Travel bites: hosting on Airbnb

Visiting London with a dog

The up (few) and downs (many) of hosting on Airbnb

For a number of reasons which I am not going to dwell on, we found ourselves managing a friend’s flat via Airbnb for a couple of months.

What seemed a great idea at first, turned into a real nightmare.

So much, that I have decided to write about, partly to alert anyone planning to do the same, but also partly to vent about what we’ve had to endure as ‘hosts’ in the last few weeks.

Bedroom

How does it work?

If you have a room or a whole flat, it’s pretty simple and straightforward. In a nutshell, you upload a few photos, set up some ‘house rules’ (mostly standard stuff) and provide some info on yourself.

The site offers a calendar function which does not allow for double booking, which is quite good when you have a lot of bookings back to back!

You can set up the booking process in a few different ways including flexi price (eg weekends automatically is more expensive), instant booking (why would you do this?), min. number of nights etc.

You then receive an enquiry from potential guests and based on that, you can approve or decline their request to book. Users can have feedback from previous stays (which you can review) or have none, maybe they’ve just joined the site and this would be their first stay.

The beginning

When we first started, it took me a while to accept the first guests. I checked each enquiry and basically based my decision primarily on how the potential guests had introduced themselves and how their approach felt. The flat was booked for 5 days over NY by an Italian couple and I felt confident.

Indeed, once we got back to the flat, we found it in spotless condition: tidy, clean, everything in its place. We thought ‘ah this is easy’ and accepted a few more bookings.

I wish all guests had been like those Italians!

They weren’t.

Far from it.

What was the problem?

We figured out soon that not all guests treat others’ property with respect. After a few mishaps, a friend – who also regularly hosts people in her own, lived in flat – suggested the theory that because ‘our’ flat was pretty empty of personal possessions, people felt entitled to treat it differently than hers where it’s obvious she’s currently living in.

I am not sure I buy this theory – someone else’s property should be respected regardless. Every time we’ve been the guests, we have been careful on house rules, and if we broke something (a bowl, recently; a lampshade last year), we immediately told the host and offered to pay for the damage).

So what actually happened, you ask?

Well, loads of absurd stuff. Here’s the list of main things we sort of found surprising, unnerving, plain annoying.

  • all radiators individually switched off without telling us (in winter)
  • all windows left open (flat is on ground floor on main road)
  • disconnected, stored printer used and left connected without asking
  • late night, urgent call to ‘fix TV’: guests had it on radio settings
  • rude sms to complain guests were ‘freezing’ when gas run out (it’s on a PAYG system). We rushed to the flat and reset it within 30 mins. Flat was warm. Same guests as point 1! You can guess why they did it.
  • guests turn up at 11pm with over 3 delay and no communication (check in 9pm latest)
  • 3 guests staying when flat was booked for two (and has one bed)

Damages & filth

Silly things are a relative problem. But we’ve had guests who’ve gone beyond and left things damaged or disgustingly filthy. Pardon the grossness of details but the list includes:

  • dirty toilet (I leave it at that)
  • toilet bin full of sanitary items (I leave it at that too)
  • bath completely covered in shaved hair, everywhere. I spare you a photo
  • bathroom towel blackened with sooth. I am guessing they used it to mop up coffee when they screwed up with the Nespresso machine but to this day, I am not sure.
  • huge skid marks on the wall behind the sofa
  • empty shampoo samples all over the bathroom floor
  • broken bedroom lamp (not even a note)
  • towel rack ripped off from the wall and left on the floor (no note, no explanation)
  • dirty cups, cutlery and trays all over the kitchen or stored away in cupboards (house rule is to leave tidy as found)
  • iPhone charging cable taken

In conclusion

While the flat was not perfect, it was our home for over a year. We did leave a part of us in it, and we hated seeing it so ‘abused’.

I came to hate using Airbnb and having strangers in the space we’d occupied, which was not even our home anymore. I dreaded having to clean and set up the flat for new guests, meet them and think ‘oh they seem nice’ and discover once they left that they were awful.

We had some lovely guests too. Italians and usually Europeans seemed to be the most polite, respectful and tidy people of all, make what you wish of that. I left glowing reviews for those guests and would not hesitate to welcome them back.

The other ones, well I do not wish them on anyone.

So – would you do it? Have you done it? Keen to hear anyone else’s experiences!

Finally, I shall hereby end this post: I have to go and leave my first actually negative review for the towel rack breakers.

2 Comments

  1. Alison

    oh I have never tried this, but it sounds like it can be a pretty mixed bag. Some of the things people left is unbelievable – would put me off

    Reply
    1. pastabites (Post author)

      Indeed. really awful

      Reply

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