That $3 million in damage protection that Airbnb offers hosts isn’t all it's cracked up to be, according to a viral Twitter thread of an SF Airbnb host, who says the short-term rental company is leaving her on the hook for hundreds of thousands in damages.
One selling point that short-term rental platform Aibnb uses to lure in hosts is a purported “Host damage protection” policy that the company says “provides Hosts with $3 million in coverage in the rare event your place or belongings are damaged by a guest during an Airbnb stay.” But the Chronicle covers the story of one SF Airbnb host whose tweets went viral last week, as apparently guests did damage to the home that added up to more than $300,000 in losses, and after months of the runaround from Airbnb, that host says she’s only been offered $31,000 in said damage protection.
Want to hear an Airbnb horror story this Halloween season? Here's the story of how I ended up pregnant and homeless and in over $300,000 of debt after Airbnb guests flooded my home. It's a real cliffhanger.— 📣 Coach Erika (@ErikaCoaches) October 19, 2023
Would love your thoughts @airbnb and @bchesky. pic.twitter.com/ASvguMlnet
The host in question Erika Gemzer, who rents out (or did rent out) the top floor of her Mission District duplex, and her lengthy tweetstorm documenting the nightmare begins above. She has walked back the “homeless” part, noting to the Chronicle that she’s bounced through a few Airbnbs in the months since the home became uninhabitable, and that her home insurance is paying for a place on a lease she recently signed. But as she says in the above thread, “I moved 3 times in those 2.5 months,” and yes, she is also very much pregnant.
I woke up on Friday, April 14th to the sound of dripping water.— 📣 Coach Erika (@ErikaCoaches) October 19, 2023
At first, I thought it was raining, but looking out my bedroom window, the sky was bright blue.
I jumped out of bed and ran into the hallway.
Waterfalls of water were pouring from the ceiling and light fixtures. pic.twitter.com/XbUJm82qZW
The trouble started in mid-April, when what the Chronicle calls “a group of engineers” stayed a month, and apparently flushed a large number of baby wipes down the toilet (some real smart “engineers” there). This begat an epic toilet flooding of both levels of the property, along with plenty of other unpleasantness, which she says requires a “multi-hundred thousand dollar, multi-month home destruction and rebuild project.”
Gemzer also adds that Airbnb gave her just a 14-day claim window for damage far too expensive to get properly estimated in such a short time. In addition to water damage and mold repairs, and the replacement of appliances and furniture, she still faces mortgage payment and property taxes on an uninhabitable unit. “My unreimbursed expenses have climbed to $300,379,” Gemzer added on Twitter. “Just headaches and 146+ back-and-forth emails with Airbnb support.”
And after these 146+ emails, Gemzer says Airbnb made her “a ‘final offer’ of ~$31,000.”
Then I woke up to a nightmare: a literal shitstorm in my own house, flooding all 3 levels of the building that I bought with my life savings.— 📣 Coach Erika (@ErikaCoaches) October 19, 2023
And remember -- it's fecal water.
50% of the building ruined in 15 hours.
Who did I call first? Airbnb.
What did they do? pic.twitter.com/oBfXN5lGPS
"They advertise it as $3 million for hosts for guaranteed protection. So as a host, the idea is we have you covered top to bottom, so don't worry," Gemzer said in a KGO interview. "It turns out 90% of that is not covered. They have given me an offer of $31,000."
Now that Gemzer’s story is getting national attention in the press, Airbnb is responding with their version of events. "We take Aircover requests incredibly seriously, including in this case, where we tried to send a third-party investigator to review the damage, but the Host declined, stating that her homeowners insurance company was supporting her with the damage as well as temporary accommodation,” the company said in a statement to KGO. “Still, we offered to pay the loss of bookings, her insurance deductible and additional reimbursement as a gesture of goodwill. We have been in continuous contact with the Host, including speaking today, to continue to support her."
And there may be some loopholes Airbnb can employ here. According to the Chronicle, the SF Planning Department says the unit in question is not authorized for “intermediate length occupancy” stays of a month or more, which is how long those engineers who broke the toilet stayed. That Chron report also notes that a short-term rental permit for the unit was denied.
But Airbnb may have their own playbook of hurdles like 14-day claim windows, or various out-of-pocket expenses for which they don’t reimburse, that make the $3 million host damage protection policy claim easily wiped out by simple things like baby wipes.
Image: @ErikaCoaches via Twitter