A few years ago in Iceland, I accidentally slept in an Airbnb I hadn’t actually booked. When it’s dark out, and the directions say “second valley, third farm on your left,” it’s easy to get a bit lost. Believe it or not, having to kick out confused strangers with a bad sense of direction isn’t the worst thing that happens to Airbnb owners. My incident was an honest mistake, but not all infractions are so innocent. Whether it’s leaving behind gross personal items or using the accommodation as a murder hideout, guest offenses range from careless to straight up criminal.
My story ended with an embarrassing 4:00 AM departure. Others have ended with broken marriages, calls to the police, and very negative reviews on the guest’s Airbnb profile. According to several Airbnb hosts from around the world, these are the things you’re doing that they absolutely hate.
1. Putting hosts into uncomfortable positions
Hosts sometimes find themselves wearing hats they didn’t expect. Erika, an Airbnb superhost in Mexico City, describes an incident where she found herself playing therapist.
“The booking was made from a man’s account for two people,” she says, “and he asked if we could put some flowers on the bed for when they arrive. His wife contacted us a week later, crying, telling us she knew her husband had rented our flat to cheat on her. She asked us what we would do, if we were in her position. We did give her some advice in the spirit of women empowering women.”
2. “Urgent” requests for small things
An Airbnb host is more than someone who leaves a key under the mat and prays you don’t throw a party while they’re gone. They’re jacks-of-all-trades, often serving as host, cleaner, tech support, customer service, and sometimes even therapist. While some Airbnbs are managed by companies with staff and extensive resources, most are independently owned, meaning the host has a lot on their plate.
According to Jake Cohen, an Airbnb Superhost with six Airbnb units, owning an Airbnb “takes someone with the right personality and the ability to solve problems on the fly.”
The lack of support staff means hosts are often tasked with addressing issues on their own, and being constantly on call for guests.
“For most small property hosts, this is something we do on the side of a regular job,” Cohen said. “We don’t necessarily have someone who can respond 24/7 because a guest can’t turn on the TV.”
Airbnb as a popular side hustle means hosts aren’t always at your beck-and-call. While it’s reasonable to expect your host to address issues within a practical timeframe, it’s not reasonable to expect them to drop everything they’re doing to help you figure out how to access Netflix.
3. Leaving a mess
Hotel guests often fall into a common mindframe that goes something like this: “I probably don’t have to clean that — that’s what the cleaning staff is for!”
That way of thinking has its own issues, but in Airbnbs, the cleaning often falls to the hosts themselves. Obviously no one expects you to shine the windows, but treat the place like a home, not a Motel 6.
According to Stephanie Prater, who owns an Airbnb in Pensacola Beach, Florida, leaving behind dirty dishes is one of her guests’ top offenses.
“Someone left a dirty skillet on the stove that they cooked a whole dozen eggs in,” she says. “My husband had to scrub for 30 minutes to clean it. I’m really surprised he didn’t throw it away.”
Even worse than dirty dishes is leaving behind items of a more *ahem* personal nature.
Kathleen Porter Kristiansen, Airbnb Superhost and blogger, says that “underwear in the sheets, condom wrappers, lube, edibles, a (positive) pregnancy test, and an enima are just some of the items frequently found by our cleaning staff.”
If she could get guests to internalize one thing, it would be to “put your trash in the large trash can rather than the bathroom trash, or better yet, the outside dumpster. And above all, do not leave underwear in the sheets.”
4. Not respecting the host
Being a good Airbnb guest really comes down to being a decent person. If someone invites you into their house, do you break their appliances, overstay your welcome, and bring additional uninvited guests? Probably not. The same rules of courtesy apply in Airbnbs.
Jonathan Gropper, an Airbnb superhost, said one of his biggest pet peeves is when guests “break washing machines, burn circuits, damage kitchenware, and then try to berate me or my assistant that we cannot get a repair person to come in fast enough.”
He also has little tolerance for guests who show up with larger parties than allowed. “When I rented out my yacht,” he says, “guests would ‘invite friends for drinks’ and four people became 20 or more.”
5. Asking for a different check-in and check-out time
For other hosts, asking for late check-outs or early check-ins is the bane of their existence. It not only exhibits a failure to understand how Airbnbs operate, but also shows a lack of respect for the host’s time.
Daniel Rusteen, who worked at Airbnb for three years and now consults for current hosts, knows all too well what it feels like when guests try to take advantage.
“My favorite is when the guest asks for both an early check-in and a late check-out on a single day reservation,” he says. “For example, recently one guest wanted to check in at 7:00 AM (normal check in is 3:00 PM). These requests are rather annoying.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with requesting an early check-in or late check-out, as long as the request is reasonable and given in a timely manner. Just to be clear, asking to check-in before sunrise is probably a no-go.
This one should go without saying. Unfortunately, it often does not. Some guests take the “my house is your house” thing a little too seriously, and literally claim the host’s property as their own. Whether it’s pilfering granola bars from the supply closet or cramming the television into your trunk, stealing happens more often than you’d think.
“I was laying in my bed one morning and looking at the window,” Prater says, “and something seemed off. I walked over to the window and realized someone had stolen two of the four curtain panels. Who does that?”
Kleptomaniacs. That’s who.
Lisa T, an Airbnb host for 12 years, had a much more harrowing experience.
“On the guest’s checkout date,” she says, “my cleaning lady arrived to clean up for upcoming guests, and we found the unimaginable. I was robbed. They kept the keys and stole everything, leaving only the furniture, a cigarette smell, and a mess. They broke my bedroom lock and took a property title, social security card, checkbooks, savings, electronics, clothing, shoes, jewelry, family keepsakes, towels, sheets, even all my undergarments.”
Jerry Han, a digital nomad who Airbnbs his house when he’s traveling, found himself inconvenienced in a slightly different way. He rented his house out to a 70-year-old woman who “had so many bad reviews that I should have paid more attention,” Han says. “When I went in to clean her room after she’d left, I realized she’d stolen the towels, a pillow, and even a side lamp! Everything else, she’d hid inside the closet for some weird reason. This experience definitely taught me to take past reviews quite seriously!”
7. Expecting things to be the same as their home
Todra Payne, a former Airbnb host and guest relations manager for an Airbnb superhost, said culture shock was actually one of the most common guest complaints.
According to Payne, “I had a guest from China complain that the kitchen in a NYC Airbnb rental did not come equipped with the ‘basics’ like a rice cooker. If you’re renting in a culture that does not normally use that as a standard, pitching a fit about it only makes you look entitled and uninformed.”
So don’t be the American whining about the different-shaped power outlets in Europe or the lack of a free continental breakfast.
8. Inconveniencing the host for no reason
It’s a host’s job to make sure the property comes as advertised, and that you’re as comfortable as possible. It’s not their job to be your personal 24/7 concierge. Mar, who owns an Airbnb on the coast of Spain, once had to do a wellness check on a guest who was unresponsive.
“One evening a couple went out partying,” she says. “One of them returned to the flat, sat on the sofa and fell asleep while the other one continued partying. He returned to the apartment in the early hours of the morning and without the key so he proceeded to ring the bell over and over and over hoping to wake his partner, and when he realised he was not responding, started to panic and call my mother, who is in charge of taking care of guests. My mother lives in Barcelona, about a 30-minute train ride away from the apartment, so, without public transportation, she took a taxi. It must have been 4:00 AM when my mother opened the door with the spare key and found the partner on the sofa, fast asleep but alive. My mother turned around in the taxi and went back to Barcelona.”
Safe to say, if you pass out drunk on the couch, it’s not your host’s job to serve as your personal wake-up-call.