I think I should preface this by saying I love Airbnb. I truly do. It provides an unequivocally affordable, authentic way to travel the world and is a more private (and safer) alternative to couch surfing. It's a service that submerges you into a city's zeitgeist in ways a hotel room never could, delivering an "I live here" experience, free of real commitment.
That being said, the human race can be an amalgamation of horribleness, and somehow finds a way to ruin everything—Airbnb being no exception. The horror stories listed here are not for the faint of heart, but before you decide to book a hotel room instead, understand this is not the normal Airbnb experience. In fact, there's nothing "normal" about any of this. Even I have fallen victim (#11 FTW).
The temporary Swedish brothel
Two young ladies from Stockholm decided it would be a capitol idea to rent out their place while they went away for a month. What they didn't plan on was coming home to find their cozy little flat laden with stray pubic hairs, a ziplock bag full of used condoms, and a note in the mail from the local police force saying, basically: "So, we had to raid your place while you were gone because it was turned into a brothel–nice job guys!" The prostitutes who were staying there had apparently been followed by the cops for months, and were caught mid-sex act inside the Airbnb rental, which led to arrests, all around.
The meth, weapons, and cats party
Apparently, meth heads don't make good house guests. Also: chocolate tastes good and getting stabbed hurts. Troy Dayton was a little skeptical about the people he was renting his Oakland home out to, and he was so very right to be worried. The group trashed the place, stole a bunch of stuff (including Troy's birth certificate), left a ton of meth paraphernalia—and a live cat—behind, along with doors filled with axe marks and a knife with a man's name written on it, in Wite-Out. The worst part? They shredded his clothes and put some of his sweaters into the freezer. Okay, that probably wasn't the worst part, but my sources confirm it was a very nice sweater.
The BBW XXX panty raid sex party
“The worst part of the Internet right there was in my apartment,” one unlucky renter told the NY Post after renting his place out and later coming home to find it filled to the gills with naked overweight revelers in the midst of a wild sex party (seriously). Apparently, the event even had its own internet E-vite, sent out to hundreds of potential sex partiers. “I just don’t want to touch anything in there,” he understandably admitted. It's kind of like Eyes Wide Shut, except appropriately retitled Eyes Completely F*cking Closed No Matter What.
The Russian door-knock
Picture this: you are visiting Berlin, having a very pleasant time, and just rented an Airbnb. It's everything you always dreamed it would be. Then a knock comes at the door, followed by a large Russian man asking what the hell you think you are doing in his house. Vacation ruined; undies expectedly soiled. This bout of red shame is exactly what happened to a San Jose iPhone App developer, who described his experience on Hacker News. "For a moment I thought I was in a bad 80s movie," he quipped, on one of his expository posts. "I will crush you," the Russian likely responded.
The old switcheroo
One Californian looking to relax in Austin for a few days was pumped when she found a cheap place, but horribly disappointed when the host emailed her, saying that he forgot it was "F1 weekend" and that his prices actually needed to be tripled. The woman had already put down her 50% deposit, and had no other place to stay during one of the busiest weekends of the year. The situation was never rectified, and she properly vented about it on her personal blog.
The hooker-stabbing incident
Apparently, ladies of the night using Airbnb as a home base for their sordid affairs is nothing new, and certainly not constrained to Sweden. In one horrifying case, an NYC-based publicist rented her pad out to a woman claiming to be an Army private that was about to be shipped overseas and just needed a spot to crash for a few days. In reality, she was just a girl who wanted to be paid for showing her privates, and drew the ire of an angry John over money, of course. Thankfully, the woman-in-question turned out to be fine, and the renter changed her locks immediately.
The poo-covered abode
A lesson to all would-be Airbnb hosts: do not always trust profile pics! When Rachel Bassini rented her East Village penthouse out to what she perceived to be a normal guy with a wife and child, she probably didn't expect to return home to find it covered in used condoms, human feces, and...other unidentified bodily fluids. To add insult to crap-stained couches, Bassini looked the man, "Jeffrey," up on social media and found pictures of her crib and the massive feces-fueled shindig he threw within it. He also failed to return her house keys, so she lives in constant fear of the literal party pooper's return.
In one of the first major Airbnb controversies, a San Francisco woman returned to her rented-out space to find it completely trashed, with most of her valuables missing. The thieves/house guests had broken a hole through her closet door, and raided her jewelry, technology, cash, and even personal items. They continued to dump bleach over her furniture, left a crusty, yellow substance all over her bathroom, and perhaps most shocking of all, hung up a framed picture of Paris (that she had never seen before). I guess they figured it just tied the room together.
The creepy owner
When you rent a spacious pad in Hampton Bays, you expect certain things: amazing beachside views, world-class amenities, and your host coming back into your rental in the middle of the night, wasted, trying to hit on your girlfriend. Thankfully, one Business Insider employee enjoyed all three on her stay on the bay, with the female in question receiving a text from her host at 3 a.m., reading "Do you want to try," before showing up (heavily intoxicated), asking/telling the boyfriend "The girlfriend, she's cool, right?" and "We do the best we can here." He was probably coming from the poo party in the East Village. We get it.
The squatter who wouldn't leave
Did you ever go on a vacation that you wanted to last forever? A Palm Springs woman rented out her Palm Springs condo to a dude for a month, and when she came back, he refused to leave. And as it turned out through a wonky legal loophole, renting your house (even through Airbnb) is technically a month-to-month agreement, so police had no grounds to kick him out. Eventually, the woman and the man moved in together, learned how to live together cohesively, got married, and landed a reality show on Bravo. Just kidding. But how cool would that be?
My own personal story...
Though it was certainly not as horrific as most of the nightmares on this list, my own personal Airbnb disaster happened just a few weeks ago in a little town people call "Chicago." At 3 a.m., my girlfriend and I woke up to a pounding on our door, with no less than two dozen firemen standing in the frame. Apparently, gas leaks are horrifyingly unsafe and the barbershop beneath us was spewing more of the hot stuff than your Facebook friends on election day. We had to leave and find a hotel room, but at least we got to see three firemen sawing down a metal door lock at 4 a.m.. So I have that going for me. And I can rest easy knowing that absolutely no XXX BBWs or poop-covered couches were involved. I consider myself extremely lucky.