News Report Explores Airbnb’s Handling of ‘Nightmare’ Rentals

Tourist checking in airbnb room.

Tourist checking in airbnb room.Recent news reports have uncovered a $7 million settlement payment made by property-sharing giant Airbnb after a brutal assault took place at a rental listed on the company’s platform. The settlement is one of the largest payouts in Airbnb’s history.

In late 2015, an Australian woman traveled to New York City to celebrate New Year’s Eve with some friends. The group stayed at a popular Airbnb rental apartment just south of Times Square during their trip.

After an evening of festivities, the woman returned to the Airbnb alone. There, she was accosted by an intruder who threatened her with a knife and then raped her. Afterward, the attacker fled but was captured by police when he returned later the same evening.

The man reportedly entered the apartment using a set of duplicate keys, though investigators could not determine how the intruder obtained them. This presented an embarrassing issue for Airbnb since the company has no formal policy governing how hosts grant access to their properties to guests.

The story of the 2015 incident remained hidden from the public for years, without so much as a blurb in a local paper.

How Airbnb Deals with Crises During Rentals

To remain viable as a business, Airbnb must rely on the willingness of its users to trust total strangers. If this trust is damaged, users could flee, and the $90 billion company’s profits could disappear with them.

As a result, the way Airbnb handles safety issues is critically important. Unfortunately, the company’s response to past crises has reportedly been less than stellar.

In 2011, an Airbnb host in San Francisco reported the company’s first significant safety issue. In a public blog post, she described Airbnb guests who had ransacked her home while she was away, destroying and stealing her belongings. Airbnb’s initial response was to contact the host to ask her to take down the blog post.

Only after public backlash on Twitter did Airbnb formally apologize and promise to make changes. The company introduced a $50,000 damage guarantee for hosts, which has since expanded to cover up to $1 million in damage. There is also a 24-hour support line and a discrete department dedicated to safety.

According to Airbnb, fewer than 0.1 percent of bookings made through the platform today involve reported safety issues. However, 0.1 percent of 200 million stays per year is still 200,000 incidents.

The worst of these safety incidents are handled by Airbnb’s dedicated safety team, whose members reportedly have the freedom to spend unlimited amounts of money on supporting victims. This includes paying for things like travel, healthcare, counseling, accommodations, and even vacations.

Airbnb’s public comments have suggested these measures are aimed at prioritizing the needs of their customers. However, according to anonymous reports from former safety agents, team members were encouraged to protect the company’s image and pursue settlements as soon as possible.

Potential Liability for Criminal Attacks and Other Injuries at Airbnb Rentals

Other anonymous insiders have reported all settlements used to include nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that prevented victims from discussing what occurred, suing Airbnb, or asking for more money. The Australian woman who was attacked in New York was barred from blaming or suing Airbnb due to her settlement agreement.

In 2017, the company removed its NDA as a response to the #MeToo movement. In its place, Airbnb added a new clause to its settlement agreements that prohibit victims from talking about the terms of their payout or implying that the settlement is an admission of guilt by the company.

Reports suggest Airbnb burns through roughly $50 million per year in guest and host payouts, though the company insists many of these settlements are related to property damage only.

To date, only one case involving sexual assault has been filed against Airbnb in U.S. courts, and that case ended in a settlement as well. Because these incidents are routinely settled out of court, there is currently no established case law describing the liability of short-term rental operators such as Airbnb when safety crises occur.

About Inadequate Security Lawsuits in Georgia

In the state of Georgia, property owners are responsible for keeping their premises reasonably safe for guests. If a legal invitee is injured during their visit to someone else’s property, they may have grounds for a lawsuit if the property owner’s negligence contributed to unsafe conditions.

If you were injured while renting an Airbnb, you might be entitled to claim compensation in a claim against the property owner or Airbnb itself. To hold the company or one of its hosts responsible, you must be able to demonstrate that their negligence directly contributed to your injuries.

The Georgia negligent security attorneys at Butler Kahn are ready to evaluate your case in a free, confidential consultation. Contact us to discuss the details of your Airbnb injury claim.

Picture of Matt Kahn
Matt Kahn is an Atlanta personal injury lawyer and a partner at the law firm Butler Kahn. Matt has dedicated his career to fighting for individuals and families who had been harmed by the negligence of others. At Butler Kahn, he has had the honor of helping families who have lost children in motor vehicle accidents and people who were critically injured. He helped a family secure a $45 million settlement to provide lifetime care for their son, who was critically injured in a motorcycle accident. Matt is a graduate of Emory University School of Law and has been recognized as a Super Lawyers’ Rising Star and by Best Lawyers as One to Watch. He has received an Avvo 10.0 Top Attorney rating. Connect with me on LinkedIn
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