Family discovers their home was listed on Airbnb when strangers show up with suitcases

Woman checking door stock photo.
Photo credit Getty Images
By , KNX 1070 Newsradio

If you’re thinking about buying a new house, make sure its not listed on Airbnb before you move in.

Otherwise, you might find yourself in the pickle Jeff Branch and his family found themselves in last month. CBS Los Angeles investigated the strange tale.

Branch, the homeowner, moved into a home in the Santa Monica Mountains with his wife and children around four months ago. In early November, they took a trip out of town.

While they were away, the family received an unexpected message from their pet-sitter.

“Did you rent your house for the weekend?” she asked via text.

They hadn’t.

However, their home was listed on the Airbnb peer-to-peer home rental site for $450 per night. It was described as a “modern masterpiece,” by whoever generated the listing. Photos on the site were from when the home was up for sale.

Branch’s pet sitter told him that people who had responded to the listing were at his front door with suitcases, expecting to stay in his home.

“I was a bit surprised, but not surprised. It got me to really realize just how easy it is for people to do anything online without anyone’s permission,” he said.

Immediately after discovering the Airbnb post, Branch contacted the company. While he was told his case would be “escalated to a specialized team,” and that someone would contact him that night, he heard nothing.

As for his home’s Airbnb listing, Branch said that stayed up for weeks after he reached out. In fact, it was up so long that yet another stranger showed up at his door believing they had rented the home.

“It’s not a comfortable situation when people show up at your house and have seen pictures on the internet and say, ‘I paid for this house,'” Branch said.

Airbnb listed that the host’s identity was verified. However, the company “does not do anything to verify the address to the make sure the person listing the property actually owns it,” according to CBS Los Angeles.

After digging into the host’s profile, the outlet found a listing for another home in Kern County, where Branch’s home is. A reverse image search on Google of the other home showed it is actually on Sunset Boulevard in Brentwood.

Though Branch said Airbnb was slow to act when he called, both listings were down shortly after CBS Los Angeles contacted the company.

“Until the media speaks up and they could potentially get bad press, they don’t care,” Branch said.

Airbnb provided CBS Los Angeles with this statement:

“Trust is at the heart of everything we do, and bad actors have no place in the Airbnb community. This homeowner is correct, and we’ve taken action to ban both the listing and the host from our platform.”

Furthermore, the company said it does not release funds until after check-in and it uses software to detect fake listings. It said such listings are rare.

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