$300k in damages: Airbnb under fire as hosts share concerns over 'AirCover' promises

Airbnb is under fire as hosts come forward with concerns regarding promised protections for those renting their homes. In two separates incidents, Airbnb hosts told KTVU about significant problems they have had with Airbnb which range from a lack of communication during emergency situations to over-stated promises on the platform's new policy for hosts which has left one host with nearly $300,000 in damages caused by a guest.

Earlier this week, KTVU covered an Oakland day care operating out of an Airbnb, despite being temporarily suspended by the state. One of the co-hosts, Sophie, said the well-advertised AirCover did not help her during the urgent situation.

AirCover includes $3 million worth of damage protection, $1 million in liability insurance, and a 24-hour safety line for emergencies.

Sophie said she found out a convicted felon, Nicole Bell, had been running her daycare from her short-term rental in Oakland, through KTVU’s reporting. Parents shared photos of their children at the Airbnb throughout the day on Monday and Tuesday. One parent, Brandon Romo, told KTVU he saw 10 children in the apartment when he picked up his son on Tuesday.

"It was becoming clear that we were in a dangerous situation, that this person has a criminal record," Sophie said.

Sophie told KTVU she tried to get Bell out immediately and called Airbnb’s emergency line. She said as a "Superhost" she believed she would receive expedited service. 

She said while Bell was occupying the apartment, she waited on hold for over 20 minutes and struggled to get someone on the phone.

After the unit was finally cleared, Bell left diapers and other items in the unit. Sophie said she asked Airbnb to cover the deep cleaning, which is covered through AirCover. 

Airbnb said in a statement, "The reported behavior is unacceptable, and following the investigation we removed the booking guest from the platform in line with our policies and canceled the reservation. We are in contact with our Host to provide support, including through AirCover."

Airbnb told KTVU that Airbnbs are not allowed to be used for illegal activity, and violations can result in suspension or removal from the platform.

Sophie said Bell actually deleted her profile before Airbnb addressed her issues, not as a result of her claims. 

"I’m just appalled. I’ve had a lot of experience with Airbnb, and they make a great point of saying that they protect their hosts, they have this AirCover thing, and it really feels bogus," she said. "It’s really disappointing."

Back in April, a San Francisco family was displaced after an Airbnb guest clogged the toilet with fecal matter and baby wipes, causing major flooding.

"Water is everywhere, in every light fixture, every door frame; it’s coming from everywhere – the entire ceiling is saturated, so it’s just dripping," Erika Gemzer recalled.

Gemzer and her husband own a duplex in the Mission District. They’d been living on the bottom unit and renting out the top unit on Airbnb. The guests had booked a one-month stay and checked out two days early, leaving water filling the home for more than 15 hours.

She went viral after posting to X, chronicling her efforts to get Airbnb corporate to help.

"I kept calling and calling," she said. "My husband kept calling and calling."

She said they’re now $300,000 short in the cost of repairs, her continued mortgage payment despite being displaced, storage for their belongings, damaged appliances, mold testing, demolition, insurance deductibles, and lost revenue from canceled future bookings. 

"Every time I bring them something back they say ‘Oh that’s not covered,’" Gemzer said, adding that she’s exchanged nearly 150 emails with Airbnb. 

Airbnb said in a statement that it considers AirCover requests to be extremely important matters.

"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 homeowner's insurance company was supporting her with the damage as well as temporary accommodation," Airbnb stated. "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."

Gemzer did confirm Airbnb made her a final offer of approximately $31,000, after previously offering her only about $6,000, but she said she was told if she accepted the offer, she would not be able to receive any additional reimbursements. She also said it’s only 10% of her expenses to rebuild. 

Gemzer said she never denied an investigator. She said Airbnb sent an independent plumber seven weeks after the incident to access the damage. The plumber determined the toilet was clogged with baby wipes and the toilet lost mechanical function, likely due to her guests trying to unclog the toilet. 

She said she was forced to pay the plumber more than $300 before he left because he didn’t believe Airbnb would pay him.

Airbnb told Gemzer it may be a maintenance issue due to the age of the home. The house was built in 1909.

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"[The toilet] was clogged all the way through the trap because they’d been using baby wipes this whole month," she said, adding that she thinks the AirCover policy is not what Airbnb claims it to be. 

"This is not real. This is marketing. This is not a real policy. You’re not really covered. You’re certainly not covered top to bottom," she said. 

Gemzer and her husband is expecting a child any day now, and for the past six months they’ve been hopping around from place to place while their home is uninhabitable.

"I can’t bring my baby into this house," she said.

Gemzer is still counting the costs, both financial and emotional.

"I want to know that I’m going to be able to bring this baby home, in the house we created for them," Gemzer said.

While Airbnb said they were still in contact with both Sophie and Gemzer on Friday, Sophie said Airbnb did not reach out to her until KTVU made inquiries. Gemzer said she hasn’t received a call. 

Gemzer said she does not believe her guests were intentionally causing harm, but she would not be hosting for Airbnb guests in the future. She also mentioned in her tweet that she recently lost her "Superhost" status. 

Gemzer still does not have a timeline for when she can move back into her house.