Having squatters in your vacation rental can quickly become a legal nightmare. Airbnb squatters have certain rights and protections depending on where you’re from. However, so do rental hosts. Here’s what to do if you’re faced with the impossibly complicated and equally dreaded Airbnb squatters debacle.
What is An ‘Airbnb Squatter’?
Airbnb squatters are guests who refuse to leave once their check-out date comes around. Sometimes known as “illegal occupiers”, Airbnb squatters choose not to vacate premises for a variety of reasons.
Whether it be lack of money, drug addiction, or sometimes even more complicated situations, Airbnb squatters need to be dealt with very carefully. Some might be surprised to hear that short-term rental properties suffer from squatter issues because it is more commonly seen in longer-rental property agreements.
Hospitable defines Airbnb squatters as “Airbnb squatters are guests who fail to check out after their check-out date. In other words, they do not leave the property when they’re supposed to. Many of them are sophisticated scam artists who know very well how to use the existing rental laws to their advantage.”
Why is This Issue So Common in Long-Term Bookings?
The long- vs short-term rental debate when it comes to Airbnb squatters hinges on the written agreements that you have with your tenant/guest/squatter.
Long-term renters are protected by leases. However, so are their landlords. These leases state everything from rent value and due date to notice period and emergency procedure. In a courtroom, most tenant-landlord disagreements are handled by returning to the terms of the original lease agreement.
Unfortunately, short-term rental hosts do not have the same protections. This is where the terminology comes into play. Long-term rental hosts have tenants. Short-term rental hosts have guests. In legal terms, this is a big difference.
What’s the Difference Between a Guest and a Tenant?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a guest is “a person who is staying at a hotel”. And according to that same dictionary, a tenant is “a person who pays rent for the use of a room, building, land, etc. to the person who owns it”.
Legal Beagle says this of the difference between a guest and a tenant – “State law determines when the length of a guest’s stay transforms her into a tenant. Some states have laws that limit the length of stay and number of overnight guests. A landlord may add a clause to a lease to limit how long a guest can stay on the property. If the guest stays longer than this length of time, the landlord may consider the guest a tenant. The landlord may raise the rent if the lease provides for an increase. The landlord can also evict the guest and the tenant who invited the guest.”
Can You See Airbnb Squatters Coming?
While there are no obvious signs, there are a few things that should make you cautious. Seeing only a few of these signs isn’t enough to worry about, but if all of them are present, we would proceed with caution.
These signs are universal signs for concerning guests. You’d see the same things if the guest has been banned before, had a string of terrible reviews, or even caused property damage.
- No Guest Reviews
- Newly Created Profile
- No ID Verification
- No Profile Picture
- Incomplete Profile
As we said, one or two of these is not enough to reject a booking, but if all of them are present, we strongly advise that you only proceed with extreme caution.
What Should I Do If I Have Airbnb Squatters?
Evicting people is one of the most complex scenarios that any Airbnb host can find themselves in. The most important thing is to stay calm and never try to remove Airbnb squatters by force. You need a member of law enforcement present. You never know what people will try to accuse you of in order to hide their own bad behavior.
Talk to the Guest
Your first port of call should always be to talk to the guest directly. Only once you’ve attempted to make contact several times should you move on to the next step.
After you’ve attempted to speak to the guest directly, involve the booking platform. They will be able to see the dates of the booking, and they’ll have personal guest contact information that you may not have.
Airbnb will attempt to contact the Airbnb squatter and press the critical nature of the issue. Remember, Airbnb doesn’t want any bad press. Keep pressure on the platform to solve this issue. They were placed in your listing by Airbnb. Airbnb takes more than a big enough cut of the rental fee to be forced to handle issues of this nature.
Call the Police
As America is such a diverse country with so many laws on a state level differing from place to place, what local law enforcement does to help depends heavily on where you live.
Speak to your local police station and see what they would recommend. They may agree to accompany you to the property and reiterate the need for your former guests to vacate the property. Some local jurisdictions allow for forced evictions without a court order once you’ve proven that you’re the owner of the property and the guests have overstayed their booking.
Get a Lawyer
The next step in the process is to get some legal representation. Reaching this step means you’ve tried every other avenue, but sadly have to go the expensive legal battle route. While the time, money, and loss of income caused by your Airbnb squatters likely won’t be recuperated, you can relax knowing that property owners win these battles the vast majority of the time.
In preparation for ever reaching this step, make sure you always save your communications with your short-term rental guests. You never know when you’ll need to ‘show the receipts’.
Take It To Court
Reaching the fifth and final step is highly unlikely. Chances are, the police being called on them will scare the Airbnb squatters away long before. However, if none of your previous tactics work, taking the legal route is the next option. Sadly, it’s unlikely you’ll get your money back, even if the court rules in your favor, but you will have your listing back!
Does Airbnb Offer Any Sort of Payout for Lost Revenue?
Officially, no. But like many things in life, you’ll never know unless you ask. We’ve heard from a few hosts who have lived through the Airbnb squatter nightmare and received a payout from Airbnb. Of course, they needed to file a claim first and we doubt it was an easy road, but they did manage to get some money out of Airbnb.
Sadly, there is a risk that comes with everything in life and vacation rentals are no exception. Set a list of things that you require before you allow someone to rent your property. Require your guests to be ID verified on Airbnb, for example. Or only accept guests with no negative reviews.
If you know your legal rights and follow the law down to the tee, you can handle Airbnb squatters – no matter how long it might take.