When I leave my home city, which is plenty, I tend to offer my apartment up on Airbnb. If you're an Airbnb user, then I have to say thanks: You fund my wanderlust. You're welcome for the clean sheets, friendly notes, and cable television. All I ask in return is that you don't rummage through every last drawer of my dresser.
The social contract when a stranger moves into your house can be vague, defined mostly by the boundaries of civil behavior. Of course, that varies from city to city, person to person, jerk to jerk. If you're renting your home out to Airbnb visitors, you've got to be prepared for many perfectly kind and reasonable sorts, as well as the occasional rogue who may not be toilet-trained. I reached out to colleagues, friends, and fellow Berlin Airbnbers to collate some of their worst experiences.
You've been warned.
The Liquor Moocher
There's no excuse, in this life or the next, for assuming that by renting someone's flat you get open-bar privileges. Watch out for these folks: They could be anywhere and anyone, just waiting to bleed you of your single-malt Scotch or Peruvian pisco.
The Toilet Blocker
These people seem incredibly fastidious about the cleanliness of their own plumbing while having no regard for how actual plumbing works. As a result, you may find the toilet paper equivalent of a Sunday metro daily clogging your pipes upon return. A fellow apartment-renter writes to me: "A couple and their lady friend came over for Berlin pride and managed to use six rolls of toilet paper in just two days." On the plus side, having too much paper in the toilet is better than having none at all: In one instance that has entered lore, a renter came back and found a week's worth of used toilet paper festering in the trash can.
24-Hour Party People
At some point in your life as an Airbnb host, someone will trash your apartment. Saira in Amsterdam writes about a time her brother was taking care of her apartment, and noticed that things were missing. "He sent me a picture of my ceiling, asking, 'Where's the lamp?' He then noticed the house was full of bottles and cans, vodka, beer, sangria wine, everywhere." The guests did leave a note however. It read, "Thank you for providing us with your beautiful flat. Hopefully our deposit will be enough to buy you a better one." No deposit was left.
The Eternal Bringer of Extra Guests
The deal is one free guest, or $15 per extra guest per night. It's only when you find your lodger has brought their aunt, girlfriend's parents, house cleaner, and former geography teacher that you realize they’re taking liberties.
No one wants to come back to a house covered in mud, with a sink full of skunky dishes and hair all over the bathroom. Alas, we can't have everything.
People are definitely going to have sex in your apartment. Rampant horniness does not, however, exempt a sex-haver from basic decency. After returning to my apartment one time, I found my erotically enthusiastic guest's panties hanging from the branch of one my plants, and condom wrappers strewn around the bedroom floor.
The Inept and Deceitful
They break stuff and deny it. No, it wasn't that way when you got here. How do I know that? Because it's my house, and I don't sleep with broken glass on top of the bedspread.
Those Who Talk Right Past You
If you're sharing your apartment with someone, you might check to see whether they speak the same language. Alex in Berlin writes: "This Russian couple my flatmate rented her room to sat in the living room all weekend not speaking a single word of English over New Year's." Awkward… but, hey, at least they’re not drinking all of your rum.
Renting your apartment in California can be precarious, as some Airbnb guests stay for longer than a month and then cite tenants' rights laws to prevent eviction. Beware anyone who lingers for weeks.
The Sex-Toy Burglar
Even if you could get your vibrators back from this scofflaw, you wouldn't want 'em. As a friend of mine whose entire collection of pleasure-playthings went missing asks: "Why take them in the first place?"
The Ayahuascans (again!)
It's one thing leaving your house to strangers. It's entirely another to come back and find them engaging in an ancient shamanistic, psychedelic event, throwing up on the floor and talking heebeejibee for days.
A few years ago, an ex-girlfriend of mine returned to her apartment to find the woman who had been renting her apartment had defecated in the bed. On the mattress. Airbnb's insurance compensated her for the nightmare; the bedshitter understandably had her account deleted. But she remains at large, wandering among us somewhere.
The Music Enthusiasts
Entrusting your record collection to strangers is a brave, often naïve move. A person who lifts a record from your collection stings. Yet it's almost as bad when they mis-file a record they listen to.
The Barbarian Orgy
A couple in Alberta, Canada came back to find their apartment had been ground zero for a 100-person-strong party that the cops apparently described as "a drug-induced orgy." The house was wrecked, piss was everywhere, condoms stopped up the plumbing, furniture was smashed. I don't really know what's worse: that they used the house for such debauchery, or that they didn’t at least invite the homeowners to join.
The Adventurous Chefs
Coming back after a work trip, I found my flat mostly clean after a couple had spent the weekend. A week later, I noticed a putrid reek in the kitchen. The culprit: a partly roasted turkey, rotting in the oven, going all kinds of strange colors, emitting a broad range of disgusting smells.
And finally… Chicago Man
Janette in Berlin describes renting the second room in her apartment to a kind, elderly gentleman from Chicago, with whom she bonded straightaway. Then, during the night, he woke up everyone in the apartment when he decided to rearrange the furniture. Janette returned from work the next day to find his urine-soaked underwear hanging up in the bathroom. Which he left there, airing out, until the day he left.
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