What started as a way to meet people from around the world and achieve some financial freedom has become a favorite target for the powers that be.
After hosting people in my house for the past 10 years with literally thousands of guests under my belt, it’s time to spill the beans and write down my impressions of the controversial Airbnb situation.
My own journey as an Airbnb host started with my love for travel and meeting people. My philosophy has always been, once I accept a guest, I own them for the duration. If I can’t manage a dysfunctional personality for three days then maybe there’s something wrong with me. On the other hand, three days with a lunatic can feel like three years. But for the most part, it’s been a fascinating and fun adventure, and some guests have even brought me tears of joy and humbled me.
One such guest was a woman who requested a 4-day stay but informed me that she had a birth defect which made walking difficult. She was aware that my house had stairs and said if I preferred an able-bodied guest, she would understand. I accepted her and carried her in my arms (and on my back at times) up and down. This beautiful soul had traveled all over the world, shared wonderful tales and never once allowed her disability to dampen her spirit or showed an ounce of self-pity. To this day, she is an inspiration and her smile is imprinted on my mind.
While most of my guests have been a positive experience, there have been a few that stick out as … well, unusual.
I had a Dutch gentleman who came to attend a self-actualization seminar. Every evening he would return and we would sit in my living room and he would share what he had learned. On his last day, I could see he was holding back tears, his emotions were palpable. He asked if he could give me a hug, I agreed and we stood in my living room for several minutes in an embrace. As tears rolled down his cheeks, he thanked me for opening my house and trusting him, and said he felt humbled by my kindness (in those days I hosted through couchsurfing.com and hosting was free). Days later he sent me an email stating he had notified his wife he wanted a divorce because he had met “the love of my life” in L.A. To say I was concerned was an understatement. I quickly inquired who this “love” might be. He replied it was a woman he met at the conference. Relief!
Another time, I hosted a couple who had an impressive profile of accomplishments on their Airbnb profile. As I do with all my guests, we sat down upon check-in to chat for a few minutes. They proceeded to tell me that not only was their entire profile a fabrication but their names were fake too. It was quite an awakening to be sitting in my living room with impostors who would soon have keys to my house. When I asked why, they explained they were Airbnb hosts and wanted to stay beneath the radar of the restrictive government hosting rules of their hometown.
Once a woman requested a 4-day stay but warned me ahead of time that she was severely allergic to peanuts, needed her sheets cleaned in scent-free soap and all cleaning products had to be eco-friendly. That’s not a problem, I already do those things, but the next demand was a deal killer: she wanted my house to be free of Wi-Fi and electrical current at night. I was expected to flip all the circuit breakers so she could rest without electromagnetic frequencies attacking her as she slept.
Then there was the French couple who wrote a bad review, complaining that my house was dirty and unfit to be a rental. They then emailed me requesting to return with their two kids for another three-day stay!
Yet, despite the handful of difficult guests, none can compare with the difficulty of navigating the new governmental regulations for short term rentals. What makes it most annoying is that almost all of this is the result of the hotel industry and its efforts to spread fear and loathing at the local level about the many “dangers” of Airbnb.
They’ve done a good job of convincing a lot of people. Although I’ve lived in my home for 15 years, I still have neighbors who insist that I’m breaking laws, endangering them or who believe I’m some-kind of money hungry exploiter of the neighborhood. I’m under constant surveillance, any hint that I have a guest can trigger stares of indignation. One night, I was at home tuning-up my bike when the doorbell rang. It was my nosy neighbor claiming she could hear my “renters” having sex. I explained that I was home alone lubing my Trek… she rolled her eyes and marched away.
Whole-home vacation rentals, perceived by the hospitality industry as the biggest threat, are now illegal in Santa Monica. Big score for the hotel lobby. While, I’m still allowed to “Airbnb” a portion of my personal residence, I can’t do the same with my other property which, because of new regulations, can only be rented for 30 days or more. If I rent it for less than that, I’m a criminal.
I can understand the need for fair regulations to make sure hosts obey existing ordinances — but not outright bans that remove basic property rights. The shared economy is here to stay, it’s not going away. I can’t think of a better way to empower people, particularly middle and working class people, than to allow them use their personal assets as a tool for self-enrichment.
Furthermore, the shared economy injects billions into local businesses, generating tax revenue that otherwise would have never existed. Their dollars empower all of us — it’s democracy at its best. My guests shop in my neighborhood, eat in my local restaurants and ride local transportation. The nearest hotel charges $350 per night, the yoga teacher, student, policeman, hair dresser and other working men and women who stay at my place for $75 per night could never afford to pay hotel prices.
The shared economy, which includes being able to rent your home as you see fit, can take us back to the concept of building community instead of walls — unless we allow the hotel industry and the hysteria it’s created to take it away from the everyday people who hope to grow, experience and enjoy the satisfaction of owning their future. At the end of the day, both corporations and the shared economy can live in harmony — there is a place for both. After all, my dad could never enter a stranger’s house and vacation comfortably.
Copyright © Carl Paradise/2017 Singular Communications, LLC.
Carl Paradise is a professional pilot for a major airline, a member of SingularCity and an occasional contributor to Singular magazine. He enjoys traveling, home-sharing, dancing the tango, practicing yoga, fine vegetarian cuisine and sharing his experiences with our readers.