The Dark Side of AirBnB Emerges: Squatters Who Victimize Gullible Renters

The problems for and with AirBnB seem to have only begun. A new trend is threatening its very operation. But more importantly, it is causing sleepless nights for legal owners of the premises that were rented out via AirBnB.

Cory Tschogl, who owns a Palm Springs vacation condominium, is in quite a quandary. She has been apparently harassed by a new crime perpetrated via AirBnB. The tenant who arrived via the platform isn’t ready to vacate the premises and has now, for all legal purposes, become a squatter.

The nightmare for the owner began quite late, but the signs were quite apparent, she says. “When he first checked in, he immediately complained about the tap water — it’s hard water with minerals because it’s in the desert,” Tschogl said.

“My gut alarm-bell went off. I agreed to give him a full refund, not even charging a cleaning fee. But then he simply changed his mind and decided to stay,” reported SF Gate.

Owing to the relatively fail-safe polices of AirBnB, Cory received the rent for the first month in advance. The guest booked the space for 44 days from May 25 to July 8 and paid for the first month in advance through AirBnB. But, after the first month was up, AirBnB’s automated notification system sent the host a message saying, “AirBnB’s attempts to collect the balance due ‘did not succeed’”

There was no explanation as to how and why the company had failed to collect and transmit the payment. After multiple emails and calls from Tschogl, AirBnB offered to pay for the man to stay at a hotel for 30 days. However, the man chose to ignore the emails and his phone appeared to be switched-off, as all the calls were redirected to voicemail.

Can’t the owners of the premises simply turn-off utilities to flush the squatter out? This is where the story gets really interesting. Once the 44 days were up, Cory texted the renter that his reservation contract was over and that the power would be shut off in 24 hours. The “guest” immediately responded saying he was legally occupying the condo and that loss of electricity would threaten the work he does at home that brings in $1,000 to $7,000 a day.

Follow-up texts from the squatter threatened to press charges for “blackmail and damages caused by your negligence and malicious misconduct, including $3,800 PID Espresso machine as well as medical bills for my brother’s hospital visit after he got sick here drinking unfiltered tap water.”

The matter only gets worse, since the renter has protections under California law because he has occupied the unit over 30 days. Cory has now hired a lawyer to get the squatter evicted.

Given the support for this modus operandi, she might have a long fight ahead of her.

[Image Credit | Leah Millis, The Chronicle, Mark Large]