One of Airbnb’s most popular hosts in Canada has had his account shut down after it was reported by CBC’s investigation team that he was misleading guests about the accommodations and creating fake accounts to boost his own ratings.
The host known as “AJ” rented properties in Montreal and had 90 listings on the website. Thanks to the reviews he gathered, he even obtained the status of “Superhost” at the start of the year — a token that is meant to reassure potential renters about the quality of the service provided.
But the listings were often the same properties advertised on different accounts and the positive reviews were fake — something that could have been easily noticed early on since they all came from the same few fake guests and were just copied and pasted from one listing to another.
The real reviews were not as glorious as the made-up ones — vermin-infested, dirty, and poorly maintained accommodations were run-of-the-mill.
According to CBC, AJ was under investigation since March but his account was not suspended until mid-June. Because Airbnb failed to disable his account, which would have canceled existing bookings, hundreds of guests who had already arranged to stay at one of AJ’ s properties just went ahead with their vacations, unknowing of the situation.
Stacy Lapierre, a Nova Scotia business owner who booked AJ’s “Charming old Montreal Loft” for a July holiday, said to CBC, “The floors were disgustingly dirty. There were broken mugs… The beds were chewed by the mice.” She added that Airbnb should have sent an email notifying her of AJ’s suspension, offering to help find another accommodation, or providing a refund.
But only a week after AJ was blocked from taking new reservations, 45 of his 58 listings mysteriously shifted to new hosts called “Barry” and “Arvin,” whose guests experienced the exact same issues.
As of mid-August, Barry, Arvin, and AJ’s accounts have been suspended from Airbnb for violating “authenticity” and “reliability” standards. Airbnb has vowed to continue to take action against those misrepresenting themselves on its platform.