Disgruntled Airbnb guests are taking to Twitter and TikTok to vent about everything from cleaning fees to misleading listings. But they’re not the only ones with complaints: Airbnb hosts themselves have become increasingly frustrated with the platform and its disrespectful guests.
On message boards and Facebook groups, hosts share their challenges and scary stories. One host claimed that a group of guests were not willing to leave the property despite receiving a full refund from Airbnb.
“I went to the apartment to check what was going on and was shocked to discover that the tenants were still in the apartment,” the host wrote on AirbnbHell. “They immediately called the police and a team of police kicked me out of my apartment – a complete shock.”
While these anecdotes may seem like a natural byproduct of the largely unregulated short-term rental industry, they speak to larger trends affecting hosts. A 2021 report from Bloomberg detailed how Airbnb’s Secret Crisis Team spends millions of dollars to cover up crimes and other publicity nightmares on its listings. The platform recently launched “Anti-Party Technology” in an attempt to undo the hosts’ frustration with large and disruptive gatherings.
These issues raise the question: Is Airbnb itself the problem – or the guests?
Silly and smelly chain
In May of this year, Airbnb launched a new “AirCover” protection plan for guests and hosts. It promises quick payouts to hosts and up to $1 million in damage protection. And while this policy is considered generous by many hosts, it still comes with a lot of gray areas.
Emily Musquin Rathner, a digital marketing professional living in Cleveland, began renting her home on Airbnb in August 2021. She says hosting has been an overall fun and profitable venture, but a few guests have caused major problems, including the family that rented a house in June .
“They left the house a mess,” she says. “There was human faeces on our clothes. They sprayed Silly String everywhere. I don’t care about the Silly String, but can you catch it? It left weird stains.”
Muskin Rathner has received compensation from Airbnb for most of its claims. But some damages, such as nail polish on bathroom tiles, were not eligible for compensation because she was unable to provide documentation of the cost of the tiles. And then there was the smell.
“It’s really, really smelly. The air conditioning was turned off for a week — in June.”
Red tape everywhere
The early days of short-term vacation rentals offered hosts a simple suggestion: rent your house and earn some extra cash. However, as the industry matured, it was met with regulatory efforts from local governments.
Cities like Denver and Portland, Oregon, have cracked down on unlicensed short-term rentals, imposing fines on hosts and requiring expensive permits. These policies allow local governments to collect taxes and regulate problematic behavior, but they add another layer of complexity for hosts, many of whom have little experience in hospitality.
Furthermore, many local governments place the burden of tax collection on hosts, not Airbnb. A 2022 analysis by the National Association of Cities, an advocacy organization made up of city, town and village leaders, estimated that 82% of cities require hosts to transfer taxes themselves, while only 5% require the platform to do so on behalf of hosts.
Hosts now must not only work as full-time customer service agents and hospitality experts, but also navigate local regulations and master complex tax laws.
Competition from management companies
The romantic concept of home sharing as a way for homeowners to pay off their mortgages has given way to self-entering management companies aimed at maximizing profits. Little hosts can’t keep up with these corporate competitors.
A study of short-term rentals in the UK found that the number of properties managed by one-owner hosts fell from 69% in 2015 to 39% in 2019. Data from the non-profit organization Inside Airbnb indicates that only 39.1% of properties in Los Angeles managed by Sole Proprietorship hosts.
These huge hosts are able to operate on a large scale, maximizing efficiency in everything from rate adjustments to cleaning crew. Sole proprietorship hosts can’t keep up with the problem, or are unwilling to deal with trouble, and are pushed out of the ecosystem.
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