San Francisco Burglary Inspires Changes At Airbnb

Airbnb posting attracts dangerous element to renter's home.

ByABC News
July 28, 2011, 5:29 PM

Aug. 2, 2011 — -- An online short-term rental went horribly wrong for a San Francisco woman after someone who signed up through trashed and robbed her place.

After posting a "sunny, bright, cozy loft" on the rental marketplace, the woman, who uses the pseudonym EJ, returned to find the apartment ransacked by a renter using the name "DJ Pattrson."

Following a media firestorm, Airbnb, an online marketplace in the same vein as Craigslist that focuses on short-term rentals of homes, apartments and bedrooms for people on the go, has implemented changes to the rental process for users. On Monday, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote a blog post apologizing to EJ and detailing the new tools.

In an item titled "Our Commitment to Trust and Safety" Chesky wrote, "…[W]e let her down, and for that we are very sorry...We should have responded faster, communicated more sensitively, and taken more decisive action to make sure she felt safe and secure."

The company's new safety tool, Airbnb Guarantee, covers theft and vandalism charges of up to $50,000 for hosts and the online market place is creating a trust and safety department.

These changes came after a June blog post on "Around the World and Back Again" had gone viral and threatened to hinder the Web site's meteoric rise.

"I returned home from an exhausting week of business travel to an apartment that I no longer recognized. To an apartment that had been ransacked…My home had been burglarized, vandalized and thoroughly trashed by a 'traveler' I connected with via the online rental agency,," wrote host EJ.

Attempts to reach "EJ" were unsuccessful. San Francisco Police, who are looking into the case, said she didn't want to be identified.

Airbnb is utilized by both hosts and renters. The hosts pay a fee of 3 percent for successful bookings.

Renters are billed a service fee of 6 to 12 percent to utilize the website that has investors like Ashton Kutcher.

Last week, the company announced $112 million in financing and has seen its valuation increase to more than $1 billion.

The Web site has a social media component that allows users to interact on the platform without disclosing any personal information like email addresses or phone numbers.

The service does not allow users to communicate off the platform until a payment or offer is accepted on the portal. At that point, travelers and hosts communicate about how to access the room or apartment for rent.