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.