No, this is not the “worst Airbnb story” we’ve ever seen

room, hotel, rent, rental, airbnb, stay, bed, desk, chair, balcony, view
By | July 14th, 2017

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Should Airbnb have refunded Tudor for her entire stay?

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  • Chris_In_NC

    2 words… unrealistic expecations

  • Jeff W.

    You cannot initiated a dispute requesting a full refund AND continue to stay at the apartment. If she had called the police, I would suspect that she would have been the one arrested for trespassing — assuming NYPD has time for such nonsense.

  • Lindabator

    I know! And her daughter had an apartment near by, so do not know WHY she was shocked/surprised at the apartment stay anyway

  • Alan Gore

    I met a countess once, in Germany. She was so much more likeable than this example appears to be.

  • Dutchess

    Wow, Tudor sounds a bit unhinged and is exaggerating to gain sympathy. She probably did talk to a lawyer, who promptly saw there was no case and wanted her off the phone suggested contacting Chris. I always say, if your stay is SO horrible you want a refund then it was horrible enough to leave immediately. If you stay, then obviously it wasn’t that bad.

  • I disagree: possibly the worst AirBnB story ever–in regards to the renter.

  • Kerr

    Sure, why not stay with her daughter the entire time?

  • Jenny Zopa

    What a diva.

  • sirwired

    I love it! She asked for a full refund, but didn’t actually want to leave the room.

    And AirBnB is SUPPOSED to be “lived in”; it’s not designed for somebody to operate it like a one-room hotel. (Though there are certainly lots of “hosts” that do so.)

  • BubbaJoe123

    Just as an FYI, the apartment she rented was almost certainly illegal to rent in NYC.

  • LeeAnneClark

    BAHAHAHA!!! I just spit my coffee. ;-) I’m with you!

  • Bill

    as unbalanced as this lw is … maybe it was at her daughter’s request ;)

  • DCMarketeer

    Or, given that this is NY, her daughter’s apartment is too small to accommodate overnight guests.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well! This one is entertaining, at least. ;-)

    Having just returned from two weeks in Scotland and Ireland, in which we stayed at four different Airbnb’s, I have a whole new understanding and appreciation of how Airbnb works, and how different it is from other types of accommodations. And especially, how important it is for renters to really grasp how it works, and what to expect.

    I won’t even address this person’s outrageous claims, behavior and demands – I think it’s all pretty obvious. To demand that the owner leave his own property is laughable by itself! The rest is just…well, I think we all know what it is.

    The LW also may not realize that Airbnb is a two-way street: property owners AND renters have profiles, and review each other. So bad behavior on either end is going to result in a bad review, and limit your ability to use Airbnb, as property owners have the option of refusing your rental based on the reviews of what type of guest you were on your previous rentals. So methinks Ms Tudor just severely limited her ability to rent in the future. And it’s not like she can just go to another site – these days, many property owners are listing their property on all of the available platforms (Airbnb, Homeaway, VRBO, Rentvillas, etc.) and they will check your profile. Once you get a bad review as a guest, you’re pretty much toast.

    I could not have been happier with our Airbnb rentals. Three of the four were stand-alone properties in which we had the entire house; one was the private front half of a house with the owners (a young family) living in the back half. Every one of them is used by the owners as holiday housing for their own extended family, and the “House Rules” (every Airbnb rental has them) made it clear that these are beloved family vacation homes that are used, lived in, and should be treated as if they belong to our own family. Yes, there were personal items throughout – books, toiletries, family photos, food in the cabinets, even raincoats and boots in the mudroom.

    Why this would bother anyone is beyond me…unless, as appears to be the case here, they just don’t grasp the concept and thought they were staying in a hotel. For me, it added to the charm – I literally felt like I was staying in a family member’s holiday home, and I treated it as such. Yes it means more work – they don’t expect you to do a full cleaning (maid service will always follow) but you gotta do your own dishes, empty the garbage, tidy up, and in some cases strip the linens and put them in the laundry room. Which is exactly what you would do if your Aunt Matilda was allowing you to take your vacation at her beach-side cottage – you wouldn’t expect it to be Holiday Inn pristine, and you wouldn’t leave it a mess when you left, right? Same concept here.

    If that’s not the kind of vacation you want, get a hotel room.

  • AAGK

    Airbnb is illegal in New York. The OP deserves to lose her money. If my neighbor had a revolving door of strangers then she would be severely penalized and I hope every renter loses every dollar and this money goes to back to the taxpayers of NY. Travel elsewhere if you can’t afford to come here legally. I would not consider advocating an Airbnb case in any city that prohibits its operation.

  • AAGK

    Airbnb is not permitted in NYC. No sympathy. If my mom broke the law I wouldn’t want her at my house either.

  • Noah Kimmel

    I never get tired of reading stories of people who don’t do their research! AirBnB divas like this (and the water break is a big deal, but the rest not so much), Ultra-low-cost airline customers expecting full service re-accomodation, name-your-own price car rental people who think pickup and drop off times are flexible, and supercheapflights.com website that used your nickname and you didn’t read, etc.

    I feel bad the OP did not have a good experience. But you have to know what you are buying. Advocates are here to help when standard policies need exceptions for extenuating circumstances and honest people that aren’t getting proper help through standard channels. It is not an enforcement agency that takes punitive damages or has any ability to force solutions on businesses.

    AirBnB is someone else’s home, its not a 5 star hotel, and it’s not even legal in NYC. The homeowner is not a faceless corporation. He doesn’t doesn’t deserve to put you up, clean up after you, and find alternative accommodations to end up with no money at the end of a completed stay.

    I also fail to see how this could be the worst ever when no one was injured, no property damaged, and the rental was completed. A little humility would have gone a long way.

  • Lindabator

    haha – LOVE it!

  • Lindabator

    Agreed – and so glad you had a good time!

  • Travelnut

    But is it on the Airbnb renter to know the real estate laws of the place they are visiting, or on the host, and on Airbnb itself to ensure they are compliant? For that, I place no fault on the OP. For the rest of the shenanigans, yes.

  • AAGK

    Ignorance of the law is not a defense. If I did not know murder was illegal, it would make no difference. If I thought buying illegal drugs was alright bc a foreign pharmacy sold them on the internet, I would still be wrong.

  • AAGK

    Even more reason I don’t want these people in my building. They do not even bother to avail themselves of the law. They could be drug dealers or worse. Who knows. That is why they are not allowed to do this. I want a safe building. If I bought a stolen Rolex, I would be responsible if the price was low enough that would put any normal person on notice. The Airbnb site in New York puts everyone on notice.

  • AAGK

    Airbnb warns renters in numerous places that it is illegal. If someone hired a hooker on the internet and lost their money, this site would not advocate for them bc they should’ve known it was a crime.

  • C Schwartz

    Airbnb is highly restricted but not illegal. The building has to have 3 or more units to be covered under the MDL restrictions. Yes there are small buildings with 2 units or single family homes, especially outside of Manhattan. Also a person is allowed to rent out a spare room provided that a natural person (i.e. Not a corporation) is present. There is not enough detail to know for certain if the rental is illegal.

  • C Schwartz

    Not certain as there is not enough detail. Airbnb is illegal in buildings covered under the MDL — meaning 3 or more units. There are buildings with 2 units outside of Manhattan. Also a person can rent out a spare rom subject to other restrictions (non rent regulated). The laws are very restrictive in NYC.

  • C Schwartz

    Airbnb is not illegal in NYC but highly restricted. Buildings with 2 units or less are not subject to the MDL. Also it is possible to rent out a spare bedroom if one is not rent regulated or prohibited under proprietary lease.

  • C Schwartz

    Airbnb is highly restricted but completely illegal in NYC. I live in NYC — and no I have never used AirBnB but the issue is in the news a lot.

  • C Schwartz

    Interesting that the lawyer did not take the case and sent it to elliott.org

  • greg watson

    5 voters apparently agreed with this ‘woe is me’ attitude…………………..I hope they all stay home !

  • Annie M

    First of all, short terms rentals are illegal in NYC and it’s boroughs so the rental was illegal in the first place. But if you stay for the entire time – guess what? You aren’t due your money back. She didn’t follow the terms she agreed to when she booked and if was THAT bad she should have checked out and gone to a hotel.

    Another story where the renter looks ridiculous, not the owner or AirBnB.

  • Annie M

    Well the owner wasn’t there so most likely it IS an illegal rental.

  • Rebecca

    The words I would choose are: poor owner

  • Rebecca

    To be fair, would you want this crazy bat staying in your home? I’d venture to guess her daughter moved away for a reason and likes it that way!

  • Rebecca

    But the owner committed a “gross misdemeanor “!

    She suffered a lot of trauma and her belongings were actually held hostage!

  • Rebecca

    “I won’t even address this person’s outrageous claims, behavior and demands”

    But that’s the fun part!

    I’m so glad you had such a great vacation. It sounds awesome. We’re going to Estonia in a few months (work conference and, really, when would we ever get the opportunity to go there?) and I’m looking into an airbnb for a few days to get some local experience.

  • SierraRose 49

    I’ve read ALL the previous AirBnB stories on this site and I agree: this was the worst renter. After dealing with Ms. Tudor, the owner may think twice about renting out his Brooklyn brownstone ever again. The best part is the lawyer told her to contact elliott.org. Even the lawyer saw through her flim-flam argument.

  • C Schwartz

    Again not enough information. The building has to have 3 or more units to be under the restrictions. The majority of brownstones were orginally single family homes that were chopped up into apartments later. Some are small. If the person had said walk up tenement, high rise, all those would have 3 or more units as they were designed for multiple dwellings. There is not enough information to call it illegal. If it was illegal why didn’t the lawyer tell the person that instead of sending them to Elliott.org

  • Naoma Foreman

    WE ARE IN PARIS FOR 3 MONTHS AT AN APARTMENT WE RENT FROM THE OWNER AND HAVE FOR MANY YEARS. SPARKLING CLEAN, NO SMOKING, HUGE TERRACE. ALL THE COMFORTS OF HOME. NICE AS OUR HOME. SO BE IT.

  • Naoma Foreman

    WE RENT AN APARTMENT IN PARIS FOR 3 MONTHS AT A TIME EVERY YEAR. NO ANIMALS, A HUGE TERRACE WITH SEVERAL TREES, ALL NICE ACCOMMODATIONS. AND HE ONLY RENTS
    TO US WHEN HE GOES TO THE SOUTH OF FRANCE AT HIS OTHER PLACE.

  • michael anthony

    I saw at the bookstore the other day that AIR BNB has started a magazine. Of course all articles wete of wonderful places. One would think this might place more liability on them, as they are giving an impression that this is the lifestyle of renting with them. I’m sure there are disclaimers, but even those can be done away with in court under the right circumstances.

  • Attention All Passengers

    I have never used and will never use any AirBnb accommodations – for all the reasons stated above. Everyone and his brother-in-law have a “room to rent” so what do people expect ? Are they really saving a bundle of money by doing this ?? Honestly just the thought of laying on a bed/mattress that is years old in a dirty apartment or dirty neighborhood is not safe…..and usually too late to do anything about once you get there (other than lose your money +++). Are people so naive to think that novice one-day-at-a-time “landlords” are going to provide good conditions? You’ve just been suckered by someone who gave up their bedroom for a few days and got money for doing it. Were the sheets even clean.?…Y.U.C.K.

  • Lee

    Well, stuff happens when renting illegal vacation rentals – which this is/was according to our NYS laws re: vacation rentals. Don’t expect these places to be up to code, representative of what is advertised, etc. Stay in legit accommodations and if there are problems, there are ways to resolve them

  • AAGK

    It’s not unsurprising that a lawbreaker, the owner, went on to break more laws. I don’t rememeber if she got the police involved but that’s more New York resources wasted on an illegal arrangement. New York doesn’t want to deal with these short term living situations. They violate leases, coop rules, inconvenience, put neighbors in danger, etc. If you choose to do business with a person with no problem breaking the rules when it suits them, then it’s unreasonable to expect they will respect your agreement.

  • Travelnut

    You misunderstand “ignorantia juris non excusat”, and you misunderstand the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law. Other posters have discussed the law. New Yorkers can rent their property on Airbnb, just with many restrictions. Regarding ignorance being no excuse, the act itself must be illegal and the illegality must be well publicized so that not knowing would be willful ignorance. I knew about that law because I subscribe to the New York Times. Most people would not know, nor should they be expected to. The NY law covers the owners of the properties, not the unsuspecting renters.

  • AAGK

    I’ve never encountered a rental ageeements that allowed subleases without approval. Every coop proprietary lease prohibits this, obv. I guess you are saying a 2 family home owner may rent out a room in their house with the caveat that the owner is there at the same time. That makes sense, bc there are no neighbors to bother and the owner is there the entire time.

  • AAGK

    Another caveat, not only would the owner need to present the entire length of stay but the arrangement may not be for a “spare room.” The renter must have full use of the entire place, and not limited to the extra bedroom.

  • AAGK

    Congratulations. That sounds awesome. 3 months is not a short term rental so that would be ok if it’s a proper sublease.

  • Tim Mengelkoch

    16 people voted “yes”??

  • LeeAnneClark

    Rebecca do it! It’s the best way to really immerse yourself in the lifestyle of the locality. You just can’t get that kind of experience in a hotel.

    There are some tricks to picking the right place…you do need to do your homework. Read all the reviews…only look at places that have lots of reviews and enough photos. Look to see if they’re listed on any other sites and read those reviews as well. Pay attention to the cancellation policy, read the house rules, look on Google Maps to make sure you know where it is. Good luck!

  • Blamona

    who voted yes?

  • Altosk

    Tudor is the kind of customer you fire.

  • ChelseaGirl

    This woman is loony. She says she’s leaving. Then she comes back and makes all sorts of accusations to the person who lives there and tries to kick him out of his own home. Now she wants a refund even though she stayed there. She sounds extremely unstable and is lucky she got any money back, and lucky the guy didn’t file a complaint about her with Air bnb. I would have.

  • C Schwartz

    Of course in NYC the laws are complicated — coops are a very different situation when compared to condos or rentals. Rentals are in two categories, regulated and non regulated. At no time can an “unhosted” apartment in a building with 3 or more units be rented out for less than 30 days. A person can rent out a spare room if the permanent resident is present and the short term renter has access to all of the apartment. Coop issues would depend on the proprietary lease. In NYC rentals one has the right to have a roommate (person not on lease but lives there and pays)… but that is different from a short term tenant (less than 30 days). Single family and two family homes are not under any restrictions — they could rent out the home for as long or as little as they like on air bnb or any other rental website. There were people renting market rate apartments and not living there and renting the place out. I know of a colleague who used Airbnb in NYC — academics who do not make a lot of money– both stayed in hosted apartments– one went well and the other was a disaster because of the host. The one with a bad experience went to a hotel.

    Hotels are very expensive in NYC considering the quality and a number of hotels have either been torn down or converted into luxury housing.

    I had other friends stay in pod hotels.

  • unbelievable. the woman needs some help, but not from elliott.com. Seems to me an attitude adjustment is in order…

  • Exactly. I love your response! last August my daughter and I had enjoyed a trip to the UK too…and had stayed in Airbnb homes throughout. it was perfect, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. No, of course the lodgings aren’t antiseptic, but that’s exactly what we DON’T want.. ;) It’s much more enriching to enjoy the company and guidance of locals who genuinely love to meet you and share in conversation. Our Edinburgh host in Scotland, Juliet, even pointed out that JK Rowling’s house was within a mile of her place. how cool is that?! Would never have known, ortherwise… so of course I walked on over and dropped Jo a note about how my mom had LOVED seeing her deliver the Class of 2008 keynote address at Harvard (mom happened to be there for her 55th reunion) ..+ ‘natch I had to gift my favorite author some PortaPocket kits so her stuff doesn’t fly off the rides at the Harry Potter parks, etc….lol! :)

  • joycexyz

    Perhaps the daughter’s apartment was not up to her standards. And maybe Mom is not so welcome.

  • joycexyz

    And surely the owner did not arrange to have a pipe break. Or, perhaps in her mind he did.

  • joycexyz

    Very good!

  • joycexyz

    Excellent answer!

  • joycexyz

    And it sounds as if this is the case. The property was a brownstone. Probably 2 units.

  • joycexyz

    I’m jealous!

  • AAGK

    You are exactly right about the law. Don’t get me started on rent control…. That’s the reason the market is so askew. I live in the village and near many academics so I do see your point. There are clean and affordable spots to just rest your head for a night. There are several properties I can think of thAt are bare bones but completely new and clean. You raise another good point, often the culprits are the landlords themselves who rent out so many short term apartments they effectively turn their buildings into mini hotels. I suppose their excuse would be that bc now that rent controlled buildings are usually mixed with market paying tenants, the system is all out of wack.

  • BubbaJoe123

    That’s why I said almost. It clearly wasn’t a room rental where the tenant stayed in occupancy, from the story, and while it’s _possible_ that this was a two-flat or single family home, it’s highly unlikely.

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