Have you ever settled into your Airbnb, unpacked all of your bags, jumped into your bed, and felt like someone was watching you? Well, it turns out it wasn't just a bad feeling after all.
Separate accounts from past Airbnb guests have reported that while staying in their rental, they discovered hidden cameras situated around the dwelling. In fact, the discovery isn't that rare at all, with Airbnb even updating their rules to address the possibility of cameras in a host's home.
Although you might assume that both Airbnb and law enforcement would be on your side if you uncovered hidden cameras during your stay... well, it's actually more complicated than you think.
TL;DR Multiple complaints from past guests have confirmed that Airbnb hosts have rigged a unit with hidden cameras in an attempt to spy on guests. With Airbnb not offering the support that victims expected, seeking justice against the host is more difficult than you may think.
According to The Atlantic, one case of an Airbnb host being caught recording guests with hidden cameras ended with the rental company offering little assistance, even while the mistreatment of the guests-turned-victims was reported by multiple sources.
Although Airbnb will pay for back-up accommodations and refund your stay if a camera is found in a rental that violates rules, they also made changes in 2018 that allow hosts to install cameras in both living rooms and outdoor areas.
This rule is meant to help hosts identify if a guest has stolen anything, lied about who would be staying in the accommodation, or to catch unruly guests that trash the unit and more.
It is also clearly stated that cameras are prohibited in bathrooms and anywhere a guest is expected to sleep. If you happen to book your stay at an accommodation that is equipped with cameras, a pop-up will ask you to click "agree" that you've given your consent to be filmed.
So, what happens if you spot a hidden camera next to your bed or in the bathroom? Well, it turns out that Airbnb isn't always cooperative. The Atlantic confirms that Airbnb has asked multiple guests who found hidden cameras to risk putting themselves in harm's way, going as far as asking a guest to reach out to the host independently, and even return to their home, which could lead to a dangerous confrontation.
When it comes to reporting the incident to the police, the situation doesn't get any better.
Police don't enforce Airbnb's terms of service, therefore the rental in question is instead seen as the host's home.
This would make perfect sense as to why someone would want to install hidden cameras, meaning if you happened to make a getaway with the recording device in an attempt to thwart the intentions of the host, you may actually be charged with theft.
So, what are you supposed to do then if you find a hidden camera in your Airbnb and you don't remember consenting to being filmed?
To receive a refund for your stay and compensation for needing a new accommodation (if necessary) you have to contact Airbnb's Trust & Safety team with your complaint and proof that a camera was discovered.
Airbnb will then decide whether or not to open an investigation on the host, with the possibility of their listing(s) being removed from the site entirely.
Next time you've arrived at your home-away-from-home, remember to check the area for any secret cameras propped around the dwelling. You never know who could be spying on you during your stay...