Disgruntled Airbnb guests are taking to Twitter and TikTok to complain about everything from cleaning fees to confusing listings. But they’re not the only ones with complaints: Airbnb hosts themselves have become increasingly disillusioned with the platform and its disrespectful guests.
On message boards and Facebook groups, hosts are sharing their own challenges and horror stories. A host claimed that a group of guests were unwilling to leave the property after receiving a full refund from Airbnb.
“I went to the apartment to check what was going on, and was shocked to see that the tenants were still in the apartment,” the host wrote on the AirbnbHell website. “They immediately called the police on me and a team of police kicked me out of my own apartment – a complete shock.”
While these anecdotes may seem like natural byproducts of the largely unregulated short-term rental industry, they speak to larger trends affecting hosts. A 2021 report by Bloomberg detailed how Airbnb’s secretive crisis team spent millions of dollars to cover up crimes and other publicity nightmares on its listings. And the platform recently introduced “anti-party technology” in an effort to alleviate the frustration of hosts with large, disruptive gatherings.
These problems raise the question: Is Airbnb itself the problem — or the guests?
Stupid string and bad smell
In May this year, Airbnb launched a new “AirCover” protection plan for guests and hosts. It promises quick compensation for hosts and up to $1 million in damage protection. And while many hosts consider this policy liberal, it still comes with plenty of gray areas.
Emily Muskin Rathner, a digital marketing professional living in Cleveland, started renting out her home on Airbnb in August 2021. He said that hosting is overall a pleasant and profitable venture, but some guests have created major problems, including one family renting. Home this June.
“They left the house a mess,” she says. “We had human feces in our laundry. They sprayed silly string all over the place. I don’t care about silly strings, but can you take it? It left scars, strangely.”
Muskin Rathner has received reimbursement from Airbnb for most of his claims. But some damages, such as getting nail polish on bathroom tiles, are not eligible for compensation because he was unable to provide documentation for the cost of the tiles. And then there was the smell.
“It really, really stunk. 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 proposition: rent out your home and make some extra money. Yet as the industry has matured, it has been met with regulatory efforts by local governments.
Cities like Denver and Portland, Oregon, are cracking down on unlicensed short-term rentals, imposing fines against hosts and requiring costly 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 hospitality experience.
Furthermore, many local governments place the burden of tax collection on hosts, not Airbnb. A 2022 analysis by the National League of Cities, an advocacy organization comprised of city, town and village leaders, estimated that 82% of cities require hosts to remit their own taxes, while only 5% of hosts require platforms.
Hosts must now not only act as full-time customer service agents and hospitality specialists, but also navigate local regulations and authoritative taxation laws.
Competition from management companies
The romantic notion of home sharing as a way for homeowners to pay off their mortgages has given way to management companies aiming to insert themselves and maximize profits. And small-time hosts can’t keep up with these corporate competitors.
A survey of short-term rentals in the UK found that the number of listings managed by hosts with a single property fell from 69% in 2015 to 39% in 2019. And data from the nonprofit Inside Airbnb suggests that only 39.1% of properties in Los Angeles are managed by single-property hosts.
These mega-hosts are able to operate at scale, optimizing everything from price adjustments to cleaning staff. Single-property hosts cannot keep, or are unwilling to deal with disturbance, and are being elbowed out of the ecosystem.