AirBnB’s Secret Settlements with Injured Guests

It’s no surprise that AirBnB, just like hotels, have to deal with every problem under the sun when it comes to guests. But AirBnB also has 4 million hosts who share their own homes or rental properties with guests. The platform has 5.6 million listings — more than the number of rooms in the top seven hotel chains combined — and manages more than 200 million bookings a year.

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Bloomberg recently reported that Airbnb paid an Australian woman $7 million after she was allegedly raped while she stayed at a New York City property near Times Square. It’s not clear who the rapist was – it was not necessarily the host, but someone who had obtained a duplicate set of keys to the AirBnB apartment. Immediately after the rape, AirBnB’s crisis team sprang into action. The company’s elite trust-and-safety team relocated the woman to a hotel, paid for her mother to fly in from Australia, flew them both home, and offered to cover any health or counseling costs. In exchange for the settlement the victim signed an agreement not to talk about the settlement “or imply responsibility or liability” on the part of Airbnb or the host.

After the #MeToo movement, Airbnb replaced its nondisclosure agreement with a narrower clause that says recipients can’t discuss the terms of their settlement or imply that it’s an admission of wrongdoing.

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Bloomberg’s investigation found that Airbnb spends an average of $50 million per year in various payouts to hosts and guests, although most of this is for property damage caused by guests.

Here are just some of the stories about AirBnB hosts whose actions have led to lawsuits or criminal prosecutions:

  • In 2017 three Australian men were charged with the rape and murder of their AirBnB guest.
  • In October 2011 incident, an Airbnb host in Barcelona plied two American women staying at his home with alcohol, then raped them.
  • In one incident a guest was found in bed, naked, with his host’s 7-year-old daughter.
  • In 2017, a 51-year-old woman sued Airbnb after a host in Los Angeles masturbated in front of her.
  • A U.S. citizen was raped in India by an AirBnB host’s relative who was out on bail after being charged with murder.
  • In 2018 a Florida woman was murdered by a security guard while celebrating her 36th birthday in Costa Rica. Her family filed a lawsuit against AirBnB, alleging that the company did not background check the security guard. That suit was settled.
  • In November 2018, a retired American couple died after inhaling toxic fumes while they slept at an Airbnb in Mexico.
  • In 2019 six Brazilian tourists, two of them children, died of carbon monoxide poisoning inside an Airbnb rental in Santiago, Chile.
  • At a Halloween “mansion party” in 2019, five partygoers were shot and killed at a four-bedroom home in Orinda, California – about 20 miles east of San Francisco.

Have you used AirBnB? Which safety measure do you think the company should take to keep guests safe?

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