends trashed her house and left bags of trash and food everywhere. They even stole bottles of liquor that were hidden around the house.
The woman who booked never complained while her fiancé and friends were at trashing the house but after they checked out, she left a nasty review about her and her rental.
7. The Hangover movie set
Looking to make a few dollars during the Ryder Cup, Heather Harnell decided to rent her condo using Airbnb. Her first ever guests? They left her apartment making The Hangover movie set look tame. As well as reports of there having been around 60 people in the apartment, the host found cigarette burns throughout the bedrooms and living room, trash tossed everywhere, the TV had been stolen, and just about everything else was broken or gone. Total damage price tag? A whopping $14,000!
8. The smell of death
Owners who rented out their cabin to 5 young adults came back to a disgusting smell of death. The only thing they found to explain the special smell was 6 dead deer underneath the house.
9. The hosts who would’ve preferred their house had burned down
As many of these stories go, people who throw parties in Airbnbs do this for a reason – they don’t want to ruin their own homes. Which is, unfortunately, exactly what happened to Star and Mark King’s Calgary home when they rented it on Airbnb.
Police said they’d never seen a house which had been trashed so badly, and the owners themselves wished the house had burned down, rather than the total destruction that took place – food everywhere, occupants had urinated everywhere, and furniture such as sofas and tables were completely broken beyond repair. Police described the episode as a “drug-induced orgy” and an estimated $50-75,000 worth of damage was caused.
10. The house that actually burned down
While most of these tales come from hosts’ points of view, an equally horrifying Airbnb story comes from a former employee, who shared their experience on reddit.
“I used to work Customer Service for Airbnb. One night at around 4 am, I got a call from a guest saying that the place they rented was burning down. Twenty minutes later, I got a call from a host saying that a guest had burned their place down. It wasn’t really my job to figure out who was at fault, or even what actually happened, but one thing was certain. That place did burn down.”
(Note to any guests reading: Airbnb customer help is not the fire department. Always call the emergency services before anyone else if the rental you are staying in starts to burn down.)
11. Guest busts through the window after a double booking mishap
Sometimes guests take matters into their own hands when they’re unsatisfied with a situation. We want our guests to feel at home; but only to a certain extent. Climbing through the window to enter the property? Well, yeah that’s probably past the line.
This happened to one host who accidentally double-booked his property. When the door was locked, despite having a reservation, the guest climbed through the window to enter the home only to find another guest already enjoying the stay.
Oh, the joys of not having a channel manager, huh? You can avoid nightmares like this one by using channel manager software and never have a double booking-induced break-in again!
12. The Airbnb that’s not an Airbnb
Being an Airbnb host and owning a vacation rental can be rewarding, despite the occasional horror. Meeting and sharing stories with people from all across the globe makes the job worth it, but what if you never signed up to be an Airbnb host? Or worse yet, your house isn’t even for rent!
This is exactly what happened to one host… that’s not actually a host. A property owner noticed that his home was on Airbnb…but he had never signed up nor hosted anyone even once! This was a regular, run-of-the-mill homeowner who saw his primary residence listed on Airbnb by someone else. Imagine coming home to find guests waiting for you with suitcases in tow for an Airbnb you never were aware of? A definite nightmare!
13. Forced entry and forgiveness
After a long and exhausting journey, all you want to do is have a smooth check-in without any waiting. It’s happened to all of us from time to time: you’re ridden with luggage, exhausted, and you have to wait to enter your Airbnb. For some, it’s annoying, for others, it’s unbearable.
On a particularly dreadful and rainy day in Washington, one guest arrived at the property only to find the key was missing. After some back and forth with the owner to find a solution the guest insisted he’d find a way to enter the property and hung up; not exactly what a vacation rental owner wants to hear.
The guest decided to throw a rock directly through the glass of the back door to enter the property. After entering and, perhaps, thinking over his decision to bust through the door, he offered to pay for the replacement and went to cover it with insulating plastic the next day until the new glass arrived. A horror story with a happy ending!
Guests can find some clever (yet costly) ways to enter a property when keys aren’t readily available. Traditional keys are on the way out and automated entry is the latest trend (for reasons like this one!) Luckily, Lodgify integrates with technology like Chekin that allows you to automate your check-ins and pass off a “virtual key” to guests for entry from their mobile devices. No more lost keys or broken windows.
14. The paranoid patron
From a host’s perspective, you’re allowing multiple strangers to enter your home and sleep at your property without really knowing much about them. There’s a level of assumed trust and maybe suspicion, but what about for guests?
One guest, in particular, was extremely paranoid that her Airbnb had hidden cameras throughout the unit. Despite the hosts being live-in, her fears couldn’t be swayed. According to Reddit user HTwatter:
“She dismantled the lighting fixtures, picture frames, medicine cabinets, remote controls, etc. Edit: They were live-in hosts renting out the main part of their home. She also de-potted plants, removed smoke detectors, hid all of the refrigerator magnets, and destroyed her cell phone.”
15. The peanut butter crime scene
It’s not out of the norm for guests to leave things behind. Be it restaurant leftovers, stray socks, or sunscreen, travelers often forget their belongings causing, at most, a minor inconvenience to hosts.
One host found that a guest took this to the extreme. It was clear that the guest had been a peanut butter and jelly fanatic, as illustrated by the “gifts” he left behind.
“I get home, open the door, and as I go to close it I realize it’s a little sticky. I don’t really think anything of it at this point. I walk over to the sink and wash my hands and as I grab the knob I realize it’s covered in peanut butter. I turn around looking for additional clues and find two jars: peanut butter, jelly, each covered in their respective contents. Yes, there is some peanut butter all over the floor.” And later, “about a day after he leaves I grab a bottle of vodka from our little wet bar area. Sticky. I look at the bottle cap. Peanut butter. I look around at the other bottles, lift up the near-empty cognac bottle and look at the neck of the bottle. Peanut butter. At this point, I nearly laughed out loud because I felt like I was in a Scooby-Doo cartoon putting together clues to find the culprit.”
Talk about a sticky situation!
Owners, don’t let these few Airbnb horror stories put you off renting out your vacation home – just a very small percentage of these hosts have been unfortunate enough to have a bad experience like this. After all, 2.9 million hosts can’t be wrong about the platform!
Happy hosting and, if you have any stories (good or bad) to share, we’d love to hear them.
Don’t see the form to download our House Rules Template? Click here.