Who is really responsible for this crazy Airbnb theft?
Did Renata Lambert steal a TV from her rental apartment in Warsaw, Poland? Lambert says she didn’t, but her host insists she did. Now the two sides are locked in an Airbnb flight dispute that she thinks I can sort out.
Lambert’s case raises questions that have no easy answers. How do you prove that a traveler took something from your rental? If you’re a guest, how do you prove it wasn’t you? And what is Airbnb’s role in mediating these disputes?
“I was wrongly accused by my host of taking a TV from his rental,” she explains. “Airbnb took the host’s accusation at face value and issued judgment without hearing my side of the story. Airbnb charged my card on file for damages. How can I prove my innocence?
How do I prove an Airbnb theft happened?
You are probably wondering how, exactly, Is a host proves that a guest stole from him?
If an item goes missing, a host can file a claim against the security deposit. Airbnb will ask the host to communicate directly with the guest. If the guest accepts responsibility, the deposit is paid to the host to cover the missing item. Otherwise, Airbnb makes the call.
Filing a claim on a deposit is easy. If you’re a host, just go to Resolution Center.
- Choose the relevant reservation.
- Under “select a reason”, select “request compensation for damages”.
- Click “continue” to submit details of damages and associated costs on the next page.
That’s exactly what Andrzej, his host in Warsaw, did when he said he discovered a missing TV, specifically a three-year-old 42-inch LG TV “in perfect condition”. He had paid around $400 and he had the documentation to prove it, he said.
Not having a clear picture of this Airbnb flight
And that’s where things went wrong. Lambert, who was still traveling in Europe, began receiving accusatory messages from the host and Airbnb’s trust and safety team.
“I was getting emails, phone calls, and app messages — all about something I hadn’t done,” she says. “I felt helpless. Airbnb was unwilling to help me and was quick to judge me.
She claims her innocence.
“I didn’t take the host’s television set,” she said. “Why would I?”
Why, indeed – why would a tax preparer from Livermore, California want to steal an Airbnb in Poland? Can she even use a TV from Poland, which runs on 220 volts and would require a transformer?
Lambert also had difficulty communicating because she did not always have access to the internet. She couldn’t respond to all Airbnb messages.
Her Airbnb theft trial was over before she knew it. Airbnb allowed the host to take $333 from their deposit — presumably they factored in some depreciation — and closed their case.
“We do our best to fairly and reasonably arbitrate these cases,” an Airbnb representative told her in an email. “In our efforts to be objective, bearing in mind that we were not present when the booking was made, we must consider all documentation and communication available to make a decision consistent with our policies and procedures. We regret that this decision has affected you negatively, but we believe it is a fair resolution, all things considered.
She’s not ready to let go yet.
“How can I prove that I didn’t do something like that?” she asks.
It happened to me. Here is what I did.
Once I was accused of stealing a vacation rental. In my case, it was a lovely Vrbo condominium on Oahu. Two elegant peacock statues decorated the master bedroom. One of them disappeared during our stay, according to the owner.
When she confronted me about the lost art, I told her the truth: I didn’t take them. How the hell could we bring a big peacock statue back on a plane to Phoenix? But I also admitted that I had guests – my parents and a friend (courtesy of the owner).
Not all travelers are honorable renters. Take guests who have checked in this Airbnb in Georgia then proceeded to loot the house. They removed a 60-inch TV, sets of sheets, large bottles of body wash, and other toiletries and cleaning supplies the host kept in a locked master closet to quickly turn the house between nights. guests.
A quick search online for “TV stolen from an Airbnb” suggests this is extremely common. Thieves check into a rental for a weekend, then walk away with everything that isn’t nailed down.
But Lambert did not fit the profile. It seems highly unlikely that an accountant from northern California who was traveling through Europe would remove aging electronics from an apartment in Warsaw. Not impossible, but highly, very unlikely.
Maybe Airbnb should have been a little more skeptical.
If you’re a guest, how do you prove you didn’t steal from an Airbnb?
How do you prove you weren’t responsible for an Airbnb theft? There are only a few ways.
- Take “before” and “after” photos of the rental.
I know, it’s ridiculous. But I already recommend it for rental cars. Why not vacation rentals? I started doing that. If you don’t take a “before” picture, at least take an “after” picture that shows you’ve cleaned the area properly. As with a rental car, you never know what will happen to the rental between the time you check out and the time the owner arrives to inspect the work done by the cleaning crew.
- Ask the owner to review surveillance footage.
Many Vrbo and Airbnb units have outdoor cameras that monitor who comes and goes. You can ask the owner to check the footage to see if you left the house with a TV or any other possessions. (On a related note, don’t steal an Airbnb. It’s an incredibly stupid way to get rich. You’ll end up getting caught.)
- Have a watertight alibi.
Certainly having a witness who can place you at the airport without the peacock statue or the 60 inch TV would be helpful. But more specifically, an appeal to common sense might count for something. How on earth would you bring a huge decorative bird on a flight? And more precisely, Why Would you?
I must add that some of these strategies can work, but they can also fail dramatically. When I told the owner of my Hawaii Vrbo that if she was to deduct the cost of the peacock from my deposit, that was fine with me, she refused.
If the owner had decided differently – and if I had resisted – the result might have been different. After all, these platforms are created for the host, not the guest. The site is much more likely to side with the owner.
If You Didn’t Rob an Airbnb, Here’s How to Beat a False Accusation
What is Airbnb’s role in mediating these disputes? Well, for Lambert, it was apparently a matter of quickly siding with the host and crediting him $333. He is supposed to give all parties a fair hearing and then decide what to do with a filing.
Reading between the lines, it seemed Lambert felt overwhelmed by the accusations and may not have responded promptly to all messages. Airbnb quickly closed the case in favor of the host.
Two takeaways from this case: take a charge like this seriously and respond quickly. If things don’t go your way, call on one of the Airbnb executives whose names, numbers and emails are displayed on this site.
And it’s supposing it is a false accusation.
If you or one of your children has stolen something from a vacation rental, own up to it and fix it.
So did she steal an Airbnb or not?
During my correspondence with Lambert, I came to believe that she took nothing from her Airbnb. I understood why Airbnb would have sided with the host and that their actions were an honest mistake. I asked Airbnb to reconsider her case and provided her with the paper trail between her, the host and Airbnb.
Airbnb reviewed the case and refunded their deposit in full. That’s a great result for an innocent customer, but a valuable lesson for the rest of us. Don’t ignore messages from Airbnb’s Trust & Safety team and always – always! — take pictures of your vacation rental.