May 18, 2024
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By sfist

Airbnb’s $3 million damage insurance is not as good as it seems, says a popular Twitter thread by SF Airbnb hosts who claim that the company has left them on the hook to pay for thousands of dollars in damages.

Airbnb’s short-term rental service uses a “Host Damage Protection” policy to convince hosts to sign up. The company claims that it will cover $3 million in damages if a guest causes damage. But after being given the runaround for months, the host only received $31,000.

Above is the host, Erika Gemzer. She rents (or used to rent) out the top floor in her Mission District duplex. Her lengthy Twitterstorm detailing the nightmare starts. The Chronicle reported that Gemzer has now backed off the claim that she was “homeless”, stating that she had rented out a number of Airbnbs since her duplex became uninhabitable and that the insurance on her house pays for the rent she signed recently. As she states in the thread above, “I have moved three times during those 2.5 months,” she’s also pregnant.

It all started mid-April when a “group of engineers”, as described by the Chronicle, stayed for a whole month and flushed an enormous amount of wipes into the toilet. The result was a massive toilet flood on both floors of the house, as well as other problems. She says that it will take months to rebuild and cost several hundred thousand dollars.

Gemzer adds, too, that Airbnb only gave her a 14 day window to file a claim for damages far too costly to be properly assessed in such a brief time. She still has to pay property taxes and mortgage payments on the uninhabitable apartment, in addition to mold and water damage repairs and replacements of furniture and appliances. Gemzer tweeted: “My expenses that are not reimbursed have reached $300,379.” Just headaches, 146 emails and back-and forth with Airbnb Support.

After 146 emails and more, Gemzer claims Airbnb gave her a “final offer” of $31,000.

They advertise that $3 million is available for host protection. As a host you are assured that we will cover all your needs, so do not worry,” Gemzer told KGO in an interview. It turns out that 90% of this isn’t covered. “They have made me an offer for $31,000.”

Airbnb has responded to Gemzer’s story, now that it is receiving national coverage in the media. In this instance, we took Aircover requests very seriously. The Host refused to allow a third party to inspect the damages, saying that her homeowners’ insurance covered the temporary accommodations and the damage. We offered her additional compensation, the insurance deductible, and to cover any lost bookings as a goodwill gesture. “We have maintained constant contact with the host, and spoke to her today to show our support.”

Airbnb may have some ways to get around this. The Chronicle reports that the SF Planning Department has said the unit is not approved for stays “of intermediate length” of a week or longer, as was the case with the engineers who damaged the toilet. The Chron article also noted that the short-term permit was refused for this unit.

Airbnb’s playbook may include hurdles such as 14-day claims windows or out-of pocket expenses that they do not reimburse. This could make the $3,000,000 host damage insurance claim be easily negated by things like simple baby wipes.

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