Airbnb accused of failing to close 'dangerous loopholes' after guest finds corpse in garden

Since company 'doesn’t require any ID other than an email address and phone number, anyone could be your host', says travel blogger

Harriet Agerholm
Sunday 10 December 2017 13:11 GMT
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Only last week, reports surfaced of a woman holding AirBnB accountable for an alleged assault
Only last week, reports surfaced of a woman holding AirBnB accountable for an alleged assault (Reuters)

Airbnb has been accused of failing to close “multiple dangerous loopholes” leaving holidaymakers vulnerable to scams and placing them in potentially dangerous situations.

Up to 5.6 million visits turned into "problem stays" last year, according to new analysis, which also found the most common issue was hosts cancelling at the last minute.

A travel blog looked at more than 1,000 “horror stories” from Airbnb stays. Among the worst was was a guest being held hostage and sexually assaulted by a host.

In another incident last year, a group of young friends who rented a home in a Paris suburb were shocked to discover the badly decomposed body of a woman at the bottom of the garden.

Travel blog Asher & Lyric said representatives of the lettings company told them “the number of problem Airbnb stays is between 3 percent and 7 percent”. With 80 million trips completed on the website last year, between 2 and 5.6 million stays ended in disappointment.

A spokesman for the company said these were not official statistics, but was not immediately able to provide accurate figures to The Independent.

Asher Fergusson, who runs the blog, said: "Since Airbnb doesn’t require any ID other than an email address and phone number, anyone could be your host. They don’t even require real names or profile photos.

"This means you could end up staying with a convicted felon, a registered sex offender, a thief, or a conniving scam artist."

To discover the most common problems guests were experiencing, the Mr Fergusson and two researchers examined 839 online reviews.

In 20.5 percent of cases, guests complained their hosts cancelled their stay less than 24 hours before a booking, or never showed up to let them in. This could be connected to a scam where a host has multiple listings at different prices and cancels the lower price, the blog said.

In another 15 percent of cases, guests complained about scams where hosts demanded more money from them, set up fake emails to take bookings or falsified damages after guests had left.

Other problems included properties not appearing as advertised, fake listings or hosts discriminating against their guests because of their race or sexual orientation.

Airbnb said it takes safety seriously and accused Mr Fergusson of making false claims because his blog is is partly funded by TripAdvisor.

"It's no surprise that someone who makes money from our competitors is smearing our community and making false claims about us, our hosts and our guests," a spokesperson said.

"There have been more than 260 million guest arrivals in Airbnb listings to date and negative incidents are extremely rare but when they do arise, we work hard to make things right.

"Plain and simple, the stats they cite aren't statistically significant, nor are they accurate, and the claims are misrepresented and flat-out false. Building a safe and trusted community is our number one priority and the most important thing we do."

Mr Fergusson responded to Airbnb's allegation that he had made false claims by saying: "I have no interest in promoting TripAdvisor over Airbnb and have zero affiliation with them apart from a handful of affiliate links which I am now going to remove.

"I conducted my research and wrote my article because I truly want to see Airbnb succeed, but our findings indicate they are not doing a good enough job keeping up with their massive growth. I uncovered multiple dangerous loopholes and scams that are going unchecked and I want to bring awareness to these issues."

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