An Ottawa woman says she repeatedly found stray tourists on her doorstep who thought they had rented her home on Airbnb, and she never received a response on how it happened.
Strangers, insisting they had rented out her home using the popular online platform, first knocked on Camille Xu’s door about two months ago, even though the new mother says that she didn’t even have an Airbnb account, let alone list her house.
When CBC contacted the company, Airbnb said the spate of unwanted visits was due to a typo.
“For the mistake to repeat itself four times?! I think it’s a bit ridiculous,” said Xu, who said the strange and disturbing visits made her consider leaving the neighborhood.
Xu, who lives in Barrhaven, a southern suburb of Ottawa, said she would find travelers with suitcases in tow and would have to convince them that her house was unavailable.
Each time, the travelers tried to prove that they had legitimately reserved his house. Each time, Xu was forced into the uncomfortable and unsettling position of having to close the door to complete strangers who had already paid a non-refundable fee.
“You are approached by strangers who want to move into your house,” said Xu, who eventually posted a handwritten sign on her front door to discourage visitors.
Type for rent nearby
Xu said she contacted AirBnb twice and each time was told a special team would be assigned to respond. They never did.
“They keep blaming you instead of understanding what’s going on. How come no one is solving the problem?”
Xu learned from unwanted visitors that the host offering his house for rent was called “Book”. Eventually, she downloaded the AirBnb app so she could check the availability calendar on that account’s listings.
“It drives me crazy,” she said.
AirBnb declined an interview about the case, but told CBC when creating an ad for a new rental in the same neighborhood that a legitimate user made a typo when entering the address. .
The company said that to prevent misrepresentation, only AirBnb can change a listing’s address once a listing has gone live.
Visitors kept coming
Even though Xu contacted the company about unwanted visitors, for several weeks the list continued to direct travelers to his house.
When sent by CBC, “Book” disputed that there was a problem.
“I don’t know if someone got the address wrong. Be careful,” the user replied before preventing the journalist from continuing to send messages.
Xu said she wondered why the account’s listings were about a third of the rate of similar homes in her area.
The experience of a “sleazy” woman, according to an expert
CBC could not trace any of the four groups that arrived at Xu’s home because they never complained to Book about being sent to the wrong address.
Asher Fergusson, a travel researcher who has studied complaints against AirBnb for several years, thinks the accounts likely complained. He called Xu’s experiences “shady” and reminiscent of the 2017 encounter that inspired him to start his research.
In this case, Fergusson and his young family struggled to find their Airbnb listing. They were redirected once and then told they would have to pay cash due to a “payment processing issue” with the platform.
Fergusson continues to call on the platform to do more to verify that listed properties are where they claim to be and to ensure greater security around verifying host identities.
He said hosts continue to advertise properties that don’t exist or create multiple listings for the same location at different prices, then cancel guests who booked at lower prices.
Fergusson suggests travelers avoid listings with reviews below 4.85/5 and those with fewer than 30 reviews.