This is a flash warning all UK city hosts. According to police, drug gangs are using UK city Airbnb's to establish bases in new areas.
We have just had a nightmare experience where verified guests turned out to be a drug gang who used the flat as a base to run an operation from. Police involved. Flat trashed.
This came via Instant Book (the first time I'd used) and all their pre book check in correspondence terribly polite. Nothing alarming. Nest Doorbell camera tells a different story and is now being used by Police.
Sadly we had an unexpected family bereavement during the same week so were less 'across' their stay as I would normally be but nonetheless nothing could have prepared me for the sheer terror and fallout of this and I'd like to make sure no one else faces it.
My advice is
1. Don't use instant booking - ignore all Airbnb incentives to use and switch it off. Its what drug gangs use. I personally now believe that the way it is currently set up is wholly irresponsible and have written to Airbnb to say so - no response!
2. No reviews of guests - AVOID like the plague. Risk at the moment is too high for city hosts.
3. Don't rely on Airbnb Host Guarantee- it contains of hidden $500 caps not disclosed in Airbnb Terms and conditions (I'll post separately about this)
4. Doorbell camera is a must. All evidence of extra guests has gone to Airbnb and all gone to Police Gangs unit investigating. Nest is brilliant for night footage & sound & is 4K so you can enlarge. Car number plates etc
5. Two Banham locks not one. Give guests only one so you can always lock then out with the other if needed. But beware there is a hidden Airbnb cap on lock change should guest take keys.
6. Read Airbnb Host Guarantee terms & conditions although some of thos contradicts website and does not give full detail.
Airbnb have been next to useless in dealing with this. Their response has been one that put my safety further at risk. They even initially suggested I discuss damages with the guest directly!!! This was after Id given them Police report numbers etc and advised that at least one had been identified as criminal back ground and class A drugs in the flat! They would have had me forward receipts with my home address & banham key numbers on etc on. Im afraid to say they are nit taking this seriously at all. Hence my warning here. Its a very real & present risk with apparently more drugs flooding into London since lockdown ended.
Take care all.
Thank you for posting a good description of your recent ordeal, @Lucy747 . So sorry to read all that you've gone through. Good to hear the police are involved. Hopefully you'll get some form for compensation... maybe.
I agree with all of your advice:
- Don't use instant booking
- Dont' book to someone with no reviews
- Have an outdoor security camera
As I typically rent for 30 to 60 days, I always engage in several message exchanges. Depending on how much information the potential guest has offered, I ask all sorts of questions – about their stay, where they are from, why they will be in the area, if they have friends or family nearby, what they work with, etc.
But things can still go wrong.
I had a related incident in April 2019 (i.e. drugs), when a guest apparently started the chemical process of creating methamphetamine (aka "meth") in my home. When my caretaker showed up after the guest had vacated, she found all sorts of red stains on the bedding, around the sinks, and on some furniture and floors. My caretaker didn't know what to make of it, but her and my cleaner disposed of all the bedding and wiped up the red substance, with a little scrubbing, from the most of the furniture and floors.
Additionally, my guest scratched up the hardwood oak flooring (35 planks had to be replaced), destroyed some furniture, window blinds, vacuum cleaner, and left the place a mess. It cost me $5500 to restore everything.
It wasn't until 6 months later, when I showed the photos of all the red stains to a narcotics policeman, that I found out that the red substance was most likely red phosphorus, a key ingredient in meth. Unfortunately there is no US-based lab that will test for this in residential properties, but to be diligent and on the safe side, I had my home tested for meth. Seven surfaces were tested, and the test results were all negative. This test cost me $1700.
I suspected something was wrong when the guest started using the AC on the third day (of a 6-week rental period). The outdoor daytime temperatures were barely reaching 20C (it was early April), and he had set the AC to 18C. I have a NEST thermostat and could see how it was being set, from hour to hour, day to day. On the fourth day the AC ran for 7 hours.
I suspected something was wrong, and ask the guest if my caretaker could come by to trim a couple of shrubs, and to say hello. He said this was okay, but that he wouldn't be home when she would be there. She noticed that all the blinds were closed, and that one was bent in several places.
I contacted the online service through which the booking had been made, VRBO (will this name get redacted, ve are bee oh?), and they agreed that it was reasonable that I have my caretaker make a weekly visit to inspect all the rooms – not a surprise visit, but at an agreed upon time and day.
When I informed the guest of this weekly visit, he didn't reply, but during the evening and night on the 7th day, he vacated, without giving warning or notice. My outdoor NEST camera showed all sorts of activity as he moved out. The next day my caretaker found all the lights were left on and one of the doors unlocked.
It took me 5 weeks to get everything restored, working with 15 suppliers. Luckily, my guest had paid for a 6-week stay (no, he didn't get any refund), and I had a $5000 property damage insurance policy. With VRBO, I have the option of requiring guests to pay a $99 fee for $5000 in property damage coverage.
It's a straightforward insurance policy. I provide normal, reasonable evidence of the damage, missing items, or unreasonable filth, and I get paid. I've only used it this once, but it worked flawlessly.
I had a guest in May this year, who left damages for approx. $1800. This time it was through Airbnb. I presented all sorts of very thorough evidence, but Airbnb wouldn't pay me a cent. The guest denied everything (she was a lawyer), even the scratched up TV screen, that was clearly the doings of a toddler (my lawyer guest, her husband, and their 1-year old, stay for 6 months).
So the question is, do I continue to list with a company that CLAIMS they offer genuine property damage insurance (called "Host Guarantee"), or, do I put all my eggs in one basket, and exclusively list with a company that's proven to offer the real McCoy? Currently my home is listed on both...
(I address the May 2021 incident, with my lawyer guest, in the discussion "Guarantee VS Resolution?")
Thats an awful experience. Im so sorry.
What you mention about the red stains is particularly interesting. These were all over the bedrooms. Carpet, towels and it doesnt come out. Your explanation that it is a drug related chemical now makes sense. Im having to replace all carpets. Attached picture of one of the stains. Does this look similar?
Im placing our 2 flats with a managing agent and have now want to comb through the insurance side of things in fine detail. We were doing this anyway despite being just next door because of time to manage reasons. They will market on Booking dot c, vrbo amongst others. Plum have also been chasing me. But the financial upsides to Short term rentals seem to be decreasing here in UK so although I don't want to we may well switch to long term.
So thats what Ill be doing. From everything Ive read in last 15 days, your story and the lack of responses Im getting from Airbnb, I'm presuming the worst in terms of reimbursement.
. I want London Council to look into Airbnb licence to operate in London as I believe they're no longer safe for hosts and prioritize profit over people's safety. If they cant be overseen by FOC or similar or small claims court, something to help with accountability, then I dont think they should be allowed to operate in London.
It's a shame as Ive had a good history with them up til this and enjoyed hosting lovely people. 😞
Sorry to hear about your experience. Airbnb actually ran a seminar about drug cartels using STRs for UK hosts last year which I attended.
You are right all remote hosts should have CCTV or similar. And all hosts shouldn't rely on Airbnb's guarantee but should have their own home insurance for STRs. I'm always shocked to see how many very experienced hosts are unhappy about having their claims under the guarantee turned down because they don't follow Airbnb's process for making a claim before the next set of guests check in, or because they are claiming for area's not covered by the guarantee.