Is Airbnb turning into a holiday nightmare?

Is Airbnb turning into a holiday nightmare? As residents of Mexico City take to the streets in protest – Femail reveals a string of scandals from deaths to hidden spy cameras

  • Mexico City residents have taken to streets after  being pushed out of homes
  • Landlords can earn more from Airbnb than by renting to private tenants
  • Users of the service have found spy cameras in smoke detectors and cupboards
  • Three Americans were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning on holiday 

Airbnb used to be a holidaymaker’s dream, offering the chance to stay in a chic home away from home, often at a cheaper rate than a hotel.

But while business may be booming for the holiday rental firm, reporting a record revenue of $2.88 billion for the third quarter in November, it’s had to weather a series of scandals in recent years.

Landlords looking to make extra income through a rental empire has lead the company to unwelcome associations with greed and gentrification.

And now residents are taking to the streets in Mexico City to protest at being pushed out, or not having their contracts renewed because the landlord can Airbnb the property for eight times the rental price.

This comes on top of other negative headlines, such as people finding spy cameras in their properties and the death of three Americans from carbon monoxide poisoning while on holiday.

Here Femail reveals the storms taking away the gloss of Airbnb’s popularity.


British tourist Dougie Hamilton holding a digitial clock, which he said contained a recording device  (left). What appears to be the camera, pictured, at the Airbnb in Toronto (right) 

In 2018 a British couple revealed their horror at finding a ‘spy camera’ in an Airbnb flat while on holiday in the center of Toronto, Canada.

Dougie Hamilton, 34, of Glasgow, Scotland said what tipped him off was that the clock was ‘connected to a wire-like a phone charger’ and feared it may have taken video of the couple.

The host of the property had ‘six other properties [available for rent on Airbnb] and hundreds of reviews,’ Hamilton said he was told by Airbnb.

‘We have removed the host from the platform while we investigate and are providing the guest with our full support,’ Lindsey Scully, a spokesperson for Airbnb told the MailOnline at the time. ‘We take privacy issues extremely seriously and have a zero tolerance policy for this behavior.’

Dougie Hamilton, 34 (pictured), said he found a ‘spy camera’ in a digital clock in an Airbnb in Toronto, Canada

Toronto police confirmed they were investigating the incident, but did not release the name or names of any suspects.

Hamilton said he found the device in a digital clock after being in the home with his girlfriend for just 20 minutes.

‘We’d had a busy day around the city and finally were able to get to the Airbnb and relax,’ he said.

‘I just happened to be facing this clock and was staring at it for about 10 minutes. There was just something in my head that made me feel a bit uneasy.’

He had recently seen a video on Facebook, he said, about ‘spy cameras,’ and it got his mind wondering whether this odd-looking clock might be one.

He said: ‘I thought, “Do I want to be the crazy guy that checks a digital clock for cameras now?”. In my head, I felt a bit weird even thinking it and I kept telling myself not to be daft. But there was just something.’

‘I took the charger out of it and saw there was a lithium battery in the back. At this point, I slid the front facing off the clock and could see there actually was a camera.’

He added: ‘We didn’t know if the owner had been watching. It just felt really creepy and we didn’t want to stay.

‘We’re innocent-minded people but the clock was facing where our bed was and we thought it might be for something more sinister like a sex ring.’

Hamilton said the camera faced the living room and bedroom and ‘could see everything’.


The run-down resort in Tamarindo had been closed for two years by the time Sebastian and his wife Amy arrived, looking nothing like the pictures from their booking 

In January of this year an Airbnb customer told of his ‘holiday from hell’ after finding his hotel was boarded up after its owners ‘abandoned it two years ago’.

Sebastian Alexander from Hereford, Herefordshire, said his ‘luxury’ trip turned into a nightmare when he arrived at the resort ub Costa Rica that looked ‘like a prison camp’.

The 33-year-old forked out over £1,000 for a 10-day stay at Hotel Casa Blanca in Tamarindo with his wife Amy.

The listing had promised the couple blue skies and a palm tree-covered beach that looked to be a dream trip.

But when they arrived at the end of December 2021 the hotel was deserted and boarded up with mesh fencing.

What they thought they were getting: Amy and Sebastian thought they were going to stay in a luxury villa(above), instead it looked more like a ‘prison camp’

Mr Alexander said: ‘It really was a nightmare. It was one of those holidays from hell situations.

‘When we got there, it was all boarded up. It looked pretty run down with the fences up and no foliage outside. It’d just kind of been left there.

‘It was literally like a prison camp. You couldn’t get in there, it’d been gutted.

‘We looked on [other websites], everywhere, every single property was fully booked. Tamarindo is the place to be for New Year in Costa Rica.

‘The only other place we could find was [a large chain hotel] which was £4,700 a night. It was that insane.

‘We travel quite a lot and this is our thing. It’s been two years and it was meant to be a nice trip to Costa Rica for three weeks.

Expectation vs reality: The dream holiday turned into a nightmare, with the pair forking out for a hotel at the last minute. Left: The advert for the property online. Right: The real location, further back from the beach and desolate looking

‘After the experience, I don’t want to use Airbnb ever again.’

Alexander said he was told when coronavirus hit the owners of the abandoned property handed the keys back.

He claimed he contacted Airbnb on the live chat facility but the chats kept closing and they were left without help.

He claimed he got several automated emails from Airbnb about his upcoming stay and questioned why the company have not vetted hotels.

He claimed Airbnb had initially refused to offer compensation for the amount spent to use on alternative accommodation.

Airbnb said it offered ‘reimbursement for additional expenses’ incurred during their stay.

But the firm would not answer whether there were processes in place to check in with hosts to see if properties are still available since the pandemic.

A spokesman for Airbnb said: ‘Our original handling of this matter fell below the usual high standards we set for ourselves.

‘We have reached out to the guest to apologise and offer further support, and have suspended the Host from the platform.

‘With more than 1 billion arrivals to date, negative experiences on Airbnb are rare, but where they do happen, we work hard to make things right and our customer service team is on hand 24/7 to help.’


Virginia resident Kandace Florence flew to Mexico City to celebrate the Day of Dead festivities with two of her friends. Florence contacted her boyfriend October 30 to tell him that she was not feeling well. At one point the phone call dropped and her boyfriend attempted to get her back on the phone. He then contacted the Airbnb host to do a wellness check and authorities found Florence and her two friends dead in the apartment

Three people were found dead at a Mexico City Airbnb in October 2022 after inhaling carbon monoxide while on vacation in Mexico City.

Us residents Jordan Marshall and Kandace Florence, both aged 28, and Courtez Hall, 33, were each found dead on October 30 inside the Airbnb home they were renting out in the borough of Cuajimalpa de Morelos.

Florence, of Virginia Beach, and Marshall, of New Orleans, had traveled together to meet up with Marshalls’s friend Hall, who also resided in New Orleans, and celebrate the Day of the Dead festivities.

Courtez Hall, a teacher in New Orleans, flew to Mexico City on October 29 to vacation with two friends  and celebrate the Day of the Dead. The 33-year-old was found dead alongside Virginia natives Kandace Florence and Jordan Marshall

Jordan Marshall was one of the three Americans who were found dead inside a Mexico City apartment October 30. The cause of death for him and his two friends is unknown

Florence reportedly informed her boyfriend during a conversation on the night of October 30 that she was not feeling well.

The phone call suddenly dropped and after failing to get her back on the phone, he reached out to the Airbnb host and asked them if they could visit the residence for a wellness check.

Security at the apartment complex requested the assistance of the Mexico City police after detecting a strong gas odor from the trio’s apartment, according to the Mexico City prosecutor’s office.

‘According to the [forensic] expert studies carried out, the three people referred to died of carbon monoxide poisoning,’ the attorney general’s office said.

The families said they have been in contact with the US embassy to repatriate their bodies and have autopsies done.

Marshall and Florence were friends since high school. Marshall and Hall were teachers in the New Orleans school system and Florence operated her own candle business.

Marshall’s mother Jenifer Marshall said: ‘To lose your child is one thing, but in a whole other country and having to maneuver language barriers and travel and trying to get his body home, it’s been a lot.’


People and groups fighting for decent housing demonstrate outside the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing in Mexico City

Mexico City residents have taken to the streets to decry the service provider, claiming overpriced listings are pushing out locals. 

Protest slogans said ‘you are not welcome here’ as listings in Mexico City are reportedly being flogged for eight times the regular rental price. 

Average rent in the city has increased by 20 per cent in the last two years, and ranhes from as little as £37 up to £800 a month for apartments and houses in the centre of Mexico City. 

Airbnb are offering rooms in the from £70 a night to £430 a night, with an average cost of £55 a night. This means a landlord could make £1,540 a month through Airbnb – significantly higher than the monthly rental cost for locals.

Aljazeera reported the case of Sergio González, 52, who has lived in Mexico City for his entire life. 

Sergio describes himself as ‘twice displaced’ after he lost a legal battle in 2019 when he was reportedly forced to vacate his home of 16 years when the landlord decided to remodel the property and rent it out as a holiday home at an elevated rate. 

This is something a growing number of Mexico City residents have experienced, as the popularity of using an online rental service has seen a sharp increase, tenants have had their leases terminated instead of renewed. 


Going viral: The guest, who is named Tiffany Lee Ingalls, shared her experience from the ‘ridiculous’ Airbnb online, and it quickly caused an uproar on the internet

In December last year, an Airbnb host went viral after one of her guests shared her ‘insane’ list of rules and regulations – including instructions on how to open the shower curtain and information on which kind of glass to drink out of.

The guest Tiffany Lee Ingalls, who goes by the username @authentiffany_ on TikTok, shared her experience from the ‘over the top’ Airbnb online, and it quickly caused an uproar on the internet.

Upon arriving at the Airbnb, Tiffany – who is based in San Diego but did not share the location of the Airbnb – was shocked to discover an instruction sheet hanging from the doorknob.

It turns out, Tiffany was reprimanded by the Airbnb host when she used the ‘wrong cup’ to get some water

There were also little, laminated signs hung in almost ever corner of the rooms, with reminders like: ‘No open flames, no exceptions’

Upon arriving, Tiffany – who who is based in San Diego but did not share the location of the Airbnb – was shocked to discover an instruction sheet hanging from the doorknob

Thorough: Inside, there was an entire binder filled with pages upon pages of requirements – including detailed sections on each room in the house and every item in that room

It contained a list of rules like: no smoking and quiet hours between 10PM and 10AM, as well as directions on where the light switch was in the room and how the check-out process worked.

But it didn’t end there. When Tiffany entered the room, she realized there were even more commands that she had to follow.

Inside, there was an entire binder filled with pages upon pages of requirements – including detailed sections on each room in the house and every item in that room. The book was color-coded and hand-written.

There were also little, laminated signs hung in almost ever corner of the rooms, with reminders like: ‘No open flames, no exceptions. No candles, incense, matches, etc.,’ and, ‘Spill something? Break something? Stain something? Say something. If not, I will reduct ratings on Airbnb.’


Ian Hickton, of Stoke, was staying as a guest at an Airbnb this weekend when he found the list

 A man took to social media in 2019 after he was disturbed by ‘sinister’ bathroom rules from an Airbnb host. 

Ian Hickton, from Stoke, was staying as a guest at the accommodation last weekend when he found a bizarre list of specific bathroom rules and shared them on Twitter.

The disgruntled bass player said: ‘Actual house rules from the Airbnb I stayed at last night. Is this where @LeagueOfGentlem got the inspiration for Harvey and Val?’

He was referring to the League of Gentlemen characters Harvey And Val Denton, who have a strange set of house rules designed to confuse guests to the point of madness.

 ‘Is this where @LeagueOfGentlem got the inspiration for Harvey and Val?’ asked Ian on Twitter

The list started off with more reasonable requests before descending into pointers on how to use the ‘mandatory’ toilet brush, and how men should use the toilet.

‘Please try your best to use the washbasin without splashing the mirror,’ it begins, before the host suggests that ‘as a sign of courtesy’ to the next user, their chrome taps should be cleaned.

Many people have had to deal with a difficult housemate and so maybe the request to use a shower mat and squeegee to remove any water ‘clinging’ onto the glass shower door could be filed under reasonable.

The list was met with a lot of amusement from Twitter users, with one branding it ‘sinister’ 

But then the requests begin to get more specific – and much less reasonable.

‘The use of the toilet brush is not optional,’ the rules state, elaborating that the purpose of the brush is to ‘remove any signs of your passage, of whatever colour, from inside the toilet (above and below the water line), from the toilet rim, and from the underside of the toilet seat’.

‘Gentlemen, it would be highly appreciated if you took a seat both for number one and for number two,’ the rules continue, before a reminder to make sure the bathroom floor is dry when guests exit.

Understandably the list was met with amusement from Twitter users, with one person branding the homeowner’s rules ‘sinister’.

One said: ‘”Do not leave any traces of your passage” how sinister is that?!’


After suing Airbnb in 2016, a man who claims the company ‘discriminated against him’ is one of two new founders for online holiday home services. 

In the same year, two new websites have been set up as an alternative to Airbnb by people who feel the billion-dollar company does not do enough to combat discrimination. and are two separate startups that were set up by black people in a bid to be the go-to alternative after they personally experienced discrimination when using Airbnb.

This comes just weeks after user Gregory Selden launched a lawsuit against the popular house sharing website after he claims a homeowner turned him down because of his skin colour.

The website startups came just weeks after Airbnb user Gregory Selden (pictured) launched a lawsuit against the popular house sharing website after he claims a homeowner turned him down because of his skin colour

 Despite the confusingly similar names – which are a coincidence – Noirbnb and Noirebnb are run by different people.

However Noirbnb’s founders, Stefan Grant and Ronnia Cherry, claim to have had the name and idea first.

The pair were staying at an Airbnb in Decatur, Georgia, with friends in 2015 when a neighbor suspected them of robbing the house they were renting – and ended up calling the police.

They went to Airbnb’s headquarters after suggesting to them ways that it could tackle racism via email.

Ronnia told BuzzFeed news: ‘They opened their doors and ears to us but I don’t think it was as much a priority within the company as it was a priority with the people.’

Although Stefan and Ronnia plan to create a platform entirely unique, Noirebnb can be seen to have based its website around that of Airbnb.

Rohan Gilkes announced the launch on Monday days after his blog post about being discriminated against by an Airbnb host in Idaho went viral.

According to BuzzFeed news, Gilkes explained that the ‘biggest challenge’ will be the volume, and said it will be ‘difficult to get things moving’ until the number of hosts and number of guests even out.

Like Stefan and Ronnia, he also contacted Airbnb to talk about the issue of racial discrimination.

He received an apology two weeks later but said it was ‘a little too late’.

He also said that his suggestion for Airbnb to stop using profile pictures on the site to prevent racial profiling was dismissed by the company.

Gilkes says Noirbnb’s Facebook likes shot up in just a few hours on Monday – which he believes shows that the #AirbnbWhileBlack movement has the potential to work.

He said: ‘My email is destroyed. My Twitter mentions are destroyed. It’s not going to be difficult.’

Both Noirbnb and Noirebnb will be open to people who are not black and are open to outside funders.

 On Airbnb’s website they stipulate that discrimination ‘doesn’t have a place’ on the site and in 2020 launched their Lighthouse project, specifically designed address ‘disparities experienced on the site by people of colour’. 

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