A San Francisco woman who rented out her apartment on AirBnB, a service that allows people to rent out their spare rooms or entire apartments as vacation rentals without the icky feeling that comes along with Craigslist, has had her home completely destroyed by a renter who turned out to be a vandal and a total fraud.
To say the creep violated blogger and traveler Emily J's trust would be a vast understatement. The guy who went by the name "Dj Pattrson" not only destroyed Emily's apartment, but he also stole her identity, her locked-away valuables and and left the apartment in a terrifying state of disarray.
In her lengthy blog post detailing the incident, Emily explains how she returned home after a week of business travel to a "pungent odor" wafting from her apartment and opened the door to find a harrowing series of sights: The creep had "smashed a hole through a locked closet door" to remove her passport, credit cards and her grandmother's jewelry she had secured away. A camera, iPod and an old laptop had been stolen along with a backup drive containing "her entire life." Her own scanner had been used to photocopy her birth certificate and social security card. And then it gets really bizzare:
They did weird stuff too: moving things around in a spooky, psychotic kind of way - creepy little things that I am still discovering as I dig through the wreckage - like cutting the tags off my pillows, and hanging a painting of Paris on the wall that I had never hung before... probably while wearing my now-missing Ugg boots and Roots cap.And then there's the filth:
The kitchen was a disaster - the sink piled high with filthy dishes, pots and pans burnt out and ruined. Comet Cleanser was dumped everywhere... The death-like smell emanating from the bathroom was frightening (and still is) and the bathroom sink was caked with a crusty yellow substance. Various pairs of my gloves were strewn about - leather, dishwashing and otherwise - I imagine in a weak attempt to cover up fingerprints. Whoever these people were, they were living large and having one hell of a time for an entire week inside my home, unwatched, unchecked, free to do whatever destruction they wished. And damn, did they do a lot of it.
Mounds of her possessions were also reduced to ash after the vandals (witnesses apparently saw multiple people coming and going), used her fireplace to burn a set of guest sheets she had left out. Adding to the whole ordeal, Dj Pattrson was apparently sending Emily cheery messages about what a good time he was having enjoying her "bathed in sunlight" apartment.
Likening the experience to being the victim of a rape, Emily explains the aftermath: SFPD searched her home, CSI dusted for fingerprints and she had a difficult time reaching the usually prompt AirBnB customer service, although she does say the company has been helpful, empathetic and supportive after the ordeal.
Still, Emily was critical of AirBnB's policies, which she says do not allow contact information to be exchanged between host and renter until payment has been made - a policy apparently designed to prevent side deals where AirBnB can't include their fees. Although, when SFist spoke with several local hosts who use the service, it is possible to vet potential renters through messages on the system or by looking for mutual connections on Facebook, allowing friends and contacts to vouch for possible renters.
And there's a somewhat positive note to the end of the story, TechCrunch followed up with Brian Chesky, CEO of the San Francisco-based startup, who explained that the suspect was in custody as of Tuesday and AirBnB is working closely with Emily"to assist financially, find new housing for the host, and anything else she can think of to make her life easier." Which seems very nice of them, in fact. Chesky also penned another follow up about the changes to the company's security policies late yesterday.