This Airbnb Hosting Horror Story is one of our own experiences at our vacation rental properties. It’s far from the worst hosting experience we’ve heard of, but we thought we would share it to kick off our new submission-based category.
We had a brand new listing in Southern California near the national forest. As many are aware, most of Southern California is extremely prone to wildfire risk, and this area was no exception. Surrounded by trees, the house is a quaint little chalet with rustic mountain charm. Inside, a wood-burning fireplace, and outside, a gas grill, a large wooden deck with a picnic table, and a stone planter in the front yard near the driveway sitting under a huge pine tree.
The booking went normally. It was a new listing, but my second listing overall and I had already hosted over 50 stays. The guests weren’t very communicative, but that’s neither a good nor bad sign as far as I am concerned. They stay a single night and leave by the designated check-out time. The cleaner shows up and starts getting the unit ready for the next guest.
The neighbor came over and started yelling at our cleaning staff. They said the guest had built a fire in the stone planter under the tree in the front yard. The cleaner conveyed to me the neighbor’s anger and I completely understood her position. Fortunately, she worked for the Forest Service, she had seen the guests doing this and yelled at them to put the fire out before anything horrible happened. She demanded to speak with me and threatened to report me to the local authorities. It took us a while to calm her down and tell her we had not authorized the guest to build any outdoor fires. It is illegal and very dangerous to have an open fire outside in that region, especially in the middle of the peak wildfire season. The fire was so big apparently that it scorched some of the bark on the massive pine tree a few feet away from the planter.
My first personal Airbnb hosting horror story quickly taught me to put as many warnings on my House Rules as possible and to make sure the welcome binder also clearly states the things guests are not permitted to do. All hosts should constantly be reviewing and updating their rules based on experience and feedback from guests and neighbors. This is because some guests simply need everything spelled out for them. I added to my rules that the stone planter is NOT a fire pit and in fact any outdoor open fires would be grounds for immediate cancellation, loss of full security deposit, and potential for local law enforcement intervention or citation.
If you do allow open fires on your property, be sure to educate yourself on local, state and federal regulations in your area. Often, states and counties issue burning bans for certain times of the year only, or they may ban open burning all together due to the usual conditions and dangers present in the region your Airbnb is situated.
As a host, I took partial blame for not making it clear about the local ordinances in place. But I did still make mention of what the guest had done in the review because I thought they could be a potential hazard to a future host. At AirHost Academy, we think that all hosting horror stories can and should be learning experiences on how hosts can better prevent future mishaps and how to deal with the aftermath of a poor guest experience.
This is part of a new series we’re doing on Airbnb Hosting Horror stories. We will be picking the best submissions to post and give our own perspective on them. We will weigh in with brutal honesty on who was at fault, what the host could do better, and what the guest could have done better in the situation. Submit your horror story in the comments below, or on our contact page if you’d like to be anonymous.
Originally from Connecticut, Kevin moved to Los Angeles in 2013 and worked his way up to becoming an editor on award-winning reality TV shows. Kevin owns 4 short term rentals in Southern California and founded AirHost Academy to help other hosts improve their business.
The Five Best Airbnb Products That We Found on InHouse
5 Tips on Hosting a Kid-Friendly Airbnb
Airbnb Guest Left Blood All Over The Sheets – What to Do
Airbnb Blog – The 1st Year in Review
Hosting Horror Story #2 – Should You Allow Film Shoots In Your Airbnb?