This experience feels tender still, and as much as this puts me in a vulnerable position to share this, I figured it would be important to do so—to let you know that I’m not perfect, that these things happen, that it may happen to you, and even if it does—you’ll be okay.

Recently, there was a huge athletic event in my home city, and so I had been able to rent my one-bedroom out for double the usual cost.

I headed out to go camping in the mountains for the weekend with a friend, trusting as usual that these would be the kinds of guests I’ve always attracted—respectful, clean, communicative and generally good people.

I was wrong.

When I returned home, the first thing I noticed was the inside welcome mat was missing. How strange, I thought. I took a glance around the entryway, and noticed another strange thing—my large hanging plant had been removed from the ceiling (and mind you, I have 10-foot high ceilings) and placed on the kitchen counter.

A quick tour around the house (accompanied by a slightly faster heartbeat than normal) revealed several other things that ranged from strange to disrespectful—they had taken down a high-end whiskey bottle and drank some of it and left it on the counter. My sherry in the fridge was also moved, its contents mysteriously lessened. And while I have around 7 pillows in my guest bedroom, 3 additional pillows had been moved from the couch into the bedroom. A towel I had given them lay folded and unused on the floor, while they had also gone hunting in my closets for additional towels I had not put out. A plant potter was broken. Various things from my alters (one being a mask) had been moved from one location in the house to another.

These things, while strange and a bit disturbing, were just the tip of the iceberg.

I later discovered that they had broken nearly all of my house rules.

They had a dog over (I’m allergic, and I mention this). They had another visitor over (I explicitly say that only people listed on the reservation can be in the house), and I suspect he stayed over due to the extra pillows. They wore shoes in the house (the floor was covered in dirty footprints). And they hung out on my front porch (which is shared with all my neighbors) and smoked cigarettes, flicking the butts over the ledge—this is unacceptable where I live.

Worst of all: My neighbors complained to the HOA about these guests, and I was at a risk of losing the ability to Airbnb my place entirely because of them.

I received several emails from worried neighbors and my housing agency, to which I spent hours writing letters of reassurance that this wouldn’t be a problem in the future.

So okay, you’ve all read a venting-based review like this before (maybe you’ve even written one).

But, what does it all mean?

As this was several weeks ago, I’ve seen and felt the dust settle. This wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. I’ve now been hosting for 3.5 years, and this was the worst incident I’ve ever had. Not bad, right?

However (and here’s where I feel vulnerable…). I am The Abundant Host. I “shouldn’t” have situations happen like this, right? I “know” all of the ways to vet people, I use both my intuition and logic, my heart and mind, to make decisions about guests.

So, here’s where I felt the most pain…

I went back through me and this woman’s interactions over Airbnb and otherwise (via text message). I looked at her profile again, I read her reviews, I checked her verifications. And nothing—nothing—set off a red flag for me. And so this made me realize…

What I was most upset about was that my intuition had failed me.

And my intuition is what I trust most in this whole world.

My intuition is what I base this website, this blog off of; the advice I give people is based around it.

My intuition is what I use and have used to keep me safe.

And it failed. It didn’t work. It wavered, it faltered.

My intuition did not keep me safe.

When I tell people this, they tell me things like—”You don’t know what your intuition has kept you safe from for the last 3.5 years!”

Yes, they’re right.

But, it still comes with a bit of shame.

And then I realized—even someone who is regarded as an “expert” on something (and I never claim to be that) is bound to mess up. To fail. And to fail exactly where it hurts.

Because we are human. And we are here to learn and grow and… to f*ck up sometimes.

And so, I don’t have any tips for you in this article.

If you’ve gotten to the end of this thinking I’d be able to tell you how to avoid this in the future… I can’t.

I can only tell you that no advice is foolproof.

No matter where you read that something works “100% of the time”… it doesn’t. It won’t.

And still… you will always learn from your experiences.

The most important thing you can do is to show up, be vulnerable… and share your experience with others.

And so, I’m sharing here, with you. And, of course… in my guest’s review. ;)

Thanks for reading! Have a question that wasn't answered here? If you'd like more specific help, I'd love to work one-on-one with you. Or, if you want to work collaboratively in a group with fellow motivated hosts, find out if the next Abundant Hosting Mastermind group is open. I also wrote a book, Cleaning Up, where I give you the nuts and bolts (and so much more) of finding your perfect turnover assistant, thereby upleveling your profit and success on Airbnb. Have a beautiful day!

The Airbnb Guests That Nearly Shut Down My Listing (And What I Learned About Myself From It)
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  • This story is intense! Thank you for sharing, it’s important to see perspectives like these.

  • Aruna M.

    You didn’t f^ck up. If you had ignored red flags you could say that, but you didn’t have any. Chalk this up to the “cost of doing business”. Even good people don’t always do the right thing.

  • Freda Seddon

    I had a similar situation just recently. I live on the property, when two extra non-registered guests arrived in the second day, I asked what was happening and was told that two of the registered guests were leaving that day, and these two were taking their place, I was unhappy that they hadn’t been upfront with their plans, but shrugged it off. Until now, I’ve not been strict about friends of guests dropping by for a few hours, it happened twice before. Now I reflect on it, I need to be explicit when people book that only registered guests are allowed, no visitors. It’s a weekend cottage. I hate to be the sort of landlady who’s spying on guests. I had thought as they rented a cottage, people have friend drop by when they have cottages, so why would I refuse them?
    The day of checkout, they weren’t ready to go when the time came. I had messaged the primary guest with a reminder of checkout instructions in the morning. When I approached two of the guests to advise the it was after checkout time, I noticed they were smoking, against the rules. I immediately contacted primary guest with my concerns and he replied that they would be out soon, with a lame excuse.
    When they left, I was assured by them the place was all tidy. Sadly it wasn’t. A pan was badly burnt, my solid oak dining table, which has endured family, friends and guests day to day use and was until then I perfect condition, had two large white heat stains, a hot pot had been placed on it unprotected. There were other minor issues.
    Of course they denied all, but thanks to Airbnb, I’ve been reimbursed for the damage and the extra guests.
    There was no difference between this group and others who left the place as they found it. My being onsite had no impact on their behaviour. The truth is that there always will be people who abuse the trust we offer when we share our homes. Yes, I was reimbursed for the monetary losses, but the stress and extra work to resolve the issues have taken a toll on me that can’t be repaid.
    Thanks for sharing your story, I’m sharing mine as you may have thought being onsite or a security camera could have prevented this. My experience shows that it makes no difference.

    • Wow, Freda. I’m glad you were reimbursed, and I know it’s hard because it also takes such an emotional toll. <3 Thanks so much for reading and responding.

  • Sorry to hear of your experience Amy. A bit like being robbed – it feels like a violation and makes you feel as though you are worth nothing. Similar things have happened to us from time to time and it’s always those you would never expect to walk all over you. A bunch of local doctors smashed a granite benchtop one time. About $4000 of damage but these well paid doctors were so reluctant to pay up that the owner did it on his own insurance (which meant his premium went up). Despite best efforts at screening guests, It is still a lottery which is not helped by AirBnB creating a sort of moral hazard by their clear bias towards siding with guests rather than with hosts.

    • Hi Nick! Thank you for your heartfelt reply and sharing. I resonate with the “violation” feeling a lot. Wishing you well. <3

  • Mark Graham

    “Because we are human. And we are here to learn and grow and… to f*ck up sometimes.”

    Yeah that just about sums it up. You do everything you can in life but then sh** does still just happen sometimes. That is the way it works. We let guests stay once who were great and had good reviews, but they had one bad review too. It worked fine but basically we all know people who are 95% cool and reliable but they still have that trashy 5% that emerges now and then. Thats what you got in this instance.

    Airbnb will not back you in these minor instances either. We can live with that. However I notice the link on this page about the 1 Million guarantee not being what you think. We had that experience too. Big unauthorised party against all our rules in what was supposed to be a security protected building. Airbnb for their part paid out about 25% of the damage but what really broke our Airbnb relationship was the fact the claims dept absolutely refused to discuss the matter despite how I tried to make contact. Good Airbnb company contacts could do nothing to help. Airbnb used to even house their personnel with us in London sometimes. We lost the ability to operate that property ultimately due to the financial loss. We had to cancel future some future bookings. We feel our business with Airbnb dropped after that and I always suspected they penalised us for the cancelled future bookings. I’d be interested in your input on this Abundant Host, I’d also like to discuss some of your services. Speak soon, Mark

    • Hi Mark! I totally hear you. <3 Thanks so much for responding, and I'd love to talk to you about helping you, as you mention. I'll check in with you via email (I believe we have a conversation thread going already).

  • Mark Graham

    Lets not forget we all have many wonderful people stay. Don’t allow yourself to focus on the very minor percent. Especially when it’s usually just minor stuff that erks, rather than the big stuff.

  • CL Reed

    I think it critical that other Host be honest in their assessment of guest (fair, professional but honest) so that an individual does not become the “next person’s problem”. If we are to be a community, then we should act like it by looking out for one another.