The Host Community Groups: History and Problems. Bullying and Poor Moderation.

This blog article is intended to be partly a story about the history of the host community groups, and partly an analysis of some problems that many such groups face at the present time.

Though discussion groups for vacation rental property owners existed before Airbnb came around, the “host community group” really took off as the rise of Airbnb brought many thousands more into hosting.  The first such Airbnb host community groups existed on the Airbnb website itself.   This thread http://globalhosting.freeforums.net/thread/2760/history-original-airbnb-community-groups
describes some of the history of the original host community groups.

Here are some highlights as described there:

Did you know ….

That when Airbnb started the host community groups in November 2013, hosts could create any group they wanted?

That there ended up being 440 host community groups, ranging from the largest ones, like Anecdotes, with over 64,000 members at the time of closing, to host groups that only had a handful of people?Airbnb old community groups 1 (2)

That there were special interest groups, like groups for Vegan hosts, and Motorcyclist hosts? Or Writer and Artist Hosts, or Photographers? For those interested in bushwalking, hiking and trekking?

 

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That there were regional groups for a huge number of world cities, in many languages —

That there was a Gay Friendly Hosts Community, and a “Bearnb” group?

A group for those offering long term stays?

A group for those interested in house swaps?

A group for modern art? For Yoga and Spirituality? For Nudists?

There was a group for the Airbnb Open, which continues onto the new Community Center.

From the start, Airbnb allowed any host to start a host group on virtually any subject.  This led to a proliferation of groups.  Some of the groups were larger and very active, some were small and had only 2 to 3 members.  Some were well moderated, others were not.  In fact, the phenomenon of poor or even non-existent moderation began early on, with some of the very first host community groups on Airbnb site!
Sometimes a host would start a group, and then drop out.  This could result in a group with virtually no moderation, and from nearly the very beginning, there were problems with abuse of the groups, not only businesses but also spammers scammers and phishing enterprises of all kinds, trying to exploit the “captive audience” and lure in unsuspecting hosts to their phishing sites or aggressively market their goods.  Those active in the early host groups, group leaders such as myself,  realized that in order to keep the groups clean of spam and ads, we had to quite regularly monitor the posts.  In groups such as Anecdotes  — which got its boost because the groups were initially arranged alphabetically, so as an “A” letter group it got more members really fast— it became a standing joke that due to almost nonexistent moderation, the group ended up being chock full of ads and garbage posts.  A great many hosts would join just to post an ad to their listing Anecdotes property ad 1 (2)

Anecdotes property ad 2 ph

or even just to say “hi” and then disappear. Anecdotes hi ph

The property listing ad posts never made much sense…if people want to stay someplace, they’re going to look for a place in the standard way…certainly they will not go to a host community group which has NO search function, and scroll down endlessly to look for ads, interspersed with normal posts, presented in a completely disorganized manner.

Feeling helpless in a virtually completely unmoderated group, some group members, out of frustration at seeing their group plastered with this crap, began to simply try to have fun with the inappropriate posts and ads, making jokes about them or those posting them.  See more about that here: http://globalhosting.freeforums.net/thread/2729/anecdotes-bogged-newbie-queries-hellos

Anecdotes property ad 3 ph

Anecdotes 4 ph

aNECDotes 5 ph

The joking got more frequent and eventually became a tradition of this particular group.

Anecdotes 6 ph
And
Anecdotes 7 ph

Though the property listing ads and other spam and ads were annoying, Airbnb itself was more concerned about another possibility that could occur in groups that were poorly moderated, or actually unmoderated.  And this was the possibility that hosts would post extremely inappropriate content there, which could reflect badly if existing on Airbnb’s own website.

There was in fact one incident that occurred on the group called “Hosting 911”, which changed the future of the host groups forever.  And this was when, in summer of 2015, a young host in Australia posted a thread on New Hosts Forum and Hosting 911 inquiring about “Boosting My ratings”.  When she didn’t like the advice she got, she became suicidal, and began posting threats on the Hosting 911 group, implying she was going to kill herself. Gii post Hosting 911 ph
Gii so much for advice 1

Gii saying she wants to die ph
Gii I quit everything ph

This incident resulted in Airbnb having to get in touch with its Airbnb affiliates in Australia, and contacting emergency services, and sending paramedics to this hosts’ home, who found that she had actually taken steps to commit suicide.  She was taken to a hospital and stabilized and her life was saved, but her Airbnb account was terminated thereafter.

Airbnb realized after this that it could unfortunately not afford the liability,  or public relations disaster, of host-led groups on its own website, which could have this kind of thing occur on them.

So Airbnb began planning to end the old host-led host community groups, and create a new “Community Center” on its site, which would be moderated not by hosts but by a Subcontractor or Vendor business.  Which is what you see today on the Airbnb site.  As they made this transition they worked with myself  and a few other of the original host leaders and regular participants on the old groups, soliciting our feedback for their design plans for the new Airbnb Community Center.  This group of about 20 of us were giving them a lot of feedback early on as they set up the Community Center that you see today…the first versions of it did not look as good! Our feedback helped them improve the site.
The old host groups closed in May 2016, and hosts in the various groups (though there were 440 groups, only about a dozen were very active) had to decide where to go from there.

Most of the original group leaders were not interested in participating on the new Community Center for hosts, for two reasons primarily.

First was that whereas the original host groups had been open only to hosts, and were not visible to the general public, Airbnb intended most of the new Community Center to be viewable by the general public, with the exception of the “Host Circle” and the Regional host groups.  This created the problem that anything any host posted could be linked not only to their profile and listing, but could be seen, and linked to those, potentially by anyone in the world, including that hosts’ guests or potential guests.  Most of those who had participated in the original host groups saw the value of this relative privacy and were concerned that if they posted about a concern with a guest, the guest they were posting about could see their post.
Secondly, hosts had valued the groups that had formed under their leadership and they had built up these groups with a lot of time and effort, and they wanted host leaders and moderators, not some third party contractor to be moderating the groups.

So, when the Airbnb Community Center took off, it really saw a whole different group of hosts populate it– only some of the regulars from the old groups stayed on.  The rest went to various offsite host groups.

Though there were some efforts to create non-social-media offsite groups (my forum at www.globalhostingforum.com being one of those, and www.airhostsforum.com being another), these were not as popular as the Facebook host groups.  For some reason, everyone loved Facebook, in spite of the fact that there were notorious privacy issues involved with using Facebook.  There were several other drawbacks to Facebook — such as that hosts were expected to use their real name,  and that the content on Facebook groups is not easily searchable, and that social media groups tend to be less supportive of thoughtful posts/explorations than snippy and sometimes dismissive one-liners.

As the host groups moved almost entirely to Facebook groups, we’ve seen a certain “social-media-ization” of the host groups.  In addition to the perennial problem of posting of ads and spam in groups, in many host groups (some more than others) we see regular bullying and dismissive posts, as well as poor moderation by the group leaders.

One of the most common forms of bullying, is hosts berating other hosts for having certain decisions/styles in their approach to hosting, or for being upset by things others insist must be viewed as “the cost of doing business.”  I referred to this in the introduction to another recent article, see here:
https://globalhostingblogs.com/2019/05/26/house-rules-thermostat-settings-duvets-and-keurig/

Here are a few examples of this phenomenon as mentioned there:

Examples of such “touchy” issues — Thermostat settings. Yes, some hosts will insist that you cannot set limits on thermostat settings on your own property, that if you do, you’re the Grinch who ruined Christmas. Coffeemakers. There have been strident lectures delivered to hosts who use Keurig setups, that through proliferation of disposable plastic containers, they are responsible for the destruction of the planet. Duvet covers, when to wash. Some hosts adamantly insist if you do not wash every duvet cover after every reservation you should just pack up shop and close your business because you’re lower than pond scum. Never mind that hotels do not do this. Screening of guests and asking for photo of guest. Some hosts insist there can be no possible good use of a photo of the guest to a host, and that if you want to see a photo of a guest before they book, and dislike Airbnb’s new policy that prevents that, you’re probably a Klan member or other discriminatory and hateful toad just waiting to reject people on the basis of their race.  House rules, perhaps most touchy of all….did you know that “Long rules…Bad host!”

For instance, here’s a comment that one host made towards another just this week: Blacklist reported comment May 31

Now I don’t know about you, but I expect polite and respectful adults to make some attempt to clean up if they pee or poop in their bed or in the tub or on the bathroom floor, and not to leave the explosion that occurred in the toilet for the next person to find.

In some groups, there is no room for disagreement.  Hosts are expected to take the “correct” approach to some hosting issue or topic or Airbnb policy, and there’s no tolerance for those who take a different view.  For instance, here’s a thread on Airhosts Forum where someone upset that Airbnb is hiding guest photos before booking, is basically told by more than one regular forum participant (including at least one of the groups’ moderators) that they must be an uptight,  precious princess or disgusting discriminatory racist if they don’t like this policy:

https://airhostsforum.com/t/protest-airbnbs-ridiculous-new-policy-preventing-hosts-from-choosing-their-guests/32019/8

Airhosts forum on hiding photos 4 (2)

Airhosts forum on hiding photos 3 (2)

Airhosts forum on hiding photos 2 (2)

Airhosts forum on hiding photos (2)

This is very bad moderation, to express that kind of contempt for a host with a very legitimate concern.  Reading the above posts, you’d have no idea that there are an enormous number of Airbnb hosts upset with Airbnb’s policy on hiding guest photos, and that it is actually possible to respect their concern, as Airbnb itself did with this meeting on the subject:

In the early days of the host community, there was more tolerance of hosts doing things their own way, and there was more support of hosts who were facing problems with guests.  As well, and I think this is relevant, there were more in-home hosts, true homesharing hosts, whose situation and expectations of guests is naturally different than the large real estate company “hosts” we see now, who run their listings more like a standard hotel, who are now more commonly participating in host groups.

In the old days, if a large real estate company “host”, which was in essence really a hotel, showed up on the Host Community Groups like New Hosts Forum , they would be shown the door.  We were clear these were groups for hosts, not hotels.  This situation has nearly reversed itself today.  I have observed that in many host groups, homesharing hosts are in the minority, and not only do large-scale offsite hosts sometimes show impatience to in home hosts, (eg, that we don’t just “get with the program” and run our homes just like hotels) but increasingly it seems that Airbnb has less interest in the concerns of homesharing hosts as well.

Also, there is an innate problem to social media like Facebook, which is that it encourages short and snippy, witty and perhaps dismissive comments, as opposed to thoughtful and complete self-expression.  I’ve been told more than once, in a host Facebook group, that my posts are too long, and hosts dont’ have time to read all this.  People like making snippety comments on Facebook, and I think group leaders need to realize, politeness may be passe in some groups.  Mean and rude comments that stir up heated arguments can actually be more interesting to some people.  I get the sense, observing how much activity there is on threads which get into nasty arguments, that people get intrigued and attracted by the drama and nastiness in these posts…somewhat like in the old days when in Roman arenas, slaves were required to fight to the death, or innocents were tossed to the lions. Thrown to lions

There is a certain bloodthirstiness in human nature, which seems to satisfy itself in seeing people attacked and ridiculed.  To some extent, we may all experience this at least in some small way.  Shows like “Judge Judy” or “Survivor” play to this part of our nature, the part that likes to see others insulted or ridiculed, as Judge Judy does, or see someone axed, as occurs on Survivor show.  Then too, this lasciviousness to see others ridiculed or held in contempt, fits in well with the new “righteousness culture”, what we might call a type of fundamentalism that can occur on either side of the political divide, where one side simply smugly congratulates itself on having all the correct answers, and views the other side as subhuman “deplorables” or racists or  snowflakes, or whatever the snappy dismissive term-du-jour happens to be.

So , this “righteousness culture” seems to have inserted itself into various host community groups, such that (as in the example above about the Airbnb hiding photos issue) no other viewpoint or way of doing business is acceptable.  One host I know calls the Airhosts forum the “Mean Girl group”, because of this nasty streak it has.  A few host Facebook groups have the reputation of being stomping grounds for nasties and bullies, and the group leaders of these seem oblivious to the problem.  I recently made the mistake of posting my new blog in one of these groups, and the first two comments on my post were dismissive, bullying responses to a thoughtful article. p Jennifer Allen and Jennifer Costa attack my blog post on AFH ph

In groups oriented to the discussion of problem guests, in spite of rules that ask that members respect the host posting about a problem issue, it’s common to see dismissive replies.  Hosts will reply that that wasn’t a real problem, you’re too much of a princess or you should not be in business if you can’t handle this.  Other hosts will object because they identify with the guest for one reason or another.  The guest happened to be black, so the host suggests the real intent of the post was something racist.  Or the host mentioned the guests’ nationality, in telling their story, and someone from that country is offended and takes it out on the host, assuming the host is implying everyone from this country behaves like this problem guest…even when they have said no such thing.  Or the guest is middle aged, and a middle aged host takes offense.  Or someone upset at a guest that caused serious problems for a host, is venting at the guest, poking fun at them in some way in order to try to bring relief through levity, and someone takes offense at the levity.  Or a host complains about a problem that some hosts insist is much too minor, and the host is attacked on that basis.  It goes on and on.

The result is, quite predictably, that some hosts no longer feel safe posting about nearly anything in the host groups, and some will come right out and say so.

One host recently posted in a Facebook host group, that she is quite reticent to post in the group because of the amount of the abuse in the group.  She stated that she has flagged or reported the “trolls”, but to no avail, the “piling on” still occurs.

Internet troll

Another group member contacted an administrator of a group and privately conveyed that he was not willing to post in the group, because “the group seems to have taken an ugly turn, to be honest.” He indicated that “even one of your admin/moderators belittled someone recently for posting.” He indicated that there were multiple ways he had seen group members be rude to those posting, including making fun of the host’s home!  He summarized that therefore he would not be posting.

In another host group, a host member was actually kicked out of the group for trying to warn other hosts about some young people apparently planning an illegal party at an Airbnb listing in that region.  Which is a growing problem, something that plenty of evidence for can be found on social media posts.  But this particular host group was marching in lockstep to the “righteousness culture” and had apparently collectively decided that all the warnings about young kids (who happened to often be young black kids) planning illegal parties at Airbnbs, were actually “fake” posts created by racists just to keep black people down.  So they would not take legitimate threats to their business seriously, and were content to scapegoat and reject someone who was sincerely trying to help them.  Such is the power of fundamentalist thinking and groupthink!

It’s not easy to moderate any kind of group, and host groups are no exception.

There is probably no such thing as a perfect moderator.  But I know some people, including a few long time members of the host community, who come close and to whom I could give a Gold Star award!  Some people have excellent mediation skills, but have a very hard time taking a firm approach to rulebreakers.  Some people have an easier time taking a firm approach to those breaking group rules and common courtesy violators, but do not have as many strengths in mediation and diplomacy.  To be an effective moderator, it helps a lot both to know oneself, and to know human nature.  It helps to be kind and have a good sense of humor, but it also helps to be able to say NO and draw boundaries.

Perhaps the greatest problems exist in groups where the group leaders are not even aware of or bothered by the problems that are causing serious concern to their group members.  If you are running a group and not even aware that people are avoiding your group because it’s gained a reputation as a hangout for bullies and nasties…this is a problem.  If you notice a heated argument in your group, and insults starting to fly back and forth, and as the moderator your response is to smile and go “Hee Hawww!” and grab for some popcorn and start to place bets on who will win….well you may have some room for growth.  Don’t convince yourself that your group is successful because it has a lot of members in it…as I described above in regards to the original host groups, one of the most dysfunctional groups, Anecdotes, was the largest host community group with over 64k members. However, the vast majority of those members didn’t regularly participate.
And in terms of who will win, well it’s likely to be the nastiest person with the thickest skin. The more sensitive ones are the ones who will lose out, because sensitive people avoid fights and unpleasantry, while the crude folks seem to thrive on just that.

To be an effective moderator, it will help if you can put yourself in the shoes of all kinds of group members, and try to see things through their eyes.  Wisdom is called for, ideally, but how much is wisdom valued at this time?

Moderating is not just about removing spam and ads from groups.  It is about mediating between members, and recognizing problematic dynamics…such as how it’s not really a good thing when the most popular posts in the group, the ones with the most activity, turn out to be the ones with the nastiest comments on them.Bullets fly from mouth

Some moderators will diligently remove nasty comments from the group, but are averse to removing the repeat perpetrators thereof.   This is not sufficient, as it teaches those who repeatedly behave rudely and engage in bullying (and some who use offensive putdowns which may be racist or sexist), that they can do so with impunity.  If the only consequence to their actions is that their posts end up deleted, then eh, so what. They still were able to get the satisfaction of having their rude or nasty comment read..  They are free to hate on others over and over and over again.

This situation is not dissimilar to the bad Airbnb guest which Airbnb refuses to do anything about.  Just as we would not want a bad Airbnb guest, who repeatedly causes problems for hosts, to be enabled to continue their malicious behavior, out of some misguided idea that they are valuable to the Airbnb community, so also, host group leaders ideally should not view those continually making nasty and rude comments as essential to the host community, and allow them to continue their nasty campaign, possibly until the group is ruined because no one has had the brass to put an end to this unacceptable repeat behavior.  The amount of damage that nasty comments and nasty group members can do to a group, should not be underestimated.  Keep in mind that this damage may not always be visible.  You will see some of the fights and heated arguments in the group, but what you may not see, until it’s too late, are all those who either decide not to participate, or who leave the group, because they are disturbed by the nasty behavior they have seen in the group.

Some suggestions for host group moderation: 

Just as you would for guests in your home, have a screening process for applicants to your group, and dont’ accept just anyone.  Vet your members.

Not only ask that group members treat each other courteously, but spell out specifically what is considered discourteous or unhelpful.  Making unconstructive criticisms.  Telling another host that they shouldn’t be hosting, because of something they said.   Having a common practice of seeming to wait in the wings, waiting to leap out and police others’ language, the terms people use, finding fault with attempts at gentle levity, accusing other members of being racist or discriminatory or having the wrong views on whatever political issue.  Repeatedly being contemptuous or dismissive.

Seek to cultivate real wisdom and a sense of the whole range of possible thought and views on any particular subject and/or in courteous disagreement.  This will help you find a comfortable balance between allowing a discussion to get too heated and argumentative on the one hand, and on the other hand, allowing threads or conversations to be frequently shut down by people who seem to want to bully others by claiming to be “offended.”  In this particular era, it needs to be recognized that it is quite possible to bully others by repeatedly claiming to be offended.

Being friendly and interactive in your group.  Being a model of good behavior in the group.  Praising members and their posts when you can.  Deleting inappropriate comments or posts as quickly as possible, and speaking to members privately when they repeatedly post inappropriate content.  Having a clear procedure you articulate to other moderators, about how to handle repeat problems with the same group members.

It may also help to be aware of how some group members behave on other groups.  On more than one occasion, I’ve seen people request to join a particular host group, and be declined, based on one or more moderators’ awareness of that individuals’ behavior on other host groups.  So just like guests who behave badly in someone’s home, may end up with a review on their profile that warns other hosts away from them, some host community group members may find that their reputation precedes them.  Reputation precedes you

We might say “good riddance” in both cases.

 

 

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House Rules, Thermostat Settings, Duvets and Keurig

Quiz: what do all these four things have in common?

House Rules
Thermostat Settings
Duvet Covers
Keurig Coffeemakers

Answer: all four of these, when discussed in most any host community group, can result in a firestorm of tumult, tension, heated argument and calls for people to just bow out of hosting because they are sadistic meanies and lower than pond scum. Pond Scum cartoon (2)

In the several years I’ve been part of various host community groups, I’ve noticed that there are a few “touchy issues” which invariably, when they arise, result in somewhat tense disagreements. Generally the reason for the tension or heated discussions that ensue, is that some hosts cannot seem to refrain from judging other hosts and implying that they know better than that host, how that person should run their own private property and/or their business.

Examples of such “touchy” issues — Thermostat settings. Yes, some hosts will insist that you cannot set limits on thermostat settings on your own property, that if you do, you’re the Grinch who ruined Christmas. Coffeemakers. There have been strident lectures delivered to hosts who use Keurig setups, that through proliferation of disposable plastic containers,  they are responsible for the destruction of the planet. Duvet covers, when to wash. Some hosts adamantly insist if you do not wash every duvet cover after every reservation you should just pack up shop and close your business because you’re lower than pond scum. Never mind that hotels do not do this. Screening of guests and asking for photo of guest. Some hosts insist there can be no possible good use of a photo of the guest to a host, and that if you want to see a photo of a guest before they book, and dislike Airbnb’s new policy that prevents that, you’re probably a Klan member or other discriminatory and hateful toad just waiting to reject people on the basis of their race.

And of course, House rules, perhaps the most touchy of all!!

It’s quite common to see some hosts bash any host who has “longish” house rules. Because, apparently, they all know that there can be no possible reason for this except wanting to torture people!! . A surprising number of hosts will be completely dismissive of anyone who has discovered (often to their own dismay) that there is just no way around saying what has to be said. These will insinuate, in a simplistic and demonizing way, “Long rules! Bad host!” Completely failing to realize, apparently, that generally, the only reason a host has “long rules”, is because…surprise..they’ve had bad guests!!  (Or, they’ve wisely become proactive after reading about other hosts who had bad guests).  And they are now trying to protect themselves from more bad behavior.

There’s one article about this here: https://globalhostingblogs.com/2017/04/08/house-rules-why-warum-por-queзачем-pourquoi/

Now most of you who are naturally polite and considerate folks, would think a sign like this has no purpose:

Bathroom rules

After all, wouldn’t this be common sense? Wouldn’t everyone just have common sense and not need to be told anything like this?
One of the most important things a person learns when they open up their home to others to stay in, is how widespread is the lack of common sense and good judgment.
And how surprisingly many people have no idea how to clean up after themselves.

So you can take a couple approaches to this.

One is that you can avoid having signs in your house or longish house rules, and just resign yourself to toilet seats left up,  people wiping their hands on your curtains because they can’t be bothered to reach under the counter and replace the paper towels, or using paper towels in the toilet and clogging it because they can’t be bothered to reach in the cabinet and get another roll of TP.   And resign yourself to coming along and cleaning up afterward, each and every time a guest doesn’t do that.  Because, well, they are busy.

OR:

You can post some specifics instructing people about how actually to clean up if they dont’ know how.

Well if you only have one party of guests at a time, and you’re the only one inconvenienced by someone’s lack of ability to clean up or use common sense, then you may be more disposed to be patient.  But if you have one or two other guests, and the problematic behavior of one is impacting the others, you might be aware that by failing to do anything to either prevent or mitigate these problems, you could get bad reviews from your other two good guests, who will be blaming you for the behavior of the inconsiderate guest.

More detailed house rules is one way of trying to avert such problems…though of course it’s imperfect, as are all ways of dealing with this.

And more and more details sometimes do end up being required, in spite of our own wish that this would not happen.  Because, truth be told, hosts with “long house rules” actually do not want long house rules.  We want short rules.  Actually, like many of you, we wish we could just say “Be cool” or “Be respectful” and then sit back and find that all guests are stellar and we never have any problems.  But repeat problem experiences with guests have made this no longer possible for us.

So I thought I’d share an example of why our house rules end up getting longer and longer…

As has been written about elsewhere, (for instance, here: https://globalhostingblogs.com/2017/11/15/mail-and-the-boomerang-guest/      ) allowing guests to receive mail at your home can introduce problems. Not always, or course, but there is the possibility of problems. So for that reason, many hosts myself included will create a rule to help eliminate potential problems.  If guests getting mail or packages at your home is not a problem for you, that’s great, but please don’t dismiss other’s experiences Bee in Bonnet

and other’s reality and come in like a raging fury with a bee in your bonnet screaming at other people about how they should run their own home.  The irony is lost on such folks: they are reprimanding at other hosts, calling them “controlling” or whatnot, but then they themselves are indicating that they seem to need to control how others run their private home.

Okay now for the story of how house rules grow longer in spite of all that we try to do for this not to happen.
When I started, it was a simple two words; “No mail.”

No mail

Then, I discovered people thinking that “mail” did not include packages, and they were ordering packages.  So I had to say “No mail or packages delivered to my house, please.

But then, I found that while not ordering mail or packages, guests were using my address in ways they should not and which would cause trouble for me…eg open bank account with my address.  Guests staying as few as 3 days, were opening a bank account using my address.  Just nopey-nope!!

So then it became “no mail or packages may be delivered to my house and do not give my address to any business or institution, except immigration authorities as required or a cab driver perchance.”

But then, the whole issue of what to do when guests broke this rule arose. Because in spite of having stated crystal clearly that guests could not get mail or packages sent to my house, and actually reminding guests of this  in about 3 different ways, (once in the house rules before they inquire, once after inquiring in the Airbnb messaging with them, and again after arrival in the house rules placed on the table in their room) they would have mail or packages sent to my house!!  (“Oops! I didn’t know!“).

So now, I had to add to the rule, what guests could expect if they did this. Because I had already tried handing them the item they had sent to my home,  and scolding them, only to find this didn’t work…because guess what. They found out that they could keep ordering packages and say “Oops!” Oops! Didn’t know about that rule. Oops! It came here by mistake. Oops! It was Amazon or Pottery Barn’s error, etc.  Endless oops.  Besides…I have a quality in me…some of you may share.  I just don’t like to see guests benefit when they break my house rules.  If I’ve spent time dealing with mail problems and package problems…I want what I say to have some effect.  I don’t like being blown off.

Also, something that is helpful in doing property rentals, is understanding human psychology. I have learned that for some folks, one of the best motivators to follow house rules in host’s home, is that there are some kinds of consequences for not doing so. Such people lack the basic respect which would motivate them just to behave as asked in a property where they are an invited guest. Rather, they are responsive to consequences. This may be fear of getting a bad review, or it might be a fine for rule violation (unfortunately Airbnb and some other platforms do not allow for this…a shame because it would be very effective). Or it might be that they see they are not able to benefit from breaking the rule.

So…now I have to take another approach, and also tell guests about this in advance, so they would not expect that if they violate my house rules they can benefit from that. So….if guests have mail or packages come to my house…I state I’ll return to sender, or throw out. As many of you know or should know, first class mail can’t be thrown out, that you have to return to sender…you can hand it to the postal carrier for instance “Wrong address.”  But packages are not subject to the same legal requirements and there is no obligation upon you to return any package that was not signed for.  (See more on this issue below at the end of this article….)

But then, as you might expect….that wasn’t enough either—- to just say mail or packages would be returned or tossed!!…Because now  — as some of the more astute of you may have guessed   —, when they dont’ get an item that they had delivered to your home in violation of your rules…guess what…not a few will blame YOU for this! Eg….“Where’s my package!!!” So now I had to also state that I will not be liable for any items sent to my house..!!

And so you see how things can just go on and on. Yes if guests could “get it” with a simple 2 word statement all would be well. But the nature of some renters seems to be trying to find excuses or ways around the rules.  Well, yes, there is a different approach we could take, other than lengthening our rules and expanding the details.  We could just throw up our arms and give up and  let guests do as they will. Sometimes this may be the only option, short of evicting someone.  But in terms of trying to prevent a repetition of the issue in the future…well…we may end up with longer and longer rules, continually trying to close the loopholes or sew up the ambiguities and bring things back to crystal clear.

And then…as if that were not enough….some guests also seem to have an expectation that you explain the “why” of all your rules…as if not realizing that this would increase the amount of required reading for prospective guests by a significant amount.

And then we have…to our own dismay….” the yellow pages book of rules”.

Yellow pages

More about packages….and your responsibility (or not) for things that end up on your porch

So to continue a subtopic introduced in this article…if you don’t allow guests to get mail or packages at your house, what do you do with said items if they arrive at your house anyway? I refer to situations in the USA, where I live…I can’t speak to other areas.

As most are aware, for first class mail delivered by the US postal service, laws apply that state you need to “return to sender” those items, rather than just throw them out.  However this only applies to first class mail, as third class and junk mail, cannot be returned to sender.  Those can be thrown out. Also, some may not realize it, but as common sense would dictate, you cannot be held liable for opening mail that you did not realize was not addressed to you.  See here for information about that:

https://thelawdictionary.org/article/what-is-the-federal-law-for-opening-mail-not-addressed-to-you/

A reader sent me this explanation of his approach to mail:

“Now I don’t know about you but I am farsighted.  This means that unless I have my reading glasses on, (which are really thick and unsightly)  Thick glasses
I can never see the name (or address) of any envelope I am opening.  And since I forbid guests from getting mail at my house, naturally I expect everything in my mailbox to be for me and open all of it.  Generally I do this without my reading glasses on, because they are sitting on a distant counter and I’m too lazy to reach for them, and besides, without the right glasses on, I might not even be able to see them.
At the same time that I’m opening my mail — without my reading glasses on, mind you —  it’s my habit to shred all the envelopes to use for nest material for my pet ferret.   If I discover something isn’t for me after I’ve opened it by mistake, it’s too late to return it, as it’s now been opened, and the envelopes all vaporized.”
That solves the mail problem.

Now for package problem…. the same laws do not apply as apply for mail.  As far as I can tell (but I am not an attorney so none of what follows can be taken as legal advice) you are actually not legally obligated to try to return any packages to your home that should not have come there, though as a matter of courtesy most of us would try to return packages that for instance should have been delivered for instance to the house 2 doors down or 3 streets over.

As well,  particularly if like myself you’ve already told each guest 3 times in various ways not to have packages sent to your home, and they do this anyway, you may find that you completely lack any energy or desire to put in the work that may be required to return those packages.  Because in this case, it’s not a simple matter of saying hello to a deliveryperson who comes to your home every day like the USPS does.  You would at the very least have to make a phone call, possibly an appointment, or even drive the package somewhere to return it.

What is your legal obligation, if any, with these “misdelivered” packages?  ( The term misdelivered is appropriate because they went to the wrong address….your address, one that was not permitted to be used)   I found that this was hard to figure out as there is not that much online about this particular type of misdelivery issue.  The discussions that do exist online are mostly about different scenarios, eg, a company sends something to you (with your name and address on it) that you didn’t order.  Or a company sends something to someone else at another address, but it ends up on your porch. Or someone else who used to live at your address, but doesn’t any longer, orders something and accidentally forgets to update the delivery address.   But in the case of hosts that prohibit guests getting mail, it’s not  any of these.  It’s a package with someone else’s name coming to your address….and there was no “accident” by that buyer, rather a use of what was not theirs to use.

There is another aspect to this issue of guests getting mail or packages at your home. For all guests (or roommates) renting a room in your home, as opposed to a whole separate unit, as far as I can tell, there is NO legal obligation for you to provide them mail service/privileges.  While there is a legal obligation of landlords to provide mailboxes for standard long-term tenants renting an entire, separate unit, this seems to not be the case for roommates, and is certainly not the case for short term guests.  Such individuals cannot demand any “right” to receive mail at your house if you refuse them this privilege.  They can be told, as my guests are, that they need to use a post office box or UPS box, etc, to receive mail or packages.  In fact, you as a homeowner are not even required to have a mailbox at your house for your own mail. You could remove it and get all your mail at your PO box.  And if you do have a mailbox at your house, you can make it clear that this is for your mail only, and no one else is entitled to use it.  Any mail that is delivered into your house or your address, that is not for you, can be “refused delivery.”  While it is more difficult to “refuse delivery” of items that have already been delivered, this can still be done.

 

shipping

In researching this issue, I did find this:

https://www.consumerreports.org/consumerist/amazon-sends-me-someone-elses-order-why-dont-they-care-if-i-send-it-back/

In this case, we have something more similar to our host situation:

Bobby, who didn’t realize until after the box was opened that one of the Amazon packages they received this week was actually intended for someone who had previously lived at their address.

So Bobby had a package delivered to his house, with his address on it, but it was for someone else.  This actually isn’t exactly our situation either, since in Bobby’s case, the person who ordered it obviously made an error in the delivery address they had on their account– they didnt’ enter their updated residence address.  In our case, the issue was different: the buyer entered the address he thought was correct, but he did not have permission to use that address.  So this would be a bit more like someone who decides that instead of having their items delivered to their own home, they’ll have them delivered to their neighbor’s house or the local UPS pick up store, without ever asking permission to do that.

Bobby was a good Samaritan so he tried to return it.  Yet what happened  next as he tried to do this, will demonstrate how even those hosts who want to try to return packages that guests have delivered to their home, may have difficulty doing that.

Bobby contacted Amazon’s chat customer support, and gave the rep the order number of the items involved. The customer service rep then tried to generate a UPS return label for the package, but because the ordered items weren’t associated with Bobby’s account, the links to print out the return labels did not work.
Instead, Bobby got a message reading, “Error Occurred: This Amazon account is not associated with the return label or authorization you are trying to access.”
At this point, the rep told Bobby to just keep the items.
“I’m sorry but since it’s from different account we are not able to access it,” reads the transcript shown to Consumerist. “You can just keep the items or donate. Since you are not been charge. Thank you for trying to return the item.”
So is this just a case of a rep not wanting to figure out how to send a shipping label that Bobby could actually use? Probably not, as federal guidelines say pretty clearly that Bobby has every right to keep unordered items — and that Amazon could get into trouble for pushing a customer to return something they didn’t order.

So…..as you can see from Bobby’s experience, Amazon’s own policies made it impossible for him to return the misdelivered item!!  Apparently, bizarrely, Amazon has not incorporated the concept of the misdelivery into its whole way of doing business.  And that in fact they may be blocked in doing so by “federal guidelines”.

The link to FTC guidelines on this contained in that article, doesn’t seem though to really address Bobby’s situation, or our hypothetical hosts’ situation.  It simply states this:

Unordered Merchandise
Whether or not the Rule is involved, in any approval or other sale you must obtain the customer’s prior express agreement to receive the merchandise. Otherwise the merchandise may be treated as unordered merchandise. It is unlawful to:

(1)Send any merchandise by any means without the express request of the recipient (unless the merchandise is clearly identified as a gift, free sample, or the like); or,
(2) Try to obtain payment for or the return of the unordered merchandise.
Merchants who ship unordered merchandise with knowledge that it is unlawful to do so can be subject to civil penalties of up to $42,530 per violation. Moreover, customers who receive unordered merchandise are legally entitled to treat the merchandise as a gift. Using the U.S. mails to ship unordered merchandise also violates the Postal laws.

This article is also helpful and has lots of comments about people who’ve experienced getting “misdeliveries” of various kinds, and their decisions about what to do about them:

https://lifehacker.com/what-to-do-with-amazon-packages-you-didnt-order-1825205083

I think this one comment on that article  is spot on:How to return package not (2)

So, as to “the package problem”, what I glean from the above information can I think be summed up this way:
(1) If anything other than standard first class mail is delivered to your home, you are under no legal obligation to return it, and in fact, returning it may be quite difficult to do.  In some cases, it may be impossible.  (For first class mail, see my gentle reader’s approach, as above. )
(2) Anything that is “misdelivered” to your home — whether items with your name that you did not order, items with someone else’s name and another address, or items with someone else’s name and your address — can be legally considered, under FTC law, as “a free gift” to you.

So…as a host you might take the approach that if guests break the no-package rule, all well and fine…more free gifts for you! 

But if you feel uncomfortable with that, and still feel like you’d rather diligently and dutifully try to return the items…

Supposing you do wish to return the items,  with packages delivered by UPS, one is able to drive a package to a UPS office and drop it off, saying “I refuse delivery” . Ditto with packages delivered by Fedex.  As with packages delivered by USPS.  But Amazon is now using its own special contracting service with a delivery service called “Logistics” to do some deliveries.  And they have no office you can drive up to and return items to.  I actually called up Amazon and asked specifically about this issue of how to return items that someone had delivered to my house without permission.  What I found is similar to what Bobby found, in that basically that there is no way to return any package directly to Amazon if you are not the one who ordered it and bought it!!

Here’s what I recommend that you do. 

First I’ll mention what I think are less optimal solutions to this problem of what to do with packages that the guest orders in violation of your rules.

(1) If you just give the package to the guest, perhaps with a scolding, they will be happiest, but you may have a lingering frowny face.  They benefit from breaking your rules, and you experience yet another instance of your authority and rules being blown off.

(2) If you say “Mail? What mail?” or “Package? What package?” when the guest asks about their goods, they may snort that Amazon sent them a photo proving it was delivered here! (Yes, some Amazon delivery services do that now) So now where issssss it!!!?!  Particularly in urban areas like mine, where package thieves have a huge business— every week there are posts on my neighborhood group about stolen packages….this is another problem for hosts and reason why it may be better for you not to allow package delivery.  In fact as this article describes, and this one shows in an that sometimes it’s the Amazon delivery people themselves who are the ones stealing the packages they deliver!!  Here is a video showing an Amazon delivery person “caught in the act” of stealing the very package he is supposed to deliver! Note how he first places the package behind the gate, photographs it in place to “prove” it was delivered, then takes it away again, stealing it! Amazon driver steals packages

Nevertheless, guests may blame you if they don’t get an item that was “proved” to have been delivered, or which in fact was stolen.  “Where’s my package!!!!”where my package

(3) If you tell the guest you’ll be returning to sender any packages that come for them, you will find this burdens you with a lot of work, and they will resent you and say “Why didn’t you just give it to me if it came here for me…I won’t do it again.”  Okay but I’ve had now about 100 people do this and each  one said they wouldn’t do it again.

And if you realize you don’t’ want to be burdened with returning all the guests’ darn goods…

(4) If you tell guest you will either return or throw out any packages that come for them, and suggest it is arbitrary which option you choose, they may be furious, insisting (in spite of the fact that guests are not really able to book a reservation without checking a box stating that they have read the house rules!) “I didnt’ know” and then if they think you’ve shredded the whatnot and put it in the garbage, this appears as a hostile gesture.  They may say “you stole it” and imply you did something illegal.  Which in fact, as you see if you examined the information above, is false, because legally you are allowed to keep any misdelivered packages as a “free gift” to you.

So here is what I think is the ideal solution:  
In addition to stating that guests may not have mail or packages sent to your home,  I recommend you say is something to this effect:  “any items delivered to my home in violation of this rule will be either returned to their sender or disposed of , in keeping with applicable law”

This way , you are not clearly stating that you would throw anybody’s 📦 stuff away,  you are stating that you would follow the law which applies to your situation. And the guest does not need to know that in the case of packages , you are (almost) never required by law (in the USA) to return them to sender.!! (As far as I am aware, the only instance in which you’re required to return it to sender if it is a package sent through first class mail, which is delivered by USPS and no one else, and which is placed in your mailbox or very close to it)

Value of this approach : it can be more diplomatic and copacetic for the guest to assume that you’re just returning everything even when you’re not.

If they try to get into discussion about it eg “Where is my package??  How long till you return it?? The company says it was not returned!!” etc. you can just reply that also in accordance with your policy you will not be getting into discussion about this matter:

No mail, no packages, no discussion, end of story .”

End of Story

When An Airbnb Host is Terminated Based on False Statements by the Guest

This story is an important one, because it touches on several levels of problems  — (1) the ever-expanding AIrbnb Terms of Service, which expand Airbnb’s own power and rights while reducing those of users of its platform, (2) Airbnb’s handling of complaints made by one user about another user or listing, (3) AIrbnb’s practice of terminating users without providing any explanation about why they took this action, or (4) Airbnb failing to offer any appeals process both for terminations and for other decisions it makes, say about requests for reimbursement for damages.

There is one recent court case in Baltimore Maryland which involves several interesting factors so it’s worth highlighting.

This case involves a long-time Baltimore host, Jeannette Belliveau, who was a SuperHost with over 500 Airbnb reviews, who had also done political advocacy work to support hosts in Baltimore.  Her Airbnb account:  https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/10722046

In summer of 2018, guest Stephanie Akker stayed with Jeannette in her home.  Stephanie seemed to have a fine time, didn’t complain to Jeannette about anything.  So Jeannette was quite disturbed to hear from Airbnb after Stephanies’ stay, that Airbnb was considering terminating Jeannette’s account on Airbnb over some type of violation of terms.  After reading Stephanie’s review of her stay, Jeannette realized what had happened….the guest had made a false, defamatory statement about Jeannette in her review, and this false statement actually led Airbnb to terminate Jeannette’s account, without even bothering to consider Jeannette’s side of the story!  Stephanie defamatory review false

No, there was NOT a 9mm hand gun in a small basket by the front door!  There were a bunch of doggie toys in the basket by the front door, as well as a toy rubber pistol that Jeannette used as a prop in a self-defense course.

Jeannette presented the facts to Airbnb, but willy-nilly they terminated her account anyhow, blithely disrespectful of the facts and demonstrating an unaccountable bias towards the guests’ false and defamatory statement.  Apparently it was of no concern to them that Jeannette was a superhost with a long time solid reputation of over 500 reviews, or that Jeannette solely relied on her Airbnb income, which was her sole income as a retired person.

Jeannette first went to court to sue the guest, Stephanie Akker, in small claims court.  This is Stephanies’ AIrbnb profile page:  https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/153521542Airbnb Guest Stephanie who made defamatory statement (2)

So Jeannette filed suit in Baltimore Small claims court over this:

Jeannette Belliveau vs Airbnb (2)

She won in court, and the judge was particularly upset not only that the guest (who now lived in Massachusetts, not in Washington state) did not show up, but also that Airbnb offered NO appeals process for its decision.

Jeannette requested an audio recording of the hearing and made a YouTube video of it:

For her part, when presented with the facts, not only did this guest Stephanie Akker not back down or apologize, but she went on AIrbnb Hell and posted there about it:

http://www.airbnbhell.com/sued-by-airbnb-host-for-reporting-gun/Stephanie on AIrbnb Hell (2)

No decent person, when presented with the facts and shown that she has made a presumptuous mistake, a mistake that ruined someones’ business, would argue that she is entitled to her view, and to double down on it.  The point isn’t that you have no reason to believe the gun was fake.  The point is that if you are not absolutely certain this was a real gun, you dont’ report to AIrbnb that there was a real gun there!

Jeannette next sued AIrbnb itself in small claims court in November 2018.  While most hosts believe that the Airbnb TOS still direct that users shall use arbitration, at some point the TOS were revised to allow hosts “the right to seek relief in small claims court for certain claims, at their option.”  See some small claims and other suits against Airbnb here:   https://globalhostingblogs.com/2017/12/17/lawsuits-against-airbnb/

Jeannette’s complaint against guest Stephanie Akker:

Jeannette Belliveau vs Stephanie Akker Complaint

And her complaint against AIrbnb:

Jeannette Belliveau vs Airbnb Complaint and Affidavit

Jeannette went to court on March 6 2019.  This is her report about what occurred in the small claims court with the judge, herself and an attorney representing AIrbnb:

“OKAY kids, I’m back from Small Claims court, and very much buoyed by everyone’s support and personal messages.

SUMMARY: I was denied damages of $5K, based on the judge’s view that I had voluntarily signed the Terms of Service waiving a right to damages. BUT the judge tore UP the AirBNB attorney for “making money off this host, but not providing her due process or any real investigation.”

The judge ordered AirBNB to do something to write a note on my listing to state (trying to remember exact wording …) something to the effect of, “This review is false and the host has been reinstated.”

She said to come to her if this did not happen and she would issue a contempt of court ruling.

Some takeaways:

The other defendants and plaintiffs in the courtroom were nodding and meeting my eyes and going “Umm hmm” as the judge made it clear there had been NO investigation of my case whatsoever.

Air’s attorney was a total rookie – this was his first District Court or any court appearance perhaps since graduating from law school 2 yrs ago. He did well! We are near-neighbors and both walk our dogs in the big nearby park, so we will greet each other going forward. No hard feelings, none of this stuff is personal.

I have ordered and paid for the audio recording of this trial as well, and will obtain and edit it in time … might take 7 to 10 days. (And upload it and send in a link for posting, God willing.)

Did an indirect shoutout noting “there are a lot of eyes on this hearing” and “other hosts* have been very kind in offering support.

The audiotape will be entertaining, I promise, it was all very Judge Judy (U.S. reality court show).

Some BIGGER takeaways:

You will hear on the audiotape that the judge raises the COMPLETE lack of due process and fairness in AirBNB’s dealing with hosts. (But her hands were tied by my agreement to the ToS.) I am frantically trying to look up the state of Maryland’s laws on contract waivers to see if I can appeal … I think this kind of case is VERY juicy to run up the chain of appeals, because the ToS anymore are getting crazy, for AirBNB and every other company.
I’m not sure about folks overseas or in other U.S. states, but my experience to date (if it can be generalized to others, who knows) is:
A) AirBNB can win against you in this kind of lawsuit because of the waivers in the contracts we more or less sign via the ToS
B)😎 you CAN sue the guest for defamatory reviews and get damages; that is not covered by the ToS

 

So this should be helpful info for others who suffer an unkind and unfair turn of events and end up in a similar situation.

In addition, it might help to point out that if any guest makes a statement in their review, as Stephanie did in hers, about having made a report to AIrbnb, or contacted AIrbnb, or complained to Airbnb, or sought Airbnb’s help with an issue with the host or listing, this is grounds to have the review removed based on Airbnb’s own review guidelines.  Eg see here:  https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/546/what-is-airbnb-s-content-policy  or their review guidelines page  https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/13/how-do-reviews-work.

Note they prohibit:

  • Content that provides specific details or outcomes of an Airbnb investigation

So it’s considered providing details of an Airbnb investigation, if any user refers to contacting Airbnb.

I think one of the biggest things that is wrong in this whole picture, is the total lack of an appeals process when someone either has their account terminated, or is denied for a reimbursement for damages.

In the EU, according to new GDPR rules, it’s illegal for AIrbnb to terminate someone’s account without providing any explanation, and/or any appeals process.  This is only basic justice, and really such rules should also apply all over the US and the rest of the world.

Example of how a Scammer works

A scammer preying on Airbnb hosts, (of which there are many) will often use “fake links” to try to get hosts to go to a site which they are led to think is on the Airbnb website, but in fact it is on the scammer’s phishing site.  Dont’ be fooled by “fake” URLs — you can always see the REAL address you’re being taken to if you hover on or right-click on the link in question, so that the address shows , rather than just left-clicking to go to it.  Example of Airbnb scam 2

For example…

Here’s a link.  www.airbnb.com/become-a-superhost-immediately

Or  this one:  https://www.airbnb.com/become-a-superhost-immediately

Now that seems cool, right? It’s a link that’s goes to the Airbnb site, so it seems.  The second one even has the “https://” which you have probably learned, indicates a secure site.  The only problem is…well click on one of those links and you’ll see.  They most definitely do not take you to the Airbnb site where you become a superhost immediately.  They take you to a snake pit, but one which a real scammer would make look just like the Airbnb site…so you’d think you were there.  And then you wouldn’t even know you were being bitten by snakes!

SO…take care out there!!

Holistic and Authentic Hosting

Since the birth of Airbnb and the business of people hosting guests in their homes, there have been many changes both in Airbnb and the hosting community.  These changes have not all been for the better.  In fact, some might say there’s been an overall problematic trend, and it’s become quite commonplace in host communities to read hosts writing about how “Airbnb has lost their vision” or “I wish Airbnb had kept to their original vision”.  Often these comments are mixed in with not-so-gentle criticisms of particular policies or practices that, in the minds of many, have made Airbnb and perhaps many hosts as well, lose their way and be somehow “less” than they once were.

So I want to explore this issue — in part to examine what made the early years Airbnb in 2009 oldest page (2)Airbnb 2010 (2)of Airbnb and hosting more exciting, what problems arose, what were the inferior or problematic choices/policies made by AIrbnb and hosts, and, most importantly, what values do I believe in and advocate for hosts to get “back on track”, if they so choose.

AIrbnb 2012 (2)

The early years were exciting, first because this was new, and we were few, and we were pioneers on an exciting, fresh horizon, with the world stretching out before us.  This was a time of small-time hosting, when the “airbed” part of Air Bed and Breakfast was a shout out to the smallest of small-time hosts, the ones with the most humble of accomodations and the least available extra space.  These were the heady heydays when Airbnb was something more or less like “Couchsurfing-Plus”.  Not that many people knew about AIrbnb — so those who did could be trusted, there was an implicit secret handshake, and to host in your home, or to book a stay were something relegated to a certain countercultural humble elite.

Yet even in the early days of Airbnb, there was something “hokey” in the AIrbnb atmosphere…there was an enthusiasm for getting to know people and an optimism about connections and belonging, but it could be expressed in a nerdy and hokey way, as we saw here:

Things like this naturally gave rise to satire, particularly as Airbnb showed itself unwilling to come to terms with the prospect of very problematic guests — or the “shadow” in the room of hosting.

Also, the heady enthusiasm and ubiquitous “excitement” (AIrbnb would announce every new development as something they were “excited” about, as though they were all a room of schoolchildren, always eager for new toys), rang hollow to hosts when they read more and more stories of guillotined hosts, hosts who’d been “terminated” and given no reason for the sudden decapitation when they were “banned for life”.  This led to  many hosts feeling that there was a dark, haunted room behind the happy facade of “belonging” and many hosts expressed a fear that one day, they too would find themselves crushed in the talons of the monster or decapitated by the executioner who hid behind the big “Belonging” Belo.

Whats behind the belo

What’s Behind the Belo at Airbnb??

 

On that note, it should be pointed out that not only is terminating someone’s account and banning them for life with no explanation very disrespectful , but according to new EU rules of the GDPR it is also illegal.   As one host put it,  terminating with no explanation is  like the parent who tells you that you did wrong and will be punished but will not tell you what you did wrong, and when you ask why you’re being punished, just keeps saying “Because I said so, because I said so.”

There are several stories of hosts who’ve had their accounts terminated without being given any explanation, which are posted here:

http://globalhosting.freeforums.net/board/35/problems-working-airbnb-customer-service

Also, here is a story of a host who had an Airbnb guest who wrote a false, defamatory review.

Not only did this review effect the host’s hosting business, but Airbnb terminated her account, without hearing her side of the story, based entirely on false information!  She sued the guest in small claims court and won.  Next step, perhaps: suing Airbnb, because it’s egregiously unfair that a host should have their account terminated over completely false statements.

AIrbnb was intially excited and preached belonging...but were they in love with people, real hosts and real guests, or just an idealistic fantasy of hosting? And particularly with all the new “developments” and app features, many hosts were readily led to wonder if Brian and company had a love affair not with hosting and with people, but with technology.  In love with technology cr

Why, if Airbnb promoted “belonging” and why, if Brian kept saying he intended to listen to hosts, was Airbnb so tin-eared, when hosts called in to ask for reimbursement for property damaged by guests, or vandalism or crimes perpetrated by guests?  Why did hosts keep saying they had to call Airbnb 4, 5 or 20 times, just to get paid for their damaged property? Why were they being asked to post on a Twitter page, when they wanted to talk to Airbnb customer service?  Why, in response to yet another media article about another Airbnb guest trashing a hosts’ home, and the host expressing that they were having difficulty not only getting paid, but even being listened to by Airbnb, did Airbnb keep saying, “We regret our initial response was not up to our standards.”  Why couldn’t they just do things right, straight off, instead of waiting until the host went to the media to pressure them to take responsibility?  Why was there so much happening that was apparently not up to standards?

Also,  as being an Airbnb host became more popular, and I think largely because it became lucrative, the original spirit of hosting was lost, both in hosts and in Airbnb.  As many hosts have lamented, Airbnb is pushing hosts to operate more like hotels, and is pushing, particularly through its “Plus” program, a rather boring, uniform and predictable style. Also, hosts on the “Plus” program, though ostensibly an elite, are actually being demoted in that they end up with less control over their own business — they can’t use their own photos, Airbnb writes their listing description, and AIrbnb even dictates to them what furniture or carpets to use.

A not subtle way of pressuring hosts to use instant book, or to allow Air to run their business via making them a Plus listing, is that AIrbnb puts instant book and Plus listings first in the search results, so that if you want to run your business in your own way and refuse these new “options”, you get punished, as AIrbnb actually makes it harder for guests to find your listing.  Many hosts have complained that in some places guests have to actively click on something to indicate they dont’ want to seek a “Plus” listing, just to get to ordinary listings.

Though the original “vibe” of Airbnb was humble hosting by small-time hosts in their own home, with all the implied character, quirkiness and soul of such settings, I think the primary reason that this vision did not last, is because the founders of Airbnb — Nate, Joe and particularly Brian — may not have an attunement to this soul quality, a part of ourselves where wisdom lives and grows.

What is soul? Soul is an earthy, salty, type of substance, full of vitality and robust energy.  It’s a place where individual uniqueness, even idiosyncrasy, are highly valued.  Perhaps most significantly for us as hosts helping each other in host groups, it’s a place where wisdom lives and grows — wisdom as distinct from mere knowledge.  What’s the difference between wisdom and knowledge? This may be hard to define, but I present it to you as a koan, something to ruminate and reflect and chew on.  For reflection is part of wisdom.

Soul is a spiritual dimension of existence, but the more earthy and chthonic part of spirituality — not the transcendent otherworldliness, but a this-worldly aspect of spirit.  If we view transcendent spirituality as correlated to rules, order,  principles and doctrines, soul is correlated to art, stories, mythology, symbol and imagery.  Jung egg Spirituality may be viewed as more like sitting in zazen, or being a disciple of a mainstream religion, and listening to the yoga teacher or institutional church authorities tell you what to do and think, whereas soul is more like being a Mage or Mystic, and listening to the voice of the earth and the creatures, or your own Inner Guide.   It is more closely tied to the unconscious realm, and thus to our dreams and the depths of who we are.  Carl Jung, who wrote Modern Man in Search of a Soul, and explored his own soul’s depths in his amazing Red Book, Jung Red book pages(which has been called “The Holy Grail of the Unconcious“)  was one of the foremost explorers of the soul in modern times, along with Joseph Campbell.  This article, on a website oriented to Jungian psychology, explains something of the map of the soul.

One way of starting to have insight into the value of soul, is close by to many of us.  It’s in our pets.  We love animals…in part because they’re cute, in part because they are loving and innocent, or loyal…but there is more.  See that doggie butt wiggling, the tail wagging?  We think that’s funny…as is the dog who creeps under the table at dinner and stares at you with a baleful imploring look.  Animals are uninhibited.  So, they can show forth the realms of the subconscious, that we in our civilization, may have a harder time accessing, because the very process of “civilizing” separates us from parts of ourselves, parts that contain some wisdom, some important energy and power.  Unfortunately, even though civilization is necessary in the process of growth, this process leads to repression and suppression of good things with the rest of the “id”, and so we can lose access to our own Inner Guide to some extent.  This is one reason why animals can be teachers for us, they teach us to listen to our instincts again — which is a part of the soul’s education.

Another phenomenon that can point to soul, is a certain type of humor that is salty and earthy…for instance satire.   Big full belly laughs are close to the realm of soul.  Being able to laugh at ourselves, and engage in gentle self-deprecating humor, is an earmark of soul…and we can compare this soulful humor to forms of contemporary humor that seem rather strident and schoolmarmish, even viscious and self-righteous, in comparison.  Satire and self-deprecating humor are rarely self-righteous, and so there’s a wisdom they contain which can carry us back to soul.  For instance, think of the old Carol Burnett sitcoms, or “Mama’s Family”

Or something from Saturday Night Live that pokes fun at someone who many of us generally support and vote for.

(BTW,  in that latter video, “D O” means “Do Over” )

When you find that you can’t laugh at yourself, or you can’t laugh at a a satire on a bloop by or shortcoming or “folly” of a politician you generally support, then you may have taken a tangent off the journey of the soul.  The dwellers in realm of the soul are, unlike repressed civilization, cognizant of what is often termed “the elephant in the room” .  Elephant in roomWhen you are in touch with your soul, you are aware of the “shadow” element in yourself, as in any setting or community.  And all people and communities have a shadow element.  One of the profund truths of the soul is that the more the shadow is suppressed, the stronger it becomes.  You cannot sweep an infinite amount of dirt under the rug.  Eventually the rug will become a tiny cloth atop a dirt pile grown into a mountain.  “What is relegated to the unconscious comes to us as fate”, said Carl Jung, which is a bit of profound wisdom that too many in our times seem to neglect.  And ignoring this truth means it will become your fate.  Dirt under rug

Pause….I hear a question.

What in the world, you may ask, does all this have to do with Airbnb hosting? Well, soul not only has a lot to do with hosting, but it has a lot to do with everything, as from the realm of soul comes the world of Archetypal Psychology, and a way of viewing everything in the world, all phenomena, as representing different archetypes.  And the point I am making is that I believe Airbnb is going in the direction it is today — away from what many perceive as its’ “original” vision — primarily because  I suspect that its founders have little valuing of this soul quality in human nature, and instead, are captivated by archetypes more aligned with the clean, pure, somewhat minimalist and certainly more “safe, predictable” and boring aesthetic of spirit. Interior with wooden side table 3d renderAlthough in their case they are not representing a mainstream religion, but something more like a “religion” of technology, and a “religion” of the ideal luxury hotel.  The clean, white minimalist style, like the clean spare website style of the Airbnb site, can be read as a representation of the refutation of the unconscious, and of the soul who wells up from the unconscious seeking expression in this world.  This is not to say that the minimalist aesthetic is inherently lacking in soul, for it certainly can be an expression of a unique soul quality, as can any style or aesthetic.  Rather, what I’m calling attention to is the uniformity of style, the imposition of style and the suppression of hosts’ unique selves in all aspects of their business — from how they choose to decorate, to how they choose to run their business and screen guests,  — and this is where the problem lies.

There’s another issue/theme involved here which I’ll write another article about, which I might call the “Hotel to Home Back to Hotel” shift in Airbnb.  AIrbnb started up as a hip alternative to the hotel.  But people were booking stays at AIrbnb listings, who weren’t really wanting the full reality of staying in a private home, and made complaints that, well, basically the home was not more like a hotel!   If they had really been committed to what they started out seeming to support, Airbnb would have said to these folks, “Scram, get lost, go stay in a hotel.  Airbnb listings are not hotels.”  But instead of saying that, they began to pressure their hosts to be more like hotels.  The “Plus” line and the Luxury line on AIrbnb make this clear, as does the trend by other platforms to create “predictable” or “consistent” short term stays in “catered” situations.  For instance see  https://www.sonder.com/  This is not “the new hosting”, this in my view is the antithesis of hosting.  It’s not hosting, it’s the hotelization of private property.

Like the fear of the Airbnb guest who books a stay in someone’s home, but is afraid that they might find a cobweb there, one wonders if Airbnb’s founders are fearful — do they fear the depths of their own souls? the dark unconscious depths?  —  for this type of fear could explain someone going in a direction of trying to get rid of these unpleasantries of the real, earthy soul.  Airbnb has, after all,  pushed a viscious rating system that can result in hosts banned over too many cobwebs, or perhaps just guests’ fears of cobwebs.  Airbnb  amplified the “extenuating circumstances” policy such that guests can essentially get a full refund if they have a hangnail.  Airbnb has forsworn the humble home and its at times humbly dirty hearth, in their push for super duper clean homes and “Super” hosts and “5 star ratings”.  Airbnb seems to have turned their backs on idiosyncrasy and style by pushing the dull uniformity of the “Plus” listings.  They even turned their back on the very small time host that they themselves once used to be — perhaps now because the founders are billionaires, they now seem more oriented to “mega” hosts with many dozens of listings, boutique hotels, “brands” and other frou-frou savoir faire.

Airbnb’s policies make things more difficult for small hosts, but work well for hotels.  Policies like “infants stay for free”, or requirements to accomodate the disabled or those with service animals, non-discrimination policies that make hosts fearful of declining any guest of a “protected group”,  the pressure to allow guests to instant book, and now the intentional hiding of the guest photo from the host…all these things are just fine for hotels, who accept basically anyone at any time of the day or night, people who intend to stay for 2 weeks or just 2 hours.  But these policies dont’ work so well for hosts who actually (gasp!) live in the home where they have guests, and need to protect both their home and themselves from not only rude people but the criminals, drug dealers and ravers who now regularly book AIrbnb listings.  As well, the distorted Airbnb rating system essentially results in hosts being punished for not giving into manipulative guests, or for daring to confront guests who violate house rules, when the guest retaliates with low ratings.  Instead of supporting hosts by not penalizing them for doing what they need to do to protect their business, Airbnb, by failing to address the problem of retaliatory ratings (and by placing too much emphasis on the rating system) fails to support guests in taking care of ourselves.  And to live holistically means to care for ourselves, in every aspect of our lives, including our business.

Some hosts willingly go along with all Airbnb’s policy changes, in the name of “adapting to the rules of the game”, regardless of what those rules are, how fair or ethical they are, or how disadvantageous or even harmful some of those “rules” are for small in-home hosts.  This may be partly “brown-nosing”, Brown nosing skills cror, in the terminology of soul that we are using here, it could be viewed as “selling one’s soul to get ahead.”

Not that making money is evil — for it certainly is necessary — nor is it necessarily problematic to not object to policy changes by Airbnb.  This is not a simplistic, black-and-white issue that I’m trying to call attention to, but one that lives in the inner workings of our hearts, that has to do with our values, our pursuit of meaning in life, or our getting off track in following our heart’s or soul’s call, and allowing ourselves to fall into intertia or what is simply easier to do, as opposed to what is more joyful and meaningful to us.  Forest path trees above with text

What I am trying to call attention to, has to do with balance, proportion, holism, authenticity, freedom, as well as soul.  Airbnb hosts have become angry, because we liked the original vision of Airbnb in its implied valuing of individual soul, individual expression, freedom to do business as micro-entrepreneurs in a way that worked for us and aligned with our own values.  We certainly valued making money, but not making money by any means necessary, or did we want to be told 4 or 5 “tricks” that could improve our business and allow us to edge out the competition, but required compromising our values.

And speaking of offering tricks to improve our business — have you noticed the ungodly amount of advertising, spamming and self-promotion that goes on in the host community now? It sometimes seems that half the posts from new members in my group are self-promotional posts.  I wonder if this is owing to the “values vacuum” that has unwittingly been created by insufficient attention to valuing collective wisdom in the host community — that is to say, not best practices to make the most money, but best practices to take care of yourself, run your business in a way that works for you, that supports your own needs and allows you to fulfill your purpose and live out something of your soul in the midst of your life.

In the early days, the hosting community was about helping each other and sharing stories.  That is still a strong theme in most communities, but there’s another theme that’s entered into the host community, and it’s not one that I like.  It’s one that can be deadly for the soul.  It’s about making more and more and more money, building an “Airbnb empire”, how to make $2 million in your first year as an Airbnb host, how to acquire more and more and more properties, how to figure out all the tips and tricks and edge out other hosts and make a mint as a host, and other crap like that.

Suffice to say I’m not impressed.   Not that I’m opposed to anyone growing their business and having several properties they run as Short term rentals.  What bothers me is when I get the sense that making more and more and more money is someone’s primary goal in life.  Because that is an empty goal, in and of itself it doesn’t have meaning. Making enough money — yes, that is good.  Because when you’re making enough, that may be a very helpful thing actually to help you have time to do things that support the growth of your soul.  Not making enough money can be very stressful and living in a survival mode can make it very hard to take care of yourself, and to have the silence and space and down time, the space for leisure, that the soul requires.

Also, often people who focus too much on making money, dont’ think enough about what this is doing to them.  How they are compromising, losing themselves along the way.

Perhaps we say, “Oh, I’m not really a spiritual type”, or “Those other people are more artistic or creative than I am”, or “I”m just too busy for that kind of stuff”, but the development of the soul, in whatever way that is meant to unfold in our life, is not something for anyone else to do for us.  Too often, we project both bad and good qualities onto others, disowning these in ourselves.  Other people are angry, not us.  Other people hate, not us.  But also — other people are the creative ones, the spiritual ones, or the soulful ones.

In my area for instance, it’s common for well off middle class people to learn Spanish and travel to Latin America, to pepper their homes with “folk” art from remote villages in another country, and to, in a sense, project their soul outward onto other people. Oaxacan folk art To let other people do their “soul work” for them.  Face it, this is a kind of patronization — we “assign” some folk culture in another country to be “the ones who do that soul work for the rest of us”.  At the same time, some of us are workaholics in our tech job, and the folk people out there can project all their innate inventiveness, math and logical ability, organizing ability, tech know-how and entrepreneurial spirit onto us, we get “assigned” to do that for them.  All of this psychological projection of our growth tasks onto other groups of people mitigates against integration, because one half of humanity isn’t supposed to carry the growth of the other part.  We are all called to become integrated, to become whole, in ourselves.  So buy intriguing folk art if you like, but let it be a symbol of what YOU want to do and become in your life, not what you remain content to let someone else do for you.

Keeping your business small is actually a good way for it and you to stay soulful.  Because the larger a business grows, the more difficulty you will have, keeping your hand and your own personal touch in it. The bigger the business is, the more “automated” it will be, the more “apps” and “tech” you are likely to have, the more employees you have, the less interaction you’ll have with your own guests….and the narrower your involvement in actual hosting.  To the point where it would be a misrepresentation to say you are a host.  Rather, what you are is a short term rental corporation, and at some point…what you do is so automated and impersonal….you could actually be replaced by a robot or a computer.  And that’s not very soulful.  Automation

Keeping your business small allows you to cultivate your soul by having actual meaningful interactions with people, with staying humble and grounded by cleaning your own guest rooms.  There’s also something “beautiful” about smallness, which pertains to the salty and earthy folk of the earth.

As well, I think it’s time to just come right out and say it…there’s been a problem of “concept creep” in relation to the term “hosting” and “host.”  In the old days when Airbnb began, it was somewhat understood that a host was someone who (preferably) did in-home hosting, or (alternatively, but less preferably) on their property hosting, or even possibly off-their-property hosting, if they had a small business.  These days, people are claiming to be “hosts” and doing “hosting” who run 100 to 1000 listings (or more!), have 10 to 20 employees, and/or never actually meet their guests.  Let’s cut to the chase — as I see it, you’re not really a “host” if you have a dozen properties and never meet your guests.  You’re not a “host” if you have 150 listings and are aiming for Empire.  You’re not a “host” if your listing is a room at the Ramada Inn.  You may be better described as a short term rental corporation or vacation rental corporation, or perhaps just a giant hotel chain.  And in its unfortunate support of such non-hosts, many have felt that AIrbnb has steamrolled the real hosts to make way for corporations. To the extent that it has done this, Airbnb is no longer actually a business centered on  “hosting” but is just another VRBO or Expedia, focused on running hotels or vacation rentals.

ramada inn on airbnb (2)

Ramada Inn Israel on AIrbnb (2)

If you’ve watched the development of short term rental regulations in various cities, this distinction in hosting actually is codified into law in many places.  Cities will often refer to a listing as “non-hosted” if the host isn’t present when the guest arrives, and/or doesn’t actually live there.  This in contrast to a “hosted” listing, which means, a host lives at the property and offers a room for rent or a 2nd unit at the property.  This is a good clue about what hosting actually means, which we’d do well to be informed by.

So…responding to the call of colorful folk art is a good start, it can help us focus our interest and intent.  But then ask….what more is our soul wanting from us?

So, what I’m saying here, is that there was more “soul” quality in the atmosphere in the early years of Airbnb, and there are many angry AIrbnb hosts these days —- and if we take time to reflect on all this, this reflection can help us identify our own values and ultimately to promote what I will call “Holistic and Authentic Hosting, Hosting with Soul.”  Because if we look at it more deeply, I think we’ll see, it’s not just that we are upset that “Airbnb sides more with guests” or that Airbnb’s policy changes make it more difficult for us to screen guests, and protect our homes and ourselves.  But really, we are objecting to an interference with our running our business in our own way, and more deeply still, with our ability to express ourselves and live out our unique soul’s path in this world.  Soul Journey painting

So in this article about hosting holistically, I am essentially calling you to attend to things beyond hosting, things which may emerge and be expressed in your hosting business but which go far beyond that.  I am calling on you to attend to your soul and your soul’s journey in this life, and ask what are your deepest values, what is most meaningful for you?  I believe that every one of us has a “religion”, even atheists, because I believe that whatever is most meaningful for you in your life, is where your heart is and thus in a symbolic sense and perhaps in a practical sense, what you value most is your religion.

Many people are afraid of questions of meaning, so they keep busy.  Keeping busy, they dont’ have to think about it too much, and perhaps can keep at bay those nagging parental voices, such as from our churchbound parents or stale elders about how we were supposed to pray or go to Church.  Well, developing the soul is not about going to church, and in fact, some of those who are most diligent about making appropriate observances in their mainstream religion, may be stunted in their soul growth, because your soul doesn’t grow when you only do everything that some institution or nice neat set of dogmas or doctrines, or sacred book tells you to do.  No, the challenge your soul presents is to think for yourself, which is whyI warn you away from my path Carl Jung said, “Would you find the way? I warn you away from my own.”  He understood well that being true to your soul means listening to your own heart, and only your own heart.  No teacher, school, church, temple, doctrine or guru can teach you, but only you, yourself.  Rabbi on Jung

For your task, the task of your soul journey, is to become yourself, not to become someone else.

Now some will say at this point, OMG, you’ve certainly departed from the topic of Airbnb hosting.  Well, let’s circle back around.

From what I’ve said here, I mean to distill out some “hosting values” that I intend to advance and advocate for, more clearly.  Given the deterioration of the hosting culture in Airbnb, and the superficiality of values in many hosts, I think it’s growing more important for there to be some people to issue a call for these values I am wanting to represent.  Because I’m growing fatigued with the “Empire Building” talk and the brown-nosing advice when it appears in the host groups….though truth be told, even the most committed brown-nosers have trouble with their nosey religion when Airbnb yanks out the one thing that they really depended on.  Brown nose disease cr

Some may confuse spiritual values with politics,  and in particular with things like being welcoming to the rainbow of humanity and supporting non-discriminatory hosting, which some will say they are pleased that Airbnb stands for.  Well, having principles and politics is good and this may be part of your soul’s expression, but it is likely not the fullness of it, since the soul is deeper and more complex than politics, principles, doctrines, beliefs.  It is more mysterious and paradoxical than all these things. WHich is why, if there is some paradox and contradiction in your hosting, that may well be a good thing.

Holistic and Authentic Hosting, Hosting with Soul

So here are a few suggestions about values that go with holistic and authentic hosting.
(1) First, even though soul is not synonymous with Christianity or Judaism or any particular religious worldview, there are wise sayings that appear under many guises, and one of them is, “You cannot serve both God and Mammon.”  This doesn’t mean that you can’t make money and have to become a beggar and live in a box on the sidewalk.  Rather it is a message about proportion and where your heart is.  You can make money, but do not make money into your God.  So first off, holistic hosting is certainly not about fixating on making more and more and more money and building a bigger and bigger AIrbnb Empire, like these guys did:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/23/nyregion/airbnb-nyc-law.html   Those guys really had an addiction to money making and it’s going to do them in, from the appearances of things.

(2) Second, holistic and authentic hosting means that as much as possible, you want to run your business in your way, not the way some other hosts say is right, and not in the way Airbnb is starting to push you to do.  Your hosting business, like everything else in your life, is an expression of the uniqueness of you, and your values.  This means, among other things:  (a) Your house rules, (b) Your method of screening guests, (c) Your choice of furniture and decor, (d) Your style of interaction with guests.  When Airbnb starts to try to take away your right to run things your way, you push back, as far as is possible to do so. You dont’ just accept someone telling you what to do.
In line with putting your own touch on your business….also, though this is not possible for all hosts, particularly hosts with several listings or one or more listings located at distance  —  ideally, so that our business is an expression of our own soul, we try to do as much as we can by ourselves.  This means, not using a property manager, but communicating with the guest ourselves.  Meeting the guest ourselves.  Cleaning the guest room ourselves.  Choosing the furniture and decor ourselves.

(3) You value advice in the host community that helps you live your life and run your business in a way that works for you and supports your values, and you dont’ value advice that seems to come from the perspective of, “Here’s what I suggest you do if you want to make more and more and more money, and get the edge over other hosts, and beat out the competition.”
(4) Valuing your own soul’s journey implies that you also value that someone else is following their path, and that their path is not your path.  People who don’t understand the soul or are out of touch with it, can be very oriented to conformity, but those who hear the soul’s call, oppose conformity and its animosity to freedom, while appreciating unconventionality for the way it inspires us all to our own direction.  THis means that it’s inherently not in keeping with soul to judge other people or hosts. This doesn’t mean that we dont’ recognize when someone’s giving bad advice, or might have an agenda or ulterior motive. It doesn’t mean that we don’t recognize that the host community has developed some collective wisdom — but it does mean we dont’ blast people just for doing something differently from how we do it.
(5) Being concerned with living holistically, we place importance on self-care and taking care of ourselves in all respects.  This means, running our hosting business in a way that does not give short shrift to our own needs, and it means speaking up against policies which show a lack of respect for hosts’ needs. Among other things, we resent being punished by AIrbnb for not using its “optional” instant book feature (because we want to protect our homes and screen our guests) or not being a 5 star listing (because we insisted on confronting guests who violated our house rules, who then retaliated and gave us low ratings) , when Airbnb makes it harder for guests to find our listings if we aren’t instant book hosts or Plus hosts or 5 star hosts or Superhosts.
(6) Finally, we’ve all heard stories like this — the guest who cancelled their reservation because there was an ant in the room or a cobweb in the house.  Apart from being stupid and neurotic, this is soul-less, in its fear of nature and lack of a healthy sense of the presence of nature in the world, and nature includes our homes.  The idea that houses should be hermetically sealed sterile environments separated from Nature and Earth, is a troubling idea.  Every house should have at least one cobweb, and for Gaia’s sake, please let it be a honkin’ BIG one!! SPider in web
I hope you preserve a quiet corner of your house — perhaps someplace guests dont’ see very much or have access to —  to grow a nice big cobweb and hopefully thereby make a little spider happy.  Believe me, this will be good for your soul!

Animal spiral with Authentic

Airbnb Butts

This is a 19 minute film I created, using toys as characters, a fictional satire, to help illustrate the kinds of problems that can occur when either hosts or guests are too much aimed at perfection.


This film follows the life of the Cutie family (Carl and Carlotta and their kids, a rabbit couple) as they delve into the world of Airbnb Hosting, and make the mistake of signing up for “Airbnb Plus”, which they discover, a bit too late, is a big fat minus.

While they remain content to do standard Airbnb hosting, the Cuties have great guests, people (various other critter families) from around the world, who are grateful to stay in their nice home.  But as soon as they sign up for Airbnb Plus, they get the “guests from hell” who seem like professional scammers, and eager to take the Cuties down, exploiting the system that sets up hosts to be heavily punished if they don’t meet a ridiculous standard of perfection, one they never agreed to meet in the first place.

At the end of the film, you’ll see a satirical take on Airbnb’s truly awful star rating system, how bizarre it is when compared to a hotel rating system, or for that matter, nearly any other star rating system in existence.

Enjoy!  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Enneagram of Hosts and Guests

Some of you may already know about the Enneagram, which is a system of personality classification.  This is a fascinating system, which features 9 different personality types, but due to all the sub-types (each type can be one of 3 subtypes — survival oriented, one-on-one relationship oriented, or socially oriented) and wing-types (each type can have a “wing” related to an adjacent type), there are actually 54 different types if you look at it in depth. Further, each Enneatype varies according to the level of psychological development, from unhealthy (stuck in type-based fixations) to very healthy, so if you cast the unhealthy wing and the very healthy wing as 2 other types, you can see that a total of 108 types total could emerge.

While those at the “unhealthy” level for each type can be more readily recognized because of how their personality is compromised by their fixations or growth challenges, those at the “very healthy” level may be more difficult to recognize because in their growth they become much less limited by the typical fixations of their type.

The amazing thing about the Enneagram is that it actually works, and everyone fits into one of the 9 types. However, there are skeptics of every system, and it’s often healthy to disagree, so if you don’t agree with this psychological system of understanding personality, then take this article and the system too with a grain of salt and just enjoy the adventure as one possible way of interpreting reality — take what you enjoy or can use and leave the rest.

One of the beauties and most helpful contributions of any personality typology system, or really any way of understanding differences in human personalities, is that these systems help us understand not only that people are different, but why they are different, and see that people are meant to be different.  This is important, because it can create serious problems for us all when people just expect everyone else to be the same as they are — meaning, assuming everyone has or should have the same values, beliefs, views, predispositions.   Major conflicts can occur when people mistakenly assume others are like themselves, and then get very upset when reality doesn’t match their presumptions.  So, the more we can understand what makes others different, and how deeply people are different, then we are actually assisted in avoiding conflicts because we are trained out of presumptions.  Thus understanding the Enneagram can be one important kind of “unconcious bias training”, to use a phrase popular in our time.

I thought it would be interesting to explore what all these 9 types may look like when they appear as hosts or guests. Keep in mind in reading this, that I”m not an expert on the Enneagram, so don’t take what’s written here as gospel.  I’m informed, but not a scholar on the subject, so what’s offered here is in the spirit of inspiration — some ideas, and the suggestion that if the topic appeals to you, you might want to study this in greater depth.

This picture shows the 9 types in the standard Enneagram diagram:

Enneagram types

Now as we explore the hosts and guests of each type, this will help you understand the Enneagram at the same time. First, let’s look at the hosts of each type.

Type 1: The Reformer

The Enneagram type 1 is oriented towards right and wrong.  There is a right way to do things, and a wrong way, and the Type 1 host will surely do things the right way.  So this type as a host, (particularly if not distracted by involvement in some higher mission, which many of the more evolved TYpe 1s will be involved in)  is likely to be  concerned with having the right type of hospitality, the right linens, the right house rules, the right listing description, and with following all applicable laws, policies and practices for hosting, both Airbnb laws, local laws and state and national laws.  Once the Type 1 gets things right, they feel confident to start teaching other hosts how to do things right, as well.  In their teaching, they can at times become sermonizing, so confident are they that they know how to do things right.  The Type 1 host does not like it when other hosts don’t do things right.  So, this host is likely to be the first and loudest to complain when other hosts dont’ follow correct/applicable laws, policies and practices.  They might be quite critical of the host without any house rules, or the one who doesn’t know in what category they should pay taxes, or that they have to have a license for short term rentals.  There is a right way to do things, and a wrong way, and the Type 1 will surely be doing things correctly.  In host community groups, the Type 1 host will quite possibly be found chiding other hosts for their incorrect views/practices.  Enneatype 1 image

In their attitude towards guests, Type 1 hosts will be focused on guests who do things the right way — read the information they are asked to read, present themselves correctly, act polite in the host’s home, follow house rules as asked, check out on time.  The Type 1 host may pride him or herself on having correctly described what they offer, and they will be pleased with guests who do as they are supposed to do…but not so happy with those who don’t.

Once all the business about right and wrong in the hosting environment can be set aside — and it can be, by the Type 1, once there are no violations or calls for alarm in this department, then the Type 1 can be a fascinating person and conversationalist, all the more so if they have found their calling in life, which may truly be a mission in life.  “History is full of Ones who have left comfortable lives to do something extraordinary because they felt that something higher was calling them.”  Ghandi, for instance, was a Type 1.  It’s not clear what type of a host Ghandi would have been…but at some point, the call of right and wrong can pull the Type 1 so far beyond day to day business, that their sights may remain set on their higher purpose.

Type 2: The Helper

The Type 2 host is very oriented to taking care of others.  The Type 2 person is one of the most common personalities in the helping professions, because, together with the Type 9, this personality is gifted in the area of taking care of others.  So they are a natural host, and their orientation is much more to taking care of people’s needs, than to focusing on what is right or wrong, or where the guest was correct or not.  So, the Type 2 host is likely to be a bit loose with their rules, if they can see the guest needs to be accomodated, and they can feel good providing for the guest.  They will be flexible in their response to guests, and more generous than other types of hosts.  They will likely be more attentive to the guests’ needs than other hosts, and also will want the guest to feel cared for and even loved, and they will be able to make the guest feel this way, more so than other types of hosts.

However, even though the Type 2 host is oriented to taking care of others — this may come with the caveat, that the Type 2 host wants to be recognized for what he or she has given.  This Type 2 host wants or even needs to be seen as loving, generous, kind, compassionate.  You may well see them in the host groups, writing a post about how compassionate they were to a guest in need, for instance someone who had a special need, such as a shoulder to cry on during an emotional break down.  The Type 2 host is truly compassionate, yet some of them do need to be recognized as compassionate, and particularly if they dont’ get this recognition from a guest, they may want to get it from the host community, so you may find them there posting  about how they cared for this or that guest with a special need, how they went out of their way for someone.  IF they aren’t congratulated for being compassionate, they may become resentful.  The Type 2 might be confused by hosts who respond that they should not be a doormat or they should have better boundaries, or be careful about the guests who “ask for an inch and take a mile.”  This is hard for the Type 2, as they are so pulled to care for people, it’s difficult to understand how one would be a host and not feel the same way they do about caring for guests.  So they might lash out and accuse others of not being compassionate, as they are.  Enneatype 2 image

Type 3: The Achiever

The Type 3 is the professional host par excellence.  That they are professional doesn’t mean they have over 50 listings, but having a bigger, larger, more profitable business, and being more successful, is certainly what they are all about, and so they are usually wanting to grow their business.  Brian Chesky is an Enneatype 3, (and it’s likely Joe and Nate are as well) as are most of those with a powerful passion to launch a business or new product.  Type 3 people are the CEOs of the world, and so it’s very likely that the hosts who have dozens or even hundreds of listings, are often Type 3 hosts.  Knowing more and more of the tools for success, teaching seminars about success, coaching other hosts, writing books about making money (lots of it ) as an AIrbnb host, doing podcasts, blogs, attending superhost seminars, “secrets to success” seminars, and making the circuit as a pro host is what the Type 3 host is best at.  You’ll find this type of host toting his or her e-briefcase at the Vacation Rental summits, the Airbnb Opens, all the places where the most accomplished and successful businesspersons are.

This host may well be more  interested in making money, or in perfecting their polished presentation and products, than in attending to guests.  As a corporate style, we see the Enneatype 3 quite strongly in Airbnb itself, (not surprisingly, since it grows out of Type 3 founders) which has become more oriented to growing and growing and being shiny and polished and professional and “Plus”, than in what many perceived as its original vision, something more folksy and idiosyncratic: celebrating the diversity of down-home home shares.  Enneatype 3 image

The Type 3 host is in fact the type of host most likely to make a lot of money.  Their personality is oriented to success so they focus on this.  This can at times be to the detriment of the guest, who may feel that they aren’t personally cared for, that they are seen just as dollar signs.  However,  Type 3 hosts can be quite charming people, warm people who can really make a guest feel happy and comfortable.  They can have a real gift for hospitality, and would do well at making sure the guest has everything that they need for a comfortable stay.  They would do better in providing materially and practically for the guest, than in attending to any emotional needs, and are not likely to be as delicately sensitive to the guest’s feelings as would the other feeling types of the Enneagram — the Types 2 and 4 — who are more conscious of their feelings.  The Type 3 is a feeling type, but is often less conscious or aware of their own feelings than these other types.

Type 4: The Creative Individualist

The Type 4 host is perhaps the most creative type of host, and is likely to have a unique or creative listing.  This type of host is very interested in showcasing their own personality through the uniqueness of their listing.  Type 4s also have a need to be authentic, so any limitations that others put on their ability to express themselves authentically will not be tolerated.  The Type 4 host is the one most likely to be offended by Airbnb or other platforms’ pressure to conform to some idealized vision of a perfect/proper/pro host or listing, particularly when such a vision is a bland and, for the Type 4, hollow and meaningless accomplishment.  For the Type 4, meaning and depth are all-important life values, and they will try to bring these values to their business in some way.  Enneatype 4 image

As contrasted to the Type 2 host, who is primarily oriented to recognizing the needs or wants of the guest and caring for them, (and then having the guest see them as compassionate and kind, caring) the Type 4 host is more oriented to having the guest see their unique personality, house, or listing, and appreciate it, as well as to enjoying and celebrating what is unique and authentic in the guest.

The Type 4 host is highly oriented to beauty, or unusual aesthetics.  They are likely to be the host who places the flowers “just so” in the guest room, or has the most unique gift for the guest.    They may spent a lot of time seeking out just the right vintage furniture or art prints, intriguing collections of books or religious statuary, dazzling collections of seashells or butterflies or wood carvings from Oaxaca, and the Type 4 will be very pleased when guests or other hosts compliment them on their unusual or brilliant style.  The Type 4 host also is likely to be more oriented to the odd or weird stories of hosting, and to unusual stories and funny anecdotes, than some of the other hosts.

Type 4s also have greater self-awareness, and in particular awareness of their own flaws and negative traits and the “animal” side of human nature, so they are also likely to understand these things in their guests, better than others.  So the Type 4 is less likely to be surprised by bad guest behavior, than some of the other types.  Because they are aware of their own faults, they are also more likely than some of the other types to take responsibility for their own mistakes as hosts.

That said, it’s quite possible for a Type 4 host to be more critical of themselves than their guest is.  The Type 4 is shame-based, more susceptible to experiencing a crippling sense of shame than other hosts, and so if they are criticized for not having a clean bathroom, for instance, this can feel to them as if someone called them a pile of turds.  To put things in contrast:  the Type 8 host whose guest complains about a cobweb in a crevice deep behind the cupboard, will feel no shame at all, and be inclined to smack such an impudent guest smartly across the face.  But the TYpe 4 host, particularly if less developed and freed from their viscious superego, can be reduced to a nearly impotent shame-filled being, by the same criticism.  Which is one reason why Type 4s may want to call a Type 8 friend over to help them with problem guests.

Each Enneagram Type has a wing, and the wing would be one of the adjacent types.  So, the Type 4 host could be either a 4 with a 3 wing, in which case they would have some of the charming nature of the Type 3 and that gift of hospitality, or they might be a 4 with a 5 wing, called “The Bohemian”, in which case they will inherit the 5’s tendency to isolate and enjoy alone time, and may prefer guests who don’t want much socializing, so they can retire to their room and work on their creative masterpieces.  The Type 4 with 5 wing tends to think deeply, and is likely to have a rather thoughtful approach to hosting and to the host community.

Type 5: The Investigator

The Type 5 is not a “natural” host, but would be an ideal host for the guest who didn’t much care to socialize (because the 5 doesn’t really like to socialize, either) and would be the perfect host for the guest who after arriving, stayed in their room for most of the next month, because the Type 5 would understand that inclination.  But this isn’t to say that the Type 5 has no interest in guests.  Some Type 5s are quite interested in people, though they like their interest to be from a safe vantage point — a formal situation (such as host and guest) where they know the rules and/or can expect boundaries and limits, and know that not too much will be demanded of them, and their own boundaries/privacy will be protected.  Enneatype 5 imageOf all the TYpes, they may ask the most penetrating questions.  In the host community, the Type 5 is likely to be the scholar of the set, who has done research or inquiries about hosting topics, laws, policies or practices, in a deeper or more extensive way than most other types.  There may be an area that the TYpe 5 host specializes in and chooses to learn a lot about, and then this host could be a resource for the host community in that regard.

Indeed, if there is to ever be a comprehensive book on short term rental hosting, a 800-page tome studying the whole phenomenon — not a self-help book, not a coaching book, not a book on how to make $10 million in your first year as an Airbnb host — but a real thorough scholarly study about the phenomenon in all its aspects — it is very likely that an Enneatype 5 individual will be the author.   While others will write books on winning and success, or on their personal hosting stories and anecdotes, the Type 5 is the real scholar who would be likely to produce the definitive academic study on the matter.

Type 6: The Loyalist

The Type 6 personality is called “The Loyalist” because they tend to be loyal to those people or causes that  they decide are worth supporting and putting themselves behind.  They are strong supporters of ideas, or communities, and so they are likely to be key figures in the host community.  However, the Type 6 has a lot of fear and doubt, including doubt about their own decisions or choices, so they are also a type that is likely to turn to the host community often for support or affirmation about how to run their business or what to do about hosting dilemmas.  Within the host community as elsewhere, the Type 6 is the most likely to be in the role of “Devils’ Advocate”, bringing up doubts or questions about the prevailing wisdom or consensus view on any one topic.  They are natural skeptics, and can be rebels against authority in many ways.  The  “authorities” who they doubt and question, could be the  political leaders of a nation, or it could be a corporation, or it could be leaders in the host community, or really any strong or influential voice.  Enneatype 6 image

In their relationship with guests, the Type 6 hosts may reveal more anxiety than other hosts, as they are unsure and thus anxious about each guest, whether they can be trusted.  As they evolve, they will have less anxiety.  Sixes tend to use the defense mechanism of projection, so with guests and in the host community, they will tend to accuse others of attributes that they can’t yet own up to in themselves. For instance, if they aren’t comfortable with their own anger, they are likely to view others as being angry.  If they aren’t comfortable with their own prejudices, others may find themselves accused of being racist or sexist.

Type 6s like security, and that security may come through income, or through preparedness, or a clear business plan.  Of all the types, the Type 6 as a host is the one most likely to be prepared for an emergency — perhaps a flood or fire, an earthquake or hurricane.  They will have emergency supplies safely stored away.  As a type based in thinking, they have less access than the feeling types or gut types to one’s “gut sense” and together with their doubts about their own decisions, they may have difficulty for that reason with issues pertaining to screening guests.

Type 6 hosts can be contradictory, as is typical of the Enneatype 6:  “The biggest problem for Sixes is that they try to build safety in the environment without resolving their own emotional insecurities“. Inviting a parade of revolving guests to their home, the Enneatype 6 hosts may find that reality rather unstable, and thus make them more likely to seek stability in friends and community.   Or, the guest may find the host skeptic challenging them in what they expected would be casual conversation.

Type 7: The Enthusiast

The Type 7 person is enthusiastic by nature, enjoying getting involved in different projects, adventures and kinds of fun, and they are the type of host who’s probably most likely to go for the “Airbnb Experiences”, as they enjoy helping others have a good time so they are a natural for this type of endeavor.  The Type 7 host may be more likely than hosts of other types to be found at the local bar, nightclub, or restaurant with their guests, showing them the town.  The Type 7 can easily become overcommitted, as they can never get enough of trying different experiences and fun adventures.  They will care less than other host types about getting approval from their guest — they are optimistic by nature and focused on fun and positive energy. Enneatype 7 image

Type 7 hosts may also be very busy with work, as they do quite well in situations where they can bring a great deal of energy and be involved in several projects at once.

The Type 7 doesn’t want to miss out on choices, so when faced with options to buy a new property or join with a partner to create a new AIrbnb listing, they may end up trying to accomplish all the options instead of limiting themselves to just one. As one article on this type puts it, “We can see this in action even in the most trivial areas of their daily lives. Unable to decide whether he wants vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry ice cream, a Seven will want all three flavors—just to be sure that he does not miss out on the “right” choice.”

A challenge for the Type 7 host will be to slow down and spend time and energy on a few choice endeavors, rather than trying to cover all bases and spreading oneself thin, having a less than quality experience due to depletion of their resources.

Type 8:  The Leader

The Enneatype 8 is a strong personality, sometimes forceful, who is a natural leader, but with the potential to be a steamroller — a bully.  One might say that this type is the least likely of the types to be a host, or the type who has the nature which is least suited for this endeavor, because at least on the surface, they don’t seem so oriented to hospitality.  Eights can be domineering, seeking to control their environment, in a way that can make their partners or guests in their home feel intimidated.  They are uncomfortable with their own vulnerability or any sign of “weakness”, and so many not be very empathetic to guests’ needs, at least at the emotional level.  However in terms of providing practical support and materially for their guests, that they could do quite well, and may pride themselves in having a well-stocked liquor cabinet for guests, a luxurious hot tub which they invite the guest to enjoy,  a full refrigerator of offerings, quality bedding or other listing attributes that make for sensual pleasure and contentment. The Type 8 host is well suited for helping guests experience sensual pleasure in life as they are a “gut” based or instinctual type and are quite comfortable and well attuned to this dimension of existence.  Enneatype 8 image

Of all the types, the Type 8 host will be most capable of “putting the fear of God” in a miscreant guest who is breaking the rules.  If indeed any guest at all dares break the rules of an Enneatype 8 person when in their home.  Something about the very bearing and energy of this Enneatype, communicates their potential for ferocity and dominance, they have a real “dont’ mess with me” aura.   In fact, one of the things they may offer to the host community, and not all in jest, is the willingness to come right over to another hosts’ home and help them out with a problem guest.  And you can believe that the Type 8 host will be able to put that miscreant guest in their place! The raw power of the Type 8 person will emerge, if not also the physical power, as Enneatype 8s also tend to be physically powerful.

This brings up one of the more host-like qualities of the Type 8 host, which is that in their growth or evolution, they become more like the Type 2, which means, more oriented to caring for others.  But they tend to care for others in a protective way, a different way than the Type 2.  Theirs is the “Momma Bear” or “Poppa Bear” type helping.  While they will not be patient with trivial complaints from guests, they will do very well to make guests physically comfortable and will project confidence in the guest as they attend to any maintenance or functionality issues during the guest’s stay.

Type 9: The Peacemaker

The Type 9 host is, like the Type 2, highly oriented to taking care of others, so being a host may come easily for them in that respect.  They are often loving, caring people who are good at listening to others, attending to their needs.  They are in particular very good at encouraging people to take a break, go on vacation,  take care of themselves, pull up a chair and relax, sit down and have a soda or a cup of tea or a beer.  But the Type 9 host has a couple difficulties that the Type 2 host doesn’t have.  One is that the “vice” or weak point of the Type 9 is lethargy or sloth, and where this shows up is quite often in the order and cleanliness of their household.  Type 9s are not as concerned with a sparkingly clean house as some of the other types — they may just not have the energy for it.  So as a host, the Type 9 might be challenged to keep the house clean.  They might keep a clean guest room, but caution the guest about not going into their own part of the house, which is unlikely to be as clean as the guest area.  enneatype 9 image

The Type 9 is the type who most easily identifies with others, being able to see the world through others’ eyes.  So they are very good listeners (they make good therapists and healers) and a guest who needs to talk, is feeling stressed out and has emotional burdens to unload, would be hard pressed to find a better listener in a host, than an Enneatype 9 host.

Type 9 hosts are conflict avoidant, and so are likely to be more troubled than other host types when conflict arises with a guest, such as guest not following rules, being upset with them, or having inappropriate expectations.  Their first impulse is to care for the guest more than for themselves, but the Type 9 host can become upset when they find that their space has been whittled away — and in response to problems, rather than learn how to engage in conflict and work things out, their reaction may be to go off and watch TV or space out or numb out, hoping the problem will go away.

Type 9s are spiritual seekers par excellence, but tend to be out of touch with their instinctual centers or “animal” selves, and also of all the types, tend to have least sense of their own identity.  Perhaps this is related to the fact that they easily identify with everyone.  Thus, the Type 9 host is less likely than some of the other hosts to create a listing that conveys their own values or personality, and instead is likely to create a listing that focuses on providing for and caring for anyone who comes to visit — which is a truly generous and hospitable gesture.

Now that we’ve looked at the Enneatypes as hosts, let’s look at how they show up as guests in one’s home.

Type 1 Guest — Perfectionist

The Type 1 guest is the guest most likely to notice what’s right about your home or listing, or what’s wrong.  They more than any other type, (except possibly the Type 6)  will focus on the stray hair in the tub or on the pillow, the cobweb in the dark corner behind the refrigerator, or the lack of spring in the mattress, the age of the magazines in the living room.  Not all Type 1 personalities are OCD, but there is a predilection in this direction.

The Type 1 guest, being oriented to right and wrong, is also the most likely of all guest types to be concerned with whether the host has all applicable licenses, permits or permissions,  and pays all applicable taxes.  The Type 1 guest is completely willing to pay more in order to pay all applicable taxes, fees and such — because they like to do what is right.

Of all the types of guests, the Type 1 is probably the most likely to leave a review, once they find out or are told that this is the correct thing to do.  Because they like to be correct.  And their review will be honest, which for the host may or may not be a good thing.

One way of weeding out Type 1 guests, should you be so inclined, would be to stress the imperfections in your listing.  On the other hand, should you be interested in attracting Type 1 guests, maybe because you’re a Type 1 host and like to be valued as such, would be to stress the correctness and perfection of your listing, your linens, your decor, your cleaning service, or perhaps even — if you are adventurous — your political views, as Type 1 individuals may be drawn to perfection in that arena as well.  They are, after all, also termed “The Reformer” because they can find a mission in life and throw great energy behind that mission, be it in business or spirituality or politics or wherever it is.

Type 2 Guest — The Helper

Since the Type 2 person is oriented to helping others, what does it mean when the guest is a Type 2?  Well it’s likely to be a good thing, because the Type 2 guest is perhaps the most likely of all the Types (excepting maybe the Type 9) to want to help the host, to support you, so they may empathize with you more than other guest types.  The Type 2 guest wants to be a good guest that isn’t a burden to you, someone who sees your own needs and appreciates what you’ve done for them.  They are the most likely to leave a little gift for the host in their room after they depart — but they will be miffed if they don’t hear back from you about it, thanking them for their thoughtfulness.

The Type 2 guest is likely to keep a clean room, and to be considerate in leaving common spaces clean — they are highly oriented to showing their own compassion and thoughtfulness in this way — so of all types of guests, they are one of the ones who is least likely to need reminders about keeping things clean.

Type 3 Guest – -The Achiever

The Type 3 guest is likely to be busy busy busy, out of your house a lot, as they are full of plans and activities in their pursuit of success and achievement, so you as their host may not see much of them.  When you do, you’re likely to find them charming and congenial, an excellent socializer, and full of ideas for how you too could achieve more, build a bigger more successful business, develop another successful side business, write a best selling book about your business, or do other things that would bring success, wealth and fame.   You might find this type of guest inspiring, or overly oriented to material things….or you might just find them gone a lot.

The Type 3 guest will want to see that you’ve put some effort into your listing, and your presentation.  They don’t so much care about the aesthetics — you could get all your art at Ikea, they may not know the difference — but they do want to see cleanliness and are impressed by expense and higher quality items.

Type 4 Guest — The Creative Individualist

The Type 4 personality is, as previously stated, very oriented to creativity and authenticity, so they are likely to choose to stay at unique listings, or select hosts whose profile makes them seem like interesting, unique and/or creative individuals.  They are much more oriented to a listings’ artsy qualities, than its cleanliness or the thread count of its linens.  So if you want more Type 4 guests, emphasize the unique aspects of your listing, or your own eccentricity or whatever is really unusual there.

Being in a setting where original, even idiosyncratic values are cherished, makes the Type 4 guest themselves feel valued and recognized.  You will make the Type 4 guest happiest and feel at home, when you inquire about their own creative interests or projects — which may well be something separate from their paid employment.  The Type 4 guest cares much less about being fed and getting just the right supplies in their listing, and more about having the chance to demonstrate how creative they are or be seen in all their uniqueness, and/or share in “deep/real/meaningful moments/conversations” with the host.

If you have a guest register at your listing, which guests sign into and write messages in, the Type 4 guest will very likely make the most original and colorful entry, including drawings or anecdotes.

Type 5: the Investigator

IF you have a Type 5 guest, you’ll make them happy by leaving them alone when they want to be left alone.  More than the other types, the Enneatype 5 really needs their space, and can actually feel threatened when they are forced to socialize or engage when they prefer not to.  So if you want to invite more Type 5 guests to your house, emphasize in your listing description that it’s a great place for independent guest, for those who like/need privacy or solitude.

That said, the Type 5 guest does enjoy conversation — but only when it’s the right time and when they have the energy for it.  When they do, you could find them a fascinating conversationalist if you engage them in one of the subjects that appeals to them, which is likely to be some area of study or investigation into which they go in depth, in a scholarly manner.  They have sharp, engaging minds and they may inspire you to think on a subject more deeply.

Type 6 Guest — the Loyalist

Owing to their divided nature, where they are both very doubtful/fearful, anxious and skeptical, but also, once reassured, quite loyal and supportive, the Type 6 guest more than the other types, is one that may need to be convinced.  First of all, they want to know you’re not a scammer and haven’t put out a fake listing, and intend to scam them and run away with their money.  Then, they need to be convinced that your house is safe, that it’s in a safe area, that you have taken precautions to keep windows and doors locked, that they will have a lock on their room door.  They may want to know if there will be extra blankets or a first aid kit.  They may have more questions before booking than any other type of guest, which could be experienced by many hosts as a red flag.  ANd it might be.  But once the Type 6 guest does obtain reassurance and does feel that you are someone they can trust, and that your home is well constructed, isn’t covered with black mold or infested with scorpions, isn’t burglarized every week…then they can become quite loyal and a supportive and friendly guest.

The Type 6 guest may however be more easily triggered by a “fearful” sight in your home, than some other guests.  They may see one rodent in the yard, and be worried that rats will break into their guest room and crawl over them at night.  They may see a bedraggled person down the block and worry that the neighborhood is swarming with dangerous panhandlers about to conk passers by on the head.  So, with the Type 6 guest, it helps to be honest in your listing description about the real issues at your listing, and to describe why guests need not be afraid.  And then, you just might end up with a friend.

Type 7 Guest — The Epicure

If you have a Type 7 guest, you’re fortunate, as the Type 7 individual is very optimistic and positive in their outlook, so of all the types, they are the one that’s least likely to give bad reviews.  The caveat, is that they are so busy, they are also — apart from the Type 9 who can forget to leave a review because they have spaced out — the type of guest who’s most likely to not leave a review at all. Life is short — so much fun to do — why spend a half hour filling out a form?

The Type 7 guest is also likely to be out a lot, as they are busy, busy, busy enjoying themselves in whatever city they happen to be in, finding all the fun things to do, places to eat, shows to see — bike adventures and kayak trips to be had — they dont’ want to miss anything fun, and there isn’t enough time for all the fun to be had.  So they are not likely to stay around home very much.

Hosts may then obviously want to court such guests.  To attract them, focus on describing all the fun things to do in your area — particularly all the “secret” fun things to do —  which could suggest to Type 7 guests that you’re a good bet for a host who knows how to have a good time in town, as you are a fount of information about the best experiences to be had in town.

Type 8 Guest — The Boss

When you have a Type 8 guest, you may well feel a challenge to your authority in your own house, because the Type 8 individual has so much physical power just in their bodily presence, so much command in their bearing, that you could start to feel uneasy, particularly if you are a much softer less commanding presence yourself.  That the Type 8 guest has great bodily intensity need not be seen as a sign of disrespect or challenge to your authority, as it’s just their way of being in the world, but it can feel intimidating.

When the Type 8 guest is a good guest, there will be no difficulty, — and in fact, some hosts may enjoy having an energetically strong guest in their home as it can feel protective — such is the mojo quality of the TYpe 8 person, they can function almost like a magical amulet as protection from harm.  But if the Type 8 guest is violating your house rules or starting to boss you around in your home — look out, because this will feel worse and more oppressive than with most any other type of guest.  As a bully, the Type 8 guest will have more power to intimidate than you may ever have seen.  They can command a host to get out, scram from your own kitchen or living room, they can dismiss you with contempt that leaves you speechless.  If a Type 8 guest has a problem, and thinks you didn’t attend to it very well, they can make you feel like an absolute worm.   So…while the vast majority of Type 8 guests will be fine persons whose physical power and emotional intensity you can just enjoy, beware the problematic type 8 guest!  You’ll never forget them.

Type 9 Guest — The Peacemaker

The Type 9 person as a guest is likely to be one of the most pleasant and easy going types of guests,  in terms of not making demands on you, not asking for extras, not being a burden, appreciating whatever you do give, and being a great listener to boot.  They will be unlikely to complain about cleanliness issues, and will readily empathize with you, whatever situation you are in as a host.  However, their lack of concern with cleanliness may mean that they dont’ clean dishes well, or that they never clean their room during their month long stay, or dont’ adequately clean the tub after use.  They may need prompting in these areas.

Type 9 guests can space out, so this may mean that though they try to do as directed and read all the information you provided prior to booking or arriving, they may not actually accomplish that, necessitating extra efforts from you to repeat information.  When supporting them in this way, be careful of coming across as annoyed or condescending, as then you might see the stubborness or resentment of the Type 9 emerge, or a passive aggressive pattern emerge.  Type 9 individuals are conflict avoidant, which may mean that if pulled into a conflict they dont’ want to be in (such as being confronted about house rules they inadvertently violated) that they may end up retaliating in a passive aggressive manner.  For instance, if you remind them to clean the tub, they will do that, but then begin forgetting to take their shoes off in the house…or something.

More evolved Type 9s will be less likely to space out about house rules or respond in a passive aggressive way, and can simply do what Type 9s do best, which is radiate a delightful quality of peace and love, bringing this softness into whatever environment they happen to be in.

 

What Enneatype Are You?

Whenever discussion of the Enneagram comes up, it’s typical for some people to have trouble identifying which type they are, or for some to see themselves in all the types.  This is quite predictable, and one can’t really expect to be able to identify one’s type just from reading one or two articles on the Enneagram.

One might compare this to the situation of a person who’s never been to the USA, who is presented with a 1 or 2 paragraph description of each state, and asked where they’d like to live.  It could be very difficult to figure this out from such a brief description.  But once you travel to a place and “get a sense” of the place, things become clear that may not as easily be able to put in writing.

Similarly with the Enneagram — what is involved is basically a set of gestalts, types which are more than just the sum of their parts or descriptions.  The more intutitive people will have an easier type grasping or “grokking” the gestalt of each type.

Some people can immediately identify themselves, but for others, it will take a while.  And of course, some will argue about the Enneagram system or dismiss it entirely, claiming that it isn’t accurate and doesn’t work, or say that everyone is every type.  Even reading an entire 300 page book on the subject may not be enough to figure out which type you are.  This is why there is an entire science of determining type, and there are websites and books where you can go to take personality tests that would help you understand your type.  There are also experts on the system, some of whom make a living doing workshops on the topic and also consulting with people to find out what type they are.

What’s the use of finding which type one is? Isn’t this just another kind of stereotyping?  Putting people in boxes?  Well as with everything, if you don’t find it useful, skip it — but there are some big advantages to knowing what type you are on the Enneagram, or in another system that may be more widely known, the Myers-Briggs Personality Typology system. 

These are some of the great advantages to knowing your type:  this can help you understand why you react the way you do, to different types of situations and people. It can help you understand your needs, motivations, and what the path to fulfillment and happiness can mean for you.  Knowing your type can allow you to make better decisions, and avoid pitfalls common to those of your type.  As I try to outline in this article, it can help you understand the challenges that any particular business or endeavor can present to you — for instance hosting.  It can help you understand patterns in yourself that may often result in difficulties with others, or stress or discomfort in work (for instance, if your work doesn’t fit your type well — though this may be something that is easier understood with the Myers-Briggs personality system).  In general, those people who are more interested in understanding more about themselves and their path of growth in life, are more likely to find the Enneagram helpful, than those who do not have these interests.

To help you identify your type, you may find Enneagram tests useful — for instance, you can find Enneatype tests here:

https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test

https://enneagramtest.net/

This one is perhaps the most thorough test, but you would need to purchase it:

https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/rheti/

As well, going to Enneagram events or workshops where there are panels of each type, and presentations on the types, and/or consultants available to help you, can be very helpful if you have the motivation to discover more.

1984 in 2018: Government Data Grabs, Privacy and the US Constitution

One of the big issues for short term rental hosts not only around the nation in the United States, but also around the world, is the issue of privacy, namely the privacy you expect to have when you do business with any particular corporation or entity, or sign up on a website or put an ad on a platform like Airbnb, HomeAway, or Craigslist.

As we’ve seen, more and more cities are passing short term rental regulations, often out of concern either about disruptions to the neighborhood caused by “party houses” (though cities generally already have laws about noise), or about rental units being taken off the market and turned into short term rentals.  After they pass these short term rental laws, they often discover that the laws are difficult to enforce.  This is less the case in small towns and rural areas where people know most of their neighbors, and more the case in larger cities where, when a host puts a listing on an STR (short term rental) platform, but does not include any info in the listing which would help identify which structure it is (eg, they do not have a photo of the front of the house or building), the city, if they want to investigate all short term rentals, would have a difficult time figuring out where all the properties are.

Many of us, myself included, do not really see how it is a problem that the city cannot identify every single short term rental in its jurisdiction.   If any particular listing or property is causing problems in the neighborhood — for instance with noise or parties, bad behavior by guests — don’t you think the neighbors would complain to the city and be able to identify the property?  Of course they would.  So, no city is going to have difficulty enforcing laws on noise or disturbance, or short term rentals, on a property which is bringing problems to a neighborhood.

It’s the rentals which are NOT creating problems in the neighborhood, where the city may have difficulty enforcing its short term rental laws.  But here, it is quite legitimate to ask, even I would say very important to ask — if a particular property is not causing any problems to the neighborhood, why would the city need to be involved? Why are some cities becoming big bullies, obsessed with trying to track down on every single host and ensure that every city ordinance is being obeyed to the jot and tittle of the law?

Big Brother and man running
For surely, one could point out, there are many laws that people are not obeying, in whole or in part, so why are cities so overly focused on this one?  The double standards or hypocrisy about following the law can be perhaps seen in sharpest relief when looking at a city like San Francisco, which is a “sanctuary city”, priding itself on protecting none other than those who have broken federal law and come into the United States illegally.  Given such a stance, one might expect that San Francisco might have a laissez faire attitude towards many other things, as would befit a city which figured so largely into the 1960’s Flower Children culture.  But no, as regards anything to do with housing, the city of San Francisco becomes very controlling, and has now forced Airbnb to essentially partner with the city, and mandate host registration with the city on Airbnb’s own website.  No one can set up an Airbnb listing for short term rentals in San Francisco without going through the process to register with the city.

Many other cities would like to follow suit and coerce Airbnb to partner with them and their law enforcement efforts.  But there are few places where a city’s demands on Airbnb are as extreme as in New York City.  There, the city has set up the ominous-sounding,  Orwellian-sounding “HomeSharing Surveillance Ordinance”, by which it seeks to accomplish a massive, and apparently massively unconstitutional, bald data grab.  Airbnb has now been forced to sue New York City in order to obtain injunctive relief and stop the data grab.  You can also see the Airbnb lawsuit against New York City here:

Airbnb Sues NYC over data grab

The Homesharing Surveillance Ordinance requires homesharing platforms to turn
over an unprecedented amount of intimate personal data about their New York City hosts and whom they invite into their homes each month to a government enforcement agency—the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement—that works shoulder to shoulder with private investigators hired and paid by the hotel lobby. No probable cause, notice, or legal review is contemplated in connection with the bulk collection of this data, and no real restrictions are placed on its use or dissemination. As such, the Ordinance is an unlawful end-run around established restraints on governmental action and violates core constitutional rights under the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 12 of the New York Constitution, as well as the
federal Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701 et seq

New York City is attempting to force Airbnb to provide it ALL private information on ALL hosts in the city.   The city is even demanding that Airbnb provide it with the bank account information of every host in the entire city!  

the Homesharing Surveillance Ordinance requires that the platform turn
over to the City’s enforcement agency on a monthly basis:

a. the address of the residence;
b. the full legal name, address, telephone number, and email
address of the host;
c. the specific identifiers (name, number, and URL) of both the
home and the host on the homesharing platform;
d. a statement of when and how the residence was occupied;
e. the total number of days the residence was rented;
f. the fees received by the platform; and
g. if the platform collects rent, the amount paid and host bank
account information.

To be sure, governments will justify such bald and overreaching data grab attempts, by stating that these are for a good purpose, the purpose of preserving housing. But the purpose of or motivation behind any violation of constitutional protections is totally irrelevant. There are multitudes of “good purposes” out there, and every day we see violent criminals protected by their constitutional rights, at the cost of public safety and security. The desire to keep rental units from being taken off the market may be a good goal, but like any other government endeavor, this work has to be accomplished legally. Moreover, as statistics demonstrate, New York City’s obsession with short term rentals is illogical: the number of short term rentals in the city amounts to only 0.8% of all housing in the city.

City Council members and other State and City officials claim that this extreme
governmental surveillance is somehow necessary because housing is being taken off the market illegally for use as short-term rentals and thereby driving up housing costs. As of June 1, 2018, however, there are only about 28,000 “entire home” Airbnb listings spread across New York City—approximately 0.8 percent of New York City homes. Moreover, 95% of hosts listing an entire home on Airbnb have only a single home offered—hardly a threat to the City’s housing
stock.

It’s very likely that a number of those units being offered as short term rentals, would NOT be offered as long term standard housing, if they could not be used as short term rentals. Many of these are the principal residence of the host. Even if all of those units would theoretically be returned to the rental market if they were not listed as short term rentals, that would add very little to the total housing stock, and again, does not justify the excessive fixation on this issue.

I want to suggest another possible theme in this story — it seems to be quite possible, that at least in modern times, and at least with matters which are not criminal in nature, city governments may not have previously seen the scale of noncompliance with city ordinances, which we are seeing in many cities with regard to short term rentals. This mass-scale noncompliance, which is more extensive in some cities than others, may be a new phenomenon. Petty bureaucrats in general do not like to see the flaunting of their authority, so the large scale of noncompliance that is occurring in some municipalities, may push their petty-bureaucrat buttons.'Maybe if your buttons weren't so big, Mel, people wouldn't be so inclined to push them!'

Whereas some cities have wisely responded to the short term rental movement by saying “let’s not pass laws that make outlaws out of a majority of those doing short term rentals” others take a less sensible approach, and come out bashing with super-duper enforcement teams, police and firefighters going knocking door to door and demanding entrance to private homes, or assessing mind-boggling excessive fines in the stratosphere, thousands of dollars per day, for breaking short term rental laws.  Miami Beach apparently has the highest fines for doing unpermitted short term rentals: they assess initial fines of $20,000 for a violation  —  they passed a new ordinance in 2016 raising the first violation fine for a resident caught renting short-term to $20,000. Each subsequent fine increases by another $20,000 and can be as high as $100,000.  The city of Miami Beach is now, appropriately, being sued over these appallingly excessive fines.

Image result for US constitution

Our privacy online, and in relationship to companies we do business with, is a theme of increasing importance these days, as the GDPR in Europe has demonstrated, and as we have seen with regard to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. Ironically, even a FaceBook smartphone app specifically touted as offering privacy protections to users, was rejectec by Apple when it was discovered that this “privacy app” itself violated users’ privacy!!

I actually do not understand how many things that corporations do online are allowed to be done, as they seem clear privacy violations. For instance, what we call “cookies” (where did such an inappropriate name come from?) — isn’t it clear that “cookies” is simply a bald attempt to spy on those accessing a particular website, which allows those owning that site, to track and see which other websites the user visits? This is out and out spying, and I can’t see how this can be permitted. My browsing history should not be information available to any website that I visit.

I wish more people would appreciate the importance of privacy and our constitutional protections from government intrusion, because without enough value for these protections, there is risk we could lose them. It’s not just the laws of our nation which protect us, but our valuing of those laws.

Image result for the price of liberty is eternal vigilance

Often, I’m actually shocked by how little appreciation some have for their liberty and privacy.  In response to posts about government overreach, for instance, it is not uncommon in a host group to see a host respond, “Well, I’m obeying the law, so I have no reason to be concerned if the government wants all this data.”

I have this image in my mind, of government agents going door to door, demanding to be allowed into private homes “just to look around and see if we find anything”, and our many virtue signalling citizens being completely fine with this massive illegal invasion, saying in reply, “Well, fine, go ahead, this just gives me an opportunity to demonstrate how righteous I am that I have nothing to hide, compared to those hosts over there who I think might be breaking the law!”  Really, the eagerness to demonstrate one’s own virtue seems to be on the verge of becoming just that eager to condemn others, that it would turn a blind eye to loss of fundamental liberties if the maintenance of the show of virtue could be supported thereby.  Image result for virtue signalling images

The lack of concern for violations of the US Constitution is mind-boggling.    It sometimes seems to me that various forms of virtue-signalling and taking pride in how righteous one is, how politically correct, or how obedient one is to whatever current laws are, is blinding people to the threat to liberty taking place in various forms of government overreach.  We live in a society where virtue signalling has become so big, and so important, that it really figures largely into many facets of the Democratic party and its programs.  This is pushing us all to a dangerous failure to be concerned about protecting our freedom and liberty.

As the Supreme Court has recognized, “when it comes to the Fourth Amendment,
the home is first among equals. At the Amendment’s ‘very core’ stands ‘the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.’” Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1, 6 (2013) (quoting Silverman v. United States, 365 U.S. 505, 511 (1961)). Indeed, “the overriding respect for the sanctity of the home . . . has been embedded in our traditions
since the origins of the Republic.” Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 590 (1980). The Homesharing Surveillance Ordinance is inconsistent with these fundamental principles.

As well, however, the threat to one’s livelihood can unfortunately too easily result in placing more value on self-preservation, than on preserving freedom and liberty in the nation as a whole. It’s become apparent through conversation with hosts in some of the cities where Airbnb has (unwisely, in my view) offered to partner with the city and help the city police its own laws, that some hosts view this lasso-ing of private companies into the law enforcement business, as necessary for their own ability to do business.  They feel that if the city isn’t given what it wants, then their city may ban all short term rentals, which could be ruinous for them.  When I bring up the unconstitutionality or loss of privacy issues to some hosts, they simply say things like “I dont’ see what the issue is if Airbnb gives the city the data.  Hosts are supposed to sign up with the city anyway, so the city would have the information anyway.”  This is like saying it’s pretty much the same thing if border patrol agents catch someone crossing the border illegally, or if the government stops people randomly on the street and asks for their ID, or tells the local school district to give them the names of all suspected illegal immigrants, since “it doesn’t matter how they are caught, they shouldn’t be here anyway.”   The methods that are used to obtain information do matter very much if we are to preserve liberty.  For those who only have their own business interests in mind, liberty and privacy may not mean much.  I am suggesting that we need to take a larger view on things than our own self-interest.

There are several areas where I think hosts should be most diligent to protect their own liberties. One is the type of massive data grab attempt highlighted in the situation in NYC. Another is one that could be missed because it seems much more innocuous. Many cities, when passing short term rental laws, stipulate as part of their regulation, that hosts’ homes will need to be inspected prior to the issuance of an STR permit. As I point out in this article, this inspection issue could be much more complicated and even disastrous for hosts than it would seem on its face. It may not be very common, but it does happen in some municipalities, that once government agents or building inspectors are given access to a private home, they go well beyond their legally circumscribed authority therein. It has happened all too frequently that either a power-hungry rogue building inspector, or an entire city building department with too little concern with citizen’s constitutional rights, will engage in a “fishing expedition” when given access to a private home. Hosts renting one bedroom to a guest in their home, who think the code inspector is there only to look for smoke detectors, and required means of egress in a fire, may be shocked to be handed a fine of $2000 to $5000 for unpermitted work done on a detached garage 30 years before they owned the building. These kinds of things have happened, even to those who may have expected that they were exempt from government abuse because of their level of personal righteousness or excellence in virtue signalling.

For instance, hosts in Portland Oregon were disturbed to find exactly this happening to them, when they applied for an STR permit, and disoovered that building inspectors, once granted access to their home, would just start wandering around, looking for anything they could write up and fine the homeowner on. In Oakland California, in 2011 a Grand Jury was convened to look into allegations of widespread abuse by the city’s building department. The Grand Jury report found “an atmosphere of hostility and intimidation toward property owners” by Oakland inspectors and supervisors,and many abuses by the building department. The Grand Jury outlined the problems at length in this report:

http://www.acgov.org/grandjury/final2010-2011.pdf

Or, you can find the report here:

Oakland Building Department investigated by Grand Jury

Back in NYC:  over the past year, a campaign of harassment of hosts has occurred, where many stories have emerged from New York City hosts, about finding that a troupe of multiple government agents is knocking on their door, ostensibly in response to a “complaint.”  Police, fire department staff and building inspectors have demanded to be permitted into many hosts’ homes (smart hosts have refused to grant them entry) and once inside, they have undergone a fishing expedition, looking for issues to cite the host over.  Hosts have emerged with fines or threats of fines, for things not related to hosting.

Suffice it to say, I recommend that when advocating for STR regulations in their city, hosts should oppose any property inspection requirements, and in general I think property owners should be very hesitant to allow government agents onto their properties. There is too much potential for abuse and bullying, and the property owner is at a great disadvantage. Sometimes cities have no appeal process when building inspectors issue fines (that was the case in Oakland) and it can be prohibitively expensive to try to fight back by suing a city for abuse by the building or any other department.  As well, there is little legitimate reason for a city to do home inspections prior to allowing an owner to do short term rentals.  No such inspections are required in order to do standard long term rentals.  As well, given that AIrbnb very readily refunds guests if they have a complaint about the premises where they are staying, any renter who has a concern about the premises can easily get a refund and find another place to stay.

IN conclusion….let’s watch what happens in Airbnb’s lawsuit with New York City, and hope that a precedent is set which persuades New York and other cities not to engage in these massive data grab attempts, and look for other ways to enforce their laws than in engaging in violations of citizen’s constitutional rights.

Host Advocacy Groups: Problems and Strategies

I haven’t posted an article on here for some time, sorry about my absence, I’ve been busy with some other projects and other websites.

But some events and situations recently crossed my path, which made me realize there’s a need to address host advocacy groups — meaning, political advocacy groups where hosts organize to promote their own interests in various cities, and sometimes at the county or state level.  What I’ve noticed, over the years, is that two things are true:  (1) hosts would do well to organize to advocate for and promote their own interests, particularly when cities begin to create short term rental regulations and may be proposing regulations which have one or more elements which are not good for some or all hosts.  (2) hosts should be aware of and prepare for the fact that when cities propose and then pass short term rental regulations, this can lead to multiple different types of problems, which hosts would do well to be prepared for.(I outline 9 specific problems I have encountered or heard of from others, at the end of this article)

I have seen this many times, both in terms of what I’ve read about in news articles about host groups, and also in host groups I participate in, where I’ve heard directly from hosts involved about infighting or group breakdown that can occur when hosts who may begin as a unified coalition, discover that really they have different goals or interests, and there can be unpleasant experiences when they divide.  Sometimes, there can be power issues, where different leaders emerge in the host community, each claiming to represent the hosts in their region.

All in all, I think that what we see is that as the pressure of laws and regulations is applied by a a city, county or state government, some hosts realize they could be put out of business, or have a much harder time doing their business.    They will be motivated to fight to preserve their business and their income.  Other hosts, alternatively, may feel like they are not threatened, so they are not motivated to fight in the same way, or at all.
As well, different styles will emerge.  Some hosts will have an idea that they should take a certain approach in their advocacy work, others will disagree and want to take a different approach. This can fracture a group.  Sometimes there will be personality conflicts among leaders, and a group that starts out with 3 leaders can break into 2 camps when one leader takes exception to what the other 2 are doing, and breaks away to form their own group.

In sum, even though ideally we would like to think that “as short term rental hosts, we should be able to unite to advocate for our interests and oppose the anti-Airbnb contingent”, the reality is more complex and more imbued with the difficulties that are innate to human nature.  Animosity

It seems to be almost a truism, that if you take a group that on the surface considers itself monolithic and of people with the same orientation, and apply stress and pressure to that group, you’ll be able to turn members against each other,  as different people respond to the pressure by seeking to preserve their own interests or their own self and perhaps willingly throwing under the bus those whom they view as creating an obstacle to their own security or self-preservation.

I am wanting to make hosts aware of this, so that they can anticipate this when they work to organize and advocate on their own behalf.  Also, knowing this in advance can help hosts better organize in ways that allow them to protect themselves from some of the difficulties that can arise as groups fracture or different coalitions develop.

It is not necessarily a problem that groups will fracture and not all hosts will agree.  This may not happen in all regions, but when it does, I think it’s better to allow different groups to develop than to try to suppress division or dissention.  Ideally, if groups with different goals can feely co-exist, they can at least “agree to disagree” , and by being free to go their own way and mutually tolerating each other, they will do better in being able to unite against and establish a collaborative defense against the anti-Airbnb and anti-short term rental groups which would like to destroy them all.

Here are some of the issues as I have seen them.

First, when a large city begins to propose short term rental regulations, it is common for Airbnb itself to try to organize a host advocacy group in that city.  AIrbnb ostensibly does this to help hosts, but realistically we must understand that Airbnb is organizing hosts to promote its own interests, which are to continue to profit by the maximum number of listings in any given area.  So, although the interests of Airbnb and those of the host community can certainly overlap to a considerable extent, their interests are not identical, and hosts should be smart enough to realize this.
One of the things that will happen, when a large city begins setting up short term rental regulations, is that Airbnb will try to coordinate a host group.  They have the big advantage in doing this, because given the limitations for hosts communicating w/ other hosts directly on the AIrbnb platform, it’s easier for AIrbnb to organize hosts than for hosts to organize w/ each other.  AIrbnb can for instance begin contacting hundreds of hosts in any given city by emailing or phoning them, something any one host or group of hosts cannot do.
AIrbnb then will often send a host advocacy liason to actually run the meetings that hosts attend, and will provide handouts and other materials basically instructing hosts how to advocate for themselves, how to interact w/ city council, etc.  Some of this can be helpful, as some hosts have no idea how to go about this, but it can also be problematic when hosts get overawed by being treated to their own personal Airbnb employee rep, and become overly dependent on this Airbnb representative.  THey can fail to do their own planning and strategizing and fail to come up with their own goals.  Ideally, hosts could insist on taking the reins of their own host advocacy group, while appreciating the support from an Airbnb rep assigned to help them.

Second, there may well be divisions in the host community based on the kinds of regulations proposed.  In many cities, proposed regulations would limit or even prohibit hosts from doing short term rentals on entire place listings which are not their own primary residence.  I have seen this become a very divisive area in the host community.  Hosts who are strictly in-home hosts may. out of fear that their city could prohibit all short term rentals, turn against entire -unit hosts (also often called “non-hosted listings, meaning, a listing where the host is not present during the guests’ stay).  They may , wittingly or unwittingly, feel it is in their best interest to “offer up” such listings and hosts to be sacrificed, so that the “greater good” of in-home hosts can be spared.  Suffice it to say that those hosts who do not do in-home style hosting may be unhappy with this turn of events and feel betrayed or sold out.

There are several issues involved in this struggle around regulations that might more negatively impact some hosts than others.  One issue is that, sometimes quite legitimately, some styles of hosting can be viewed as creating more social problems, for instance the large-scale real estate company “host” with dozens to hundreds of listings, which specializes in turning whole apartments into short term rentals.  This type of hosting is very different from the original vision of Airbnb, that of the small property owner, generally a single homeowner or tenant, who welcomes a guest into a bedroom in their own home.  Obviously though, this is not the only type of hosting that is legitimate, and vacation rentals as such have had a long history particularly in vacation destination areas like Lake Tahoe, Big Bear, or around Yellowstone or Yosemite.  Still, in cities where there is a housing scarcity, it is very common for cities to move to disallow property owners from being able to do short term rentals with entire apartments or homes which are not their primary residence.  In areas where the politics is heatedly opposed to “removal of units from the rental market”, it does not actually make much sense for hosts to advocate for the right to do this kind of short term rental, as there is very little likelihood of making any headway on that issue.

However, in areas of the country where this is not an issue, and where there may be a surplus of housing, things are different, and there it does not make as much sense for anyone to vilify hosts who are professional property managers owning multiple buildings and trying to do short term rentals with them all.
Image result for group conflict

On the other hand, some hosts, struggling and perhaps negatively impacted by the increasing number of people becoming hosts and entering the short term rental market, may become very opposed to “large scale operators” in this business, and take exception to anyone advocating on their behalf.  “They are stealing our business/they are hotels”.  There is some legitimacy to this concern as well.

Still other divisions can occur, for instance, some hosts may find themselves privileged to own a home in top order, where all work ever done on the house was done legally with a permit, so they may feel no qualms about a proposal that cities want to inspect every home prior to issuing the owner a permit to do STR.  Other homeowners may realize that either during their ownership of their home, or before they owned it, there was unpermitted work done, and that this issue might arise during an inspection, even though hypothetically, any work done on the detached garage of a house should have no bearing on the rental of a bedroom in the main structure.  Still, it is not unheard of that a government code inspector, once they gain access to a private home, will go on a “fishing expedition” and just wander all over, looking for anything that they can write up and fine the homeowner over.  Actually, this exact problem was occuring in Portland Oregon, after STR regulations there stipulated that all properties should be inspected to get an STR permit.  The inspectors, once in the homes, were just wandering everywhere and “looking for issues” anywhere, in actions that amounted to illegal search and seizure.

A third issue to be aware of, in organizing to advocate for short term rentals, is to consider the context in which your city/county/state is operating.  What are the political forces involved.  Are there powerful tenant groups, complaining that short term rentals “are taking units off the market”?  Are there angered homeowner residents, upset about too many parties in their neighborhood, or commotion and parking issues?  Note too that even a few problems caused by irresponsible short term rental hosts, can have a very damaging impact on future city STR regulations, as I wrote about here.  An awareness of the context, can help host advocates come to realistic goals.  For instance, in a city where there is a “housing crisis” and rents are increasing, it’s rather unrealistic that the city leaders will take the position that short term rentals can be completely unregulated, done on any number of entire units and throughout multi unit buildings.  To get an idea of the different types of short term rental regulations cities might implement, look at this article which showcases 12 different types of STR regulations.  

STR rules in 10 cities

This article, posted on a site that offers cities help in enforcing their STR laws, has 10 different types of STR regulations.

Rifts between Hosts and their Consequences

In any of the above differences between hosts, including the goals that subgroups of hosts have and their desired outcome in the city ordinances,  a very deep rift can develop between these “camps”.   These rifts, and the animosity involved, are I think directly related to the fact that hosts of various kinds find their very livelihood under threat.  No one likes to find themselves faced with the possibility that they will be put out of business.  Everyone wants to preserve their ability to earn an income, to continue with their business.  So the fear of losing all that, leads to the level of passion and the depth of some of the rifts in the host advocacy groups, when other subgroups of hosts may be perceived  — accurately or inaccurately — as posing a direct threat to one’s livelihood.

These rifts can actually even become worse after the host advocacy work is done and the proposed regulations are passed into law, because then the city is faced with the task of enforcement of the law, and new complexities can then develop — and potential for the city cracking down, changing the law, or even prohibiting short term rentals altogether or drastically curtailing them, based on the issues they have with enforcement.

For instance,  if short term rental regulations are passed, and after passage, the city threatens to “crack down” because of the awareness that a number of hosts are continuing to do short term rentals (STRs) with full units, something that the city may have prohibited.  The hosts who view themselves as righteous people obeying the law may feel no qualms in reporting or snitching on the hosts who they feel are threatening their own livelihood by hosting illegally.  This division between hosts who view themselves as the righteous “legal” hosts and those they view as the problematic “illegal” hosts, can also develop along other lines, not just along the lines of in-home or “hosted” listing vs entire place “non-hosted” listing.  It could be along the lines of the host who, after the regulations pass, dutifully registers and gets a permit or license or goes thru whatever process the city stipulates is required now, in order to legally host, versus the hosts who do not fulfill all these legal requirements.  Snitch on lawbreakers

I have seen a number of posts in various host groups where some hosts who have fulfilled all their local region’s legal requirements for hosting, have nothing but contempt for those who have not done so.  It doesn’t seem to matter to them at all what the reason is for any given host not having fulfilled the legal requirements — whether this be a result of ignorance, being new on the scene, willfully ignoring the law, hosting in a way that isn’t permitted, or having some unique circumstance which makes them a round peg that doesn’t fit into the square holes of the short term rental laws the city has passed.  Doesn’t matter  — for some hosts, their vision is very black and white — if you follow the law you’re good, if not, you’re bad and wrong.  What I find so ironic in this situation, is that a number of those who have this very letter-of-the-law orientation, are people who would steadfastly defend the rights of those they term “undocumented immigrants” to cross the border in the dead of night, to use whatever means they need to use to get a job, to work, to go to school and get a driver’s license, and do many other things that the law actually doesn’t allow them to do as non-citizens.

I would also like to take the opportunity to point out that having a “letter of the law” orientation to life, is actually a less than mature level of psychological development.  The “Spiral Dynamics” view of human development postulates these levels of human development — beige is the lowest, oriented to mere survival, turquoise is the highest, oriented to cosmic spirituality.

In this chart, the letter of the law orientation is the blue level, which as you see is a rather middling level of development.  Yellow is the level of coming to one’s own decisions on moral or ethical issues, above and beyond any earthly authority.  Also, the green level is above the blue — at the green level, one places the value of harmony between people above that of actively seeking to punish people because they are not following a law, a law that may not be a just or fair law, in the long view of things.  Spiral Dynamics chart

Considerations When Forming a Group

When setting up a host advocacy group, consider all the structural elements of the group and ask yourself about the security of all these elements, should the group fracture.  For instance, what methods are you using to organize? Do you have a website? who controls it? Is it someone you can trust, who is not biased towards one side or another of hosting styles? What will happen if that person drops out of the group? will they take the website with them? WHo controls the contact list, the list of hosts in your city and their email and phone number info? You should not trust such a list to one person only.  If that person gets upset or offended, and departs with the whole list, what will you do then? In other words, when organizing a group, be very attentive to who has what power, who controls what, and ask yourself what would happen if the person controlling XY or Z ran away with that power and refused to cooperate with the group any more.  What I have seen is too many people who are too naive about human nature, and end up shocked and surprised when there are power issues in their group.

What happens if there are, for instance, 3 leaders of your host advocacy group, and then one of those 3 turns against the other two, and says to the hosts, come over to my group, those other two are not acting in your interest.?

Homes not hotels

I suggest that it’s better to allow dissent and allow groups to fracture and develop subgroups, thus allowing those who want to control their own group or have their own power to have that ability and that satisfaction, and hope that by allowing this, rather than trying to forcibly stop such things, all host advocacy groups have a better chance of existing separately yet being able at least to loosely unite to fight the anti-Airbnb forces.

Finally, when organizing hosts to advocate for your own interests, and speaking up in city council meetings, writing to city councilmembers, meeting with them, etc, I suggest that hosts avoid using their real full name when possible.  Given the amount of anti-Airbnb hysteria out in the world, as well as the fact that if you write to city council, your letter often is considered part of “public record” and then your email and name get put on permanent public record, I think it’s best to take care to protect yourself.  For the most part, cities do not retaliate against those who speak out for hosting, but not always.  New York City retaliated against one host who spoke in his own interest, and he’s now having to sue the city over this.  See this Bloomberg article for more info on that.

Also, the amount of bullying of people just for having an opinion that others don’t like, has increased.  The rise of identity politics has exacerbated this problem.  (By the way , here’s an interesting video on identity politics which demonstrates this problem )  Things are crazier out there these days.  Should you stick your neck out as an Airbnb host, particularly if you speak up in city council and say something that they dont’ like, someone may decide that they have it in for you, and then try to find ways to harm you.  If they know your name, they can find out where you live and go from there.  So I suggest, do not use your real full name when speaking to the city.  In some areas, such as in California, residents have the right (the Brown Act) to NOT provide information about themselves when speaking in a city meeting.  I encourage everyone to take advantage of such rights and protect yourselves.

Concrete Examples: Nine Problems I Have seen in Host Advocacy Organizing

Here are some actual concrete examples –taken from real life situations I have heard of — of how things can go wrong when hosts start organizing.  I will highlight, in these examples, both the PROBLEM that occurred, and the SOLUTION in terms of suggestions for things that might be done to prevent this.

Bully emoji

(1) PROBLEM:  The city begins to put out proposed short term rental ordinance, so hosts start organizing.  They plan a meeting, and two host leaders are to lead the meeting.  An AIrbnb representative is also going to attend.  When the meeting begins, the AIrbnb representative after introducing himself, does not cede to the host leaders, but starts to take over the meeting and run the meeting.
SOLUTION: Be aware of the fact that AIrbnb is going to try to organize and coordinate host advocacy groups in large cities especially.  Be aware and prepared for the fact that they may try to take over meetings.  Talk with their rep in advance to prevent this from happening. Work on a collaborative approach to organizing.

Laptop emoji

(2) PROBLEM:  As hosts in a certain city organize, they simply ask for volunteers on who will do what task in setting up their organization, without giving much thought to who is assigned to what task, and what power each person has in those positions.  One host volunteers to set up a website which will be used for the group, saying she has website building skills.  This website is then advertised all over town as the portal through which to contact the host organization and sign up and keep up to date with developments.  Then, just as the group is getting large and well populated, the host who volunteered to set up the website doesn’t like where the host advocacy group is going, and decides she no longer wants to participate in it.  She takes her website with her (which she’s paid for and owns) and now the group is stuck — they not only no longer have a website, but anyone who tries to get in touch with them is going to the website which is now defunct.
SOLUTION:  Be very attentive to who has what power in any organization you create, and consider what would happen if this person pulls out of the group.  Make sure that any website used by the group has at least two administrators, people who can be trusted.  Determine if their own style of hosting or political views are consistent with them being viable in the long term.     Consider using a Facebook group or Google group for your organization, as opposed to a privately owned website, since with FaceBook groups for instance,  all admins can be said to equally “own” it and no one has paid for it.

Scapegoat

(3) PROBLEM:  Local news media, which thrive on anti-Airbnb stories, hearing that a certain city is creating short term rental laws, and eager to thrive on the controversy involved in STRs, publish stories which attack certain hosts, perhaps “commerical” or large scale hosts.  This creates a public backlash against those hosts, making them — in the eyes of the anti-AIrbnb crowd — veritable symbols of “all that is wrong with AIrbnb” and “The reason housing costs are going up.”  In other words, making them easy scapegoats for a boatload of social problems.  At this point, it no longer is politically viable to support such people, and any host organization with such hosts figuring prominently into its leadership, will be defamed thereby.  I know of such a case, and the vilified hosts ended up being such “hot potatoes” that no one in the host advocacy group could even mention their names or advocate for them in any way, they were so thoroughly viewed as “bad actors”, which was actually false.  Because in this case at least, they had always followed the law as they understood it.
SOLUTION:  Be cautious of who are chosen as leaders.  Airbnb is wise to try to cherry pick hosts that it showcases, as those who are most politically acceptable.  Host organizations need to do likewise. Host advocacy groups mostly should not have large scale commerical hosts as spokespersons, if their area has any housing issues, because that can backfire.  Select hosts who are in-home hosts as leaders, if possible, as these are most politically acceptable.  Also, those who do large-scale or multi-unit hosting need to be aware of the political reality in many cities in the US, which is that, even though this isn’t fair, such hosts are not viewed favorably by many.Lazy emoji

(4) PROBLEM:  HOsts organize for advocacy, but some hosts have little ability or interest in doing their own homework or following the news on their own.  Also, some hosts are clueless as to the purpose being undertaken.  So they come to nearly every meeting expecting leaders to spend time personally giving them updates about every development in the proposed STR rules, or worse, expecting others to give them tips on how to host.  This nappened to me, when helping organize for my area, I found that it was difficult to focus all hosts on the point of the meeting.  It may have actually been a drawback for me that I’m a very organized, focused person (see #5 below).  I found it annoying how often the group would go on tangents and start talking about things not related to the issue at hand, and annoying when I was expected to provide updates and spoon feed some members.  Others may have more tolerance for this than I did.
SOLUTION:  WHen creating a website or online group for your host advocacy group, post easily findable links to updates on local proposed ordinances, results of city council meetings, etc.  Then you can point hosts there who want to know what’s going on.  Draw boundary lines and make clear the purpose of meetings, and try to work time into meetings so that there is time for socializing, which hosts like to do.  In the main meeting, if you’re a focused person, don’t allow people to go on tangents and start into long discussions about the bad guest I just had or where to buy the best sheets.  Stay on point.  Either have the social part of the meeting afterward, or organize social meetings separately where folks can talk about other topics.  If you’re not too concerned about focus, it might actually be easier for you to run the meetings, which could be a process of discussion, then group herding, then more discussion, then some tangent, then herding again.Busy bee bustling

(5) PROBLEM:  The city announces it will propose STR regulations, so hosts in that city want to start organizing.  But the problem is, all hosts are busy, no one has time to help, much less take a leadership role, everyone expects someone else (eg, Airbnb) to do all the work.  A few hosts understand the importance of advocacy, but trying to get others to help or go to meetings, is like pulling teeth.  It’s very difficult and even painful to do.  A couple host leaders may spend hours collaborating with Airbnb, contacting fellow hosts in their city, and then meeting with hosts who just say that they dont’ have time to help.  The few hosts who are involved trying to organize this effort are left with a dilemma: either they alone do all the work that is needed, or no one will do any organizing, and/or it may be Airbnb itself which is left to organize the whole host advocacy campaign.

Several different problems can result from these dilemmas.  One is that leaving Airbnb alone to organize everything, can result in hosts not being able to actively direct the advocacy in directions they feel are best for them.  Another is that if anti-Airbnb folks or the media find out that the campaign is being organized by Airbnb and not by hosts, they will exploit this to vilify short term rental hosting as a corporate phenomenon.  Another dilemma, which I also experienced, is that when there are very few people willing to take on any leadership role, then sometimes those who see the importance of organizing hosts are left to do work that they arent’ suited for.  I am actually not well suited to do any political organizing or boots-on-the-ground advocacy.  I am NOT an outgoing person, and I am easily annoyed by and can get snippy with those who are not quick-on-the-uptake.  I am not the best choice for meeting leader.  What I can do well is write, create websites, help with mailing lists, and other behind the scenes work.  But due to the dearth of leadership, I felt forced to help with things I was not skilled for, due to the fact that there was no one else at all willing to step up.  This misfit between host and group role can have a deleterious effect on an organization.
SOLUTION:  Airbnb can help with host advocacy in some critical ways, such as by making cold calls to hosts to ask them to help out, or convince them that help and/or leadership among hosts is needed.  This help is not available in all cities, but where it is it can be valuable.  Hosts should avoid doing any tasks they have no interest in, but at the same time, realize that if no one else is willing to do the work, the results could be worse than just having a person who ill fits the role.

Angry red emoji

(6) PROBLEM:  One or more hosts don’t like the leaders of the host advocacy group, or dont’ like the strategies being used, or something else.  They have strong views of their own.  So rather than just drop out, they lobby hosts in the host advocacy group to view them as its real leaders, and they start pushing to re-create the group under their leadership.  This divides the group. Some hosts like the original leaders, some prefer these new leaders.  This break risks undermining the strength of the coalition. A case that I observed, involved a team of 3 leaders, and one of those 3 became upset when she learned that the way host contact lists had been handled, did not involve what she regarded as sufficient privacy protections, in particular, regarding the difference between using “CC” and “Bcc” on emails.  The former allows everyone emailed to see the email addresses of everyone else, the latter hides those addresses.  When this occurred, this 3rd leader began to pull away from the other two and build her own host outreach with a separate email address that she did not give the 1st two leaders access to. This did not turn out to be a big problem in the end, but it is just an example of an issue that has the potential to fracture a group.
SOLUTION:   Host leaders should be open to criticism and compromise, in order to maintain the good of the whole group.   Many issues can be resolved just by accepting critiques in good faith.  Should serious differences of view emerge, this may be one of the more difficult issues to solve, but I recommend beginning by trying to mediate and reach an agreement about how everyone can still work together.  This may require that current leaders step back, cede power, take different roles in the group, etc, all for the good of the whole.  If this is not possible, then talk about how things can be done with two groups.  Try to negotiate to make it clear and mutually understood that there is strength in numbers.  Be aware of your own attachment to role and power, and also, how your views are colored by the threats to your livelihood that you are experiencing.

boring emoji

(7) PROBLEM:  The process of working with the city on proposed regulations is very time consuming, demanding, draining.  It is very often a long drawn-out process, taking not only months but sometimes years.  It can involve not only city council meetings, but also planning commission meetings, or housing or other subcommittee meetings.  In order to effectively lead a host advocacy campaign, this is a heck of a lot of work for any handful of host leaders to do.  City council and other city agency meetings can be quite long (4 to 5 hours is typical in my area) and you dont’ necessarily know when your issue will come up in the agenda.  You may have to sit through a lot of other boring issues.  Meetings can go on late…in my area it’s typical for a city council meeting to go on past 11pm, even to midnight at times. The forward momentum, progress from one meeting to the next, can be so incremental and negligible that it is hard to keep up one’s motivation unless one is attentive to the impact of small changes.  Who has patience or time for this? It was not uncommon for Airbnb and host leaders in my area to put in time calling on hosts in the city to attend the meeting and plan to speak, but after coming to the meeting and sitting for 3 hours, some of them would give up and leave, they were bored out of their minds.  Host leaders can easily get burned out after months of attending long meetings and seeing little to show for it, or finding that their work isn’t appreciated by others because the city isn’t going in the direction that hosts have wanted.
SOLUTION:  At least in cities where an Airbnb rep is involved, it can be very helpful for that rep to attend all city meetings, since they are paid to do this as part of their job.  They will not speak or be involved with the city, but they can help the host organization by taking notes and conveying to the host leaders what occurred, if the host leaders cannot make all or part of the meeting.  Sometimes, the Airbnb rep can even send text notifications to other hosts to let them know expected time when the issue is to come up, so that the hosts don’t have to all sit through hours waiting, but can just plan to come a few minutes before the issue comes up on the agenda.  OR, if there is no Airbnb rep, one or two host leaders can do this, or take turns attending meetings, so that the whole burden doesn’t fall on any one host.  In order for this to be productive, those attending meetings need to be sufficiently aware of issues at hand that they can interpret the meaning of any incremental action the council takes.

Angry emoji complex

(8) PROBLEM:  AFter short term rental regulations are passed, the city finds that it is difficult to enforce them.  The city may find that many hosts are violating the law or doing illegal short term rentals.  The city then threatens to make their STR rules more restrictive, or ban all short term rentals, if they can’t get control of the illegal rentals.  This begins to pit hosts against each other: those who are hosting in accordance with the law, are angered by those who are not, who they view as threatening their livelihoods:  “If those people would just stop what they are doing, stop hosting illegally, the city would not be threatening to ban all STRs, which could put me out of business.”  At this point, some hosts will actually go out of their way to report illegal operators, believing that by doing so, they are potentially saving their own neck.   Other hosts will support methods of enforcement of dubious constitutionality or legality, simply because they feel that allowing the city to get what it wants, will protect them from the city’s potential wrath.
SOLUTION:  This is one of the most difficult and thorny of issues.  I believe though that cities do not need to be able to enforce their laws 100% in order to remove the worst of the bad actors from the stage.  It’s often been in the news that one city or another has “cracked down” on a particularly bad actor and done a sting operation and fined them and shut them down.  This is quite do-able, without any help from other hosts or from AIrbnb.  However, if the city  is over-focused on having total control and not allowing anyone to violate a jot or tittle of the law, I think that attitude is the problem, not the hundreds or thousands of hosts whose business might not be 100% in compliance with some aspect of the law, but who are not harming anyone.  I think it would help hosts to try to have perspective on what are the real problems.  And if the real problem is that the city is acting like a big bully, then hosts going out on a limb and feeding the bully by actively seekiing out anyone violating any part of the law, is not really helping.  Those who engage in ethically dubious behaviors just to save their own necks, may discover that the bully can never be sufficiently fed.  Furthermore, it’s a whole separate probelm issue (which I address in another blog article here ) when a city begins to attempt to violate hosts’ or citizen’s privacy, or engage in illegal or unconstitutional methods, in order to enforce laws that quite likely should not have been passed in the first place.

Finally, hosts who become obsessed with rooting out those who aren’t following the law in some trivial respect, can become bitter people, such as those who go onto host groups and scold other hosts for “not hosting in the right way.”  It’s better to advocate for hosting and one’s own business in positive ways and with ethically upright methods, than to seek to do so by throwing others under the bus.Socialist emoji cropped

(9) PROBLEM:  Hosts are desperate to be permitted to continue hosting, so they are grateful for the city’s proposed regulations, which ostensibly allow them to do so. They don’t think enough about the reuqirement that the city inspect all properties prior to giving a host a permit to do STR.  Now, the city is coming around and when they inspect a property, they dont’ look for the items on the list of requirements for STR hosting, but start wandering around the whole house, looking at remodels that were done decades ago.  They fine hosts for any random thing they find that is unpermitted or out of compliance with any random building code.
SOLUTION:  Try to keep home inspection out of the requirements to do STR.  If such inspections are required, express concern in city council meetings that you know of cases (you could mention Portland OR as a case in point) where these inspections got out of hand and the inspections turned into fishing expeditions.  Demand that the city tell you how they will ensure that this will not occur.  Have them put it in writing.  Get a promise of avenues available for recourse should the promise to avoid abuse in building inspection be broken.  See this article for some real-world examples of building inspectors/departments which go rogue and start engaging in illegal behavior with impunity.

So that’s a summary of a few real-world problems I’ve seen in the hosting community.

Lawsuits against Airbnb

For the most part, Airbnb users are probably under the impression that “you can’t sue Airbnb”, because through its Terms of Service it requires users to use arbitration.  This may be true, but that doesn’t mean a lawsuit can’t be filed — it may mean that at some point, the judge compels arbitration, as we can see in the McCluskey case below.  Also, some lawsuits are not about money damages, they are filed to seek an injunction, such as the two New York State lawsuits below, where New York hosts sued Airbnb in an injunction to stop it from disclosing private information to the New York City government.

Here are some lawsuits that were filed against Airbnb, as found on the San Francisco Superior Court website, as well as the New York City court website.  You can look up these cases yourself by going to the San Francisco Superior Court site at http://sfsuperiorcourt.org/ and then click on “Online Services” on top menu bar, and then “Case Query” and search under case names, use Airbnb to search.  For New York State, go here    https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/nyscef/CaseSearch then enter the “Captcha” code.  On the next page, click the “name” tag, and select the “business/organization” option.  Enter “Airbnb” and you’ll find a list of cases where you can click on the case number to see all the documents and case history.  NY State Lawsuits against Airbnb (2)

You could also search court records in a variety of cities around the nation and see if Airbnb has been sued in other places.  I randomly picked Washington DC, and found these cases against AIrbnb in that city:
Lawsuits against Airbnb in Washington DC (2)

 

In a few cases the complaints filed may have been nuisance filings, as the court register of actions indicates that the plaintiff never showed up in court.  So I wont’ include those here.

Lawsuit image

San Francisco Court Cases

Lawsuit filed by Leslie Lapayowker for damages over $25,000, alleging sexual assault by an Airbnb host:

Lawsuit against Airbnb By Leslie Lapayowker

Lawsuit filed by Kissling Street Trust for damages over $25,000:

Lawsuit against Airbnb by Kissling Trust

Lawsuit filed by David Ferris for $7370:

Lawsuit against Airbnb by David Ferris

Lawsuit filed by Megan Holub for $620 (she won) :

Lawsuit filed by Megan Holub

Lawsuit filed by Andrea Camille Calvin for $3068:

Lawsuit against Airbnb by Andrea Camille Calvin

Lawsuit filed by Felix Ntam for $6500, over Airbnb failing to honor their host guarantee:
Lawsuit against Airbnb by Felix Ntam

Note in this case that a later document filed by Felix Ntam shows that he was able to reach a settlement agreement with Airbnb:

Felix Ntam reaches settlement with Airbnb

Lawsuit filed by Kenneth King over a “nuisance host” for $1500

Lawsuit against Airbnb by Kenneth King

Lawsuit filed by Jim Chen for $127 after “being kicked out by the host” and receiving only $103 refunded from Airbnb of $230 total paid for the reservation.

Lawsuit against Airbnb by Jim Chen

Lawsuit filed by Joaquin De La Torre for $2500
Lawsuit against Airbnb by Joaquin De La Torre

Lawsuit filed by La Jeana Thompson for wrongful termination, for damages over $25k and demand for a jury trial. She was a food service worker at Airbnb in San Francisco, employed there by a subcontracting company.

Lawsuit against Airbnb by La Jeana Thompson

Lawsuit filed by Roger SEnders for over $25,000 in damages, alleging injury caused by their negligence:

Lawsuit against Airbnb by Roger Senders

Lawsuit filed by Cozumel Yachts for over $25,000 in damages, alleging property taken under false pretenses:
Lawsuit against Airbnb by Cozumel Yachts

Class Action lawsuit filed by Diane Schober et al over conversion of a residential hotel to use for short term rentals  — AIrbnb is just one of the Defendants in this case which took 3 years to resolve:

Lawsuit against Airbnb by Diane Schober et al

A lawsuit filed by a host who experienced damages by a guest which were not reimbursed by Airbnb.

Lawsuit Against Airbnb by Jane Van Tamelen

When a case is signed off by plaintiff as dismissed soon after the complaint is filed, as in this case, that strongly suggests that a settlement was reached, as here:
Lawsuit Against Airbnb by Jane Van Tamelen pt2

A rather large case, a class action lawsuit, was filed against Airbnb in 2014, by Louis Gamache et al. This case pertains to the conversation of residential units into short term rentals.  The last document filing on the case was in 2017, but the case is not over yet.
Class Action suit Against Airbnb by Louis Gamache et al

This is a case filed against Airbnb in January 2018,….the plaintiff McCluskey, herself an Airbnb Superhost, was hired to work as a co-host for 2 Los Angeles hosts, William and Roxanne Hendricks.  She alleges that as part of her co-host duties, she was asked to open their mail.  In one package she opened, she states she found Oxycontin, Morphine and “Molly”, a controlled substance that cannot be obtained with a prescription.  She states she then contacted Airbnb and told them she was quitting her co-hosting work for these people.  But she says Airbnb told her she had to give more notice, could not quit immediately.  McCluskey feared losing her Superhost status if she did not do as Airbnb said. When she told William she was quitting, and that she’d contacted Airbnb and LAPD, he allegedly contacted Airbnb and told them that McCluskey was afraid to be in the room with his friend, an Hispanic male and thus was in violation of Airbnb’s non-discrimination policy.  Airbnb ended up terminating McCluskey’s Airbnb account, and cancelling all her reservations, booting her off their platform.  This in spite of the fact that McCluskey states that the LAPD had praised her actions.
On the other side, Hendricks asserts that McCluskey was using a false name, had been previously de-listed, was once caught using a security camera, and says she bragged about her ability to get people de-listed. He denied that any illegal drugs were involved and stated that McCluskey opened his mail w/o his permission, a felony crime.
Who’s telling the truth?  That may never be revealed because the case will go to arbitration.

Lawsuit Against Airbnb by Veronica McCluskey

In this case we have a chance to see what happens when an Airbnb user sues AIrbnb and Airbnb asserts that the user agreed to Terms of SErvice which compel arbitration.  In this case the judge agreed with Airbnb and compelled the Plaintiff to arbitration.

Airbnbs Motion to Compel Arbitration is Granted

In this case, a man booked a stay that he decided to cancel, and is suing because he got no refund from Airbnb:

Lawsuit Against Airbnb by Byron Hing

Here are some lawsuits against Airbnb filed in New York City

Start with a big one, the city itself suing AIrbnb to obtain private data about hosts:

The_City_of_New_York_v_Airbnb_Inc__PETITION_1

NYC vs Airbnb Subpoena Duces Tecum

Airbnb also sued New York City, but the documents in that case are all sealed, not available to the public to view:

https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/nyscef/DocumentList?docketId=6OIycduQP2GH_PLUS_fW31ZfhMw==&display=all

And

https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/nyscef/DocumentList?docketId=ESssC2cJJxhaDbB8eCDkFw==&display=all

Parker Madision Partners suing Airbnb over violations of Fair business law

Parker_Madison_Partners_v_Airbnb_Inc Complaint

Christian Pugaczews sued saying he booked a place that was not as advertised, and was in a horrible state, causing him much expense when he had to stay elsewhere.

1Christian_A_Pugaczews_v_Airbnb Complaint

In this case, filed in 2014, New Yorkers who are Airbnb hosts, are suing Airbnb to stop it from handing over their private data to the city

New Yorkers sue AIrbnb to stop disclosures

A similar suit in 2018
New York Hosts sue AIrbnb to stop disclosures 2018

In this case, Jennifer Sheridan is suing both an AIrbnb host, and Airbnb, for her slip and fall injuries:

Jennifer Sheridan sues host and Airbnb

And this guest, Sophia Solovyova, sued her host and Airbnb when she was injured in an accident at the host’s property
SOPHIA_SOLOVYOVA_v_MARGARET_M_MCCANN and AIrbnb

And in this case, a glass table fell on a 2 yr old child in a Brooklyn Airbnb rental, and the parents sued the host and Airbnb

Zaydan_Sarotic_Ronneburg_v_AIrbnb

And another personal injury case, the plaintiff a Chinese national:

Ying Li vs Airbnb

Lawsuits against Airbnb in Washington DC

In this case, the lawsuit was over false advertising for a listing not even located in the USA, but in Spain:
Babak Zahraie vs Airbnb

That case ended up being dismissed by the judge because the plaintiff did not show proof of service of the complaint.

In this case, a host sues Airbnb because a guest brought a knife into a room and another broke his front door lock, and he claims he did not get reimbursed.

Shefali Acharya vs Airbnb

That case was settled with Airbnb paying $500 of the $5000 that the plaintiff sued for:

Settlement in Acharya case

Baltimore Maryland Cases

Jeannette Belliveau vs Airbnb (2)

There is one recent court case in Baltimore Maryland which involves several interesting factors so it’s worth highlighting.

This case involves a long-time Baltimore host, Jeannette Belliveau, who was a SuperHost with over 500 Airbnb reviews, who had also done political advocacy work to support hosts in Baltimore.

In summer of 2018, guest Stephanie Akker stayed with Jeannette in her home. Airbnb Guest Stephanie who made defamatory statement (2)

Stephanie seemed to have a fine time, didn’t complain to Jeannette about anything.  So Jeannette was quite disturbed to hear from Airbnb after Stephanies’ stay, that Airbnb was considering terminating Jeannette’s account on Airbnb over some type of violation of terms.  After reading Stephanie’s review of her stay, Jeannette realized what had happened….the guest had made a false, defamatory statement about Jeannette in her review, and this false statement actually led Airbnb to terminate Jeannette’s account, without even bothering to consider Jeannette’s side of the story!  Stephanie defamatory review false

Read the rest of this story in a separate post, here:  https://globalhostingblogs.com/2019/03/06/when-an-airbnb-host-is-terminated-based-on-false-statements-by-the-guest/

See Jeannette’s complaint here:

Jeannette Belliveau vs Airbnb Complaint and Affidavit

At times, individuals file suit against Airbnb, but fail to show up in court, and the case is dismissed by the judge for that reason, as with this case filed by Tanisha Fanney (and filed by court clerk Elias Butt, no less!) where Ms Fanney sued alleging discrimination as she was not allowed to stay in a listing with her alleged service animal.  But she never showed up in court so the case was dismissed by the judge.

Lawsuit Against Airbnb by Tanisha Fanney
In that case, Airbnb didn’t send an attorney to court to represent them, but sent a paralegal instead!
Paralegal Shows up to represent Airbnb in Court
WHich was probably a good decision since the plaintiff didn’t bother to show up!
Tanisha Fanney case dismissed no show

Are you aware of any other lawsuits?

 

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