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Fascinating article on Airbnb properties ( also VRBO, etc.) in London

A wonderful piece of investigative journalism. I am placing this in "Tourist Scams" as the author uses that in his title, and in this case I feel it is well-founded and not sensational.

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/airbnb-scam-london

Note that many of the properties are cross-listed on VRBO and Booking.com, so booking through those platforms is no better.

I am guessing he did not just walk away after initial inspection (as one can do with Airbnb bookings) because he had suspicions about this before he booked, and wanted to stay in the apartment so he could legitimately write a review ( and this article).

I am glad I booked serviced apartments for our next two London stays, instead of using Airbnb or the others to book "owner-occupied" flats.

Posted by
5552 posts

We have had successful AirBnB rentals I the US and Italy but am so glad we booked with London Perfect for two recent stays there.

Posted by
854 posts

Wow. This is so sketchy and just reinforces my opinion of never using Airbnb. I feel bad for the legitimate folks on there because I have a feeling that the scammers are going to be the undoing for everyone. Meanwhile I will stick with hotels where if I don’t like a room, I can go to the front desk and ask for a new one.

Posted by
1841 posts

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. It makes the reader ponder not only sketchy renters and their properties, but also the ethics of using AirBNB, VRBO, and other such companies, especially in large cities, where they seem to harm locals by pricing those with lower incomes out of housing, rather than to benefit them.

I have used AirBNB twice -- both times in smaller communities. The properties were great -- one in Gimmelwald, one on the Upper Middle Rhine. But I stressed over cleaning at the end and over what my evaluation by the owner would be. I was robbed of my joy at the end of each stay. So... I'm sticking with small hotels, B&Bs, and the occasional Motel One.

Posted by
2904 posts

Thank you for sharing this very informative article. So far my score on Home Away/Air Bnb is 2 positive and 1 negative. That one negative holds a great deal of influence in whether I will ever use them again. There is little recourse left to the visitor who arrives and finds things are not the way that was expected.

Posted by
5017 posts

Not unusual at all. This is the new normal.

I've stopped reading articles like this because there are so many reports of various AirBnB scams. Some details vary but I've read similar (and much worse) stories about AirBnB places from California to Chicago to Italy.

Caveat emptor. Caveat emptor extremis.

Posted by
896 posts

It’s shameful no matter where it happens. I refuse to use either company and prefer hotels for at least some protection against scams. I feel for locals who are pushed out of housing because of greed.

Posted by
4777 posts

I guess I thought long ago people had figured out that most AirBnB and VRBO listings are not Mom and Dad deciding to let their Flat for a few weeks here and there. They have nearly always been rental listings managed by professionals, most to skirt around permitting, fees, taxes, even minimum safety requirements. The idea of occupying basically a new building and doing online rentals for the whole thing is a bit of a development, but a natural progression.

Posted by
1256 posts

I guess I thought long ago people had figured out that most AirBnB and
VRBO listings are not Mom and Dad deciding to let their Flat for a few
weeks here and there. They have nearly always been rental listings
managed by professionals, most to skirt around permitting, fees,
taxes, even minimum safety requirements.

Yes, me too. I have a pretty laissez faire streak about most things, but AirBnB, VRBO and some of the others have so clearly been gigantic organized crime syndicates for as long as I can remember, fueling the exact type of lawless behavior highlighted in this article and the wholesale destruction of hundreds of neighborhoods around the world.

Yet that message doesn't get out for whatever reason. Everybody thinks of memaw the kindly granny renting out her spare bedroom and shiny 28 year old whiz kids from silicon valley or something, I really don't get it.

Posted by
885 posts

I've seen more and more of these scams in the past 10 years. First on VRBO and now on AirBnB which used to be a "stay in the home of a local and share their life" and now is "stay in a place bought by a developer who never lived there". And yes, they are ruining the neighborhoods for the locals as many don't have the services for locals but higher end stores aimed at tourists.

Always always look at multiple sights and be wary of reviewers that use the same language as host or write reviews that all sound the same. I see the same gushing about hosts using the same adjectives to describe them. Red flags.

As they say, if the price seems to good to be true, it usually is. I read about the same type of scam happening in NYC.

Posted by
303 posts

Why is David Schwimmer's wife staying in an AirB&B? He is a multimillionaire.

Posted by
203 posts

I have used Airbnb’s in the US, Greece, Italy and Paris on multiple occasions. We typically meet the homeowners at some point in the trip. Only one occasion have we experienced a bad situation but was refunded within hours of occupancy. Although I have seen these types of bookings mentioned in the article in Miami. The condos were mirror images of each other and the host had no personal picture. Typically appeared to be owned by a real estate or management company. Those I just stay clear of and we are always fine.

Posted by
3769 posts

I read this article a few days back so it was top of my mind yesterday when my airbnb I booked less than 10 days ago cancelled my stay (no explanation - but at least we are still 3 mos away from our stay in London. And this is the first time in prob 50 stays I've ever had one cancelled).

So I started looking for somewhere else to stay, thinking, well, we don't need to stay by Hammersmith as we aren't flying home from Heathrow. So I'll look in some other spots. I did check around Hammersmith and saw a few at a good price, but would look at the listing and notice it was the same host as another listing - so I clicked on the host and saw they had 13 other listings. I worked my way east across London, ended up in the Bermondsey area and saw some potentials - but 2 of the 3 were the same - the hosts had multiple listings. One that was tempting was an apartment and it said shared bathroom - which is fine, I'm cool sharing with the host - but when I looked at the host profile, it seemed he had 3 other listings for the same property - diff rooms, but nowhere did it say in his listing that you would be sharing the bathroom with 3 other rooms of travelers. Hard pass.

I finally picked the one in Bermondsey that only has one listing under their name, and has lots of great reviews. Knowing the issues airbnb causes, I do my best to stay with people who are just renting a room in their home, not someone who has scooped up a bunch of apartments and are renting out the rooms. People leaving reviews mentioned interacting with the host and their family. The one who cancelled was the same - his only listing, spare room in his apt.

Posted by
2762 posts

They have nearly always been rental listings managed by professionals,

I've stayed in AirBnBs many times, in the US, France, and Canada, and none of them were what you describe. I know they exist, and I avoid such places.

Posted by
1039 posts

A friend booked through Airbnb in Ireland a few years ago; I believe they were told it was for the whole flat.
They used the kitchen and the washing machine, as you would!, then the owner came over unexpectedly during their stay, and was very angry indeed that they had done so.
They were quite shaken by this; as they weren't expecting him there, apart from anything else.

I've rented lots of apartments, mostly in Italy, but only 3 or 4 through Airbnb; the rest through VRBO or booking.com.
So far, no bad experiences really, and have nearly always met the host or owner.
This article is quite scary, really.

Posted by
10709 posts

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. It makes the reader ponder not
only sketchy renters and their properties, but also the ethics of
using AirBNB, VRBO, and other such companies, especially in large
cities, where they seem to harm locals by pricing those with lower
incomes out of housing, rather than to benefit them

.

All large cities? What is a large city? All locals are harmed? How about in some cities (forget the size) the ratio of those receiving positive benefits vs those having an opposing experience can vary widely. We sure love to help the poor guy, even when he doesn’t need helping. And we love to believe they are all victims, when they are not.

The best course of action is to rent a legal apartment, in that way you are supporting the belief system of the community that formed the laws; and your lack of understanding and personal bias has no play in it. If you cant be reasonably sure that its legal, don’t rent.

I guess I thought long ago people had figured out that most AirBnB and
VRBO listings are not Mom and Dad deciding to let their Flat for a few
weeks here and there. They have nearly always been rental listings
managed by professionals, most to skirt around permitting, fees,
taxes, even minimum safety requirements. The idea of occupying
basically a new building and doing online rentals for the whole thing
is a bit of a development, but a natural progression.

I only became aware of these rental platforms about 7 years ago. Did they begin by advertising that these were mom-and-pop rental platforms or is that something you were just inaccurately assuming? Cause they sure don’t promote that perception today.

A lot (most? I have no idea) are professionally managed (do you). I suggest if one wanted to rent one that there might be more quality consistency with a managed apartment than and mom-and-pop one. Good thing to look for.

Which “most” skirt around permitting, fees, taxes, safety? I assume you are in the business to know this? Or, you heard it someplace?

I am glad we have two posters with the statistics. Wish they would post the statistics so we can all read them.

Posted by
902 posts

“Why is David Schwimmer's wife staying in an AirB&B? He is a multimillionaire.” - Why not? One thing multimillionaires and I have in common: we use rentals. Some of these rentals are terribly expensive (not the ones I use).