(NerdWallet) – Disgruntled Airbnb guests are venting on Twitter and TikTok about everything from cleaning fees to misleading listings. But they’re not the only ones complaining: Airbnb hosts themselves have grown increasingly frustrated with the platform and its disrespectful guests.
On message boards and Facebook groups, moderators are sharing their own challenges and horror stories. One host claimed a group of guests were reluctant to leave the property despite receiving full refunds from Airbnb.
“I went to the apartment to check what was going on and I was shocked to find that the tenant was still in the apartment,” the host wrote on the AirbnbHell website. “They called the police immediately and I was kicked out of my apartment by a team of police — Completely shocked.”
While these anecdotes appear to be a natural byproduct of the largely unregulated short-term rental industry, they illustrate a larger trend affecting landlords. A 2021 Bloomberg report details how Airbnb’s secretive crisis team is spending millions to cover up crime and other publicity nightmares in its listings. The platform recently rolled out “anti-party tech” to address moderators’ dissatisfaction with large, disruptive gatherings.
These questions raise the question: Is Airbnb itself the problem — or the guests?
stupid strings and bad smell
In May, Airbnb launched a new “AirCover” protection program for guests and hosts. It promises quick compensation for landlords and up to $1 million in damage protection. While many landlords see the policy as generous, it still has plenty of grey areas.
Emily Muskin Rathner, a digital marketing professional living in Cleveland, started renting on Airbnb in August 2021. Overall, hosting has been a pleasant and lucrative business, she said, but some guests had caused major problems, including one family renting the house this June.
“They made a mess of the house,” she said. “We had human feces on our clothes. They sprayed Silly String all over the floor. I don’t care about the Silly String, but can you pick it up? Weirdly, it left a stain.”
Most of Muskin Rathner’s claims were reimbursed by Airbnb. But some damage, such as nail polish applied to bathroom tiles, was not eligible for reimbursement because she could not provide documentation of the cost of the tiles. Then there’s the smell.
“Really, really stinks. Air conditioning has been off for a week – June.”
red tape everywhere
The early days of short-term vacation rentals offered landlords a simple piece of advice: rent and make some extra money. However, as the industry has matured, it has come under regulatory efforts from local governments.
Cities such as Denver and Portland, Ore., have been cracking down on unlicensed short-term rentals, imposing fines on landlords and requiring expensive permits. These policies allow local governments to tax and regulate problematic behavior, but they add a layer of complexity for landlords, many of whom have little experience with hotels.
Also, many local governments put the tax burden on hosts, not Airbnb. A 2022 analysis by the National Coalition of Cities, an advocacy group of city, town and village leaders, estimates that 82 percent of cities require landlords to pay their own taxes, while only 5 percent require platforms to pay taxes on behalf of landlords.
Not only must landlords now work as full-time customer service agents and hotel specialists, they must also understand local regulations and master complex tax laws.
“Learn more: NerdWallet’s analysis of Airbnb pricing trends
Competition from management companies
The romantic concept of home sharing as a way for homeowners to pay their mortgages has given way to management companies with the goal of maximizing profits. And small hosts can’t keep up with these enterprise competitors.
A study of short-term rentals in the UK found that the number of listings managed by landlords with a single property fell from 69% in 2015 to 39% in 2019. According to the nonprofit Inside Airbnb, only 39.1% of properties in Los Angeles, UK, are managed by a single property host.
These mainframes are capable of operating at scale, maximizing efficiency from pricing adjustments to cleaning crews. Single-room landlords who can’t keep up, or don’t want to deal with the hassle, are being squeezed out of the ecosystem.