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Millennial Money: These Airbnb horror stories can teach you what to watch for
Nov 14

By SAM KEMMIS of NerdWallet

Many frequent travelers carry tales of delayed flights and disappointing hotel rooms. Yet Airbnb "horror stories" are a genre all their own.

Videos with the tag #AirbnbHorrorStory have more than 63 million views on TikTok, featuring guests venting about unclean properties and last-minute cancellations leaving them stranded. The website Airbnbhell features hundreds of similar accounts, where things do not go as expected for short-term renters.

While many of these stories offer little more than schadenfreude, others can act as instructive lessons for travelers looking to avoid similar pitfalls. While there's no way to avoid short-term rental surprises outright, many guests who have experienced them say there were warning signs they wished they had watched out for.


Jack Epner, a marketing consultant and digital nomad, has lived out of Airbnbs for more than four years. Of the many difficult stays in that time, one rental __ a house in Ecuador __ stands out.

"It wasn't clean, distinctly not clean," Epner says. "We're talking black mold all over the kitchen, hair all over the bedding. I ended up with bed bugs."

Beyond that, Epner says the host's friends would use the front lawn as a parking lot, and the host entered the (private) property unannounced several times.

After messaging several Airbnb customer service teams, Epner was eventually able to receive a refund. Yet the stay was so difficult, that it forced a recalibration of how much emphasis he now places on guest reviews.

The home had only one review, from a local, Epner says. And while he would usually look for more reviews before booking, the lack of availability at the time made him willing to take the risk. He says that's a risk he won't repeat.

"I do avoid places without reviews now," Epner says. "If there's really only one review, I'll be wary; I would like to see two to three minimum. The more reviews the better."


When Agnes Groonwald saw an Airbnb listing in Crestone, Colorado, it looked too interesting to pass up.

"The place was intriguing. It looked like a spaceship buried in the ground," Groonwald says.

Groonwald, a nomad and creator of the blog Travel on the Reg, says the listing's uniqueness wasn't totally convincing. Yet, with no other listings available nearby, it seemed like the best choice.

Upon check-in, she noticed another group was already there: a family of mice.

"As soon as we arrived, we saw a little critter in the kitchen sink," Groonwald says. "This was an infestation; this was the real deal.

By The Associated Press, Copyright 2023

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