Airbnb stay gets chaotic for Rhode Island bachelorette party

PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – When Seneca Landry booked a weekend through Airbnb for her sister’s bachelorette party earlier this year, the online listing said they would have the entire Rhode Island home to themselves.

But on the last day of their stay in May, after some of the women thought they heard voices coming from the basement of the Providence home, Landry said a man followed her from outside and tried to force the entrance.

“He said to me, ‘I live in the basement and I have to check the electric meter,'” Landry told WPRI. “I was like, ‘Nobody lives in the basement – ​​we have the whole house.’ And he started getting mad, accusing me of lying.

The women said they barricaded themselves in the upper part of the house and called the police to report a break-in as he repeatedly tried to open the door. Providence Police Department body-worn camera footage obtained by WPRI shows multiple officers responding.

Officers opened a window at the back of the house for one of them to crawl through and open a locked door. Guns drawn, officers moved through the basement, eventually arriving at a closed door, where they heard voices from the other side.

“Open the door,” one of the officers shouted as he knocked on the door.

“Why do I have to open the door for you?” A woman shouted back. ” You do not have [expletive] to guarantee.”

“I don’t need a warrant, someone broke in here,” the officer replied.

“No one broke in here!” cried the woman. “I live here!”

A police report shows officers then spoke with a property management company, Michie House, listed as working for the landlord, and they confirmed the basement was rented to a tenant.

But Landry said the information was never disclosed on the Airbnb listing and the website made no mention of the basement tenant. The property has been listed as being available as a whole house.

“The basement has been locked, and we need to be sure that we have the house to ourselves and that it’s safe,” Landry said.

Michie House and the owner did not respond to multiple requests for comment. An Airbnb spokesperson said the online booking giant fully reimbursed Landry after reporting the incident, and the company has since decided to take further action in response to what happened.

“On our platform, we hold our hosts to high standards in terms of delivering accurate and quality ads, and when they fall below those standards, we take appropriate action,” the spokesperson said. . “Based on our investigation to date, we have disabled these listings and are in the process of removing this host from our platform.”

Despite the basement apartment, the property is listed as a single family home, according to the City Assessor’s Office. It is also zoned in a neighborhood where homes must be owner occupied for short term rental.

Providence spokesman Andrew Grande told WPRI that the city’s inspections department had received leases indicating the property was no longer a short-term rental. But Airbnb provided a list of links to other online booking platforms that said the house was still available to rent.

When WPRI tried to book the property using different dates, some worked and some didn’t.

“It doesn’t look like anyone is verifying those properties,” Landry said.

Landry’s experience and her bachelorette party is a symptom of what some lawmakers have called a largely unregulated and unmonitored multi-billion dollar industry run by companies including Airbnb, VRBO, Booking .com and others.

For several years, state lawmakers, including Rep. Lauren Carson, D-Newport, have called for the creation of a statewide registry to track short-term rentals, which she says are businesses and should be treated as such.

“These properties that are engaged with third-party hosting platforms are businesses,” Carson said, adding that law enforcement would have an easier time responding to issues like Providence’s if they had better property information.

Rhode Island’s General Assembly passed legislation last year to create a registry, much to the chagrin of third-party platforms, landowners and Gov. Dan McKee, who vetoed the legislation last July.

“I cannot support this bill as it will create an additional burden for landlords,” he wrote in his veto message at the time. “Short-term rental issues, like other property/land use and small business issues, are most effectively addressed at the municipal level.”

In January, the General Assembly voted to override McKee’s veto, with Senator Dawn Euer, also a Democrat from Newport, saying the short-term rental industry is “thriving,” especially in seaside communities like this where she lives.

“In places like our Newport neighborhoods, investors have bought up rental properties in this way, and the state doesn’t track where these businesses operate,” Euer said at the time. “It’s impossible to ensure security or law enforcement when we don’t even know where the rentals are.”

Last month, the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulations issued a set of draft rules to create the registry, which is expected to begin on October 1. According to the rules, every short-term rental would have to register and landlords would have to provide details, including contact details, the number of rooms to rent and the intended use of the space.

Each landlord would also have to pay a two-year $50 listing fee for “each property advertised for short-term rental.” DBR currently estimates that there are about 3,680 short-term rentals listed statewide, which means the registry would also generate about $184,000 every two years if each landlord complied.

For Landry, she says the stay in Providence was a bad experience that caused her so much anxiety that she missed two days of work.

“We’ve done so many great things, but if you mention my sister’s bachelor, there’s always going to be that dark cloud,” she said.

Maggie Wayland, a Boston resident who also attended the party, described it as “one of the scariest things that has ever happened”. She hopes that measures can be taken to prevent such incidents from happening again in the future.

“We want to make sure this doesn’t happen at another bachelorette party,” she said.

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