Airbnb Horror Stories: What Happens When Home Sharing Goes Awry?

There’s a word that’s been used well past the point of cliché in travel, one that is becoming so threadbare it’s now used almost as a profanity among those in the industry.

That word is disruptor.

And no single force has been a greater disruptor to hotels and vacation rental companies than Airbnb. On paper, it seems like a great way to make money off an empty house while you’re away. Or, if you’re looking for a vacation, it seems like a great way to score a cheap room that won’t screw you over with resort fees and parking fees.

But what happens when home sharing goes awry? This isn’t some hotel where a cleaning crew will take care of whatever disasters are left behind. This is your home.

One horror story comes to us from the website TechCrunch, who interviewed Oakland resident Troy Dayton. Dayton rented out his house on Airbnb and was horrified to find upon returning home that his house had been ransacked, there were holes in the walls that appeared to have been created by an axe, and there were, quote, “meth pipes everywhere.”

Exacerbating the situation was the fact that Dayton soon found Airbnb basically left him high and dry. He told Techcrunch, “Here’s what I learned: if you rent out your home, there is a limit to how much Airbnb can do to protect you. It’s not their fault, but it is their fault that they up-play how much they protect you and downplay what people should do to protect themselves. At the end of the day you are renting to a stranger.”


“At the end of the day you are renting to a stranger.

Illustration by Brent Spencer.

Renters have seen the scary side of Airbnb as well – just ask tech entrepreneur Jerry Shen. Posting on Hacker News, he wrote, “I'm using Airbnb in Berlin right now. Two days ago I received a knock on my door. Turns out it was the real owner of the apartment and he had the paperwork to prove it. Fortunately he was nice enough to let us stay without compensation. When I went to the Airbnb website to try and call them all I got was a web message box.”

In response to some of these nightmare scenarios getting media attention, Airbnb rolled out a $1,000,000 host guarantee, essentially protecting hosts against damages and theft up to seven figures. But even that has left some hosts twisting in the wind, as Quantgene CEO Joh Bhakdi found out. When a guest stole from his home during an Airbnb stay, Bhakdi attempted to use the host guarantee only to find himself jumping through hoops.

“They basically dragged out the process over a month, demanding more and more ‘evidence’ (a police report, exact list of missing items, photos of damage, quotes from handyman and Amazon list price links were insufficient),” Bhakdi wrote on Quora. “They continuously set (48-hour) ‘deadlines’ for responses nearly every time I got a message, and said if I miss them the case gets closed.”

Ultimately, Airbnb closed his case without paying, leaving Bhakdi stuck with $3,000 in damages.

Have an Airbnb horror story to share? Let us know your experiences with home renting in the comments bellow. For more travel and adventure content, subscribe now or pick up the April/May issue of South magazine.