Seventeen Guests You Don’t Want

2z85jl2Many of those new to Airbnb hosting and short term rentals (as well as those new to renting out property on a long term basis, as new landlords!!) ,  express confusion about whether to take a certain guest/renter/tenant.   Too often, new Airbnb hosts are under the impression that guests having completed Verified ID will solve all problems and that if a guest has verified ID they will be perfect, will come neatly tied up with a red bow on top.  That isn’t quite how it works.

Secondly, new hosts, failing to realize that to be a host means you are now in the property rental business and that the need to SCREEN RENTERS is an essential part of that business, are failing to screen renters and have no idea how to do that. For help with these problems, see some helpful tips here on the GlobalHosting Forum:

Tips for New Hosts

Red Flags for Hosts

Now, let’s get into the matter of some types of guests whom you would perhaps be better off without. All of the following guest types are based on REAL experiences that hosts have had with guests — and some of these are distressingly common guests that hosts have talked about in the host community. So…be careful out there!

First type: Permanent but Flexible (Bad Math)

This guest, let’s call her Leila, presents herself in her initial communication with you,  with buoyant confidence that she is about to do you a big favor. She is a traveling businessperson, or perhaps a traveling nurse. She describes what she wants as a “permanent part time” or “permanent flexible” arrangement with you.  One variety of Leila, is the businessperson who wants to stay at your home 2 or 3 days a week, for an indefinite period of time. She also asks you if she can have the discounted weekly rate, or perhaps even the evern more discounted monthly rate, pointing out that she will be bringing you regular business.

Another variety of Leila, is the guest who says that she is a permanent resident in your city, but that her job is part-time, for instance only 3 days a week, or maybe only 10 or 14 days a month, so she wants to rent from you, permanently, but only for the days of the month she is actually here — the rest of the time she would like to be free to travel, and not have to pay for a rental.

Caution: Bad Math ahead!!

One or both of these Leilas may drop you the additional benefit, that they will only leave “half” of their things or “a few things” in your room or apartment, during the days that they are not renting it, indicating that then the space would clearly be available for others.

You do not want these Leilas. Why? The place where beginners usually get tripped up, is in making the  assumption that any kind of regular business, is desirable. Yet, most people become Airbnb hosts because they are clear they do NOT want a permanent roommate. So when you get an inquiry from a “guest” who wants any kind of permanent, indefinite, long-term, permanent-temporary, or permanent-flexible arrangement, it is a good idea to go back to your original motivation to become a host and remember why you chose to rent on a short term basis, to individuals who would NOT be your roommates.

Another thing to realize, when guests offer you these supposedly wonderful deals of taking your space for 2-3 days a week, or 10 days a month each month, is that these are often arrangements that will cause you to lose money. If someone is taking 2-3 days a week each week, that means you either have to find someone to take the remaining 4-5 days each week, and only those, or you will lose money for that week.

Leila isn’t adding it up — that is for you to do

Not to mention that you won’t be able to take ANY reservations for longer than 4-5 days, if one person is blocking 2-3 days each and every week. So you will be unable to accomodate 6 or 7 day reservations, 10 or 16 day reservations, not to mention 21 or 28 day or longer bookings. End result is that this person who is so self-assured that they are bringing you a great deal, which they should be given a discount for bringing to you, is in fact going to cause you to lose quite a lot of money.  This is similarly true to some extent with someone who wants only 10-14 days each month. This problem is not as bad, but it still means that you would lose the ability to rent your place for more than 3 weeks to anyone, and those 3 weeks would have to fit precisely around the “regular” guest’s 10-14 days.

Lastly, when considering a longer term renter, take into consideration that vexing and annoying problem of the entitlement attitude that can sometimes accompany guests/renters who either have long reservations, or are “regulars” and thus take on the demanding nature of roommates. They all too often don’t ask for, but start demanding certain exceptions, rights, or privileges that you aren’t interested in giving them.

Second type: “Join the Fans of Roger Fan Club”

This guest sends you an inquiry, and you see that the name on the profile is “Roger”, but the name he signs off with, is “Peace Rainbow.” Or “Dharma Yogi” or something in that vein.  As you read his profile, and/or inquiry, you feel like you are reading an advertisement for a New Age product line. wi32w8Roger-Rainbow tells you that he is a loving, peaceful, compassionate, dancing human being filled with mirth and totally conscious of his white privilege and and working for the benefit of the indigenous peoples of the world, who is also totally in the know about gender fluidity, who produces bath salts and unique-boutique herbal arrangements and custom mixes. He also practices Rainbow Reiki (his own custom brand) and teaches Cranio-Sacral Shamanic Journeying. He offers you a free session. The period of time that Roger-Rainbow wants to stay at your place could vary, from a few days to a few months.

Why do you not want this mirthful, aware and awesome Rainbow in your home? Some may be perplexed as to why one would turn down such a guest. Doesn’t he seem to be living a very healthy life style? The point to carefully notice, is that Roger – Rainbow often presents in an egocentric way that suggests his view that he is Gaia’s gift to humankind. He goes into more than adequate detail about all his eminent qualities and how radiant and super-wonderful he is.   It would seem that  Roger has had many doors fly open for him just by testifying to his own awesomeness.   (Sometimes in reading responses to housing ads, I wonder if many young people think that the mere use of the term “awesome” is guaranteed to be their secret pass to get accepted anywhere they like — for then all the other awesome people shall surely know that he/she is also of the awesome tribe!).

Yes, this glowing radiance is nice, but will he clean the bathtub? Will he put his dishes away in the kitchen? Or is he vastly too special and wondrous to be bothered with such mundane and boorish requirements? What I have found about many New-Age poster children, as well as quite a few political activist applicants, is that when their inquiries are full of self-praise, this is a good clue that they are full of themselves. zwnoteThey are more interested in themselves and how wonderful they are, how correct and wonderful their politics and consciousness are, than in following your house rules. They aren’t really too interested in what your needs are. They won’t necessarily be rude to you, but they are likely to just keep “forgetting” about something that to you is quite important — like taking shoes off in the house, or cleaning the tub after use, or not leaving dishes in the sink. I had one such semi- New Age Poster Child, who when she departed on check out day, walked out the house and left the front door not only unlocked but wide open, so that any criminal opportunist strolling by could have walked right in and grabbed anything. Closing front doors? How trivial I guess, when one views oneself as an important figure in the movement for World Peace through Rainbow Reiki.

The other dynamic to be aware of in this type of inquiry, is that of what  might be termed the “values switcheroo.” As a host, you have certain values about what is important to you in your welcoming guests to your home. For most of us hosts, that means our house rules are front and center. We love meeting people from different parts of the world, different cultures, different personality types, love having chats with guests and perhaps dinner with them, and so on, but above and beyond all of that, we want, no, we need, guests who will follow our house rules. That is probably the most important facet of having guests in one’s home — because if that goes wrong, nothing goes right. Hence it is a primary value in hosting.

What happens with the Peace Rainbow type of guest, is that the guest is overtly or covertly trying to pull a values switcheroo. They are interested in downplaying your values of house rules, or any rules for that matter, and playing up the value of being “cool” and “conscious” and a totally awesome human being. In fact, from the way Rainbow is presenting, you can start to see that he is actually waging a propoganda campaign, subtly suggesting that HIS values should be YOUR values, and that being a proponent for indigenous people’s rights, or being a dancing human being, is really much much superior than simply being a property owner with a set of house rules. If you accept Rainbow as a guest in your home, you might find that he radiates arrogance about the importance of his various New Age missions or products, and correspondingly expresses, in small ways, contempt for the comparatively unenlightened values of you asking guests to clean up after themselves in your home, or respect the agreement that they signed onto.

Third type: Oh By the Way

This guest, call him Fred, presents in a polite enough way. He sends a short introduction message, asking about staying 5 weeks at your house. You then ask him to read your house rules if he hasn’t done so already (I suggest asking this of EVERY prospective guest). In this case, let’s say your house rules indicate, as mine do, that your rooms are for one person only, and that guests may not bring visitors/friends to the house at any time, for any amount of time, and that no exceptions will be made. You also indicate that there is no offstreet parking and describe at length the street parking options available. Your rules also make it unmistakable that guests cannot receive any mail whatsoever at your house.

Fred says he has already read the rules, and all is fine, he’s totally okay with them. Then you chat with him a little more about what brings him to the area, how long he wants to stay, and answer the questions he has about how far you are from a certain place he will be visiting/working, and he also asks about bike rental. So far so good, everything seems to be going well, and you are about ready to send him a preapproval. 1qhi7nThen Fred sends you a message, saying “one more thing”, and asks if he can have his friends visit, and can he have his girlfriend Becky stay over for a week when she comes to the area. He also asks you if there is off-street parking available. Then he says he will be out of town for 5 days during the 5 weeks he is indicating he wants to book, and asks if he would have to pay for those days, since he will not be there. He says it should not be a problem to leave his one suitcase, since it is small and for the 5 days when he is gone he could easily put it in a closet or something at your house. He then says he will be receiving one package at your house just before he arrives, and tells you this will not be a problem, because it is a small package.

At this point, you should most definitely NOT send Fred a preapproval, and be grateful that Fred has helped you screen him out. Fred stated that he had read your rules, and unfortunately he falls into that increasingly large group of guests who can simultaneously claim that they have read every last one of your house rules, while at the same time saying things/doing things which most clearly indicate that in reality, they have “blown off” one or more of your house rules and/or have miserably failed to assimilate what they stated they have read.

You will now tell Fred that his latest questions indicate that he has actually not read the house rules that he claimed to have read, and that this misrepresentation leaves you dubious he would make a good guest. You wish him luck finding a place to stay elsewhere.

Fourth Type: “Prove it to Me”

Belinda writes to you, saying she is interested in staying at your house, but has questions about the safety of your neighborhood. She states that she has heard that your city is not safe. She means, actually, your whole city. She asks you to please explain in detail about the safety of your area, and she may even require you to put in a paragraph of self-defense about your city.

Why is this guest not desirable? Aren’t safety issues fair questions to ask ? While it is certainly fair for any guest to inquire about area safety, it is quite problematic when a guest is putting you on the defensive regarding safety in your area — basically putting you in the position that you are being asked to “prove” that your neighborhood/entire city is “safe”. This reveals that the guest is actually already biased against staying at your home, or is predisposed to view your home/neighborhood/city as unsafe. xeo9wWhat does “safety” mean to this guest? There have been many threads on this issue. For the most part, the “safety” of any particular place, is not an objectively measurable quantity or quality. This is not something about which one can say, for instance, “Well, there have never been any robberies or instances of accosted pedestrians on my street, therefore there WILL never be any.” Neither can one be expected to produce some comprehensive study on area safety and what that means for any particular person, at any particular time —even if that persons’ view of safety is rational, whereas some people’s view of what constitutes “safety” may be irrational or distorted. (Eg, there have been stories hosts told about how a guest decided an area “wasnt’ safe” because they saw people of a certain race there, or encountered homeless persons/streetpeople in the area).

Another problematic guest dynamic to be aware of, is that of the guest whom you feel is trying to “turn the tables” on you through their inquiry, such that instead of you screening them to see if you fit in their home, you feel they are screening you to see if what you are offering is acceptable. Isn’t this expected, though, you ask? Aren’t both sides really supposed to evaluate each other? Yes, that is true, but the main thing to keep in mind, is that through your extensive listing description, house rules list, neighborhood guide, and your own many photos of your house, and your profile description of yourself, you have already provided a huge amount of information to the guest, whereas the guest is unlikely to have produced an equivalent amount for you to consider. Also, it is really not the case that a renter needs to “Screen” prospective hosts — rather they CHOOSE potential hosts. It’s the hosts who are tasked with the screening. So if you find yourself feeling like you are the one being screened when you should be the one to be doing the screening, pay attention. You may be dealing with a guest who has been rejected already by one or more hosts, and whose inquiry to you is little more than an excuse to put you on the defensive and end up rejecting you. When people are hurt by rejection, sometimes they crave opportunities to then reject others, hoping to find by this means, a restoration to their damaged ego.

I once spent a good amount of time and energy trying to answer just such a guest question about area safety, only to end up having the guest tell me that he had “found out” that my area was not safe, and so he would not be booking with me. What did he “find out”, I wonder? Did he suddenly awaken to the fact that I live in an urban area, and so my area has “urban” type situations? I will never know, for after he summarily dismissed my neighborhood as quite unsafe, he ceased all correspondence and would not respond to my questions about just what information he had gotten and from where.

Fifth Type: Nice 2 meet U can I stay Ur house?

George’s inquiry strikes you as cryptic, not because you can’t figure him out, but because of the many spelling and grammatical errors. You know this is not because George is a foreigner — he clearly lives in your country. He says, for instance, “Hi im Gerge, looking to sty 5 days during my art cless teachinf this fall, Im an outdoro artist, create art on beach usign found materialls. I am 67 years old, I hope wil approve me thank u.”

The reason I can advise that you not accept this guest, is because I made the mistake of accepting this guest. I overlooked his many spelling and grammar errors, and liked his spirit and the fact that he did found-materials art  in landscape settings.  How whimsical and creative!!  v77bk8I was charmed!!  I’m an artist too and love to support artists.  But when I accepted George, what I got was a guest who was as attentive to the house rules and terms of the reservation, as he had been to his spelling and grammar. He forgot to remove shoes in the house, didn’t adquately clean up after himself in the kitchen, and 4 hours after checkout time, his things were still in his room, he was nowhere to be found, and did not answer his phone or email messages I’d sent to him. I ended up having to pack up his things and put them in the front hall. He later stated that I should have been patient with him because of his older age.

Lesson learned.

Sixth Type: Gardening skills worth their weight in Gold

Margo inquires about staying for a month at your house. She says she is moving to your area and will be looking for a permanent place to stay once she arrives. There is one problem, though: your regular rate of $1250 a month is too expensive for her, but she can pay $600 a month and do your gardening chores during her time at your house.

When you get an inquiry like this, there are many questions you should be asking yourself. The first is, “Did I ever say I was seeking gardening services?” Answer = NO. The second is, “If I wanted to get gardening service, would I be willing to pay $650 a month for gardening work?” Again, the answer is NO. The third is, “What would happen if I accepted someone at a rate of $600 a month, who said they would do all my gardening that month, and then they didn’t do the work they said they would do?” Answer = you would be SOL. (You would not be able to contact Airbnb customer service to have them force the guest to do your gardening work, or have them collect additional $ from the guest).

Gardener with attitude

Question four, “If a person who can’t afford the standard rents in my area, moves into my house, and then starts looking around for a place to rent in my area, what is likely to happen?” Answer: It is possible that that person will refuse to move out of your home, saying that she cannot afford to move, as she has not yet found an affordable place. Never set your rates so low that you are essentially inviting people to live at your house, who can’t even afford to live anywhere in your city. It’s a setup for failure for them and potentially for serious problems for you. You may find that once Margo gets firmly settled and wedged into your home, the least expensive place in the entire city, that it now takes some serious tools to pry Margo out: tools like a giant crowbar and a whole can of WD-40, or a court order from a judge.

Seventh Type: Fear of Flies
( and drafts, nature, earth, reality….)

Susie seemed like she would be a perfect guest…at first. She indicated not only an acceptance but an enthusiasm for your house rules. She expressed that she was pleased about the orderliness of your house. She seemed very pleasant, clearly intelligent as she was a research scientist, and coming to town for a conference. You were all ready to send Susie a preapproval, when she sent you a message with another question. She indicated that she had been in another house where there had been ants and flies, and she wanted to make sure your home was free of insect infestations. In your minds’ eye you see Susie battling off a swarm of flies or a wall thick with ants, and ask her some more details about the insect problem she previously experienced. Susie simply says “there were ants and flies in the house.” You prod her further, how many ants and flies, where?

Allie the Ant — a most terrifying individual!

Susie says that there were a few ants by the wall, and then, that there were a couple flies in the kitchen. As you ask more, it turns out that there were no swarms or hordes, just a couple flies that flew in a window, and a few ants, which she apparently sponged up and threw away. You are perplexed as to just how this was a problem for Susie, and you press her to explain. Gradually you realize, by Susies’ inability to comprehend why you don’t see a couple flies in a house as a serious problem, that something is… a little off with Susie. She has amplified these normal situations with a couple flies, a couple ants, into something many multiple times larger than it was. She sees dirt and foulness where there is nature and more nature, and evil where there is innocence. In short, you realize, thankfully before sending a preapproval, that Susie has a degree of mental distortion about the issue of insects, perhaps a neurosis — whatever it is, is not actually necessary to define. Point being you know that you are unable to keep two flies out of your house, or two or three ants, and that the presence of such tiny beings could result in a guest suddenly becoming very high maintenance — could even result in a very distorted review, “…the house was full of flies and ants, it was disgusting…” runs through your mind as you consider Susie.

So you say no to Susie, electing to keep your home free of those who fear nature.

Eighth Type: The Campers

When the campers  Joe and Marsha first inquire, you might find them a marvel of self-sufficiency. They are a couple, needing a place to stay for 2 weeks while their house in a neighboring town is being remodeled. Joe and Marsha say that they do all their own vegan and gluten-free cooking. They insist that they won’t need to use many of your kitchen items — as they have their own. They brag that they are low-maintenance and won’t need much from you, that you can just go on about your business and they will be fine. Their photo shows a nice looking, smiling couple in their 30’s, and you are inclined to preapprove them to stay at your house. Then, you get around to asking them a few questions, as you are curious about what kinds of kitchen items they will bring. You find that Joe and Marsha are planning to bring into your house a mini-fridge (to store chilled wine — but it’s okay they say, we will plug it into our bedroom, not in your kitchen), a blender, pots and pans, a coffee press and coffee grinder, a toaster oven, a rice cooker and ” a few other things.” They also ask if they can bring a portable A/C unit as they are sensitive to heat and it would be easy enough to bring theirs. Joe and Marsha also ask if it would be okay if they hung their laundry up to dry in your backyard, because they don’t like using clothes dryer machines. You ask them just how much cooking they plan to do at your house, and find out that they cook each day for several hours.

You realize that these people are “campers”, who dont’ intend to just stay at your house, but to set up camp there.

Your Guest room  has gotten out of control

Like those people who profess to a wish to get away from it all, and stay for a couple weeks in the woods, but then they bring with them a 30 foot motorhome, a large BBQ grill, a flat screen TV, a stereo, a complete set of outdoor furniture, backyard game sets, an inflatable rubber pool for the kids, and an outdoor bar complete with several bottles of hard liquor, and anything else they can squeeze into the motorhome, all the better to enjoy simple life in the woods.


Ninth Type: The “It Won’t be a Problem Guest”

Beware the guest who in her initial inquiries is already telling you what “won’t be a problem” in your house. Keep firmly in mind that as the person who OWNS THE HOUSE, it is not for someone else, particularly a guest to your home, to tell you what will or wont’ be a problem in your house. If you find that a guest is beginning to tell you what you shouldn’t consider a problem, it’s a very good clue  that this guest will be a problem. Here’s how things can easiily go with the “It Won’t Be A Problem” guest, IWBAP for short. Many of us have had a series of events unfold in our home, very similar to this one, so wink if you really get it!

Your house rules say no shoes. IWBAP says, “Oh, it won’t be a problem if I wear my shoes in your house, as they aren’t dirty!”

Oh, Whatever — it won’t be a problem, really!

Your house rules say no smoking in the house. IWBAP guest sits inside your house smoking, holding the cigarette up to an open window, and says ,when you Remind them there is no smoking in your home, “Oh, it won’t be a problem, because I’m holding the cigarette by the window!”

Your house rules say clean up after yourself when you use the kitchen, put all dishes away when you are done with the kitchen. Your IWBAP guest put several dirty dishes in the sink, walks out of the kitchen. You go and say, “Excuse me, you can’t leave a sink full of dirty dishes, house rules state dishes must be cleaned and put away.” IWBAP guest replies, “Oh, it won’t be a problem, I will get to those in about an hour, as soon as I finish doing my emails!”

Your house rules say guests cannot bring visitors into the house, not even for a short period of time. You come home one day, and find two strangers in your home, and discover that your IWBAP guest has brought two friends into your house. You tell this guest that this is not allowed, and the IWBAP guest replies, “Oh, it won’t be a problem! They will only be here for about another 45 minutes while we have tea in the kitchen! THen we’ll be off on our merry little way!”

After this series of IWBAP’s, it is now time to send IWBAP guest on her merry way….out of your house.

Tenth type: “Let’s make a deal”

Carla must have grown up in those large open air bazaars, the ones you find in urban centers or country towns from France to the Balkans, but not so much in the US. 98h5jrThe bazaars where the price that is written down only means the starting point, and haggling over prices is just the way you buy things. So, Carla assumes that everyplace she goes, she will be able to haggle her way down. She doesn’t care that your prices already reflect two layers of discount: she wants more. So, you have set your rates so that there is a weekly discount, of say 15%, as well as a monthly discount, for those staying a month or more, of 25%. So your monthly price is now $1100. So Carla offers you $700 for the month. She figures you will both haggle and maybe meet in the middle, or maybe she really can only afford $700. I have had those requests — the guest says, “I see your monthly price is $1100, but that’s too much for me, I can pay $700.”2urte75

This should be an easy one for you to avoid. Maybe you can say, “Carla, the room is $1100, so if you can’t afford $1100 then no room. But I have some nice Mexican art works from Oaxaca, make me a deal on those and we will see if we can come to an agreement.”

Eleventh type: The Princess

Paula sounds charming when you get her first communication. She is coming to your town for a wedding, and will stay in your house for a week while she attends the wedding and visits family.  She seems cheerful, and quite willingly shares with you all about herself and her interests, tells you what her plans will be during her trip, and how much time she expects to be spending in your home.  Paula comes across as very organized, and you appreciate that.

But then just after you think everything has been covered and the reservation details squared away, and you are ready to accept her to stay at your house, Paula asks if you could put an extra comforter in her room “because I might get cold.”  While you are certain that the standard comforter will serve her well in summer, you tell her that yes, you can add a second one.  Then Paula asks if you can provide her shampoo and hair conditioner, as well as a notepad and paper, “since those are things I am used to having at hotels when I stay”.   Though those are inexpensive items that you could provide, you  don’t normally supply those to guests and are beginning to be a little concerned. 2dvjs7s Finally, Paula also insists that new linens be provided to her every 2 days, and that you do her laundry for her mid-week, and requests that you pick her up from the airport, “because I can’t trust cabbies.”  Now the real picture is starting to emerge, Paula is a Princess, and expects you to be her servant through her stay.  Some hosts are happy to offer extra services, but they charge a rate commensurate with what they are providing.  You offer budget accomodations and so your rates are not high enough to include many extra services.  You could offer Paula these extra services for a higher daily rate, but you are starting to get the picture that no matter what you provide, it won’t be sufficient, since Paula is clearly used to being a Princess who is waited on hand and foot, and you don’t want someone with that attitude at your home.  You direct Paula to the local Hyatt Regency, reminding her that she got free shampoo and writing pads there before.

Twelfth type: The Trojan Horse Guest

Bob seems like a great guest initially. He has Verified ID, some previous good reviews, describes himself well, and says that he will be coming with his wife and his brother to stay at your vacation home by the lake, for an 8 day vacation. You appreciate this small family gathering, since you allow no more than 5 guests at your home, and you dont’ allow parties. You look at the photos of Bob and his wife and brother, they are all smiling and looking pleasant, and you accept Bob’s reservation. A few days later, as you are looking at your messages with him, you see his last name on the message, and you feel an inclination to do a Google Search on Bob, something you don’t normally do since it feels to you like spying, but you search him online and find his Facebook page. You go to that page, and notice that there at the top of the page, is an announcement for a wedding.  m82zcYou are shocked to see that the address given for the wedding, is the address of your vacation home, and a photo of your house is depicted there as well. You count the number of people who have posted messages saying that they are coming, and there are 87 so far.  You realize that Bob has lied to you, he does not intend to have 3 people over to your house for a quiet vacation, he intends to have  100 or more people over to your house for a large wedding. You get on the phone with Airbnb right away, and you take screengrabs of Bob’s Facebook page, and you get Airbnb to cancel his reservation before it starts. Bob was the classic “Trojan Horse Guest” (so named by Andrew, host community member and leader) and be very very glad that you followed your intuition and managed to avoid the fiasco that would have ensued had he shown up at your doorstep with his little Trojan Horse family.

Fun Fact: this type of Trojan Horse guest situation has actually happened to several real life hosts.  The guests lied, stating they would have 2-7 in their party, and then tried to have a huge wedding at the hosts’ home.  In at least a couple cases, the host found out about the planned party, by finding the advertisements for it online, along with directions to and photos of her own home.

Thirteenth type: Be My Friend

There are two types of “Be My Friend” guests, — Melissa and Larry — and you dont’ want either of them.

What is wrong with becoming friends with our guests, isn’t that something we would all aspire to? Yes it is, if it happens naturally. With the “Be My Friend” guests, they come assuming that by paying for a place to stay, they are also paying you to be their friend — or more. Things can get messy pretty quickly when it’s not just accomodations that your guests are wanting to buy, so be wary.

Melissa in her first message to you, is asking for a place to stay for two weeks while she “processes some changes.” You talk with her about house rules, use of the kitchen and laundry facilities, and so far so good. But then Melissa sends you a message telling you that she is going through a divorce, and how long she has been married, and how the divorce will be stressful on the kids, and how stressed out about it all she is, and so, how glad she will be to have your quiet house to go to , to get away from it all. You try to overlook the TMI and excessive sharing, but then the next day you get another message from Melissa, telling you how late she stayed up at night, crying the whole time about her divorce. ajv7mfShe tells you about how her kids are acting out, no doubt upset about this. She asks if you might understand and expresses that she is looking forward to coming to your house to talk to you about this. Problem is, you are not looking forward to talking about all this with Melissa, and you dont’ recall offering any counseling services in your listing description. And you are starting to feel that Melissa’s presence at your home would begin to make it a depressing place for you.

Larry presents something of the opposite problem — he is in a good mood.  He’s very happy.  Actually, he’s too happy — that he will be visiting you, staying with you, at your house, and alone with you there — a single female.  He’s very, very happy about that prospect.  Already in his first communications with you, Larry commented on your appearance, as you are depicted in your profile photo.  He said that you were  “sweet” looking, which he later corrected, worried I guess that he hadn’t been inappropriate enough, and emphasized that you were “very attractive.”

I want what you got. Gimme!!!

What is Larry’s ostensible reason for traveling to your area to stay at your house?  It doesn’t matter, once it has become clear to you why Larry wants to stay with you.  Decline.

Fourteenth type: I’ll Stay for A Week or Maybe a Year

This type of guest is on my mind at present because I just had one of these contact me recently. Call him Mark. Mark sent a message, telling me that he had just sold his home in a nearby city, and wanted a place to stay while he looked for permanent housing. How long did he want to stay at my home, while he sought a more permanent place? He said it could be a week, or a few months, or even longer. What is wrong with this picture? There are several problems with Mark as a guest.  The first is, that Mark doesn’t have clear plans.  There is a big difference between staying a week as a guest at someone’s home, and planning to stay there “longer” than a few months, ostensibly while seeking permanent housing.   On the one hand, a week is a short stay, on the other hand, “more than a few months” sounds like an invasion.

Beware the invasion of Move-In Mark

What kind of permanent housing was Mark seeking, I had asked him — did he plan to buy another home, or was he planning to rent a place? Instead of answering that question, he simply stated that he definitely liked my house, that all the house rules were fine with him, and that he wanted to book.  Not so fast, Mark.  When prospective guests dont’ answer your questions, but brush those aside and keep telling you what THEY want, this is a good indication that if they stay at your house, they will also be more oriented to their own needs, than to yours.

Additionally, most of us who are doing short term rentals and Airbnb hosting, are doing this because we do not want long term “roommates” (see the other blogs entitled “Goodbye to Roommates!”).  We have been there, suffered through that, and we have had it up to here with roommates.  So we are seeking people who will be staying for a fixed, short or middle term time period, could be a few days, or perhaps a month or two, but never with plans to stay on indefinitely.  So Airbnb hosts rarely want a “Move-In Mark” who offers to stay for a week, or a few months, or quite a bit longer than a few months. (What this usually means, is that it definitely will NOT be just a week, and could be up to a year.) Finally, those who are seeking permanent housing, should just look for permanent housing, not try to make a short term rental offering into permanent housing!!  That smacks of a presumptuous attempt to appropriate someone’s home and their  generosity, particularly in the case where a hosts’ listing clearly states, as mine does, that I do not take reservations for more than X amount of time.

Mark moves —into your house!

It should be noted too, that it is far easier, and quicker, for someone to book a short term stay in a room or a whole apartment on Airbnb or the like,  than it is for someone to go through the standard and much more complex process of obtaining a long term rental — which involves filling out an application, credit reports, interviews, and perhaps more . So, it is quite possible for people who are really seeking long term housing, to try to “sneak under the radar” by booking short term housing in hopes of making it long term. Note too that in many regions, in fact most regions in the USA, those staying more than 30 days, can thus obtain tenant’s rights, meaning that if they overstay their reservation, the host might have to go to court and engage in a costly process (even, possibly, a jury trial!) to get that “guest” out of their home.  Hosts should be aware of this and approach all requests for longer term stays with abundant caution.

Finally, I just thought it was odd that someone had their own home, then sold that home, with plans to move into a room in someone’s house.  That seems like going backwards rather than forwards.

Fifteenth type: Sally the Scammer

Liar Liar pants on Fire

Sally is a very smart gal.  She has found ways of getting a lot of things she wants, all without paying for them.  Sally is very clever.  Because she is clever, she is likely to know how to present herself to appear like the kind of guest you think you want.  Which is why it can be difficult to recognize a Sally when she contacts you.   She may seem pleasant, she is likely to be forthcoming and tell you about her purpose for visiting your area.    She will ask standard questions , and appear cooperative.  The one thing that Sally is not likely to have in her presentation, however — is a big, open-hearted, sincere and friendly smile in her photo.  She may be smiling, but if you are intuitive and look closely, you won’t see an open heart behind the smile — more likely you will see Sally smiling about her own cleverness. For she is proud of herself. Yes, there is someone and something Sally loves in this world, and it is herself, and her own capacity to pull a fast one on others.  Sally, (or Scott as the case may be) is likely to look arrogant in her photo — or perhaps distracted. And if lies could make a nose grow, Sally would have a very long nose.

6p9v94The first sign that you have a Sally Scammer guest, is the call or text message that you get, which complains of some serious problem with your place — a problem you have a very hard time believing could exist.  You scrubbed the place top to bottom and had it professionally cleaned, and Sally is calling to say it is “very dirty, …really uninhabitable.”  Or Sally sends you a text message to say, “There are fleas all over the place…I’m getting bitten all over…” and you have never had animals in your home, and none of your guests have had animals.  Yet Sally claims there is a horde of vermin in your home.  If not insects, it might be mice…or rats, cockroaches.  167wihjEven hamsters inside the wall, anything is possible for Sally.

If it is not insects or vermin, Sally will complain about heat.  There is not enough heat.  Or there is too much heat.  Or the bed is not as promised, or the oven is broken, or the tub is not draining.  Or perhaps the tap water is cloudy, or has sediment in it.   There may be mold or a moisture problem in the unit — (perhaps Sally even helped it develop by dumping water on the carpet and letting it sit) Perhaps the problem is noise — your  neighbors are having a loud party, Sally claims, she says people have been coming and going — something you know is very unlikely, as your neighbor is an elderly 87 year old woman.

Regardless the type of problem that Sally complains about — one thing will be true — she doesn’t actually want the problem fixed. So if she complains the place is very dirty (“unliveable” , really) , and you offer to send a cleaning company over that very day, she will make various excuses about why she can’t let them in.  If the heat is problematic, she wont’ let you send a heating repairman over .  No, you can always be sure that Sally is up to her scams, when it becomes clear that Sally doesn’t really want any problem she complains about to be solved.  And if you offer to put her up elsewhere, you’ll find that neither is she interested in leaving for a better situation.  No, she’d rather stay and complain, while allowing nothing to be fixed.  Sally’s planning to submit a claim for a big $$$ refund from you after her stay, and she is also likely  to threaten you with “legal action” if you dont’ pay up, because bullying people with legal threats is one of her favorite pastimes, as it is for all malicious sleazebags.

In short, there is no shortage of complaints that Sally might make about your place.  Sally is a scholar on scams, and knows that in many cases of renter’s complaints, fiction and baldfaced lies can go a long, long way.  The US legal system in fact seems to roll out the red carpet to malicious liars, as it has never heard of a lawsuit worth throwing out.    Sally thrives in this atmosphere where lies get you so much mileage, and figures Airbnb renting should be no different.  Sally may even have come prepared with evidence to plant at your home, secreting away some bugs in a ziploc bag in her luggage, which she will pull out later as “proof” that your home is infested.

The one type of Sally you really need to watch out for, is the one whose scam is to squat. e17n0g One of the worst possible things to happen to an Airbnb host or any property owner, is to have a renter who wont’ leave and won’t pay.  Laws heavily favor tenants in some areas. , and in such places, tenant scams abound.  There are several stories of Airbnb squatters —    The ones in Watsonville, and another one in San Diego , another in San Francisco and then one in Palm Springs and then there was a squatting nanny in California as well.  (Note that all of these squatters were in California!, and that several of them had previous evictions on their records — hosts can if they want do a superior court case search in guest’s county of last residence, under that guest’s name, to find any lawsuits filed by or against that individual)

So, the various scams that Sally the Scammer may pull, could vary from trying to get a partial refund, to demanding a full refund for her entire stay, to attempting to squat and refuse to leave.  Those renting a unit for over 30 days need to beware of laws which make it easier for such renters to squat, since stays of 30 days or more give them “tenants’ rights” , whereby if they refuse to pay or leave,  you will then have to go to court to get them out.  Since court processes move slowly, this can take quite a long time in some cases, particularly if the renter fights the eviction lawsuit.  In this case it took the property owner 274 days to remove a renter who actually never paid rent from day one — much like the horror story about tenants 220px-pacific_heights_dvd_coverPacific Heights,  the film with the tagline,

“It seemed like the perfect house. He seemed like the perfect tenant. Until they asked him to leave.”

Moral of the story: beware of scammers.  It may be hard to recognize Sally when she first contacts you to stay at your place, but look for someone who in some way doesn’t appear entirely genuine or open hearted. Maybe her self-description just seems to have some holes in it.  In any case, once you accept her and she arrives, it won’t take long to find out what kind of person you have in your house.  Please don’t fall for her fiction, and dont’ cave in to her demands for refunds, and if possible, give Sally a swift kick in the heinie as soon as possible, and boot her out of your home and far from you.

kick in buttjust say noangry-no-smiley-emoticonto Sally the Scammer

Sixteenth Type:  “Destructo-Dave”

Our last type of guest to beware of, is the guest who can be most costly.   For you may not have a problem with them during their stay — they may be quiet, they may be polite– but  they will break, damage or stain one or more things during their time at your house.  And the damages may be small, (as with Destructo-Dave’s habit of dropping dishes) , or they may be quite expensive.  For instance, when Destructo-Darlene enters the house, she forgets to remove her shoes — and whereas with some this may only result in a bit of dirt being tracked in, Darlene has stiletto heels and with each firm step on your shiny, newly refinished hardwood floor, she drills a hole into the floor.  So that the traces of Darlene’s route through the house can be mapped by the serial gouges.  Darlene has only been in your home one day, but she’s already tracked in several thousand dollars of damages to the floors.  stilleto on floor

What about that TV in the corner, why is it turned the other direction, not how you left it? That’s because Dave dropped it and cracked the screen, and turned it, hoping to hide the damage so you wouldn’t see it.

How nice of Darlene to offer to strip the bed and load the laundry into the washer before she left, you thought.  And you refunded her security deposit pronto as she was so polite, before you realized that the reason she loaded the sheets, comforter and all into the washer before she left, was to hide the damage she did to them…the coffee stains, from when she ignored the rules not to eat or drink on the bed and spilled her Starbucks there…

Destructo Dave is a strong man, and doesn’t know his own strength, so when he pulled on the cord for the curtain, he not only yanked the curtain off  the curtain rod but also yanked the curtain rod out of the wall, leaving a bent rod and sheetrock powder spilling out onto the floor.

The kitchen looks okay on first glance…no broken dishes there…but then you notice that there is only one wine glass on the shelf instead of your set of eight…and it dawns upon you that Dave and Darlene broke the other 7 glasses and just threw them away.   And what’s this? You pull out the drawer of utensils and find that you’re down to one spoon and two forks, whereas when Dave and Darlene arrived there was a full set of 10 of everything.  How can a guest break utensils? You go sifting through the garbage can and find the remaining forks and spoons are all in the trash.  Together with one cracked plate.   They are smeared with peanut butter or grease, jam or butter…but they are not broken, why were they thrown out?  Because Dave and Darlene dont’ like to wash up after themselves.

Why is the bedspread turned inside out? It’s because Darlene left her hair curler on it, burning two parallel black lines into the irreplaceable antique white quilted bedspread.

Why was the extra quilt from the bedroom left folded neatly over the couch arm? smoking on couchBecause hidden underneath it are burn holes in the couch — you have a strict “no smoking” policy on your property but Destructos dont’ mind such peevish things and Dave and Darlene both smoked cigarettes on the couch, and their embers dropped around and burned the furniture.  Oh, and as you look down, you note– also the carpet.

Destructo Dave and Darlene are not only serial destroyers, but they apparently have long practice with how to try to hide the damage they do.  So it’s not until 2 months after they have left that you find the broken CD player, the cracked window and a few other things you correlate to their rampage.

You wonder, as you scour your property for other signs of damage disguised…how Dave and Darlene do at their own home…are they lords of a domain of broken furniture, cracked windows, burned quilts and singed carpets? Or has their place long ago been reduced to a pile of rubble?
cigarette burn carpet
Moral of the story:  Beware the Destructo-Duo!

Seventeenth type: “Doan Speak Much English”

Our 17th type of guest you would do well to avoid, is the guest from another nation who has mastered the game of being smart and skillful in the local language when it benefits them, and feigning ignorance of local customs, laws, house rules, or the local language when that benefits them.

Doan-Speak-Much-Daria arrives at your house smiling pleasantly, ready to stay for a couple weeks while she completes a short course for her Master’s Level program in  Business Management.  She is traveling with her Mother and Brother.  Everyone is polite and smiling — it appears all is going well.

You return a couple days later to drop off an extra blanket as Daria requested, and when you look inside the house you are disturbed to see that there are 3 extra people in the apartment, and cigarette butts in your crockery on the end table.  You tell Daria that she cannot have extra guests.  “What mean?” she asks.   You’re startled by her naifish prattle, since she communicated in excellent English in her initial inquiry.

You lift up your ceramic bowl, now containing cigarette butts, and frown, “Smoking is not allowed in the house.”  Daria gives you a blank look and says, “Sorry, not understand.”    You are wondering how on earth Daria manages to get through her workshop in Business Management when she seems capable of only these simple responses in broken English.  Did she feign familiarity with the regional language when inquiring, and get help in her initial email communications from a friend? Ask me No questions because I doan know what you mean

Just then, you hear one of Daria’s unregistered guests in the other room, talking to someone else in perfect English.  You then hear one of them call out to Daria in English, and wait for her to respond saying, “What mean?” but she does not.

You discover that Daria speaks English flawlessly, when she wants to, and that she pretends to not understand a thing in English, when that is convenient for her.

And you then require Daria’s extra guests to pack up and leave, and submit a bill to Daria for $250 in extra cleaning fees due to her smoking in a non-smoking unit.


How one person creates short term rental regulations for a whole city

Being an Airbnb host is often a funny thing. It is a very unique situation — a unique kind of business. Having people come and stay with you in your own home — it’s a very personal, even intimate kind of business. You can end up making good friends with people you may never otherwise have met. You can learn much more about people than you ever would have learned or known, had you not had a chance to learn their kitchen cleaning or non-cleaning habits. You can learn their foibles and idiosyncrasies, as they may learn yours, and you can share their joy and delight and see your own world with fresh eyes when someone from the other side of the world tells you how they are experiencing your neighborhood.

There is another kind of uniqueness to being an Airbnb host, and that is, that we weren’t something that cities thought of.
Cities’ lack of thought about us, seems to be a relatively new forgetfulness, since 100 years ago, 200 years ago, and certainly 500 years ago, many or most people who traveled, stayed in private homes when they traveled. Medieval guest house twoThis wasn’t seen as odd. There were no neighbors back then out picketing and complaining and writing to their city council, about how those Airbnb medieval voyagers parked their horse-drawn carriage in front of my home, or smoked a pipe in my cornfield.
Seems we got something right then that we have now forgotten. Somewhere along the way, something called “ZONING” happened, and new things called inns and hotels started taking the traveler business away from the private homes, and cities started cementing this compartmentalization of traveler into increasingly box-like rooms in hotels, via their “zoning.”

Many cities developed regulations about where “hotels” could be located, which kept them in “Commerical ” districts. Airbnb didn’t exist then, and neither did the “sharing economy”, so these regulations didn’t actually address having guests in a private home. They dealt with hotels. Motel 6

So now, along comes Airbnb, and the rise of home sharing, and the city sees a lot of people starting to have travelers at their home again — just like the good old days! But the city doesn’t remember those good old days. It only sees through a narrow set of regulations, that dont’ even directly address this phenomenon. THe regulations are for “hotels.” Many hosts would argue, and argue coherently, that we are not “hotels.” Neither are the Hyatt Regency or the Flamingo Inn someone’s private home that they have opened up to guests. In fact, though some cities (and some disgruntled neighbors within these cities) insist that we are “commerical operations” if we have guests, a Colorado Court has recently affirmed that having guests in one’s home, is a RESIDENTIAL use of one’s home, and is NOT a commerical use of the home. (See this thread about that — )

So we often fall in between the cracks, and cities actually have no existing laws to address home sharing. Or, the laws that exist, are challenged by many to be backward, and to represent a stage of culture that may be on its way out.

Thus, many cities have yet to take up the issue of home sharing and create regulations that are in step with modern times and the reality that home sharing is not going away. Yet in many municipalities, there may be forces that are arrayed against home sharing, which political pressure city leaders may feel obligated to address.

Which brings me back to the title of this thread. How one person creates short term rental regulations for a whole city. Who is that person, you ask? Well, if you are very fortunate, that person is you, or another Airbnb host. Ideally it is the first host in the city who starts working with the city and/or with other hosts to get the ball rolling to develop favorable regulations. But , it may also turn out, and this has happened in some cities, that it is NOT the host who is the one to create short term rental regs for that city — instead it is that hosts’ neighbor.

You see, that host had a guest. Or make that, several guests. Actually it was supposed to be 4 guests, staying at a 3 bedroom home, with a huge yard, and an ocean view, located in an exclusive, upscale neighborhood of a desirable city…but it turned out to be 75 guests, staying at, partying in, boozing it up in, blasting loud music all over, and vomiting in the backyard next to the neighbors’ fence, in that host’s home. party all nightNot to mention the police cars that arrived later on and drew still more attention to the whole affair. And then, the person who the city council heard from, and heard from again, and again, and again, in numerous letters and several council meetings in sequence, for several months, was not the host, but that hosts’ neighbor.

You get my point, I hope. It has been made clear in many cities, that the city leaders are far more receptive to one neighbor’s complaint about one hosts’ bad guests, than they are to 400 hosts whose neighbors never complained about their guests. That one party incident may go a long, LONG way towards creating short term rental regulations in that city. Now if the city leaders are reasonable people who are already openminded and aware of the reality that “the sharing economy is here to stay”, this problem may not arise. But if city leaders are less open, and want any excuse to ban short term rentals in their city or town, it is quite possible that such city leaders will seize on that disgruntled neighbor’s lament, the way that a child’s fist clamps down around some delicious candy it received on a special day. That one neighbor’s complaint can go a long way. Particularly if that neighbor starts rallying other neighbors behind him or her. So now it’s not just one complaint –it’s 5. Still, when it’s a score of 5 vs 400 , in a city with city councilmembers tilted to the wrong direction, the 5 will win. And then quite possibly, the city will say no, no Airbnb in our town.

In fact, quite recently, this exact situation came to pass.  In the town of Danville, California (a town with only 15-20 Airbnb hosts), one single instance of a neighborhood feud caused the neighbors of an Airbnb host to get so upset at her, that they collectively worked together, and pushed the town to ban short term rentals.  The host’s guests in this case actually did not cause any problems, other than that very trivial issue of perhaps parking in front of someone else’s home, but the host had poor interpersonal skills, and intentionally did many things to rile her neighbors and upset them.  And so now no one in her entire town of 16,000 can do short term rentals.  See more about that situation here: Danville Bans Short Term rentals .

So the moral of the story is — be careful in how you host. Do good screening for guests, have good house rules in place that you can effectively enforce, be in control of what happens at your property, be attentive to your neighbors’ needs, make sure the neighbors have your contact info. And dont let your angry neighbor be the one who creates short term rental regulations for your whole city!!


Don’t be an Airbnb Baby

I have a pet peeve – actually I have several of them but let’s just take one at a time.  My pet peeve as relates to many of those who sign up to do Airbnb hosting, is that they approach starting their own small business, as though they were somebody’s baby.  Airbnb’s baby.  Maybe they watched This dreamy Airbnb video too many times.  95zj90Or maybe they have never run a small business.  Maybe they had no idea they were opening a small business, but thought they were clicking a button to get Santa Claus to send perfect guests automatically to their home, delivering them on a sleigh,  one after another, all wrapped up nice and pretty with a red bow on top.

That isn’t how being a host on Airbnb works.  I think Airbnb actually doesn’t help as much as it could, to clarify that those who sign up as hosts are starting a small business.   So, some Airbnb Babies jump into opening up a small business, with little understanding of market forces.  We see many of these new hosts coming into the host community, proudly telling other hosts that they have now opened up their listing and hung their shingle up in Nowheresville, AnyCountry, 60 miles from the nearest city, 10 miles down an unmarked dirt road, and are complaining that they haven’t had any inquiries.  “Why am I not getting any guests?!?!”  They fail to understand that listing a place on Airbnb doesn’t magically make it into a tourist destination.  There has to be a reason why people want to come to your area, because it’s unlikely that the host’s home itself is the vacation destination — unless you happen to have a home with a national park in your backyard, or you own a hunting ranch, or a private zoo, or you offer kayak or float trips on your local river,  or something else very special that is going to make guests want to come to your area just to visit you.  So as you contemplate becoming a host, it pays to do some research into the demand for short term rentals in your area.

Many find the process of becoming a host and getting their first guest, to be so easy and straightforward, that they are led to believe that they don’t need to be careful who they accept as a guest in their home, or have good house rules that help ensure appropriate guest behavior, and delineate necessary boundaries.

I have noticed that a lot of relatively new hosts, come to the host community, with questions, complaints or stories, which indicate that they did not adequately understand all the implications of starting a small business as an Airbnb host or short term rental operator. 2ekhg1sTo begin with, many hosts don’t understand that it is they, rather than Airbnb, who need to do the screening for people who will be staying in their home.  Hosts have one, then two, then 6 or 8 good experiences with guests, and get lulled into the illusion that Airbnb is somehow “vetting” all their guests for them.  They have heard that there is a thing called Verified ID, they have heard that there are requirements for people to sign up on Airbnb, and so they figure, quite irrationally, that if a guest has verified ID, this must be a fine person, right?

No, actually,  not quite so.   Stop for a moment and think how Verified ID, which basically guarantees that someone’s name is what they say it is, or that their phone number is really their phone number, is going to ensure that your guest doesn’t leave the sink full of dirty dishes, or talk back and argue with you, or go into your bedroom and look through your private things while you are gone.  Verified ID does nothing to prevent any of that.  Verified ID can help to prevent serious crimes, because serious criminals dont’ tend to want to give you their name in advance (but some know how to provide “fake” Verified ID) but it won’t ensure that your guest doesn’t smoke in your non-smoking unit, doesn’t get stains all over your furniture or carpets, or doesn’t have a party in your house where you have house rules that clearly prohibit parties.

So what would-be hosts need to learn, is that when you sign up to be an AIrbnb host, you are actually in the property rental business, and hence, you need to learn the skills of managing rental property, such as how to screen potential guests.  Screening guests is not simple, because it requires imagination.  The less developed your capacity for imagination, the more trouble you will have in imagining what might possibly go wrong, and hence, the less likely you will be able to set up house rules, policies and procedures, questions and other measures by which to try to reduce the likelihood of having problems.  So, give your imaginal skills some practice, and sit down and start thinking of how you want things to go right, and what might go wrong, and how to draw lines to separate these two outcomes, one from the other.  And then, depend on your own skills to get good guests, dont’ depend on getting sent guests in packages from Airbnb, all neat and pretty and tied up with a bow on top.  2ryq7pe

There’s another aspect of the Airbnb Baby.  This is the Baby we see who doesn’t screen their guests, doesn’t have adequate house rules, doesn’t realize that renting out a beautiful home to 8 young guys who are in town for spring break might not be the best idea…and who comes out to the host community and cries when they have a bad experience with a guest, who damages their property.  28smurlThis Baby host then doesn’t realize that they have to document the damage and produce evidence, assuming quite irrationally that simply because they phone up Airbnb and say something happened, their word will be considered gold and the guest’s will be mud.  They may fail to get the required evidence, or have unrealistic expectations of reimbursement.  They then end up whining , crying and screaming, because they didn’t get compensated by Airbnb for all of their damage.

Hosts need to realize that there are two sides to every story, and if any issue gets taken to Airbnb for mediation, this is somewhat like a landlord tenant dispute being taken to small claims court.  A judge in court can’t start out being partial to either side — the point is that the judge is supposed to look at the evidence presented, and if you don’t have a good case, if you don’t have good evidence, you can lose, even if you are entirely in the right.  Because it is quite possible to lose in court when you are in the right,  is one reason why it is best to stay out of court — meaning, run your business in such a way, that you are unlikely to end up with guests doing hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of damage, which you then have to approach Airbnb to try to get reimbursed for.

So, I’m advising — dont’ be an Airbnb Baby.  2co1w2gAirbnb isn’t your Daddy or Mommy, or Santa Claus.  Dont’ expect that you can just click buttons on the computer and get sent great guests every time and not have to have the skillset to run a small business.  Be in control of what is happening at your own property.   I think hosting is ideally for those who actually live at the property where they are having guests.  It is more difficult when you aren’t there to see what is going on.

If you are far away from the place where you have guests, you really need someone close by who can pay attention to what is going on there, and intervene quickly if needed — like a property manager, friend or neighbor.  I have been surprised by the number of stories of hosts who come to clean up after the guests depart, and arrive to a trashed home. They lament and whine that they had no idea about what was happening.  Their neighbors will later be interviewed by the local news station, and say that they saw 50 people arrive to that house the day before, or 3 days before, and were bothered by people partying there all night, and I have to wonder — while the host’s neighbors were being bothered by noise and partiers, where was this Airbnb Baby?  Did this Baby think someone else would magically run their property and control it for them?  Why was this Airbnb Baby 50 or 100, or even 1000 miles away, with no property manger or not even a neighbor in communication with them?  Why are their relationships with their neighbors so undeveloped?    Why didn’t their neighbors have their phone number, to call and notify them of problems they witnessed?

Given the number of people who are hostile to Airbnb, who like to scapegoat Airbnb, who think that Airbnb rentals in neighborhoods invariably will bring problems, it does not take many out of control parties at an Airbnb, or trashed Airbnb homes, to have a huge effect on the regulatory landscape of short term rentals in any given area.  Consequently, it is better for all of us if Airbnb Babies grow up and start developing some skills in regards to hosting, so that they dont’ ruin other’s opportunities to do hosting in their region, and so that they dont’ come and cry to us over spilled milk.


A Question of Legality

Face it, Airbnb and Airbnb hosts have had quite the drenching in accusations of “conducting business illegally.”  People in cities around the world are upset with the spunky corporation, which has grown in size and power quite dramatically, and which began as an illegal arrangement by 3 young guys of the Millennial Generation, to try to make some income renting out a couch to those coming to their city for an event.

couch sharing --- the early Airbnbing
couch sharing — the early Airbnbing

Short term rentals in San Francisco were quite illegal when Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia  and Nathan Blecharczyk began Airbnb in 2008.  In fact, Short term rentals not only remained illegal in San Francisco for 7 years after the founding of Airbnb, until February 2015,  but were actually a criminal matter in many cases — it was a misdemeanor to do short term rentals in some situations.  Short term rentals were illegal in San Francisco, all throughout the time that hosts in San Francisco set up thousands of listings on Airbnb — currently over 7000 listings — until the city passed a law in Feb 2015 which legalized short term rentals in a person’s primary residence.

San Francisco Short term rental law

So, in effect, thousands of people were doing short term rentals on Airbnb for many years,  during which time this was all illegal!!  Now multiply those thousands of people and their listings by many hundreds of cities across the nation, which had similar prohibitions on short term rentals, and what do you have?

Some would say, you most definitely have a scofflaw company, and thousands upon thousands of scofflaw hosts and homeowners.

Others would say, you have a political and social movement, and a compelling phenonmenon.

you have a movement
you have a movement

Your take on this,  depends, of course, on your ability to view laws and regulations in the context of an evolving, changing and adapting society — which are formed to help humankind — rather than as fixed structures and values, rigidly fixed in place and inflexible, to which humankind is enslaved and under the burden of which humans are often squashed.  I think you’ll know at this point by my rhetoric which side I stand on.

A wise guy in the ancient Middle East said it well,

“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

What do the words of an ancient prophet have to do with Airbnb hosting?  They lend perspective on how we can either use laws to support valuable or benign human endeavors, or to suppress them.

Highly legalistic and literal-minded human beings are unable to get beyond what their families, tribes, or governments tell them, and then to envision new possibilties.  Their level of moral development is at a lower level than those visionary individuals who pursue totally new ideas and start movements.  Actually the study of moral development in human beings is interesting, and I recommend the book  Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck.  He describes how moral development moves along levels called “memes”.  At the lowest level,  you will tribes where everyone has to do what the tribal leaders dictate under pain of ostracism or even death (we see this in the modern day in religious cults and fanatical/terrorist groups like Daesh) , through to more complex societies where diligent literalists mindlessly pursue a set of encoded social mores, values and laws , and on to the highest level, where, if you hadn’t guessed yet — individuals actually think for themselves!!  And in the process, come up with their own moral values, beliefs and decisions, freed from all cultural and poltical “shoulds”.

Many people limited by a legalistic and literalistic mindset,  live in America, a country which would not exist if its founders had obediently followed the law of their British overlords.  Many of these people are , in addition,  Airbnb hosts, who would not be doing Airbnb hosting today, if the founders of AIrbnb had been individuals concerned about always strictly following the letter of the law.  Airbnb would not exist today and no one would be “hosting” today, if its founders had started by consulting the law and the law’s representatives, and had first dutifully gone to their city’s Business Licensing or Zoning office, or into their City Council Chambers,  asking if the city could please change the law because they wanted to start having paying guests stay at their home.  No, had the founders done that , they would have been laughed out of the Council hall.  It was not possible to start this movement by getting right with the then current law.  Rather it was necessary to create a movement sizeable enough to create a significant challenge to these outdated laws.

The point being, many of those who scold others about being sure to cross all t’s and dot all i’s when following the law, are simultaneously enjoying many rights and freedoms, which they would not have if everyone thought like themselves and always took their advice.
Sometimes mass civil disobedience is needed, and the laws of the land need to be violated, and violated by great numbers of people, to accomplish some good and movement forward for all.  Ghandi knew this, and led his people to make salt when this was prohibited.  Making salt…seems a small thing.  So does doing what you want with your own bedroom.

make salt and rent rooms
make salt and rent rooms


His government was oppressive in his day, and it continues to be intrusive and nannying in our day.



There’s a saying that is pertinent, and it goes like this:

Be the Change!!
Be the Change!!

Short term rental laws are a “Moving Target”

What do we get when we have many sets of outdated laws, and a large movement, or phenomenon, of people trying to move society beyond their shortsighted limitations?  What we have is a situation in flux, a “moving target” of regulations as it were.    Hence, it can be misleading to characterize something as “illegal” when in fact it may be illegal today, and quite legal tomorrow, or the reverse — it’s legal today, but will be illegal in 4 months or a year from now.    When “legality” is so rapidly changing, let’s not speak as if it is something set in stone.  The terms legal/illegal are just not that helpful,  and can be  misleading and problematic for a cultural phenomenon which is very much in flux and in regards to which, many cities are in the process of, or planning to, rewrite their regulations.  Particularly in those parts of the world where the regulations on short term rentals have not yet been revisited by their municipalities in the new era of Airbnb hosting, I think it is shortsighted to quote such regulations as if they were definitively authoritative and final.  So, particularly with regard to a phenomenon which is so challenging the status quo (and keep in mind the “status quo” tends to be large commerical operators, eg “hotels”),  it is necessary that we can look beyond simplistic distinctions between black and white, legal and illegal, and envision the future, and how this and other movements fit into the future that we would like to see.


Some Regulations on Short Term Rentals are needed

Though the libertartian in me blanches at the thought of any government telling people what they can and cannot do with their own bedrooms,

keep calm and stay out of my bedroom
My Bedroom = Not a place for  government to be intruding

not all short term Airbnb rentals are of bedrooms in the host’s home.  For this reason primarily, I acknowledge there is a point to having fair and reasonable regulations on short term rentals — and in some cities, such regulations have been more necessary than in others.  I see significantly more rationale in governments regulating the use of apartments in large multi-unit buildings, for instance, than in governments regulating property owner’s use of bedrooms in the home they live in.

Quite often, in smaller cities or towns which are not large tourist meccas, and where there are relatively fewer Airbnb or other short term rental (STR) hosts, regulations are not needed because there is simply no problem.  Palo Alto, California is an example of a city which decided that it did not need to visit this issue, as short term rentals had not caused any problems in Palo Alto.  See this story to read about that.

In other cities, such as New York City or New Orleans, which are tourist cities, many individuals have been motivated either to buy up or to rent out properties solely to turn around and offer them as short term rentals, so high is the demand for entire home/apartment short term rentals in these cities.  New York city with liberty statueThis has created some problems for neighbors and neighborhoods.  Where real problems exist for neighborhoods and communities, then we see the rationale for some reasonable regulations.

In sum, what I have been trying to do here, is argue not that laws aren’t needed or that it’s fine for all Airbnb hosts to violate any laws pertaining to their business — but rather, that there is a complexity on the issue of the legality of short term rentals, and there is a larger context, and these things need to be  appreciated. The simpleminded approach of “if it’s illegal you shouldn’t be doing it” just doesn’t apply well to this new phenomenon — which we would do well to recall, is really a very old phenomenon.  Just because there is a law prohibiting something, does not mean that law is right.  Just this year in the US, in June 2015, the US Supreme Court decided the case  Obergefell vs Hodges , and determined, all of a sudden, that gay and lesbian individuals had the right to marry. News of the ruling.  The day before this decision, gay marriage had been prohibited in 13 states. Then the following day it was legal.  The “rightness” of gay marriage did not change all of a sudden on that one day — it had been right all along, it just took the law quite some time to catch up.  A similar situation applies to short term rentals.

Difference between city/state/regional laws and contracts 

15s0zf4Sometimes when this issue of legality arises, in conjunction with short term rentals,  confusion can arise between citizen’s obligations to regulations/laws of their governments, on the one hand, and their own responsibilities and obligations to private individuals or organizations that they have via contracts with those individuals/entities, on the other.  While it can be pointed out that government regulations on short term rentals are often unclear, outdated, or in a state of flux, and thus the duty that citizens have to this nebulous and changing body of law can be seen as qualified by their very ephemeral nature, (and/or their unjustness) the contractual agreements we have with private individuals or entities are of a different order.  These private agreements were entered into willingly (unlike government regulations, which are often imposed upon individuals who have no say in the matter) and are more ethically compelling than government regulations.  212we8oWhich is to say, that in my view, a tenant’s obligation to their landlord, or a condo owner’s obligation to their condo association, is of a different moral order or nature, than that same tenant’s or condo owner’s obligation to their government.  We can speak of “civil disobedience” with regard to unfair government regulations, but we cannot speak of “civil disobedience” with regard to an individual with whom we have entered into a private business contract.

A reasonable approach 

I’d like to suggest that a reasonable approach to short term rentals, requires starting with the perspective that the existing laws on this issue, in most cities, are simply out of date and irrelevant to modern times.   As some have said, “The Sharing Economy is here to stay”.  (I admit, the term “Sharing Economy” isn’t the best to refer to micro-entrepreneurial enterprises.  “Peer to Peer Economy” is a better phrase.” )  Hence, cities should not be enforcing out of date laws, but either deciding not to regulate short term rentals, where these cause no problems,or working to pass new regulations which are fair and reasonable.

Berkeley, California is a good example of a city taking a common sense approach.  The city of Berkeley_image_towerBerkeley refused to enforce existing law prohibiting short term rentals, when city officials realized that the Airbnb phenomenon was as large as it was — meaning, there were hundreds of short term rental hosts in that city.  It was a movement.  So the city set about to create new short term rental laws, and while it was doing that, refused to enforce the old, outdated laws that it was working to rewrite — a very reasonable and practical approach, and one more cities should emulate. People complaining to Berkeley’s Code Enforcement or Zoning Dept about those doing short term rentals, were out of luck, as they were met with the response that Berkeley was not enforcing those laws.

By contrast, the author of    This Story   about Airbnb hosts in Roanoke, VA, doesn’t seem to appreciate the wisdom of the position  that Berkeley took on the issue, and  illustrates the foolishness of the belief that cities should enforce those laws which are rapidly on their way out.

This refusal by the City of Berkeley to enforce laws which were on their way out, was also wise in that it prevented many people from using these laws simply to bully their neighbors — something which wise government leaders will acknowledge, that miscreant neighbors like to do.  There were numerous complaints coming into the city of Berkeley from one particular individual, a tenant in a large apartment building,  who seemed to have a vendetta against someone.   He wrote long pages of letters to the City Council and Planning Commission, urging the most drastic and draconian of penalties be applied to an individual who was actually no longer even doing short term rentals, but long term rentals listed on Airbnb.  He urged huge fines and asked for criminal penalties as well, for these individuals.  One City of Berkeley Planning Commissioner responded to this tenant’s salacious desire to see others slapped with criminal penalties, by quipping,  “Why don’t we just bring back the firing squad?!!” Actually, New York City has just about done that, by suggesting that those who violate its short term rental laws, be  subject to $50,000 fines !!

Affordable housing — problems and solutions  

It is worth mentioning, in this context, that the juxtaposition of two emerging phenomena, is resulting in a degree of irrational animosity towards Airbnb hosting, which would be unlikely in another context.  At the same time that short term rental hosting on Airbnb and other venues is emerging, we have a housing crisis,  and in particular, an affordable housing crisis, in many areas of the nation and world.  Many who are upset about the lack of housing or affordable housing, readily blame Airbnb and short term rentals for this problem, even though the housing crisis has been in the making for many decades.  Airbnb is a convenient scapegoat for a problem which is complex, and many-sided.  This battle and this animosity have recently been seen in sharp relief in San Francisco, home to Airbnb headquarters, and also home to many organizations with goals of promoting affordable housing, stopping evictions, offering greater protections to tenants, and strengthening rent control laws — though it remains to be seen just how rent control laws could be strengthened in the city which, of all places in the world, may well have the most extreme degree of tenant protections and rent control laws on the planet.  Many SF property owners have a hard time in this setting  , and there are many stories of abuse and exploitation of rent control laws by tenants.  There have already been many horror stories of property owners who were unable to move into their own homes, such as in this such as in this case of a small SF landlord ,or who have had to pay a king’s ransom to do so.  Just how such laws could be tipped even more in favor of tenants who seem to have more rights to the properties they live in, than the owners themselves, remains to be seen.

In any case, unable to find any easy target to blame for the escalating rents in the nation’s most expensive rental market, many of these organizations have decided that Airbnb is to blame, and duly cited a few hundred “rogue” hosts who are apparently doing illegal rentals of apartments which they dont’ actually live in.  The point seems to escape these tenant and affordable housing  organizations, that if and when (I think it will be “when” and not “if”)  these property owners are forced to stop doing short term rentals of these properties, they are unlikely to then kindly offer these units as permanent  housing to some of the tenant activists who have been so ardently castigating them and attempting to wrest control of their properties away from them.    Instead, such owners are much more likely to  allow these units to join the other 31,000 other rental units which have been taken completely off the market in San Francisco by their owners, due to those owner’s desire not to be hemmed in by what they and many others experience as exceptionally oppressive rent control laws.  See one such story here . Or read here a story of an owner who is being bullied by his tenant   . Or, they may offer those units as “medium term rentals” on  Sabbatical Homes , which would allow them to fulfill all legal requirements, and not do short term rentals, but not allow their units to be available as anyone’s permanent housing, thus finding a way to avoid the rent control laws they despise.    There have been a few news stories showing that property owners are often doing just this.

Hence,  I think it’s unlikely that property owners are going to be forced into doing any kind of business with their properties that they dont’ want to be doing.  So I think viable strategies for solving the housing crisis and the affordable housing crisis, cannot be made through violent efforts to force property owners to do what they dont’ want to do.  There must be (and I believe there are!) other solutions to the housing crisis, than developing more and more oppressive regulations for property owners.

(I will write more about Airbnb hosting , the crisis in housing/affordable housing, and why I believe rent control is an outdated and increasingly useless means of creating affordable housing,  in another blog. So stay tuned!)

Offering short term rentals, or any type of rentals, is actually an affordable housing solution both for homeowners, as well as for tenants who have permission to sublet.  Renters are not the only ones who need affordable housing, and help affording their housing — homeowners also need affordable housing, and renting out space in homes has been a means to access affordable housing,  long before Airbnb arose — though the popularity of Airbnb hosting with homeowners is hearkening us back to the 19th century in America, when “putting up boarders” was much more common.  (This will also be a subject for another blog).

The types of accomodations that travelers choose are changing in this country, and housing is also changing.  I expect that we will continue to see many changes in terms of how people are housed, and how they use their housing.  In the midst of all of these changes, how likely is it for the law to always remain rigid and inflexible, unchanging in spite of the rapid change of society?  Let’s take the perspective that laws need to change as our society changes, and continue to push for changes that can easily be viewed as restoring older rights and customs,  ways of traveling and housing travelers, that existed for centuries before there were hotels.

Travelers Come Back Home

Mary and Joseph
The original Airbnb-ers

You know all those hoteliers who are getting upset about the competition they are getting from hosts in private residences?  Well hotels didn’t used to exist.  In antiquity, all travellers stayed in private residences.   As time went on, hotels took the travelling guest business away from private residences, and many cities reified and codified this change by developing zoning laws that helped hotels retain their monopoly.  Now we are returning to some of the same form of ancient hospitality we used ot have, and so the hotels’ monopoly on this business is being broken.

And therein lies a story for another blog!




Tales of a Hermit Host

If you read about it in the news, being an Airbnb host seems like an extroverted undertaking — you do it because you want to meet people!!  Well,maybe you do it because you need the extra income…but you still want to meet people!!  Welcome them in, chat them up, even invite them to have dinner with you and your family or go out for drinks at the local pub and find a new friend.
So what if…you dont’ want to spend a lot of time with your guests? What if you actually….like to be alone?  I mean, what if you really like to be alone! Well maybe not entirely alone, as being alone with books is always a delicious experience.


And if they thought her aimless, if they thought her a bit mad, let them. It meant they left her alone. Marya was not aimless, anyway. She was thinking.”                                                                                     hermit with books


                 “Too lazy to be ambitious,
I let the world take care of itself.
Ten days’ worth of rice in my bag;
a bundle of twigs by the fireplace.
Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment?
Listening to the night rain on my roof,
I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.”


I’ve always loved to be alone.  Problem is, I live in a time and place where housing is expensive.  If I were wealthy,  I would love to live in my house all alone.   Oh, I would relish having all that space! Ironically, I have a large house, but my private living quarters are not inordinately spacious, nor are they elaborate , and much of my own rooms’ decor and setup is downright simple.    All so that I can make room for others in my home…others who I want….but do I want them, or just tolerate them?

It’s a curious question, how one who is by nature very introverted and solitary,  a hermit, adapts to living with others.  What are my real feelings and thoughts about this situation?

Honestly, I don’t mind having others around, just as long as  they are not too close . I like hearing the sound of footsteps below, the sound of water running or dishes clanging on the other side of the house, or the murmur of a conversation going on somewhere on my property.  These are comforting sounds, reminding me that I am part of the human community, and I think my comfort with them, indicates I’m not a misanthrope.  I like knowing there are people in my house, and I like knowing that I don’t have to be there right beside them, forced into interaction, severed from my interior process and my imaginal journeys.  I can be part of the human community, but not imposed upon.  How beautiful and different this, from being stuck in a roomful of people or in a large crowd, with no escape in sight! That is a real nightmare for an introvert!

crowds yecch
not fun for the introvert

One way that I adapt is by defining very clearly, the nature of my house and the type of setting I am intentionally creating — which, if it cannot resemble a monastery, can at least resemble a retreat atmosphere, where spiritually oriented retreatants come to silently share the same space. They dont’ come to the retreat primarily to play card games and have dinner together, or chat over a bottle of wine.  THey dont’ come to retreat to watch TV and play video games. They don’t even come to go on vacation in that area and use the retreat setting just as a hotel room.   They come with an inner purpose, a purpose having to do with their inner life — or, failing that, at least they come with a project to do,that benefits from a quiet space that they can do it in.  You see, I’d love to have only spiritual retreatants at my house, but there aren’t enough of them.

retreatants in retreat hall
Spiritual practice in a quiet sanctuary
stillness in the forest
stillness in the forest


So I invite guests to a retreat setting, hoping to inspire them to want to be retreatants, but knowing that many of them are not interested in spiritual practice.  Still, I hope being in the peaceful setting that I offer, might rub off on them, to inspire them.

Another way I manage , as a hermit in a home with others, is to carefully and firmly carve out private space and private time, within my household. I need large blocks of time to be alone, to engage in creative pursuits.  Generally, the mornings are most productive for me to do meditation, spiritual study, creative writing and art.  I try not to emerge from my “hermitage” until about 10am. One of the difficulties in this respect in having others in my home, is that there are invariably chores to be done, that require me to go out — and often in the morning — such as feeding the backyard fowl, or taking out trash, watering the plants.  I find that when I go out of my private space, it can be stressful if I am in a creative mindframe or a trance state, and I have to interact with others about mundane matters.  For instance someone asking where they laundry machine is, or how they can get to a grocery store.  It’s even harder if I encounter a bubbly guest who is eager not only to chat, but wants to sit down and have a long conversation with me, just at the time when I most need to be alone.  This may be difficult to appreciate,  for someone who isn’t themselves an introvert, or who doesn’t know what it’s like to be in a creative state or a state of mind that is “miles away” from discussions about grocery stores or laundry.  Some who are not able to appreciate the stress here,  may be likely to snap,

“Well, if you find it to be so difficult to engage in chit-chat, why are you having others in your home, why not live as a recluse in a cottage deep in the the forest somewhere?”

Which is the kind of nasty comment I had to endure from many an apartment neighbor, during the years I was a tenant, living in apartment buildings.  If you think it’s hard to be a hermit in your own home in the city, try having to do it in an apartment building!  It’s enough to start a war, to have hermitage needs in a multiunit apartment building.   Oh yes, I’d love to live deep in a forest somewhere, but I haven’t yet figured out the finances.   Then too, I think we need spiritual nourishment in the city, and we need to have people living in urban places who are calling others to quietude.  Even if some may resent hearing that call.

So what actually happens when I have guests over to my home-cum-hermitage?

Mostly, things go surprisingly well.  I seek and obtain a lot of independent guests, who have things to do when they come to town, so they aren’t oriented to “hanging out” at my house.  I only do single occupancy, one person per room, which greatly helps minimize noise, as it cuts down on conversations.  One person in a room is generally far quieter than two.  I have quiet hours, after which point, I dont’ allow cellphone conversations in the house.  This too helps keep the atmosphere quiet.  I dont’ allow guests to have visitors over, and again, this helps clarify that my intention is  not to create an environment for socializing, but a nurturing setting for relaxation or inner work.2yxejxv

One difficulty that I’ve had in the past with being solitary and needing privacy, but having others in my home, was the tendency of longer term renters (roommates) to appropriate the common spaces as theirs.  I was alone in my private space so often, that I appeared not to “own” or possess the common areas, which were far more often occupied by my roommates.  I found this to be a very serious problem with roommates, much less so with short term guests, which is why I now prefer short term renters.  The problem that arises, when one is often hidden in one’s own home, is that the owner’s absence gives the renters a feeling of license to ignore the owner’s requests and rules of the domicile, and to do as they please.  THe result, for me, was quite often that I ended up being bullied in my own home.


not nice to be bullied in your own home                 bully image


So having guests over at my house, actually became a solution for this hermit.  It meant an end to bullying, as it meant that there was much less likelihood I would venture out into the kitchen, and discover that it had been taken over by a “gang”, a gang of “roomies”  who might say hello, but the tone in the “hello” was clearly one of  “Welcome into MY kitchen!”

It was a lovely thing indeed to get the last of these roommates out of my house for good, and declare that my house was no longer a “residence” for anyone but myself.  From this point forward, I was going to be the only permanent resident of my own home, and everyone else staying here would be a guest.  Once in a while I do get inquiries from guests who say that they would love to stay for either a week or a year, and I get a little worried about that.  It’s nice to have folks appreciate what I am offering, but no more roommates, please!!


retreat center cabin with chairsYou’re welcome to visit but not to stay….



Xenia and Theoxeny

Hosts  like to say that Home Sharing is as old as the story of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. Actually it is older. It occurs to me that the subject of receiving guests at one’s home, and the theme of hospitality, must be a theme in many an ancient myth. So I set out to find some.

I found a few ancient gods (pagan deities, pre-dating Mary, Joseph and Jesus) associated with hospitality.

Empanada was the Roman Goddess of Hospitality:


And Nephele was the Greek Goddess of Hospitality:

Nephele is the seated figure here

As well,  Zeus in his role as Zeus Xenios was the protector of travelers. In the Odyssey, we read:


Zeus is the protector of suppliants and guests
Zeus Xeinios, who attends to revered guests


Xenia, the ancient Greek concept of Hospitality


Xenia (Greek: ξενία, xenía, trans. “guest-friendship”) is the ancient Greek concept of hospitality, the generosity and courtesy shown to those who are travelers who’ve wandered far from home, or who may be the associates of the person bestowing guest-friendship. The rituals of hospitality in Greece created and expressed a reciprocal relationship between guest and host expressed in both material benefits (such as the giving of gifts to each party) as well as non-material ones (such as protection, shelter, favors, or certain  rights).

The Greek god Zeus is sometimes called “Zeus Xenios” in his role as a protector of travelers.  He represented  the religious obligation to be hospitable to travelers. Theoxeny or theoxenia is a theme in Greek mythology in which humans demonstrate their virtue or piety by extending hospitality to a humble stranger (xenos), who turns out to be a disguised deity (theos) with the capacity to bestow rewards. These stories caution mortals that any guest should be treated as if they were a hidden divinity and help establish the idea of xenia as a  Greek custom. The term theoxenia also covered entertaining among the gods, a popular subject in classical art, which was revived at the Renaissance in works depicting a Feast of the Gods.

Xenia consists of two basic rules:

(1)The respect from host to guest. The host must be hospitable to the guest and provide him/her with food and drink and a bath, if required. It is not polite to ask questions until the guest has stated his/her needs.
(2) The respect from guest to host. The guest must be courteous to the host and not be a burden.
Xenia was considered to be particularly important in ancient times when people thought gods mingled among them. If one had poorly played host to a stranger, there was the risk of incurring the wrath of a god disguised as the stranger. It is thought that the Greek practice of theoxenia may have been the antecedent of the Roman rite of Lectisternium, or the draping of couches.

While this particular origin of the practices of guest-friendship are centralized around the divine, however, it would become common practice among the Greeks to incorporate xenia into their customs and manners for very much all of ancient Greek history. Indeed, while originating from mythical traditions, xenia would very much become a standard practice throughout much (if not, all) of Greece as customarily proper in the affair of men interacting with men as well as men interacting with the Gods.

Xenia in Homer’s Odyssey

Xenia is an important theme in Homer’s The Odyssey. Every household in the epic is seen alongside xenia. Odysseus’ house is inhabited by suitors with demands beyond the bounds of xenia — in other words, RUDE GUESTS!. Menelaus and Nestor’s houses are seen when Telemachus visits. There are many other households observed in the epic, including those of Circe, Calypso, and the Phaeacians. The Phaeacians, and in particular Nausicaä, were famed for their immaculate application of xenia, as the princess and her maids offered to bathe Odysseus and then led him to the palace to be fed and entertained. It should be noted, however, that because Odysseus was indirectly responsible for Poseidon’s sinking one of their ships, the Phaeacians resolved to be less trusting of subsequent travelers. However, Polyphemus showed lack of xenia, despite Odysseus reminding him of it, and refused to honor the travelers’ requests, instead eating some of Odysseus’ men. BAD GUEST!!   The suitor Ctesippus mocks xenia by hurling a hoof, disguised as a ‘gift,’ at Odysseus. When he is speared by Philoetius, the cowherd claims this avenges his disrespect. Book 1 has Telemachus showing xenia to the disguised Athena. Eumaeus the Swineherd shows xenia to the disguised Odysseus, claiming guests come under the protection of Zeus. When the leading suitor Antinous throws a stool at the disguised Odysseus and strikes his right shoulder as he asks for food, even the other suitors are worried, saying Antinous is ‘doomed’ if the stranger is a disguised god. As well as this, whenever Homer describes the details of ‘xenia,’ he uses the same formula every time: for example, the maid pouring wine into the gold cups, etc.

In the Odyssey, Calypso had wanted to keep Odysseus in her cavern as her husband, but he refused. Circe had also tried to keep Odysseus in her home, but her attempts failed as well. Although both these women had homes and much to offer him, their hospitality was too much for Odysseus. He instead left each with the goal of returning to Ithaca and reclaiming his family and his home. Sometimes Hospitality was unwanted or was given unwillingly.

Historian Gabriel Herman lays out the use of xenia in political alliances in the Near East.

Solemn pronouncements were often used to establish a ritualised personal relationship, such as when “Xerxes, having been offered lavish hospitality and most valuable gifts by Pythios the Lydian, declared “…in return for this I give you these privileges (gera): I make you my Xenos. …the same set of words could be applied in non-face-to-face situations, when a ruler wished to contract an alliance through the intermediary of messengers.” Herman points out that this is correspondent to pacts made by African tribal societies studied by Harry Tegnaeus (in his 1952 ethno-sociological book Blood Brothers) where “the partners proclaim themselves in the course of the blood ceremony each other’s ‘brothers’, ‘foster-brothers’, ‘cousins’. The surviving treaties of ‘fraternity’ ‘paternity’ and ‘love and friendship’ between the petty rules of the ancient Near East in the second half of the second millennium B.C. incorporate what are probably written versions of such declarations.” (Herman also sees an echo of this in the medieval ceremony of homage, in the exchange between a would-be-vassal and the lord.)

Herman goes on to point out “No less important an element in forging the alliance was the exchange of highly specialized category of gifts, designated in our sources as xénia (as distinct from xenía, the term of the relationship itself) or dora. It was as important to give such gifts as to receive, and refusal to reciprocate as tantamount to a declaration of hostility. Mutual acceptance of the gifts, on the other hand, was a clear mark of the beginning of friendship.” Herman points to the account of Odysseys giving Iphitos a sword and spear after having been given a formidable bow while saying they were “the first toke of loving guest-friendship”. Herman also shows that Herodotus holds “the conclusion of an alliance and the exchange of gifts appeared as two inseparable acts: Polykrates, having seized the government in Samos, “concluded a pact of xenia with Amasis king of Egypt, sending and receiving from him gifts (dora)”. Within the ritual it was important that the return gift be offered immediately after receiving a gift with each commensurate rather than attempting to surpass each other in value. The initial gifts in such an exchange would fall somewhere between being symbolic but useless, and of high use-value but without any special symbolic significance. The initial gifts would serve as both object and symbol. Herman points out that these good were not viewed as trade or barter, “for the exchange was not an end in itself, but a means to another end.” While trade ends with the exchange, the ritual exchange “was meant to symbolize the establishment of obligations which, ideally, would last for ever.”

Hospitality in other ancient societies

In ancient Ireland, hospitality was not only a courtesy, but a legal requirement, and the inhospitable were bitterly criticized. (Hospitable God: THe Transformative Dream, pg 31) With the coming of Christian Monasteries, guest houses were created for guests. Welsh folklore reflected an equally high estimation of hospitality, and Julius Caesar, traveling in Teutonic lands, recorded the serious demands of hospitality among the Teutons, as did Mauricius among the Slavs.

In the Slavic Lands, Ragegast was the deity associated with hospitality:

the god Radegast

Ivan Hudec, in his book, “Tales from Slavic Myths” (page 104) says that in ancient times, Prince Helmhold wrote this in the Slavic Chronicle (or Chronica Slavorum, written by Helmhold in the 12th century) :

There are no other people like the Slavs for extending their hospitality to strangers.

Hudec says that the Slavic people were extremely generous to their guests, and didn’t wait for guests to request something before offering it.  He says that “if a member of the Slavic community was exposed as reluctant to welcome a stranger at his home, such a host could expect to have his abode set on fire. Moreover, those reluctant to offer hospitality would be “condemned in public for having denied bread to a stranger.”

Of course, this was long ago, in days before hotels existed, and when travellers relied more heavily on the hospitality of those whose regions they passed through, than is the case today.  And though the hospitality we refer to in this article was given without expectation of compensation in exchange, it remains true that welcoming “strangers” into one’s home, whether they are paying guests or not, is a form of hospitality which has its connections and  roots to these ancient times.


Goodbye to Roommates!! Chapter One: Evicted by My Tenants!

photo 1 (14) Ah the freedom!!!


There are many different reasons people become Airbnb hosts.  For some, it’s the desire to meet people from around the world, and gain insights into different cultures.  For others, it’s a way to combat loneliness and a sense of the “Same Old”.  For many it’s about money.  But there is still another subset, and I think not a small one, for whom being Airbnb hosts opens up a wonderful new opportunity — the ability to get rid of one’s roommates.

You see, not all of us are so fortunate as to have never needed additional income, in order to pay our rent or mortgage.  Yes, we would love to live alone, or just with our partner or family, but for us that isn’t possible.  So we have needed to rent out a room, or two.  Back in the day, this always meant getting a roommate (or two).  There were many adventures and misadventures which would subsequently ensue, going in that direction.

We are looking for someone who is broke and messy
We are looking for someone who is broke and messy

I came to realize, that there is hardly a better way to learn how bad some people can be, than to bring them into your own home to live with you.  Many people you might meet in various social settings, might seem just fine to you, until you invite them to come live with you in your house, and follow your rules.
Now all chaos may break loose.  The would-be roommate who politely answered your ad, dutifully reported for a meeting on time, and promised that they would be clean and quiet and follow all your house rules, can readily turn into quite another beastie, once you tell them, that the house rules will actually apply to them!  They were fine with every detail, you see, except they weren’t expecting that your rules would actually apply to them.  They thought, I guess, that this was merely a formality to go through, idle chat, just you needing to talk about policy and decorum and cleanliness and the rest, to pass the time and fill in the space.  Or maybe they believed that these rules you had, would only apply to them during their first few days or weeks….and then forgeddabouddit once they settle in for the long haul.  Because you have noticed a disturbing phenomenon taking place with a disturbing number of roomies.  They follow rules dutifully for , eh, maybe the first few weeks. Then after that, a new set of assumptions comes into play.  Now, they start feeling comfortable, you see.  Now, you see, your home is their home too. And here precisely is where the battle lines begin to be drawn.

Now you have another beastie altogether on your hands.

monster child
Now you have quite another beastie on your hands

Many people have actually been quite fortunate with roommates — maybe they found a friend to move in with them,  got lucky with a very polite person right off the bat, or maybe they are rather “laid back” and loosey-goosey about how they run their house, (so that it doesn’t really matter if roommates dont’ clean out the tub because the tub is always rancid looking)  — or perhaps they have their head in the sand and dont’ actually know what is going on in their home.  I have run into many who are still in this “honeymoon phase” of having roommates, and feeling that it works well.  Well, bless them, it works for them!

Others, like myself, find that things go badly with roommates right off the bat.  So let me tell you my story, which will help you understand why I was never so glad, as on that day when I got the last roommate out of my house.

This story will be told in seven parts, or chapters.  Note that the names of the roommates have been changed, to protect the guilty. A few other identifying details have been altered, but otherwise, this whole story is true, and records my stories with roommates over the course of many years.

A Dream Come True: A Chance to own my own Home

While I was a renter myself (which was for most of my adult life), I never had a roommate, as I always had my own small apartment.  That was in the days when rents were still affordable in my area!  So I had a series of studios and  one-bedroom apartments, all to myself, and it was heavenly.  This wasn’t to say I didn’t have problems with my apartment neighbors from time to time, and sometimes quite serious problems, but to be able to lock the door and go into one’s own private space, 2zfr5nrwas very helpful.  Indeed it was incredibly rejuvenating.

But for several years, I had longed to have my own home — yet I had always  wondered if I would ever be able to afford such a thing.  Just as the desire to have my own home rose most intensely, there came a point, synchronistically (I am a believer in synchronicities) where a friend of mine, call her Rachel,  had a house she wanted to sell, as she was leaving the country.   With help from my parents for the down payment, I managed to get a loan, and bought the house, a charming old Victorian home in an urban setting.  My friend had been an absentee landlord, living elsewhere while renting the house out to tenants, and she knew that I needed roommates to be able to afford my mortgage.  So I bought the house with the tenants in it, and figured they would become my roommates.  That I had not had roommates since college, worried me a little, but I figured that if it was my own house where I had the roommates, surely I would not have any problems with this arrangement.  I could hardly have been more mistaken.

As soon as the sale was closed, Rachel and I made an appointment to go over to my new home, and meet the tenants.  Who in an instant had gone from being her tenants, to my tenants.  We arrived, and convened around the large  kitchen table, and these tenants, all three of them,  expected to hear the announcement that I had bought the house and would be living offsite in another home somewhere else, just as their landlord and my friend Rachel had done all these years.  They thought that it would be no big deal, just sending their checks to a new person, and maybe a bit of a rent increase.

Tenant to Homeowner:  “But it be MYYYY house!”

So when they heard that I planned to move into “their” house, there were some shocked expressions, and then some angry faces.

Obviously, if I was going to move into my own home, I needed a bedroom to move into, but all the bedrooms were currently occupied by tenants.  I had already decided in advance which room I would occupy, and so when I sat at this table with my new tenants (call them Melinda, Joshua,   and Natalie) and made this announcement to them, making it clear that someone would have to move out so that I could move in, Joshua, who rented the room I intended to occupy,  angrily insisted that “that is MY room!!”  He insisted that as the senior tenant at the house he had seniority. What, did he think he had “seniority” over me, the owner of the house???  Everything about his tone and his demeanor, seemed to suggest so.   That was the first of many eye-opening and heart-sinking moments, when I realized that owning a home was going to be a lot more difficult than I had anticipated.

My tenants Don’t Want me around

After I announced to the tenant trio that I would be moving in, and occupying Joshua’s room (which was the largest one), I felt a coolness in their demeanor towards me.  I hadn’t announced just yet on what date I would be moving in, but I felt a real urge to start cleaning up the yard, as the whole house and yard were in a significant state of neglect.     Because there were three of them, it made most sense to me that instead of communicating everything three times, once to each of them, I would just write one note to all of them.  I gave them notes informing them of when I would be coming over to do yardwork, and what I would be doing.  I came to trim vines, which had taken over the entire side of one house — Melinda complained crossly, that the massive overgrowth of vines was the only thing had given her privacy, and that now without the vines, the neighbors could see into her window!!  I guess she had never heard of blinds, curtains and shades.  I came another time to paint the front stairs, which were horribly peeling, and was greeted by Melinda’s complaint that the paint color I had chosen was awful.  Simply awful.  

It was around this time that I began to feel seriously unwelcome in my own home.  My attention to the neglectful garden was viewed as instrusive, 30x7axw

my removal of garbage and old car parts from the yard was mean-spirited, my decision to erect a nice wood fence to replace a sagging and pitiful chainlink fence, was arrogant and tyrannical.  And moreover, I was not supposed to send them one note for all of them to read, but instead had to either phone up each one of them separately, or complete all letters in triplicate so they would be duly triply informed.  I felt like at this point, there was nothing I could do that would not be viewed negatively by the unhappy trio.   Clearly they were not happy that I planned to move into my own home, and they finally told me, in so many words, that they did not want me coming over at all.    At the same time, in a phone conversation I had with Joshua, he began to talk to me about “code violations” in the house.   I felt my stomach just about fall out of my gut at this point, since I began to sense legal problems on the horizon.

With a heavy heart and a leaden gut, I flipped through the yellow pages, looking under “landlord attorneys” and made a few phone calls.  I had the sense that I was getting into something I needed help with, and my friend Rachel, who had sold me the house, wanted nothing to do with me when I told her of some of the problems I had started to have with her “good tenants.”  She suggested I wasn’t communicating with them very well.  Right, yeah.  Maybe the notes in triplicate would have done the trick and all would have been fine and dandy.  In reality, Rachel had set me up, and she probably knew it.  She had intentionally omitted telling her tenants that the person she was going to sell the house to, was planning to move in, because she didn’t want them bailing on her and moving out when she still needed their rent.  So she left me to do the dirty work, with the result that I took the fall.  I was the bad guy, the scapegoat, the bad landlord.

So I found a local landlord attorney, and set up an appointment.  The attorney agreed with me that the mention of “code violations” was a suggestion that I could have problems.

Landlord attorney: “You might just have a little problem there.”

We went through my options.

Trying to sit down and talk rationally with the tenants did not seem very productive, as our relations had grown so strained.

I could serve eviction papers on the tenants, but evictions are more complicated when the property owner does not actually live on the site.  Owner move-in evictions are quite legal, but the process could be time consuming and potentially expensive if they fought the evictions.

Alternatively,  my attorney smiled at me, I could just move in.  Owners who live in the same house as the tenants they are trying to evict, have advantages in the process.  My eyes lit up at that last suggestion — could I really just move in?  Yes, he argued — after all there was a free room in the house, the living room.  It even had a door, so it could be used as a private room.  I began to feel excited, as I felt that a solution was right on the horizon, and all this ghastly feeling of being treated like a pariah at my own house, was going to come to an end.  I was going to just …bust in and live in my own house! Imagine it!   I  dont’ think I imagined that this would result in the trio liking me any better, but it did make me think I would not feel quite so powerless on my own property.  I felt that if I was right there living in my own house with them, it would be a lot harder for them to treat me so badly…much less to tell me that they didn’t want me coming around!!!

I Bust into my Own House

So, I arranged to come over one day, saying I was going to fix the lock on the living room door.  In fact I came over to install a lock on the living room door, and I had a workman friend help me with that.  331zs69Once I had the lock installed, I moved some of my things into the room, as the tenants looked on, incredulous.  My tenants were horrified that I was moving in with them.  They told me I could not do that.  They stared at me, they glared at me.  They did not want me as their roommate.  I felt afraid, and very uncomfortable as well, because as you my gentle reader may imagine, as it is just appalling to be moving into the home one has just bought, under these conditions, where you are so unwanted there.  Nevertheless, Rachel had refused to help or for that matter even listen to me, my other friends were totally boggled and slackjawed about the whole affair, hardly any help at all at any point, and so I had no one helping me but an attorney and this is what my attorney had said to do. To just move on in.

Well, I moved in and then left again.  I suppose I was walking around that afternoon wondering what it would be like to sleep in my house, with so much hate there.  Then I recieved a phone call from one of my tenant trio.  It was Melinda.  She was calling me, she said, “Just to inform you that your things are out on the porch.” My things are just out on the porch…what????? I quickly drove back over to my house, and my God, if my tenant trio hadnt’ busted into my new room, the living room, taken all my belongings out of there, and put them outside on the front porch,

Please — this is my house — don’t lock me out…

and then, to top it all off, they had had a locksmith come over and changed the locks on the front door.  They had locked me out of my own house!!  

If my stomach had felt like lead before, and if I had been feeling stressed before, nothing could compare to how I felt when I drove over to my house and found my things out on the front porch…having been evicted by my own tenants! I called the police, dialing 911, and expected to get some help…but I was shocked to find out, when the police arrived…that they had already been over there earlier that day!  It was the police who had told the tenants it was fine to remove my things from my house! The police had authorized my tenants to evict me from my own home.  Who can beat that?  I mean how could things get much worse than this.  I was feeling so despondent and hurt, that I could hardly summon up the energy or anger, to argue with the police when they said to me,  in essence, “Lady, you dont’ live here, so go home!”  I did go home, to the apartment where I still lived, and that night while I was there, I could hardly sleep.

Side note:  Now it may well be the case that I could have  just ignored what the police said, and just had the locksmith come over again, and broke right back into my own house!.  The police are well known for trying to interfere in matters that are not really their jurisdiction, and in this matter I believe the law was actually completely on my side.  These tenants had not rented the entire home from my friend Rachel, their original landlord — they each had separate rental agreements, one each for each of the rooms they occupied.  Therefore they actually had no authority, nor did the police, to bar me from moving into a room that none of them had rented — the living room.  The police often try to dictate on civil matters where they have no authority to do so.    If the tenants didn’t like it that I was moving into my own home, they were free to sue me, but in my view, the police were not free to authorize them to evict me.  However, after being evicted from my house, I definitely did not feel like taking on the police force, and so I did not consider trying to get back in.  And ultimately, as it turned out, not escalating with the tenants on this matter was the best decision for me to make. 

That evening, feeing traumatized and weak, I tried to call Rachel and talk about what her tenants had done, but she wouldn’t listen to me and told me it must have been my poor communication skills. Poor communication skills my ass, I said, they evicted me from my own house.    I think Rachels’ reply was that I shouldnt’ have moved in.  So you buy a house and then you dont’ move into it, because your tenants tell you that you can’t, that it is their house!?!  

Locked out and looking in

If I recall right,  Rachel finally hung up on me that evening and that was pretty much the end of our friendship.  That night was a Scotch Whiskey night, I think Whisky was the only friend I had that night.

I was sitting there the next morning, feeling incredibly awful, contemplating turning right around and selling my house again, when I received word from my tenant Melinda — she was giving notice, she would be moving out.  Then before the day was over, Joshua also gave notice that he was moving out.  I called up my smartass attorney Richard, the one who had gotten me into all this trouble, and told him the story.  I related it to him about the police and everything, my things moved in, my things moved out again, and he seemed to know the punchline.  When I told him two of my tenants had now given notice, the day after, he said, “See…I told you it would work.”  So I had been set up again!  First I was set up by Rachel, who sold me the house, leaving me to take the fall as the bad guy for buying a house that I wanted to move into. Then my attorney Richard, set me up to do a move-in that he had seemed to know in advance, would not actually work, but which succeeded in disturbing my tenants so much, that they gave notice anyway, that they were moving out.  I felt thoroughly manipulated, but I also felt like the sun might just be starting to shine on what had been a considerably dark and gloomy situation thus far.

Sun, sun, sun — -here it comes!

The third and final tenant, Natalie, did not give notice right away, but that came about a week later.  At this point I felt home free. I was actually going to be able to move into my own home.   Melinda and Joshua and Natalie asked me to please not come around the house at all during the remainder of the time they would be there, and I was agreeable to that.  So I waited the month or so, and then when the day finally came when the trio would be moving out, I got a friend to come with me on what we called “a drive by viewing”.  We kept driving by and viewing whether the ghastly trio had moved out yet or not.  I had my house keys in my hot little hand, eager to jump out of the car and run up the stairs and open up the door to my own house, as soon as they had vacated.  I was burning, itching to open the door to my own home.  After several drive-by-viewings, we finally determined that the three had all vacated the premises, and that evening, I entered my own home in peace for the first time.

I would like to add, since I think it helps the reader have some context, that my search for a home is of particularly profound significance to me, since there is a very real way in which I have never actually had a real home, and a very real way in which I have continued to deal with the problem of being bullied in my own home.  I grew up with parents who did not know how to parent, a mother who was cold and distant, unable to provide adequate mothering, a father who was a bully, and as the only female child (and the only gay child) in a family that most definitely preferred men, and most definitely preferred them heterosexual. My mother didn’t like girls.

Where is my Mother?

She fawned over my two brothers, and they were given privileges and favors — as I recall, they got to go out and play, go surfing at the beach or go mountain biking,– while I was forced to do housework that neither of my siblings ever had to do.  I recall my father’s face, ash-white with anger, glaring at me, and his voice threatening me,  because I had not dusted the house properly — while my two brothers were out with their friends surfing at the beach or doing BMX bicycling in the hills.  It was bad to be a girl child in my family,( as I think it had been actually for many generations past in my family) and I was duly punished for it.  I developed a severe, crippling depression while in high school, and didnt’ recover until 4 years later.   Now in middle age, rather than feeling healed by time, I feel like more of an orphan than ever.  I have  been by this point effectively disowned by my family, which mostly refuses to communicate with me.  When I make a phone call to my Mother, she responds as disinterestedly and coldly if I were a shoe salesman with a business in her town, calling on her to say hello — no one listening in on our conversation would have any clue that I am actually her daughter.

As oriented temperamentally as I am to be optimistic and task-oriented, and to “carry on” heroically without complaint in life, the truth is that in my heart of hearts , I have spent my life looking for my Real Mother, and searching, in places where I have lived, for My Real Home. A place where I can live at peace, free from bullying of the sort my father engaged in.  Given the importance of home to me, there is a very great significance in me being able to find a way to live in harmony with others in my house, to feel at home in my own house, to feel comfortable in my own house.  Which for me finally has come to mean, not having roommates.

So, this is the first chapter in the story of my struggle to find that real home.  The struggles were not yet over, and there would be horrible situations with roommates yet to come.  I would  have to endure several more quite appalling and very disturbing situations with those I lived with,  in the years to come….which I will describe as I continue my story in Part Two of this blog, coming up soon.

(Story to continue in Goodbye to Roommates, Part Two)


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