All posts by heartoglad

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.

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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?

 

When the Guest Likes your Place TOO Much…and …Strategies for Screening Guests

We all want our guests to be attracted to our listing — some hosts are spending regular time  trying to find ways to make their listing more appealing. More amenities, more great photos, more attractions, more services…lower prices…they do all they can to stand out among their host competitors.

So, it may seem strange to introduce the idea of a guest who likes your place TOO much.  How could this be a problem?

It’s not a problem when guests from other nations, other states, other cities just LOVE your listing and can’t wait to stay there!  Generally this is what gives us as hosts so much satisfaction, delight and gratitude, and makes us feel blessed.  That we can offer something that makes others happy and gives them pleasure.
Colorful fish

But what if a prospective guest says they LOVE your listing, and want to stay there LONG TERM, and they are not from another nation or state, or city — but live in the same city you do?  This is the story of the guest who loves your place too much. 

Most of us are doing short term rentals because we there is something about long term tenants that is problematic for us.  If we are in-home hosts — the style of hosting which was the original kind of hosting on Airbnb — then this is quite often about more than just money.  Yes, it’s possible to earn more doing short term rentals than standard long term ones– but not always.  Particularly in saturated markets where there are actually too many hosts and too many listings, many of us have seen our nightly prices drop quite a bit with the additional competition, and perhaps our bookings have dropped as well.  So it’s not clear that doing short term rentals is always more lucrative than doing standard long term rentals.  It is a heck of a lot more work and the income may be the same or actually less.

But in home hosts have other concerns besides money.  Often, in home hosts want some time alone, or dont’ want to see too much of any one person.  Theres’ a saying that both fish and house Guests and fishguests start to smell after 3 days.

Other hosts just don’t want anyone getting possessive about their home, so they dont’ want any permanent tenants.  Others worry about guests staying so long that they obtain “tenant’s rights” and could be difficult to get out of their home.

Whatever the reason, in general, Airbnb hosts are not interested in hosting people who are seeking something which they are not offering — such as long term or permanent tenancy.

However, it does seem that a number of people who are seeking a new permanent residence, are looking for one on the Airbnb listings.  And I can see why this would attract them. Consider the way that long term rentals are “packaged” or advertised, compared to vacation rentals and Airbnb listings.  It’s quite unlikely that any standard long term rental is going to be presented as attractively and with as much effort and appeal, or with as many photos and delightful amenities, as a vacation rental or short term stay.  Why? Because offering a vacation to someone tends to be pretty different from offering permanent housing.  Standard property rental ads have several down sides: they mention credit checks, security deposits, ask for references, work history.  You know you’ll have to fill out an application, and, in areas of the country where there is a housing crunch, you’ll likely attend an open house with several other interested parties.  You may not hear back at all from someone whose apartment is listed on Craigslist.


FishCompare this to responding to ads on Airbnb.  There, you’re showered with gestures of hospitality both in the listing description, and in the many photos, often depicting gorgeously laid out rooms with chocolates on the pillow and freshly made beds in optimum lighting, with professionally shot photos.  You are offered breakfast or fruits and bagels.  Your host offers to take you out for dinner or to a local bar — automatic friends!  And, because hosts get penalized for not responding to inquiries or not responding fast enough, if you inquire about a place to stay on Airbnb, even if you are seeking something that the host is definitely not offering, or if you are definitely not the type of renter the host wants, the host is still obligated to respond to you, because of the way the platform is set up.  This means that someone inappropriately seeking permanent housing on Airbnb is guaranteed to get a response, whereas on Craigslist, it’s quite possible that they will be ignored by the first fifty property owners they contact — particularly if there is something red flaggy about their presentation.

What tenant seeking a permanent home wouldn’t be enamored of finding a permanent residence where they were showered with such hospitality and attention? What a difference, this, from the tales of the “greedy landlord” that are promulgated in the media.  No wonder some tenants turn to the Airbnb listings and hope that they might find a home there.

I have advertised my listings as exclusively short term rentals, and I still get inquiries from local people who are pleading with me that they absolutely adore what I’m offering, and would just be so happy to stay there for a few months [I’m thinking — they really mean a few years] and would be such good tenants!  I am reminded of the fact that some of my worst tenants, back when I had standard roommates, began life in my house by promising me what good tenants they would be.  Promises, promises…so quickly made and so easily forgotten!  Or — more likely — promises made that never meant anything at all from the moment they were uttered.
Last week I had an inquiry from a couple who live in my area who wanted to stay a few months in my listing.  No explanation was given about why they were wanting to stay in a short term rental for several months when they live in my area.  Just this week I had another inquiry from someone who lives in my city, who said she wanted to stay several months and be a “long term tenant”.  The only problem — I make it pretty clear I am not seeking a long term tenant.  I asked what she meant, and where she lived, and words came out both sides of her mouth.  She spoke about having a wonderful apartment in another part of town, but of loving my neighborhood and wanting to live there — and yet at the same time, saying that she was not seeking a permanent home.  I asked her to explain this, and no satisfactory explanation was given because there was none.  She was just hoping that by having great reviews and good references, she could ingratiate herself with a host doing short term rentals and ply them to rent to her long term, meaning, perhaps, for the next decade, or maybe the rest of her life.  Squatter

I appreciate that it can be difficult to find an ideal place to live, particularly in a difficult rental market.  But the solution is not to look for the keys you lost in the bedroom, out in the street under the lamp-post, because there is more light there.

I appreciate that you love my listing, in fact that it’s pulling your heart-strings and making you coo and ahhh, and have fantasies about being there for a long time.  But please keep in mind, this is my house.  It’s a little weird and perhaps more than a little uncomfortable for hosts when a guest they dont’ want essentially admits to salivating over their property.   You just may feel an inclination to yank all your listing photos off the internet.

And hosts dont’ want to end up filleted and served up in a platter, by the bully tenant or the possessive tenant, or the tenant who comes in as a guest with great reviews but somehow ends up becoming a person who’s trying to run your house, or who squats and refuses to leave, because “I like it so much.. and besides, I don’t have anyplace else to go…I gave notice on my other apartment and now I can’t afford to move either.” .  So although as hosts we are very oriented to being welcoming and offering hospitality,
Mackerel in platter

we cannot offer that hospitality blindly.

I have some suggestions for hosts on how to avoid the guest who loves your place too much.  These involve screening and communication techniques.

Consider, how in  job interviews the applicant doesn’t necessarily tell the truth to the prospective employer, but rather, may “play” the interview and strategically create their resume specifically for that employer, to present themselves so that they seem to be exactly what the employer wants.  Prospective guests/renters may do the same thing.  They may be “playing ” the host and presently themselves to intentionally come across in a way that they think the host will like.

So what can you do to deal with this? The primary technique I encourage you to strive for, is to hold back information about yourself, your values, what kinds of renters/guests you want, and what kind you wont’ accept.  In other words, dont’ reveal your screening techniques in advance, to those who are being screened.  Of course, you do want to have complete and clear house rules, and you will have set your minimum and maximum stay settings, but I strongly encourage you to avoid revealing in advance (such as in your listing description or ads) any of your screening techniques. Because if you say in advance what you screen out, dishonest guests can simply alter their presentation so that they don’t seem to be the kind of guest you are screening out. No locals

For instance, many hosts dont’ rent to locals.  At all.  Some will, but only if there is a good reason — eg, a person having their home remodeled, needing another place to stay, a person in the process of divorce, a person having their in-laws visiting.  But many will not be comfortable renting to a local who is a married person, so that they can carry on an illicit affair in your home, or so that they can do a drug deal there, or so that they have someplace else to stay while they go through a psychotic break because their family  doesn’t want them around in that condition, or because they got drunk and their spouse kicked them out, or so they can have someplace — anyplace — to stay after being evicted from their current residence.  There are some problems with renting to locals.

But I suggest that you never state in advance that you don’t rent to locals.  That way, locals can innocently inquire, without feeling like they need to hide the fact that they live in your area, and you can have accurate information instead of being fed lies by someone trying to game you.

Similarly, I suggest you don’t announce in advance any other reasons you might decline someone (apart from what should be obvious to the guest, eg, someone intending to violate your maximum occupancy or house rules).  It is not fareSo  if you have a practice of analyzing inquiring guests’ grammar, spelling and ability to communicate professionally, when considering a guest inquiry, I suggest not announcing this in advance, so that you leave space for the guest to honestly inquire in their standard bad english and/or unprofessional communication, eg, “Hi I interested in renting ur place, is it availbel?  Cool thx.”  If someone regularly communicates like this in professional settings, you want to know that, and tipping them off in advance that you’ll decline people for such communication may seek them to get someone else to type their inquiry.  In which case you’re not able to actually screen the guest because they have a stand-in communicating for them.  Lets Eat Grandma
All in all, the motto here, is that as an Airbnb host, as well as in other areas of life where you have to screen/assess people in your job, it’s wise to give those inquiring, enough rope to hang themselves.  Naturally most guests will not hang themselves, they will prove themselves delightful people we would love to have in our home.  But for the occasional problem person who inquires…wouldn’t you rather know in advance about the likelihood of problems with this guest, than wait and only find out after they are settled in to your guest bedroom?
Give him enough rope
Doing this is not a guarantee to eliminate all types of problems, but it can potentially help you in avoiding dishonest guests, scams, problem guests, guests who violate house rules with impunity, squatters, or other problems.  And the absence of those problems leaves you (and any of your other guests) having a much more pleasant experience at your own home, which is the most important thing.

Mail and the Boomerang Guest

One of the issues that comes up fairly regularly in host community groups, is the question of guests receiving mail at your house.  Often what happens is the host just doesn’t think much about this, until they open their mailbox and discover mail that is addressed to their guest, who’s staying at their house for 4 days, or a week or two. Or perhaps the host is arriving home from work, and finds a package on her porch — and it’s not for her, it’s for her guest.  Package on porch photoshopped

This can be a little unsettling, particularly if the host never gave permission to the guest to recieve mail at her house, and/or if the guest is only staying for a few days.

Many hosts would, however, dismiss any unsettled feeling that they have, and tell themselves that there is no harm in the guest receiving mail at their home — perhaps it’s something important, and after all, doesn’t the host want to provide hospitality?

The intention I have with this blog is to do as I like to do with many issues pertaining to hosting, and explore it in more depth and with more thought than many might give to what they regard as a minor issue.

So what can possibly go wrong with allowing your guest to recieve a letter or package at your home?  Here’s a visual clue to the answer which is possible, in a few years’ time, should you never limit guests receiving mail at your house:

Guest mail vs your mail
There will come a day when this is what you’ll start to find

There are several potential problems, which have been discussed in some host community threads, such as those here.

Here’s a summary of some of the potential problems:

1) Receipt of mail establishes tenancy rights. In some locales, receipt of mail may establish tenancy rights for a guest.  See this information for Connecticut, for instance.  In this article, receipt of mail is stated as one of the “warning signs” that a guest has become a tenant.

2) The multiplication factor. Guest asks if they can receive “just one package” and you say okay, then find that they are recieving packages every other day.

©Tamara Kenyon Photography - http://tamarakenyon.com
Is the guest taking advantage of host with permission to receive mail?

3) Many businesses put customers on mailing lists or sell their contact info to other businesses.  This is something a great many guests, (particularly those from other nations where this practice is prohibited) as well as hosts, are sadly uninformed about.  So if the guest asks if they can recieve “just one package” and you say okay, the multiplication factor can come in, they may order more,  and more, and the guest is getting on mailing lists (eg Tommy Hilfiger, Armani Exchange, Macy’s, Target, Pottery Barn, the list goes on…), and it’s an open question whether you or the guest can ever get the guest off those mailing lists. It is difficult to impossible to be removed from some junk mail lists.  You may now be receiving mail for that guest for years to come.   This is one stellar example of what I call the “Boomerang Guest” effect.  A situation where the guest has departed, but they keep coming back. And back and back.  Through their ceaseless mail.

I have a real-life humorous anecdote about this type of situation to share.  For decades before I bought my house, it had been a roommate type of house, where several people lived, so even from the start, and now many years later, I receive mail for many people who have long since departed.  One day, I received a business call from a woman whose name sounded familiar, who wanted to hire me to do a project for her.   Joan Sturgess. Where had I heard that name before? Ah yes, then I recalled — I had been getting her mail for several years! It turned out that about 30 years ago, Joan had lived in my house, three owners prior to me.  So this may serve as a humorous illustration of how long that boomerang effect can actually last.  Decades!!

4)  The gift that keeps on giving: your work continues after the guest departs.  Perhaps the guest gets mail at your home, only one or two things. But then….once they depart,  it’s quite possible that more mail comes for that guest, who is now contacting you asking you to send those things to him. You are faced with the prospect of doing extra work for a guest who shouldn’t have been having mail sent to your house in the first place.  As well, you may be responsible for the guest’s mail, and getting it to them at their new address, if you have allowed it to be sent to your home.  I suggest not getting into this kind of complexity and potential extra effort.

5) Important guest documents are now linked to your address.  You tell guest he cannot have mail sent to your home, or perhaps you say packages from Amazon are okay, but he uses your home address to open a bank account in your city, without asking you, and after he leaves, bank statements for him continue to come to your home for years to come.  Or, he uses your address for his DMV renewal, or his VISA application, health insurance paperwork, or Immigration services account, or any number of official/government documents.  This has happened to me, even after I explicitly prohibited guests recieving mail at my home or using my address for any purpose.   One guest stayed 5 days and opened a bank account with my address.  Another stayed a couple months and I was still getting his bank statements 5 years later.

6) “But I told them not to send it to your address!”  What neither hosts nor guests seem to realize, and you will only find out to your dismay well after the guest departs, is that it doesn’t do any good at all for the guest to give your address to immigration services, to their employer, their university, or any business, while simultaneously saying “do not send mail to that address.”  Guess what.  They WILL send mail to that address!! Guaranteed. Because — and both guest and host should realize this —  account organization and mailing lists for large entities are never done in the luddite way completely by hand any more.  Everything is automated, and computer-driven.  This means that “personal notes” such as “dont’ send mail there” are completely pointless.  You only need to think about this for a few seconds to realize — there is no way to tell a computer, “store this information in their account under mailing address, but dont’ use it as their mailing address.”
So for this reason, if you really want to prohibit guest from receiving mail at your house, you need to make it clear to the guest that they also cannot give out your address to any entity.

7) Will you be responsible for lost guest mail/packages?  If you allow the guest to receive mail at your house, you need to consider the outcome, should the guest not receive that mail.  What if it ends up lost, or stolen? In my neighborhood, for instance, package theft is an epidemic, and it’s very common on the community board in my area to see people posting about their packages being stolen.  Or posting video of the package thieves.  Package thief with cart

8) Guest has illegal drugs/paraphernalia sent to your home.  This might seem like such a remote possibility that it’s not worth really considering.  However, it has happened to some Airbnb hosts.  See this article about how an Airbnb guest sent illegal drugs to a hosts’ home:

“…he was home and sound asleep when the Gwinnett County Police started pounding on his door, asking about a package. Police told him someone had sent two pounds of marijuana to his home, under a name he didn’t recognize.

But moments after the police left with the drugs in hand, he saw a text from the man renting his room through Airbnb that he was expecting a package.

“My immediate thought is I need to get out of here,” he said.

You can see that a common theme in this is that anytime a guest receives mail at your home, there is the potential that mail will continue to arrive at your home for the guest long after they are gone.  boomerang pathThis is the Boomerang effect, a result of the Boomerang Guest.  This is very difficult to put a stop to, particularly if you are dealing with a large company sending out advertisments. boomerang in handOr with large banks. As stated above, it took me 5 years to get a certain bank to stop sending bank statements to my home for a renter who had only been at my house for 2 months, 5 years prior.

So perhaps you’ve read this blog thus far, and decided that you want to prohibit guests from receiving mail at your house.  How can this be politely communicated to guests and what will you do if guests don’t follow this rule?

What I suggest is that you state in your house rules that you don’t allow guests to receive mail at your house, or give out your home address for any purpose, but that at the same time, you do offer suggestions on how/where they can receive mail.  Here are some options for how guests can receive mail elsewhere:

 

UPS mail box

(1) In the USA, it may well be possible for guests to receive mail for free, if they have it addressed to their name, care of “General Delivery”, at a nearby post office.  People who are traveling (Eg on a bike ride across the country) often arrange for this to get their mail from town to town as they travel.

(2) Guest can set up a mail box at a local UPS or FedEx office, or perhaps a US Post Office, though the latter usually requires them to provide a local residence address.

(3) If guest is in town for a work project or university project, it may be quite possible for them to receive mail at their place of work.

(4) Amazon deliveries can now quite often be picked up at local Amazon drop spots, which are often local stores.  WHen you buy something on Amazon they give information about this.

What if you ask the guest to read the house rules before booking, and Airbnb asks the guest to read the house rules before booking, and the guest says he read the house rules before booking, but then one day soon after his arrival you find a package for the guest on your porch  —, in spite of having made it very clear in your house rules that you dont’ allow guests to receive mail at your home?  When you ask the guest about this,  I’m sure he’ll say he “forgot” or “didn’t know.”   What he really means is that in spite of you asking him 2 or 3 times to read the house rules, and having house rules posted in the house and on a laminated card in the guests’ room, he did not read them, and simply made assumptions in lieu of reading anything.

So then what do you do, if mail arrives for the guest, after you have prohibited the guest from receiving mail at your house?  Well, I strongly suggest that whatever you do, you do not give that mail or package to the guest.
I used to do this, chiding the guest at the same time, saying “Mail came for you, here it is, dont’ ever do that again, it’s not permitted. ”  But I had this problem occur so often — in fact, it was the house rule most often broken by my guests — that I finally became fed up, and realized that if I did give the guest’s mail to them, after prohibiting their sending it to my house, they were seeing no consequences for their violation of their house rules. And particuarly if their receipt of mail at my house then led to a future of me receiving their junk mail for months or years to come, I would be quite angry with myself for having given them their mail, which led to this unending and unwelcome gift of more and more and more mail. boomerang colorful

Then I obtained an inspiration from another host I know in the host community, on how to deal with this issue. She said her policy on mail as articulated in the house rules, is not only that guests may not receive mail at her house, but also that “if you have mail sent here you will not receive it.”  So she was actually making a promise to the guest, that they would not benefit from violating the house rules.

So, although it may be slightly more work to return mail or packages to the sender, than to give them to the guest, I suggest that hosts take this route, so as to eliminate the possibility of guests benefitting from violating the house rules.  Also, to avoid angering the guest, I suggest that the host does not say to the guest, “Mail came for you, I received it and then sent it back” but rather suggest that there was a delivery attempt which was not completed.  One way you can facilitate return to sender is to tell your mail carrier that there should be no mail delivered to your house for anyone but yourself, and that any mail with anyone else’s name on it should be returned to sender.

This latter method helps when you have the “but it’s an emergency” type guest who insists that they need one package, one mail item delivered at your house “because it’s an emergency.” Well you might want to make an exception for a true emergency, but keep in mind that what constitutes an “emergency” for the guest may not really qualify — for instance, guest may think it’s an “emergency” if he really wants to read a book on tourist attractions in your area before he leaves your area, and so he just has to order it from Amazon.

So for the most part, I strongly suggest returning all mail that arrives at your house which is not for you.  However, not all mail can be returned.  In the USA, it’s a federal crime to interfere with someone’s US mail (this applies only to mail carried by the US Postal Service, not to packages delivered by UPS or Fedex, etc), but only First Class mail is returnable.  Third Class mail, which includes most “junk mail” is not returnable and if you try to return it, it will just be discarded.  See here for some information.

Another way to discourage guests from even trying to have mail sent to your home, is to explain or hint to them regarding the insecurity of mail being returned.  When you have a lockable mailbox, incoming mail is secure — outgoing mail is not.   I have my packages dropped over my fence, so they are secure from theft when delivered — but outgoing packages which are simply set on the porch are not secure at all.  And package theft is high in my area.
You may be willing to drive to the local UPS or Fedex outlet to return a package that should never have been delivered to your home — or you may not be willing to make that effort, and might instead just call UPS et al, and tell them the package is sitting on your porch.  And you can only cross your fingers and hope that UPS comes and retrieves it before a thief does.

If you attempt to return someone’s mail, for instance, by writing “return to sender” on it and attaching it

outgoing mail

with a clothes pin to your mailbox, waiting there to be picked up by the mail carrier, you aren’t responsible for that mail if someone steals it, or it gets rained on and destroyed, or a dog comes and grabs it and runs off with it.  Thus, it is appropriate to inform the guest, that it’s quite a risky business for them to have their mail delivered to your home in violation of your house rules.  They will not get it if it’s delivered to your house, and — particularly in areas where package theft is high —  it is quite possible they’ll never get it at all.