Ontario family shocked to discover Airbnb renters using basement to distribute drugs
An Ontario family was shocked to find the people they were renting their basement apartment to through AirBnb were not the clients they approved for the rental.
The host has asked to remain anonymous for fear of her safety, but she did speak with Global News, detailing how she realized there was something wrong with her rental and how she found out.
The host agreed to rent her basement apartment in her home for a three-month stay to a couple who were supposedly here on business.
The husband said he was a contractor working on a condominium project in Toronto, but according to the host, the couple never really existed.
“I was lead to believe I was renting to a couple from Nova Scotia.”
“I soon discovered weeks into it the individuals that were staying weren’t the individuals who rented,” she said. “The first indication was there was a very strong smell lingering throughout the house, in the duct work.
“The second indication was there were various cars coming into the driveway and even to the curb on the main street, different cars. An individual would just pull in then drive out … there were also various packages placed in our recycling bin.
“There was a very strong smell coming from the bins. I opened the bins and there were 15 packages there, strategically packed like they were white boxes with a common indicator that was not linked to my premise. When I opened one of the packages there was like a sticky note with all these drugs like cookie kush, and a dollar amount.”
It turns out, these drugs were in fact different types of marijuana.
The host took the information to the police along with the license plate of the client’s car parked in the driveway and as it turned out, the plate did not match the license of the client.
The police arrived at their home and what they found left in the basement apartment the home owners in shock.
“There was an entire set up. I was shocked to know the place got turned into a distribution centre and it was an assembly line … Lots of packaging material.
“Then on the table there were these jars that had strands of marijuana. You are running an operation out of somebody’s house. For me this was just ‘my gosh we have a family, we are in a neighbourhood and you just do that,’” the host said. “There was an individual inside … I immediately looked at my phone on the Airbnb app and it wasn’t the same individual (who booked with us), and then when police asked him what his name was it was a different name.”
In addition to the marijuana found, inside an armor police found a bong, Bunsen burners and a metal coil. The host said police told her it looked like she had the makings of a meth lab.
Police are continuing their investigation into the matter, but the big question on the host’s mind is how this happened.
Global News got in touch with Airbnb who said they are conducting a full inquiry into the host’s case.
In a statement Lindsey Scully from Airbnb wrote:
“We have no tolerance for this type of behavior and we have banned the guest from our platform, fully supported the host under our $1 Million Host Guarantee program, and reached out to local law enforcement to offer our assistance with their investigation.
“Keeping our community safe is the most important thing we do at Airbnb. We are constantly working to improve our platform, our policies, and our protections, because even one incident is one too many. There have been more than 200 million guest arrivals in Airbnb listings to date and negative incidents are extremely rare.”
But these “negative incidents” do happen.
In the past two years there have been several cases of vandalism, theft and even drugs reported in connection with Airbnb rentals.
The most recent was in March 2017 when a 28-year-old man came home to find his place had been ransacked by Airbnb renters.
In an interview with AM640, Matthew Lyn said his home looked like it had been ransacked, things were missing including his camera equipment, electronics, social insurance card, ID and almost all of his clothing.
Legal experts said the best way to protect yourself is through your own insurance company and to not rely on Airbnb’s host protection policy.
“Airbnb has what is called the Host Protection Insurance Program so that starts to look like your own personal insurance … but there are exclusions in the fine print. In that fine print it specifically said if there is any sort of damage that is caused to the property, and you do have that $1 millon limitation, Airbnb can come around and said , if it came as a result of criminal act or misdemeanor, Airbnb is allowed to take a step back and said we are not going to provide any sort of coverage,” Muneeza Sheikh, a lawyer with Levitt LLP told Global News.
Sheikh advised that “whether you are a homeowner or a renter, disclose to your own insurance company that you are renting out your property. That may result in an increase in your premiums, but in the end it gives you the piece of mind that Airbnb coverage simply won’t provide to you. At the end of the day they are a business.”
Airbnb said it offers tips to hosts on what they can do to ensure they are protected:
Tips for hosts
- Set Requirements for Your Listing: Each and every person on Airbnb has a detailed profile page with information about themselves. In order to sign up for Airbnb, you must provide a full name, date of birth, photo, phone number, and email address. Hosts can choose to require that their guests provide Airbnb a government ID before booking their listing, which then requires you as a host to do so as well.
- Get To Know Your Guest in Advance: On the Airbnb platform, we have a safe and easy way for hosts to get to know their prospective guest before confirming a reservation. Our secure messaging tool lets you ask each other questions, and set clear expectations for the stay.
- Read Previous Community Reviews: You have our global community to rely on. If you’re curious what a previous host’s experience has been with a potential guest, all you need to do is check their reviews ahead of time. Both guests and hosts publicly review each other and only do so after the reservation is complete, so you know the feedback is informed and real.
- If Anything Isn’t Right, Reach Out! In the rare event than an issue should arise, our Customer Service team is standing by 24/7 in 11 languages with rebooking assistance, refunds, reimbursements and/or insurance programs to help make things right if things don’t go as planned.
The Ontario host said although she did not meet her guests, which is not uncommon in the majority of Airbnb rentals, she would like to get more information about the renters beyond just a picture, email and cell number.
“The first thing I want to do is an ID match, the second thing is I feel I have the right to have a copy of their driver’s license — it’s really just a photocopy — in the event that something goes wrong like in this case I could give the police information that they needed.”
The host’s advice to other ones is to ask more questions and to connect more with your guest via the Airbnb platform.