California woman's eviction battle: When Airbnb goes bad

LAUNCHPAD: The sharing economy is all well and good until someone squats in your flat...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 21 May 2015

The sharing economy is a marvellous thing, but it's also completely dependent on trust. When that unspoken contract is violated, things start to go wrong very fast.

Which is what Airbnb host Cory Tschogl has discovered, to her chagrin: she rented out her Palm Springs condo to a user called 'Maksym' for a 44-day period, but he demanded a refund almost as soon as he checked in because the tap water was 'cloudy'.

According to Business Insider, Tschogl got a 'gut feeling' about him, so agreed to give him the refund, then both she and Airbnb tried to get him to leave. He refused - so she decided the 'best course of action' would be to let him stay for the duration of his booking.

After 30 days was when things really kicked off: Airbnb emailed Tschogl saying it was having problems taking payment for the next two weeks of the tenant's stay, so she tried to evict him by threatening to cut off the utilities. In reply, he sent a text refusing to leave and threatening to sue because the water had given his brother an 'ulcer'. He also said he was 'legally occupying the domicile' - ie. claiming squatters' rights - which you are allowed to do in California after 30 days.

It's a nightmare scenario for any landlord, but particularly when you're using a sharing-and-caring service like AIrbnb. It's a warning to other companies in the sharing economy: make sure you have the right measures in place to deal with a worst-case scenario like this, or your carefully-built reputation could suffer some serious damage.

For its part, Airbnb says it's 'working with [Tschogl] to provide additional support'. Which, in this case, probably means legal fees. Ouch.

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