'It was bait and switch' says Winnipeg man after booking luxury condo in L.A. through Airbnb

A Winnipeg man thought he had booked a dream vacation in the heart of Hollywood but it turned into a nightmare after the condo he thought he had rented through Airbnb was anything but glamorous.

Online apartment-sharing site to reimburse for $700 costs of finding a hotel

The condo posted on Airbnb looked great, but it was too good to be true. (Submitted)

A Winnipeg man thought he had booked a dream vacation but it turned out to be a nightmare after the condo he rented through Airbnb was anything but glamorous.

"When we arrived, the unit was not at all the one advertised, it was completely different," said Daniel Guenther.

Guenther, his husband Chris and two of their friends had always wanted to go to Hollywood, so he booked a condo in Los Angeles through Airbnb.com, a website that allows people to rent out their homes or apartments for limited periods of time. 

The condo was listed as a "5 star" two bedroom unit in the "heart of Hollywood."

Guenther made the reservation for Feb. 18 and put down $1,025 for four nights.

"It was advertised as a luxury unit." 

However Guenther said he was shocked when they arrived.

"We thought this isn't the one we booked, this is the wrong unit. This doesn't look like the pictures," he said.

"The condo was completely dirty, there was hair and dust everywhere, there was still laundry in the washing machine, the stove was disgusting," Guenther said.

"And the toilet was backed up, it was broken and the condo smelled like a sewage," he said.

"It was a completely different condo, it was bait and switch."
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      Guenther said he immediately started to take pictures so he could show them to the condo owner and Airbnb.

      He said he emailed the condo owner and was told he was in the right condo building and that the toilet would be fixed within a couple of days.

      Guenther said an agent with Airbnb apologized after seeing the photos and offered to set him up in a another condo in the area, but there were no available units at the time.

      "We had nowhere to stay," Guenther said.

      "By this time it was 10 o'clock at night in L.A., in a city we don't know, and Airbnb said 'we're working to get you a refund but we can't find you somewhere to stay tonight,'" he said.
      Chris Guenther, left, Steven Slusarchuk, second from left, Daniel Guenther and Sheena Sass rented what was advertised as a five-star unit in Hollywood. (Daniel Guenther)

      Guenther said the company offered to pay for an "emergency hotel stay" until the issue got sorted out. He said the company also promised to cover any extra expenses including food.

      Guenther said it was difficult to find a hotel in Los Angeles that could take in four people late at night, and he was told most rooms were booked with the Oscars being a week away.

      He said he eventually found a hotel room, and the bill came to $700 (US$465) for one night. But Guenther said the next day an agent at Airbnb told him the company could only cover up to US$150 for the hotel.

      "We just needed a safe location nearby," he said. "It's been extremely frustrating, we lost almost half of our vacation time in L.A. dealing with Airbnb because for the first day and a half we didn't know where we would be staying."

      He wanted a full reimbursement for hotel costs, and on Monday night an Airbnb spokesperson said he would get it. 

      "When situations like this happen we want to make things right, that's why in this instance we previously reimbursed the guest for the cost of their stay and we will be providing a full reimbursement to him for the cost of his hotel rooms," spokesperson Lindsey Scully said in a statement. 

      But Guenther said he's learned his lesson and won't be booking with Airbnb again. 

      He also has a warning to other travellers planning to book with the website.

      "Be very cautious, because even a five-star review can mean nothing ... obviously all websites' reviews you have to take with a grain of salt but it's very clear that Airbnb does not have a good system in place for ensuring that the condos or units that you're renting are indeed the actual ones."

      Guenther said the company should do more to crack down on falsely advertised condo rental units.

      A Winnipeg man thought he had booked a dream vacation but it turned out to be a nightmare after the condo he rented through Airbnb was anything but glamorous. 0:51

      He said the agent with Airbnb had also told him there had been similar complaints in the past about the same condo listed on the site.

      "They should know to take down Airbnb listings that they know to be fraudulent, that they know are a scam," he said. 

      "You buy a Mercedes and now it's a rusted-out Chevrolet right? It's a completely different product than what you purchased."

      Scully said Airbnb tries to prevent such incidents, using "sophisticated technologies and behavioral analysis" to try to identify potentially troublesome guests and hosts, requires government-issued ID, and provides ways for guests and hosts to communicate before the booking to ensure a good fit. 

      "We always investigate concerning behaviour that is reported to us. Hosting is a big responsibility and those who repeatedly fail to meet our expectations will be subject to suspension or removal," the statement said.