Chris Meiners had owned his home for only a few months when he decided to rent it out on Airbnb for a few days. He figured it would be pretty straight forward since he’d rented out his apartment before with the help of an Airbnb manager.
But then Meiners got a call that convinced him to come home early.
“When (the manager) called me, I was out at a national monument with my partner and so I barely had any cell phone reception,” Meiners said. “She was telling me that it was dirty and I was only hearing like every other word, but she then she said ‘we need to try and get a deposit and ask for damages. And your door’s kicked in.'”
The door was padlocked since Meiners had just moved into the house and needed a place to stash a few things that weren’t put away yet — like tote bags full of electronics. Those were gone, of course, when he got home.
To add insult to injury, food and alcohol were spilled everywhere, the toilet was completely clogged with paper towels, a sink was partially ripped off the wall and there was vomit on the new couch and rug.
But the real saga came when Meiners started trying to get compensation for the damages. He estimated that about $2,500 worth of damage was done, which meant that he could invoke Airbnb’s Host Guarantee. It took four weeks of calls to the company before he figured that out, though.
The simple version of the host guarantee is that “up to $1,000,000” of coverage is available to a host “for damages to covered property in the rare event of guest damages above the security deposit or if no security deposit is in place.” Meaning that Meiners would presumably be covered.
On the other hand, the full version of the host guarantee is 8,646 words of terms and conditions that took too long for me to scroll through, let alone read. In Meiners’ case, it meant that Airbnb needed a police investigation report “saying that they found proof to incriminate the guest” before they would compensate him.
“I filled out the basic incident report online and then a detective calls you back,” Meiners said. “The detective I talked to had not even heard of Airbnb.”
Regardless of the detective’s familiarity with short-term rentals, without video evidence to show who damaged his home, police couldn’t directly attribute the damage to Meiners’ guest.
Eventually persistence won out and Meiners was compensated $2,900 for the trouble. He’s happy with the resolution and even considering putting the home on Airbnb again. With a few minor modifications though.
“I thought that small locks will only keep honest people honest and you’re not going to prevent people who are trying to steal from you,” he said. “But we’ll put anything valuable in the bedroom with a secure deadbolt, and then I’m actually going to put an alarm system just on the bedroom.”