WHEN Cory Tschogl wanted to rent out her luxury flat on a holiday let she cast her net wide and posted an advertisement on the dedicated website Airbnb.
But after letting it to a user who called himself Maksym, and who said he wanted the flat for more than a month during a business trip, she now faces a six-month court fight to have him evicted at a cost of about £3,000.
Miss Tschogl, 39, said her life has turned into a living nightmare, as the man who agreed a temporary let is now effectively claiming squatting rights and wants to be treated as a regular tenant of her poolside flat in Palm Springs, California.
She said her case should be a warning to others who use Airbnb, a web-based service which enables private individuals to let out their homes to strangers for a fee. She said: “Thousands of vacation rental owners are vulnerable, and they don’t know it.
“The public needs to know, lawmakers need to know, and sites like Airbnb need to know and improve upon their policies, procedures and protections.”
Miss Tschogl rented out her buy-to-let flat, a 600 sq-ft property to Maksym, who did not have any online reviews, but she agreed as she needed the money and rented it from 25 May to 8 July, a total of 44 days.
Maksym paid for 30 days up front but things went awry after he checked in and complained about the tap water and the fact there was a gated entrance to the apartment block.
He then asked for a full refund to which Miss Tschogl agreed and contacted Airbnb, which asked Maksym to leave on 27 May.
However, he stayed on after the deadline and after swapping angry text messages with him. Miss Tschogl decided it was best to just let him see out the course of his original reservation.
She said: “It became a confusing situation. Both I and Airbnb told the guest to leave, but he would not.”
Come the day he was due to move out, however, he was still in the property so Miss Tschogl texted him to say she would shut off the utilities if he did not leave.
At that point he responded with his own threats.
Miss Tschogl said: “It almost sounded like blackmail.
“He threatened to sue me, saying his brother was there and got an ulcer due to the tap water. He said he was legally occupying my domicile and he has rights.” Miss Tschogl, a rehabilitation therapist, consulted a lawyer and found that, under Californian law, if somebody is in a home for 30 days or more they are considered to be a tenant on a month-to-month lease.
They must therefore be formally evicted, a process that can take three to six months. The same rules apply in New York.
Airbnb was founded in 2008 and is seen as one of the leading examples of the “sharing economy” in which people work directly with one another instead of through companies.
It has 500,000 listings in 192 countries and is said to be worth £6 billion but it has been hit by legal challenges.
Airbnb has also been used by fraudsters before and people have lost money to conmen who claim to own apartments but just take the cash.
In one case a victim lost £150,000 booking a trip to Saudi Arabia, said travel association Abta.
Airbnb said it would refund Miss Tschogl for the full 44-day reservation.
An Airbnb spokesman said: ‘In the last week, officials from our team have been in incredibly close contact with this host and she has been paid the full cost of the reservation and we’re working with her to provide additional support as we move forward.”