A deadly Airbnb shooting at a Halloween party in a California Bay-area rental is probably the most tragic news from many recent articles on how the San Francisco-based company is wreaking havoc on people’s lives.
Airbnb Shooting at “Mansion Party”
The Orinda, California house was rented by a woman claiming that 12 asthmatic family members needed a place to escape smoke from the Kincade wildfire, still burning in Sonoma County.
While the owner, Michael Wang, was suspicious of a one-night rental on Halloween, he warned the renter about their “no party” policy and let it go at that.
Then, Thursday night, neighbors contacted Wang’s wife to let them know that there was, indeed, a party on the property. Apparently, there was a DJ as well, and the party had been advertised on social media as an “Airbnb mansion party.”
The Wangs contacted the renter, who insisted there were only a dozen people at the house, but the doorbell video camera clearly showed many more. The property owners were on their way to the house when the neighbor called back to say there had been a shooting. They notified police.
Three people were found dead at the scene and two died later in the hospital. Two guns were also found at the scene.
Prior to the Airbnb shooting, the four-bedroom home San Francisco suburb of Orinda had previously been cited for over-occupancy (the limit in the neighborhood is 13), illegal parking, and overflowing trash.
Brian Chesky, Co-founder, CEO, and Head of Community at Airbnb tweeted in response to the incident that the company would implement a policy to ban party houses and improve their efforts to eliminate abuses by both hosts and guests.
Nationwide Airbnb Scam
Another recent article recounted how easy it is for Airbnb hosts to set up fake accounts to scam customers.
Those seeking a pleasant, well-furnished house in a nice area would find a property being rented by an innocuous-seeming couple. Then, they would be contacted less than an hour before they were to take occupancy and told that there was a problem with the property. But the hosts could offer something “just as nice.”
When guests reluctantly agreed and were given the new address, they would arrive at a barely-furnished, filthy place in a sketchy neighborhood. These Airbnb guests were forced to either stay in disgusting quarters, or pay again to find another place to stay.
It’s the classic “bait and switch.”
This has happened in multiple cities, and complaints to Airbnb have not been handled to the guests’ satisfaction: most guests have had to forego their deposits, and have not been refunded what they are owed.
Worse, those guests who have the nerve to write a review to warn other Airbnb guests about their nightmare soon find themselves victims of bad reviews by the scammer. This limits their ability to rent from legitimate hosts in the future. Facebook recently shut down groups of Airbnb hosts who used their platform to gossip about guests.
To date, the company doesn’t seem all that interested in dealing with the sort of scams made possible by their weak verification process of hosts, or in changing their verification process to protect consumers or ensure public safety.
TorkLaw Posts on Airbnb Dangers
Since we published our “Ultimate Guide On Airbnb Accident Injuries” in 2017, TorkLaw has been staying apprised of this company’s misdeeds. We published a blog post in 2018 regarding a finding that many Airbnb properties don’t have basic safety equipment like smoke detectors.
This is because, again, like so many aspects of the gig economy, peer-to-peer rentals are basically unregulated. This places consumers in grave danger of property damage, bodily injury and wrongful death.
Few Laws Prevent Airbnb Risks
Currently, there are few state or federal laws preventing such Airbnb scams. While consumer protection laws allow you to sue people who take advantage of you, they do not regulate peer-to-peer rentals in a way that can stop these scams from happening in the first place. So far, state and local leaders have done little to change that, and local governments seldom have the resources to pass such laws.
A case in point: Jersey City, New Jersey’s second-largest city, is waging such a battle to regulate Airbnb and similar peer-to-peer rental sites more stringently, for a number of reasons.
One of the main complaints in many cities with a massive number of Airbnb rentals is that they are driving housing prices up to the point that average people can no longer afford to live in the cities where they work.
There are also safety issues involved in what have become, essentially, illegal hotels operating in residentially-zoned neighborhoods. These Airbnbs bring additional traffic and crime to streets that used to be safe places to live.
Yet, as Brian Chesky tweets about his company’s commitment to “do better,” the Wall Street Journal reports that Airbnb is spending millions to fight a proposed Jersey City law designed to protect consumers.
Possibly Chesky’s response to the recent Airbnb shooting is sincere.
Or maybe it’s just another Airbnb scam.