SPOT the difference between this cosy-looking Airbnb listing and the horrendous reality it turned into.
The disgusting bedsit was a world away from the comfortable accommodation that one Sun reader and her friends expected to find after their long day of travelling.
Their experience reveals how home-sharing sites such as Airbnb can, in rare cases, leave guests in potentially dangerous situations.
It also shows the importance of having a back-up plan if things go wrong.
Singer Dre Smith, 27, from Poplar, East London, and her bandmates had finished their second gig of the day in Leeds when they headed to their Airbnb house.
Weeks before, they had paid £102.78 for a one-night stay and made it clear they would arrive late in the evening, which didn’t seem to be a problem.
But on the day they were told the house was unavailable because their late arrival would disturb the other guests. They were offered an alternative place to stay — an apartment a mile away which they accepted given the late hour.
But when they arrived it turned out to be the most “disgusting and uninhabitable” bedsit they had ever seen. And there were supposed to be four bedrooms but instead there was only one.
The surfaces were coated with grime and the wallpaper was hanging off the walls. It looked like the door frame had been subject to a break-in.
There were cigarette butts in the kitchen, hair and dust on the few blankets provided and no shower curtain to cover the dirty bath. The single bedroom had one double mattress on the floor flanked by two child’s mattresses on the floor on either side — none with any sheets. The pillow cases were badly stained.
Singer Dre Smith, 27, from Poplar, East London, and her bandmates weren’t impressed by their after-gig accommodation[/caption]
American vocalist Dre — who tours with rock band Deep Blue Sea — says: “When the owner, who weirdly called himself The Doctor, first met us at this hellhole we were in too much shock to complain. He said it had been locked for a long time and he was lucky to have had it cleaned at short notice.
“We couldn’t get out of there fast enough. We called him shortly afterwards to complain and he said we could move to the original place we had booked in the morning. But that was useless as we were only staying overnight. I called Airbnb but it said it couldn’t help with new accommodation because of the late hour.
“After trying about six hotels — all fully booked because it was a Saturday night — we managed to get two rooms in a Holiday Inn Express more than two miles away.
“We reloaded the van and finally got to bed at around 3am. It was a nightmare and I dread to think what it would be like for a family with children to go through that.” The band were refunded £102.78 by the owner and Airbnb gave them £150 on the cost of the hotel and a £50 Airbnb credit.
NEW SITES CAN BE A GAMBLE
Last month Mr Money, in The Sun on Sunday, revealed how some Airbnb hosts had seen their homes trashed by guests hosting parties. But it works the other way — guests can be exploited by hosts offering unfit properties unlike what they have listed.
The firm does not visit properties ahead of them appearing on the site — meaning newer properties without many reviews can seem like a gamble to book. According to Airbnb’s latest report, 2,600 villages, towns and cities across the UK welcomed 8.4million guests — from this country and abroad — between July 2017 and June 2018.
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And it claims the number of UK residents choosing to travel using the platform is increasing. In fact, over the past year, 11.1million people have booked through Airbnb.
In response to the incident reported by Dre, Airbnb says: “We were disappointed to learn about this experience, refunded the guests for their stay and gave additional support. With over half a billion guest arrivals to date, and over two million people staying on Airbnb every night, experiences like this are incredibly rare.”
Below are Sun Money’s tips for guests who travel using such sites.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
- CHOOSE a property with lots of good reviews – that is a sign of a genuine listing.
- If the listing is new, make contact with the owner and find out more about the property before you make the booking.
- Once you have got the address check it out on Google Street View so you can see if the exterior is as advertised and what the area is like.
- If you turn up and something is missing, not working, or not what you expected, first contact the host and see if they can fix it.
- If you cannot reach your host, or they do not respond, contact Airbnb for help. 02033 181 111 is the number to call.
- Make sure to photograph and document the problem so you can prove the booking was not how it was listed.
- Deep Blue Sea’s album, Strange Ways, is out on Sept 24 on Spotify. See deepblueseamusic.co.uk.
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