Airbnb’s Rental Nightmare Ends in Arrest and One Still Very Unlucky Customer
The San Francisco Police department confirmed that it has made an arrest in the incident involving an Airbnb host who had her entire life turned upside down when renters ransacked her apartment and ultimately stole her property and identity.
The statement, which Airbnb sent to me, confirms that on June 28 two people were detained but released pending further investigation. Later on that evening, officers say they arrested Faith Clifton, a 19-year-old white female of San Francisco. Clifton has been booked into San Francisco County Jail on possession of stolen property, methamphetamine and fraud charges.
In the statement, the police department says it has been in contact with the victim and has been in contact with the company (in this case, Airbnb), which “provided as much information as possible in this matter,” according to the police report.
While the incident occurred back in early June, it only came out recently thanks to an emotionally charged blog post written by the victim.
The woman, who wrote under the nickname EJ, blogged about how the apartment she rented to someone using Airbnb was completely trashed and vandalized. Her personal documents, her grandmother’s jewelry and various other items were stolen during a well-executed raid that lasted for roughly a week while she was gone.
While she has been reluctant to talk to reporters, she spoke with The San Francisco Chronicle’s James Temple about the whole experience.
Airbnb, which just raised more than $100 million in capital, has been in the hot seat to prove it has done everything possible to remedy the situation.
After numerous media reports, EJ wrote another blog post yesterday, saying that there is no end in sight to the nightmare, and corrected some of the company’s statements, including that she was not aware of a suspect that was taken into custody despite the company saying so in statements yesterday.
Worse yet, she accuses one of the Airbnb co-founders of requesting that she “shut down the blog altogether or limit its access,” and “suggested that I update the blog with a ‘twist’ of good news so as to ‘complete[s] the story.’”
According to yesterday’s blog post, she was also not aware of any arrests made.
“As of today, July 28, I have received no confirmation from either the San Francisco Police Department or the District Attorney that any culprit is in custody for my case. One month ago an individual was apprehended, however as far as I know, this person was transferred to a neighboring jurisdiction for prosecution of previous crimes, and no charges or arrest warrant has been issued for my case within San Francisco County.”
The company has since pledged to provide its users with additional precautionary measures, one of which is to provide insurance options. Those options continue to be under consideration.
In a statement today, the company writes:
“We were shocked and disturbed to hear about this unfortunate situation and since that moment have done everything in our power to assist EJ. We have offered assistance with accommodation, transportation, and financial support to help EJ find some sense of security in light of such tragic circumstances. We have also been assisting the police with their investigation and have confirmed with the SFPD that they have a female suspect in custody that they are investigating for vandalism and theft. Safety and security are our utmost priorities and we are taking steps to prevent this from happening again.”
It’s unclear whether this incident will blow away, or if Airbnb’s reputation will be forever tarnished.
HomeAway, which offers thousands of worldwide vacation rentals online through a number of sites, such as vrbo.com, says while they don’t focus on primary residences, it has never had a situation like this occur.
Alexis de Belloy, VP of HomeAway, absolutely believes that it can be safe to both rent from and rent to strangers, but that it helps if the two parties have a chance to get to know each other beforehand.
“They want to know who is staying in their homes, and that contact and ability to exchange phone calls and emails allows people to get to know one another,” he said.
It also has partnered with a property damage protection company that allows owners to insure their home for $39 to $59 for up to $10,000; however, insurance is not mandatory.
Apparently, the one thing Airbnb can not give back to EJ is her peace of mind.
“I am still displaced, bouncing between friends’ homes, clutching my pillow and what’s left of my normalcy. I spend my mornings recalling nightmares and breathing through panic attacks, and my afternoons scouring the city’s pawn shops in the vain hope that I might recover some of my stolen treasures. I do not feel anything close to safe,” she writes.