When Jennifer Tudor rented an apartment in a Brooklyn brownstone through Airbnb, she may not have understood what to expect. Unfortunately, this led to an unpleasant rental experience for her — and for the owner. Now she wants all her money back. Is this reasonable?
This case highlights the fact that Airbnb rentals are not for everyone. If you prefer the comforts and standardized amenities and cleanliness that you can expect to receive in a hotel, you may find, as Tudor did, that this type of lodging is not your thing.
“Everyone, including the lawyer I spoke to, has said my story was the worst Airbnb story they’ve ever heard,” she told us. “The lawyer told me to contact Elliott.org. I’m sure you’ve heard it all but maybe this one will tweak [sic] your interest.”
Of course, my interest was piqued. I am always ready to advocate a vacation-rental horror story. And I have seen a lot of them, with pictures included.
I have advocated cases in which the rental had no lock on the front door and a rental with a possible prostitute climbing in the window. And of course there was the filthy Las Vegas rental that had a giant sticker on the garage door from the police department deeming the property illegal for rent. But maybe the worst was the recent case of the man who discovered, after several uncomfortable nights, that he had been sleeping on a urine-stained mattress.
But now I prepared myself to see the worst one ever.
Lay it on me.
Call me jaded, but what Tudor proceeded to show me and explain about this rental didn’t quite live up to her pronouncement of having the worst Airbnb story ever.
She explained that the place was really unclean and it looked like a “@#$#hole.” She also complained about neighborhood dogs that made it impossible to open the windows because of their stench.
The pictures she offered showed an apartment that looked “lived-in” — there were books and personal belongings in the home. The bathroom had the owner’s shampoos and other items on the shelves.
When renting someone’s home through a rental agency such as Airbnb, it is important to review the listing carefully. And review the attached photographs.
In some rentals the owners live there and simply leave when they are able to rent the place out. But their belongings stay. And in other rentals the owner actually stays with you, too.
Tudor says that she complained to the owner about the cleanliness of the apartment after the first night.
But the fact that she stayed four nights in the home without making any complaint to Airbnb was the problem.
Airbnb makes clear in its Airbnb Guest Refund Policy that if you find an unacceptable situation at your rental you must let Airbnb and the host know within 24-hours of discovering the problem.
The first recorded complaint about this property occurred after the fourth night, when there was a water pipe break in the apartment. Tudor immediately alerted the owner and contacted the Airbnb resolution center and asked for a full refund. She then went to her daughter’s nearby apartment.
The owner had the leak repaired and had a maid come to the apartment to clean up the mess.
Once Tudor told the owner and Airbnb that she was seeking a full refund, the owner assumed that she did not intend to stay for the last night. But she arrived back at the property later that day and then made accusations that the owner was violating her privacy because he was there eating lunch in his backyard while a maid cleaned his home.
Part of Tudor’s evidence was a picture she took of the owner at a table in his garden eating his lunch, and a maid sweeping the floor.
“That is a violation of privacy and a gross misdemeanor. In retrospect I should have called the police,” she told me.
When Tudor asked the owner why he was there, he told her that he expected that she was checking out because of her request for a full refund. They had a heated exchange — she told him to leave and he told her that it was his home and he wasn’t leaving.
So she gathered her things and left.
“Nothing less than a full refund would be acceptable to compensate me for the trauma and stress of my accommodations being violated and held hostage,” she told me.
Unfortunately, when things escalate to this level there is not a lot that a consumer advocate can do.
But when I reviewed all of the paperwork from Airbnb, I noted that Tudor did receive a refund from the owner for the last night, and Airbnb gave her a credit for half of the fourth night through the resolution center.
In its response to Tudor, Airbnb reiterated that her complaints did not start until after the fourth night of a five-night rental. Once the refund was initiated, the owner assumed the rental was over.
Airbnb noted that they had reviewed all of the pictures that Tudor sent and did not find that the photographs supported her contention that the place was filthy. Her photos of the leak were dramatic, but that event did not occur until her last day at the rental.
Tudor is not satisfied with this resolution and has vowed to seek other guidance concerning her case.
We have to work within established policies and regulations in order to successfully advocate any case. In this situation, the facts were not on Tudor’s side to warrant a full refund.
If you choose to rent a home or apartment, it is imperative to make any unacceptable conditions known immediately to the rental agent and owner. This will significantly improve your chances of an agreeable resolution.