40 Replies Latest reply: Mar 20, 2018 4:25 PM by hmmmm RSS

    Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter

    Contributor

      I was watching ABC News this evening and they aired a segment about a homeowner who was left with $6,000 damage to her home after renting to an Air B&B traveler. The traveler brought over 100 people into the house and used it as a party house - described as 'animal house'. 

       

      This is what I fear most for my property. I'm hoping that HA/VRBO will revisit their policy of 'no contact' with traveler until a booking occurs. By not being able to access the Traveler's rating from other VRBO homeowners is such a loss. This was a great tool that HA/VRBO provided but now we've lost its use as a vehicle to screen travelers.  The ability to text message a traveler before they book is a poor substitute for talking to them on the phone. Here's why...

       

      Phone conversations I've had with Travelers in the past have been awesome. It was these discussions that secured the booking. The Traveler liked what they heard and felt comfortable with me and what they heard from me about staying at my property. It was NOT my site that got the book most of the time - it was me reaching out and showing an interest in having that Traveler vacation at my home.

       

      Phone conversations I've had  in the past have also served to screen some very potential explosive situations...numerous bridal parties for a weddings being held near by; numerous weddings of 100+ attendees; photographers who wanted to use my beach to take photos of nude models; 20 guys who wanted to use my home as a fishing lodge, etc.

       

      I think if we as homeowners, really sat down and thought about the risk we are taking to let a group of strangers into our home for an average of 7 days, we might realize we should do all we can to screen who these people are we're letting in - and then do even more. I'm begging HA/VRBO to assist us in  this endeavor. I don't want to be watching ABC News and see a segment of $6,000 damage done to a VRBO/HomeAway property.

        • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
          georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

          May I suggest that you install exterior cameras and also Noise Aware.

          Both will assist in keeping an eye on your property.

            • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
              Contributor

              That's a heck of a way to live.

              • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                twobitrentals CommunityAmbassador

                The problem with this thought is that then we have to deal with “evicting/removing” a guest that is violating our property rules. I would rather be proactive as the OP is suggesting in eliminating the problem before it has time to occur, than deal with it once they arrive.

                 

                AND as other have said (as well as myself) I would never stay in a property with video cameras. My privacy is very important to me, including my coming and going. I don’t break rules and so these HA/ABB restrictions punish those that will follow owner rules, instead of allowing owners the ability to screen the problem guests out in advance. I believe that eventually if these type of guests realize they can no longer continue down that avenue they won’t book VR’s anymore. But, that would take HA/ABB acting in the best interest of their owners.

                 

                Many owners don’t have the same “staff” with eyes on their properties like hotels/motels and so to try and follow that model just won’t work.

                  • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                    georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

                    Much as I love you ( and I do ! ) you would not get through my front door!

                    I know you are not a hermit.....

                    There are cameras everywhere in society...

                    - Cameras are in the grocery store

                    - Cameras are in the hotels

                    - Cameras are in government offices

                    - Cameras are in hotels

                    - Cameras are on cruise ships

                    - Cameras are in parking lots

                    * A party could not and would not happen at my properties. Every property should have exterior cameras, both for the protection of the owner, and protection of the guest. It is also the right thing to do for your neighbors.

                    etc etc etc


                      • Re: Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                        Contributor

                        I agree. We have exterior cameras on the front and rear of our home, and we know when there are too many people at the house, too many cars, etc. We have a statement in red text on our rental agreement, alerting the guests to the presence of the cameras. We also have a note in the welcome book inside the property.  This is what we tell them:

                         

                        "Please be aware that there are security cameras on the exterior front and back of the home to protect the house when it’s vacant. No cameras are located inside the home, so the cameras can only see what your neighbors can see."


                        They shouldn't be doing anything on the outside of our property that they wouldn't do in public, including breaking our house rules by inviting extra people, having a house party, etc.


                        I'm going to look into that Noise Aware too. Sounds awesome.

                        • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                          sage Senior Contributor

                          Maybe it is a generational thing, but I am with

                            • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                              twomoreyears Senior Contributor

                              sage, twobitrentals -

                              I understand your reticence, but some homes have security cameras for the very reason that cathio said - to monitor for security purposes.  Would you rather they do not disclose to you that there are cameras there? 

                               

                              Just as there are a few bad guests, there are a few bad owners.  I'll bet most of the owners with security cameras don't monitor the footage unless they suspect/expect an issue or get a head's up from the neighbors.  There are only a few owners (like the one in the news lately) that are monitoring inappropriately - and those are the ones that won't disclose they have cameras.

                                • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                  twobitrentals CommunityAmbassador

                                  No, I would rather not stay in a home that has any monitoring. It has nothing to do with the owner, the home or anything else, it is just my personal preference. AND if an owner did not disclose and have a monitoring device I would probably cover it with something. Thank God that has not happened in any home I have stayed in as I am sure there would be some upset discussion if that were to happen.

                                   

                                  We each have the right to privacy and that may be different from person to person.

                                   

                                  Fortunately, my neighbors are pretty observant if anything is going on that shouldn’t be.

                                • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                  georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

                                  I am not forcing you nor my friend twobit to rent  our house, or to stay here.....

                                  and I will not take down my cameras no matter what the feedback is.

                                  I am in a position of being the representative to our town to try to help properties remain legal.

                                  Noise control, and crowd control are important, as is ensuring all cars are parked in the driveway and not on the street.

                                  Believe it or not, parking on the street is the biggest infraction.....and that really annoys and "crowds" the neighbors.

                                  At least 85% of my confirmed reservations increase the number in the group after requesting a booking.

                                  They get my airtight contract, and that plus the cameras is enough to be truthful. As soon as I accept a booking I sit back and wait for the real number of guests and dog.

                                  I also have a HUGE sign on the fence by the driveway warning that the premises are under survelience.

                                  I'm the owner- I am happy - and since it is not illegal I get to do it my way.

                                  That is the beauty of VR ownership.... they are unique and independently owned and not cookie cutter.

                                  I welcome guest who are a good match to our property and encourage everyone to read or description in detail.

                                  • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                    Contributor

                                    The cameras are there to mostly monitor the property when the house is empty, but when we started renting last year, we used the footage to review the guests' arrivals. We check to make sure that it's really mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, and the two kids, rather than ten frat boys having a party during spring break. We were surprised when people who told us they had 6 guests showed up with 9, or when they had 5 cars parked outside when the rules state you can have a maximum of 3. And we didn't say anything, mostly because as a new property we were scared of getting bad reviews that could ruin our business. But, if you break my house rules, you don't get to come back. That's my choice as the home owner.

                                     

                                    We are not creeps who sit there and monitor all the comings and goings of our guests. We have better things to do. But ours is a stand-alone home with no security guards keeping an eye on things. I have a right to know if someone is breaking the agreement they signed with us - the guests agreed not to exceed our maximum occupancy, not to bring pets, not to have a party, and that the "primary guest" will be staying at the property the whole time. We have heard stories of parents renting a house for their college kid to stay with their friends for spring break. I think most people think it's not a big deal, they're paying for the house, and they can do whatever they want while they're there, including inviting extra people to stay over.

                                     

                                    It's also the guests' choice to decide not to stay in my home if they're uncomfortable with the cameras. We put it right there on the rental agreement in red lettering so that even if they don't read the whole document before initialing the bottom of each page and signing the last page, hopefully they are at least smart enough to see what the owner thinks is important enough to make it stand out. A copy of the RA is also available to download from the reservation screen, so they can read it then and there and choose not to book.

                                     

                                    Like my parents used to tell me when I was growing up: "My house, my rules."

                                  • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                    twobitrentals CommunityAmbassador

                                    Georgygirl1955.....I am so glad you didn’t take this personal. I think that each of us has a comfort level and mine is very very private. Maybe that comes from having 35 acres with trees and plenty of other acreage around my place so I have total privacy. But, I am sure that everyone would rather have a world where guests could be trusted on their word instead of constant worry, time and money spent as many do. Love you too girlfriend!!

                              • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                feibus Senior Contributor

                                and "accidental damage" policies do not cover this kind of malicious damage.

                                • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                  susaninrehoboth Premier Contributor

                                  Guess I haven't been keeping up with HA policy changes. We can't see how owners rated guests until after booking is accepted? ABB does this and IMO, is  dumb. If so, I won't rate guests anymore.

                                   

                                  Are you sure direct text to guest prior to booking is allowed? Makes no sense. If you can text direct, you can call direct.

                                  • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                    victoriam Active Contributor

                                    The withholding of direct phone numbers is ridiculous, and does nothing to prevent "off-site" bookings.  If an inquiry comes through VRBO/HA system, they have a record of it.  If you book that person outside the system, they will know.  Even if you change the name a bit and enter a different email address than the one used for the guest's initial inquiry, they will be suspicious enough to give you a warning and or suspend your listing.

                                    • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                      twobitrentals CommunityAmbassador

                                      AND then dings our listing if we cancel because we find out after the booking and find out that the property is being used in direct conflict with our property rules.

                                      • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                        martyp Contributor

                                        HomeAway will not change its policy of keeping you and the traveler isolated prior to payment.  HomeAway has to much at stake since they implemented the renter "service fee".  Once you shake hands with the devil it is impossible to let go.

                                         

                                        As for your greatest fear:  My county enacted an extremely severe ordinance regarding Vacation Home Rentals.  When I approve a renter, I state in my written communication to the guests  that our county has extreme restrictions on noise disturbance, parking, & maximum number  night time and daytime guests.  I state that  any report to the county sheriff will result in a $1,000 fine and immediate eviction by the sheriff with no reimbursement of rental charges.

                                         

                                        It doesn't create a warm and friendly connection between me and the guest, so I apologize and explain that this is an ordinance to protect the surrounding homeowners.

                                         

                                        Marty P

                                          • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                            linky17 Active Contributor

                                            "My county enacted an extremely severe ordinance regarding Vacation Home Rentals.  When I approve a renter, I state in my written communication to the guests  that our county has extreme restrictions on noise disturbance, parking, & maximum number  night time and daytime guests.  I state that  any report to the county sheriff will result in a $1,000 fine and immediate eviction by the sheriff with no reimbursement of rental charges."

                                             

                                            Good to know and -- oddly -- a bit glad to hear.  At least there is an external, locally-enforced, specific 'protection' for you to point to, where VRBO/HA offers none ... to Owners.  Assuming, of course, that Guest understands that the $1000 fine is their burden to bear?  And how do you enforce this within the scope of your rental agreement (should you care to share)?

                                             

                                            Thanks to the unbridled efforts of OTAs to amass more (more!) 'units,' combined with the next-to-non-existent ability for Owners to 'vet' prospects: ordinances such as your county's are the wave of the future.

                                          • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                            droptop Contributor

                                            This is but one reason why cities, states, and provinces are passing or amending vacation-rental legs and regs, increasingly specifying that only rooms in a house occupied full time by the owner are can be offered as TVRs.

                                             

                                            I live in an exclusive neighborhood a block from the ocean.  Cool place, and for all of us, we find that relatives love to visit.  But I can't imagine living next door to this or any house where, each week, it's a new twist on how an owner is outwitted by a fourteen-year-old with Mom and Dad's credit card who brings some form of Visigoths, entitled teens, or but-we-work-hard-so-we-deserve-to-blow-off-steam Accountants, Engineers, Nurses, or Uber drivers, or Lawyers onto the street.

                                             

                                            While I'm not sure these kind of vacation-rental-gone-wrong stories help rid the industry of irresponsible owners, in sufficient number they can bring helpful and sometimes -- OK, often -- draconian regulation to legal, expertly run vacation rentals.

                                              • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                                timthek Active Contributor

                                                I think what this story shows is that the AirBnB and now HomeAway approach of "book now, don't worry about who it is we will cover you" -  is the real problem. I won't instant book on either platform. I ask questions, I cyberstalk wherever possible, and I don't rent to anyone who I think MAY be a risk. I don't think that AirBnB owner would have rented to a 16yr old with mommy's credit card if they had the opportunity to speak to the renter over the phone, and get their name, address, phone number, copy of their ID, etc. By trying to make VR's a commodity while streamlining the "process" you enable this sort of behavior. I think claiming this is representative of a "bad owner" is unfair. Sure there are owners and property managers who don't care and want heads in beds.....but it sounds like this was not one of those cases.

                                                • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                                  jl11 Senior Contributor

                                                  Sadly, I have to agree. My apartment is in a building occupied by full-time owners. I have neighbors above, below and on both sides. But unfortunately too many guests these days arrive with the attitude that it's THEIR vacation and they're going to do whatever they want. And what they want is not "living like a local" in a typical Parisian neighborhood ... they want a blowout.

                                                   

                                                  Not being able to screen the cowabunga crowd before booking is the #1 reason that I (and many other owners in my location) have left HA. We don't have the option of installing exterior cameras in the hallways of our building because those are considered communal property and it would invade the privacy of other residents. We'd never install them inside the apartment, so we have no way of knowing who or how many people are in the apartment until the complaints come from the neighbors, at which point it's too late.

                                                   

                                                  We loved renting to our niche ... empty nesters, retirees, professors on sabbatical ... and thankfully, many of those past guests have become regularly returning guests. But without the ability to screen guests in advance or use security cameras to monitor how many people are coming and going into our apartment, it's just become too risky to continue operating the way HA is insisting that we do now. So we've let our listing expire and will only rent to past guests or word-of-mouth friends. For us it came down to risk vs reward.

                                                    • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                                      timthek Active Contributor

                                                      There are other less invasive means of tracking guest numbers. There are WiFi devices that can track the number of guests in your home. Even your own router can give you an idea of who is in your house. Log in remotely, see how many devices are attached....usually it will identify them by name either "iphone SE" or "Jim's iPhone" if the person named their device. If you have 4 adults registered as guests and the router shows 7 cellphones connected....you probably have an issue. (obviously if it was 4 phones and 4 tablets that wouldn't mean anything but rarely do people have more than one cell phone....and certainly not 3 people in one group)

                                                        • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                                          margaret CommunityAmbassador

                                                          I have 3 cell phones with me at all times. VR phone, my other business phone, my personal phone. My husband carries 2 phones, business and personal. Many people carry both a business and personal phone. If we booked a VR for 2 guests, we would have 5 phones between us showing up on the router.

                                                            • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                                              timthek Active Contributor

                                                              While I know that is the case for SOME people. I think that the vast majority of adults carry one cell phone. I don't know a single person in my circle of contacts who carries a second cell phone.

                                                               

                                                              Multiple "devices" especially on vacation....absolutely. My family of 5 travels with 3 cell phones, 5 tablets, a smart watch and a kindle. At least.

                                                               

                                                              I wasn't implying that a router would give anyone a reason to evict a guest for over crowding, but it can give you an idea if something is fishy.

                                                            • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                                              feibus Senior Contributor

                                                              My family averages 3 devices per person... and my kids don't even have jobs....

                                                              • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                                                sage Senior Contributor

                                                                There are other less invasive means of tracking guest numbers. There are WiFi devices that can track the number of guests in your home.

                                                                If used in a VR this sounds like it may violate 18 U.S. Code § 2511. The definition of "electronic communications" is broad enough that it probably could include information that a device is connected to the internet even if the actual content of the communication is not known. Even without actual harm, it appears each guest whose use of the internet was detected might be awarded between $50 and $500, but of greater concern would be that the court might also award attorney fees and costs in a court action, and that likely would be many thousands of dollars.

                                                                 

                                                                There are many tools available to monitor what is happening in and around a property. Those who would use any of them need to consider, carefully, the social and legal implications.

                                                                  • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                                                    timthek Active Contributor

                                                                    No. That is not even remotely relevant. no one is "intercepting" communications.  if that were the case every Telecom and cable company, hotspot provider, coffee shop owner, etc would be breaking the law. Seeing which devices are connected to a network is not even something that could be interpreted as in violation of even a semi vague law. And I understand our government likes to abuse vague laws, but this isn't relevant.

                                                                    Everyone can feel free to view what devices are on their network. In fact, it is this ability to monitor a network that would enable someone to use a vaguely written law like the CFAA to pursue a person for unlawfully accessing a network .

                                                                  • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                                                    jl11 Senior Contributor

                                                                    One of the big scams in Europe is guests booking an apartment for two people - who arrive for the check-in and everything seems great - but after check-in, four, six, eight more people show up and camp out on any/all available floor space.

                                                                     

                                                                    It's a common tactic among backpackers and millennials. Divvying up the cost of the rental eight or ten ways makes for a very cheap stay and a lot of backpackers have their own sleeping bags! And the worst thing is, very often the rental payment goes on one of the kids' parent's credit card.

                                                                     

                                                                    Short of being on the premises and physically observing the comings and goings, it's hard catch this kind of behavior. Having a 7-night minimum cuts down on the abuse, but it's not a perfect solution.

                                                                     

                                                                    The best way to proactively avoid disasters like the OP describes is to be able to directly email or speak with potential guests on the phone before the booking is confirmed.

                                                                • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                                                  martyp Contributor

                                                                  EXACTLY.; Homeowners need to take responsibility.   Do a search of, Short Term Rental Ordinance.  There are hundreds of thousands of hits.  

                                                                   

                                                                  My county enacted the most strict ordinance that the advisers at HomeAway have seen.  The ordinance was presented as a means of "allowing" short term rental in residential areas where the short term rentals have not been legally allowed to operate. The county claimed it was operating a business in a residential zoned area.   The truth is that the ordinance was created, not to allow, but add regulations that were so restrictive that Short Term Rental would virtually be prohibited. When I was vacationing in the Smoky Mountains, I  heared a TV news cast with the same wording regarding a proposed ordinance in Knoxville; the ordinance would "allow" short term rental.

                                                                   

                                                                  In my county, each subdivision is its own "district".  To get a license to rent short term in a "district", a homeowner must get approval of at least 60% of each property in that subdivision (district).  You can't even get 60% of the property owners to VOTE, let alone get 60% to approve.

                                                                   

                                                                  I have seen other ordinances where a homeowner can not rent out his entire condo or home.  The only thing approved is a portion of the home AND the homeowner must be present in the main portion of the home at the time of rental.

                                                                   

                                                                  HomeAway, Airbnb, and irresponsible homeowners are killing their own industry.

                                                                   

                                                                  Marty P

                                                                • Re: Air B&B segment on ABC News told story of $6,000 damage by renter
                                                                  scowol Active Contributor

                                                                  Just my two cents, but this thread seemed to digress to cameras and surveillance. A camera is a reaction.  The objective is to AVOID and PREVENT this from happening in the first place.  Vetting significantly reduces the risk of being a victim like this.

                                                                   

                                                                  I watched the ABC news story.  Just to put this situation into perspective, the owner admits she ignored red flags and didn't vet the guest fully.

                                                                   

                                                                  A correspondence and/or phone call with some questions asking the traveler what brings them to the area and the nature of their trip is a strong start.  Next, strongly worded contracts, copies of a photo ID, and even messaging that you're nearby (even if you're not) are great deterrents.  Folks like this go for the simplest target.  Again, the owner acknowledged that she didn't vet the traveler and ignored red flags.

                                                                   

                                                                  I even try reverse psychology on some inquiring guests, and have learned a lot.... Example of an exchange 3 months ago after some initial pleasantries....

                                                                   

                                                                  Me:  So it's just you and your girlfriend?

                                                                   

                                                                  Guest:  Yes.

                                                                   

                                                                  Me:  Great.  A lot of our guests have had family and friends occasional visit the house.  Do you have any family and/or friends visiting?  I want to ensure that the housekeeper will leave you stocked with extra bedding, towels, blankets and entertaining dishware!


                                                                  (At this point the guest is hearing this from my question:  "The owners are not going to be around--it's a housekeeper only!  The owner seems to be open to more folks coming over by offering extra amenities.  They even have entertaining amenities.  Score!)

                                                                   

                                                                  Guest: Oh yes, well, we are planning to have some other folks join us for part of their stay.  There's going to be a small celebration gathering.

                                                                   

                                                                  Me:  Oh great!  Vacations are such a terrific time to bring along family and friends to celebrate!   What type of celebration?  I'd be happy to try to see how we can accommodate you and even point of some catering services.

                                                                   

                                                                  Guest:  Oh wow, great!  Well it's really just me and my fiancé who are staying overnight, but the outdoor cabana out back by the pool is where we were hoping to have a small rehearsal dinner.  It's for our wedding.

                                                                   

                                                                  Me:  Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!  Thanks for letting me know about your plans.  About how many do you think will be there? I want to make sure it's not going to be too tight of a fit for everyone?

                                                                   

                                                                  Guest:   It's going to be about maybe 15, but maybe more.

                                                                   

                                                                  Me:  I'm so glad that you let me know. The association and city law prohibits no more than 2 occupants per bedroom on the premise at any one time.  That's spelled out in our house rules that are presented at the booking window.  I'm so sorry but we won't be able to accommodate you for a stay at all.  I'd be glad to refer you to some commercial properties.

                                                                   

                                                                  Throughout this whole exchange I never lied.  I do have entertaining dishes and extra towels, etc.  But only extra in terms of accommodating 6 persons.

                                                                   

                                                                  I've learned it's not just what you ask--it's how you ask it that elicits information.