AirBnB nightmare

LOOK I shouted as I thrust our phone into Eric’s face. 

She’d one-upped us.  Again.  I started hyperventilating as my brain started spinning through what this meant.  Our tenant had illegally posted our home to AirBnB.  3 separate posts with some 39 reviews from people all over the world.

We got off the beach at Bondi Beach, both grabbing for the phone.  In-between drafting a hate email in all caps and reading reviews we were getting irate.  I started to sob when I read a review someone “didn’t know if we were supposed to feed the cat”.  We had to sit down to process what we were reading through. 

Let me back up a bit to say that our relationship with our tenant had been less than ideal (which is what lead me to think she’d do such a thing as post our house online).  She stopped responding to our emails about the same time she stopped paying the utility bills that are in our name.  I had to call Seattle Public Utilities from Cambodia, the morning of our anniversary, to pay the past due payment so the services to the house wouldn’t be shut off.  She couldn’t be reached by phone, text, or email.  My parents and I spent hours brain storming what to do and to be honest, from half way around the world, our options were pretty slim.  So we kept hoping that things would improve and that things would be fine. 

She emerged back into contact in October when she wanted to see if we’d be interested in ending the lease early.  We weren’t.  We couldn’t afford to move back into the house until at least April and told her we also weren’t interested in a sublease.  We asked for a bit more information but she never responded to this email.  

It was now the end of November when we made the AirBnB discovery.  A 3 hour walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee was spent reading reviews, trying to think straight about what to do, and taking turns freaking out.  We had to process the renaming of our cat.  The 200 or so people that had come through our house and used our furniture (we had rented our house furnished).  I was cringing with the uncertainty of who all these people were and felt beyond violated.

We decided we’d try to win the war and lose the battle.  We’d learned communication with our tenant was far from ideal and we weren’t sure how much damage she would do the house if we pushed her out too quickly.  Her levels of reality were far different than ours.  We decided to wait for her to pay her December rent so we’d have more leverage and then try to get her to sign a termination agreement.

The night we got home after being gone for a year we had to get a lawyer to talk through all the details and what the next steps should be.  We had to figure out our rights as the owner versus the strong tenant laws in Seattle.  Let me say again - this was the night we got home, after being out of the country for over a year.  

In keeping pace with how our former communications went with our tenant, she didn’t respond to our lease termination for almost a full month.  We started reading more about AirBnB and realized how liable we were personally while the listings were still online.  Finally, unable to wait any longer for a response from her, we emailed her that we knew about AirBnB and that she was to remove the postings immediately or we would follow up with legal action.  It was the fastest she ever responded – 14 minutes and the postings were down by lunch. 

When she finally agreed it was the end of the month and her termination date was set for Jan 18th. 

It has been 6 weeks since we came home to this discovery.  It’s completely overshadowed our trip – the first thing people ask about is our debacle on AirBnB, not the trip or how we are doing.  On one hand I understand – the trip is a pretty big concept to wrap one’s arms around and yet the AirBnB thing is so relatable.  I’ve lost most sleep than I can count – often waking up in the middle of the night shaking with anger and unable to retreat back to sleep.  Even writing this post my pulse has been heightened and I’m shaky.  I’ve never been this upset before and the trip zen that we had has been completely destroyed. 

We had loved AirBnB until this discovery.  We had stayed in some 78 AirBnBs and though we had some of our best stays, we also had our worst with some awful settings.  When I contacted AirBnB to have them remove the posting they quickly responded their relationship was with the “host” and thus I’d have to go through her.  After reading too many articles on AirBnB and how people are doing illegal rentals, getting no coverage from AirBnB after damage, and our own personal experiences, I will be vetting future stays much more candidly. 

I thought I’d share this in part to get off my chest but also so future landlords know a bit more before leaving for a trip of the lifetime to come home to a disaster.  We know now to write specifically that no AirBnB or VRBO rentals can be used and we should have been checking these sites more frequently.  Also, a rental management company could have saved us so many headaches – and that anniversary morning! 

As my mom says:  Good grief.  

Leaving a wake

In the final rushes of trying to pack up our house, sell our cars and leaving our jobs it was hard to process what we were actually doing.  Life was so matter of fact – we had to do (insert task off to-do list here) in order to go on our trip.  And with a week between leaving my job and moving out of our house there was a lot to do and even more people we wanted to see.  What we were actually doing didn’t set in until I finished packing up our fridge.  It seemed too final having an empty fridge – with all of our travels the fresh foods have come and gone but the condiments and staples are a constant and seeing it empty hit me harder than expected.  Tears streaked my face the last few trips loading things into the truck.  By the time we drove away I was glad I hadn’t seen our cat Bailey because I would have completely lost it. 

An hour or two later I felt relieved when we were finally on the boat, surround by all of our life, having some lunch in the sun and a beer.  My parents met us at the boat in Anacortes and we set off for the Island.  Everything that we had loaded up we then had to offload at the Island and carted over to the Little Cabin.  It felt really nice to finally be able to unpack everything and settle into what will be our home for the next few months.  It was a day where every emotion was felt and there was time to process and feel each. 

Wednesday felt like the first day of relaxation we have had and we tried to settle into the Island.  Our relationship with the Island will change as it has been a place for weekend relaxation where overindulgence was acceptable as our time there always so short.  Every meal had to be celebrated.  Unfortunately weekday beers during lunch don’t seem as acceptable anymore.  And if eat like we used to over the weekend we’ll quickly balloon so we need to train ourselves to pull things back a bit.  I also want to make sure exercise stays a 5 days-a-week activity and will need to get used to fitting it in where I can instead of the early morning routine my past life.  We are headed back to Seattle to finish a few things and to celebrate Seafair but when we return next week we’ll need to work on settling in to our new house and routine.  Life should slow and we can finally realize and come to peace with each emotion as we feel it through this journey. 

Photography Class

Though Eric and I are doing our best to save aggressively for our trip so we can use funds while abroad and not for menial things at home – we have been investing in things that will make our trip, and memories of our trip, better.  One of the important things is photography as it serves us in several ways: showing those at home what we are doing, a way to remember different places and people, and without collecting a lot of mementos it will be something we can bring home with us to remember our trip. 

Thus, we have been looking at our current camera equipment and assessing our skills to determine where we stand.  Eric has a really nice camera he got a few years back but we lost my point-and-shoot camera along the way and need a new camera to replace.  Eric did quite a bit of research and we are pretty sure we have found the one to purchase. 

We both love to take pictures but what we have realized is that though we take a TON of photos (too many photos in my case) that not all of them are worth even downloading to the computer to store.  Also, though Eric’s camera is really nice, we have no clue how to move beyond the “auto” setting.  To start to solve these problems we invested in an outdoor photography class led by REI in Discovery Park.  We spent 6 hours yesterday taking much more interest in our surroundings as we tried to find things worth of taking 20 pictures of with different angles and shutter speeds.  It was a great way to spend the day as we not only learned how to better use our cameras and the areas we need to work on, but also enjoyed spending a lot of time in a park that’s close to our house that we haven’t ever visited together. 

So here are a collection of our shots that were worth uploading – it’s worth noting that we deleted hundreds of others!


It's happening!

Well we have gone and done it!  The same day my boss told our group he is quitting, Eric finally purchased our tickets.  After researching all the different ways to use miles and award travel we ended up paying around $200 for ONE WAY tickets down to Guatemala!  We leave October 14th!  

It was a bittersweet day that I haven't had the time to process.  On one hand I'm incredibly sad my boss is leaving as he's been a great mentor but on the other it will make me leaving so much easier in a few months.  I just hope they find someone soon to replace him so I can get him/her up to speed before I leave...