Airbnb often offers a cheaper alternative to overpaying for a pricy hotel room. Renting someone else’s house also allows for all the same conveniences as home. There haven’t been many complaints about Airbnbs overall, but recently a family claimed that they found a hidden camera at one of the locations they rented.
Nealie and Andrew Barker, who are from New Zealand, were in the middle of a 14-month vacation around Europe with their four children and one niece. The group stopped in Cork, Ireland, to catch up on sleep and to get a fresh start the next morning.
According to CNN, Andrew, who works in IT when he isn’t on extended vacations, scanned the house’s wifi network. It was after this scan that the family realized that there was a camera in the home recording them. Puzzled, the family followed the signal which brought them to a smoke alarm.
Not knowing what to do, Nealie and Andrew called Airbnb in the hopes that they would know how to handle the situation. “They had no advice for us over the phone,” she explained. “The girl just said that if you cancel within 14 days, you won’t get your money back.”
Understandably angered, the husband and wife decided to go straight to the source of the problem — the homeowner. When confronted about the hidden camera that was live streaming the family, the homeowner reportedly hung up on them. When the owner called back a few moments later, he admitted that there was a camera in the home, but stated it was only recording in the living room.
Not wanting to stay at that property anymore, the Barkers decided to move to a nearby hotel for the night. Before leaving the next day, they once again called Airbnb to see how to handle the situation, providing Airbnb with “irrefutable proof” of the live stream and snapshots, according to Business Insider.
They were informed that the safety team was conducting an investigation and that the property was temporarily closed to house future guests until the investigation was over.
Weeks went by without hearing back from Airbnb. Finally, more than three weeks later, the Barkers were informed that the host had been “exonerated” and was free to carry on with his rentals.
It wasn’t until the family posted the images to Facebook, which was then picked up by various media outlets from around the world, that Airbnb changed their stance on the issue and had the homeowner in question permanently banned.
“The safety and privacy of our community — both online and offline — is our priority. Airbnb policies strictly prohibit hidden cameras in listings and we take reports of any violations extremely seriously. We have permanently removed this bad actor from our platform, an Airbnb rep told CNN.”
“Our original handling of this incident did not meet the high standards we set for ourselves, and we have apologized to the family and fully refunded their stay. There have been over half a billion guest arrivals in Airbnb listings to date and negative incidents are incredibly rare.”