An Airbnb host has taken to X, formerly known as Twitter, to seek restitution from the company after a guest flooded her home, leaving her unhoused while pregnant.
Erica Gemzer, who posts under the handle Coach Erika (@ErikaCoaches) on X, shared her tale on October 19th, and it quickly went viral with over 19 million views.
The host owns a two-story building in San Francisco, Calif., which she had bought with her life savings. While she lived in the downstairs unit with her husband, and their two pets, she rented the upstairs unit.
But after a long-term tenant moved out during COVID, around the same time that the couple had decided to start trying to grow their family, Erika decided to post the unit on Airbnb. This way, when it wasn’t in use, their family could have a place to stay when they came to town to assist with the newborn.
In April, Erika hosted an Airbnb guest for month-long stay but, she says, the guest left before the intended departure date. “They checked out early, no warning,” she writes. “They had clogged the bathroom toilet with baby wipes and human waste. They also damaged the valve that manages water flow from the tank to the bowl. A perfect storm.”
Exhausted and suffering from pregnancy nausea, Erika went to bed the night before at her regular time. She was unaware of the water overflowing from the toilet and into the apartment above her. This carried on for over 15 hours.
“Then I woke up to a nightmare: a literal sh*tstorm in my own house, flooding all 3 levels of the building that I bought with my life savings. And remember — it’s fecal water. 50% of the building ruined in 15 hours,” Erika recounts.
Erika called Airbnb for support. However they informed her that she would need to get the repairs done before she could file a claim against the guest. The company allegedly also told Erika that they could only create an internal case for Host Damage Protection if the guest refused to pay.
According to Airbnb’s website AirCover for Hosts provides $3 million in coverage in case a host’s residence or belongings are damaged by guests. The protection plan covers damage to the home, furnishings, belongings, and valuables. It also protects vehicles ranging from cars to boats. The coverage even extends to unexpected cleaning costs and income lost if you need to cancel confirmed Airbnb bookings.
At this point, Erika says she was facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs and months of construction for a house that she estimated was 50 percent damaged.
After she sent a bill of $130,000 for just the drying of the house to the guest, who promptly refused to pay, Airbnb placed her claim into the case system. This allegedly led to weeks of email exchanges and frustrating periods of waiting.
After seven weeks, Erika says the third party plumber Airbnb hired finally arrived to confirm the damages. The host believed she would now be fast tracked to receive her compensation. But it wasn’t so simple.
“Airbnb emailed me alluding to some doubt about the origin of the baby wipes and feces (huh?). They hinted at concerns about maintenance issues on the toilet (what?),” Erika writes.
Eventually, she says, the company offered her $6,000 but also “asked [her] to sign away [her] rights to future payments.”
Six months later, Erika has allegedly exchanged emails with Airbnb over 146 times. Her expenses have also reportedly climbed to over $300,379.
“I’m still homeless. I’m still pregnant (baby due any day now),” Erika shares.
According to the host, she now has a case manager (that she only got thanks to a friend who works at the company) who responds to her emails, but she hasn’t seen a single dollar to cover her expenses. Airbnb’s latest offer of $31,000 still came with the caveat of Erika having to give up her rights to any future payments.
Still, she has hope that her story will have a happy ending.
“I want to believe that Airbnb will make this right…It’s out of desperation alone that I share my story. I’ve tried every other avenue to escalate this issue. I hope that someone at Airbnb will try to turn this story from horrific financial ruin to a cliffhanger thriller, where in the final moments, things go right.”
Many X users offered their support and were shocked by her experience.
One person wrote, “This is a living nightmare. I am so sorry. I cannot believe you are STILL having to deal with this. Also… WHY ARE PEOPLE STILL FLUSHING BABY WIPES?”
“Terrible… I hope you’ll finally get Airbnb to do what’s right!” another offered.
“I’ve heard too many horror stories related to AirBnB. I have not and will not ever use this “service.” I wish this person the best and hope that this multi million dollar company does the right thing, but I won’t hold my breath,” a third user wrote.
Airbnb Help even commented in the thread, and requested Erika to email them with further details.
The Daily Dot reached out to Erika via X comments and Airbnb via email for further information.