One time, in our foreign country days, we rented out our guest room at Airbnb.com . It was the perfect set-up: separate entrance, patio access, en-suite.
Until someone died.
Still reading? Here’s the story:
He was an excellent house guest. He had good references, was quiet, kept to himself, and very clean. We agreed he would stay with us two weeks.
About five days in, I noticed we hadn’t really seen him for a day. Or was it two? When did we see him last? I wasn’t sure, so I re-arranged his groceries, put a piece of tape around his door jam, and left him a friendly note. 24 hours later, nothing.
That’s when we started asking ourselves some really crazy questions:
- At what point do you invade a stranger’s privacy in your own home?
- What if he just took a day trip?
- What if he’s laying in that room dead?
- What if I get a bad review online?
- Worse, what if he’s MISSING?!
First, a neighbor and I decided that three days was the point we should enter the room and make sure he isn’t dead in there. I used all my college RA training and keyed into our guestroom with proper warning.
What I found was disturbing. All his belongings were neatly laid out as if he had just stepped out for a minute: money, ID, backpack, wallet, cell phone, etc. He hasn’t needed these things for three days?
This can’t be good.
We were careful not to touch anything and locked the room back up. Several things were immediately clear:
- I shouldn’t have agreed to an “off the record” Airbnb reservation because I could really use their help about now.
- I’m about to get really intimate with my local police.
The next two days were a flurry of visits to the police department, emails, Facebook posts, phone calls, embassy visitors, investigators, and curious neighbors.
They found him, waiting to be identified, in the morgue. A tragic but common accident had killed him instantly. Because he had no identification on his person, he had not been identified, and neither had his embassy.
Lessons we learned:
- My neurotic note taking and detective work came in very handy for filing a detailed police report.
- Always keep some form of ID on you, especially when traveling.
- My first instinct was correct.
- We could have been deported for renting a room out of employer provided housing. OOPS! (we took down the listing immediately)
- Don’t go “off the record” and make rental agreements outside of the official website just to save a few bucks.
- Backpackers carry a lot of tiny toiletries and ziplock bags.
If this ever happens to you:
- Write down all the details and specifics you can.
- Notify your embassy and the embassy of your house guest immediately.
- Depending on the country you are in, you should file a police report.
- Most importantly: Do whatever your embassy tells you to do.
Although this was all very intense (especially when his brother visited us a month later to collect his belongings), we are still fans of the sharing economy and look forward to future use. Airbnb is still our favorite accommodation booking site. We love meeting people from around the globe as hosts and guests.
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Have you had an unusual Airbnb experience?