‘I live in the basement’: Airbnb stay goes awry 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 showed they would have the entire Providence home for them alone.

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

“He said to me, ‘I live in the basement and I have to check the electric meter,'” Landry told Target 12. “I was like, ‘Nobody lives in the basement – we have all the House. “And he started getting angry, accusing me of lying.

That’s when the argument turned chaotic.

The women said they barricaded themselves in the upper part of the Ohio Avenue home and called police to report a break-in as he repeatedly tried to open the door. Providence Police Department body-worn camera footage obtained by Target 12 shows that multiple officers responded to the call and acted quickly.

After running to the back of the house, officers opened a window for one of them to crawl through and opened a locked door for the others to enter. Guns drawn, the officers moved strategically 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.

“Nobody broke in here,” the woman shouted. “I live here.”

A police report reviewed by Target 12 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 that information was never disclosed on the Airbnb listing, and a review of the website by Target 12 found 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 have to trust that we have the house to ourselves and that it is 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, 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 Target 12 that the city’s inspections department had received leases showing the Ohio Avenue 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.

Target 12 attempted 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.

The chaos experienced by Landry’s bachelorette party last May is a symptom of what some lawmakers have called a largely unregulated and unmonitored multi-billion dollar industry run by companies such as 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 accommodation platforms are businesses,” Carson said, adding that law enforcement would have an easier time responding to issues — like Providence’s — if they had the better property information.

Rotary’s General Assembly passed legislation last year to create a registry, much to the chagrin of third-party platforms, landowners and Governor 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, RI’s Department of Trade 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 said the stay in Providence caused her so much anxiety afterwards that she missed two days of work and couldn’t think of that weekend without feeling negatively about the experience.

“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 steps can be taken to try 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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