A recent story reporting that the District has the most spare bedrooms of any city in the US made perfect sense; DC also seems to have the most Airbnb listings, too. The startup, now worth $30 billion (!), has been instrumental in helping people monetize their extra space; I did it myself for several years, when I lived alone in a two-bedroom in Shaw, only to get hit with a huge tax bill after I forgot (okay, “forgot”) to declare the extra income on my taxes. I never had any negative experiences, and in that respect I was lucky, because when Airbnb rentals go wrong, they tend to go extremely wrong. Let’s have a few schadenfreudian chuckles at some of the most colorful Airbnb disasters from the past few years, in DC and elsewhere.
THE DUPONT CIRCLE PARTY HOUSE
The Dupont house was a disaster to the neighbors, not the landlord, who made out like a bandit. According to city records, DC police were called to this house for noise complaints over 100 times in 2015. Just one example, according to Washingtonian, was in 2015, when the police arrived to shut down a loud party at 3AM, and the Airbnb renter insisted he should be allowed to continue the party because he “was in the military.” (A sworn affidavit describing the night goes on to describe that, at that point in time, “high octane motorcycles began to leave the party.”) The owner of the house, also the founder of Results gym, made at least $48,000 a year renting the house out, according to filings connect to a charity he runs. At $1200 a night, that comes out to about 40 nights a year, which may not sound like much until you consider that those are 40 random nights when, if you live nearby, you will absolutely not be able to sleep.
If that’s not enough to turn you against this house, Ja Rule (!!!) performed at a party there. Bring on the wrecking ball.
What if your guests just … didn’t leave? That’s happened before (and is a particular risk here in the District, home to some of the strongest pro-tenant laws in the country). In San Francisco, a woman rented out her spare room to a couple, who extended their stay off-the-books by paying cash, and then promptly exercised their tenants’ rights by deciding to stay FOREVER. The host served them with eviction papers on camera, to which the guests responded by not only locking themselves in their room but also clogging her entire plumbing system. Turns out this was the couple’s M.O. – extending their rentals until they’d won tenants’ rights and then staying until the cops literally dragged them out to the curb. Doesn’t really sound like a very enjoyable lifestyle to me, but then what do I know? I don’t even have basic cable.
Of course, the mother of all Airbnb squatter stories took place in Palm Springs in 2014, when two Russian brothers moved into a condo in a gated community and then refused to leave for a whole two months. It was only after a firestorm of media attention that the squatters, who were also failed video game developers (you can’t make this stuff up), slunk out in the dead of night. Warning to other Airbnb hosts: the squatter has no regrets, and said “he’d do it again.”
THE LONDON “HIPPIE CRACK” PARTY
A London couple who rented out their luxury flat returned after a weekend to find their apartment strewn with “hippie crack” canisters (a British term for nitrous oxide, i.e. what us Yanks call “whippets”), used condoms, and half-smoked joints. Oh, and an $8000 Banksy print was missing too. The three day party got so raucous that one of the tenants had to evacuate their elderly father because he was traumatized by the noise, and when cops finally came, the only person who was left to arrest was in a literal drug-induced coma.
THE TWITTER ORGY
This has to be the worst nightmare of any Airbnb landlord; you rent to a well-reviewed guest, hand over the keys, and then return a few hours later to retrieve something you left there, only to walk in on a sweaty, in-progress orgy for overweight people. It happened in New York to a man who described the situation as “the worst part of the internet, right there in my apartment.” With a little sleuthing, the guy found announcements on Twitter for the “Turn Up Part 2: The Pantie Raid, an XXX FREAK FEST” scheduled for right there in his apartment. The unlucky host said his clothes were left “mysteriously damp,” his white sofa was left “stained” (shudder), and that, all in all, the damages totaled $67,000. (Airbnb paid some, but not all, of that sum.) The host was later evicted from the building and added to a citywide “blacklist” of high risk tenants.