Just as Airbnb has achieved a fantastic victory in its home town of San Francisco, where city officials have finally made it legal, it is facing a PR disaster in New York.
The woman featured in a New York Airbnb ad campaign was once evicted for renting out an upstate property she didn’t own over Airbnb, New York Magazine reports.
New York Magazine’s Joe Coscarelli has a full profile on the woman, whose Airbnb username is “Shell.”
The story goes like this: Christopher Griffith leased a renovated 1880s Dutch barn he owns in Stuyvesant, New York, to Shell for $US4,000 a month. Shell told him that “artist friends from around the world would show up and collaborate.” He was down with that.
He didn’t realise Shell would be renting his property out (along with other properties she was leasing) over Airbnb, a violation of her lease with him. “Friends are one thing,” Griffith told Coscarelli. “Groups of social-networking strangers is a completely different ball of wax.”
In a crazy twist of fate, it was another social networking site, LinkedIn, that alerted him. LinkedIn showed him her profile and asked him if he knew her. Her LinkedIn profile indicates she worked in real estate and operates something called Shell’s loft.
Griffith did some digging and found his property listed on Airbnb and a bunch of other sites — TripAdvisor, FlipKey, Dwellable, and Outpost — for about $US450 a night.
Shell told New York Magazine that it was all a miscommunication, that she thought she explained “her whole life concept” to him.
Griffith evicted her but not before she rented his property out for a wedding, New York Magazine reports.
She came to Airbnb’s attention during Hurricane Sandy for a wonderful reason.
She used Airbnb to house people stranded by the storm for free at her leased six-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot Brooklyn loft. It’s listed on Airbnb for $US750 a night.
That idea inspired others to do the same and in the end some 1,400 other Airbnb hosts offered their homes to people for free who were affected by the storm.
And that led Airbnb to create a whole ad campaign around Shell, including this ad that appeared in subways …
… and this YouTube video
But the New York magazine article is causing an uproar. New York State Sen. Liz Krueger emailed us a statement about it:
“Now we learn that one of the Airbnb PR campaign’s supposed shining examples of ‘regular New Yorkers making ends meet’ has in fact been renting multiple properties as a short-term rental business and was evicted from a property by its owner after his complaints to Airbnb went ‘absolutely nowhere.’ … This is another wake-up call.”
Sen. Krueger sponsored a 2010 “Illegal Hotel Law” that applies to the city of New York. It limits people from subletting apartments for less than 30 days.
We have reached out to Airbnb and Shell for comment and will update when we hear back.