For many who have space in their home that they do not use, Airbnb has become a way to make a profit off of housing people who need a place to stay while traveling. The company has become immensely popular, as their rates are usually cheaper than hotels for travelers.
But, one woman–Alavia Khawaja–shared the story of the traumatizing experience she had while hosting an Airbnb guest in her home recently. Khawaja has been renting out the spare bedroom in her Texas apartment for guests, and, had been doing so for about a month–until one guest began harassing her.
Khawaja told BuzzFeed News that the guest, Leonard Jackson, arrived at her apartment on October 11th. She said that his profile was normal and positive, with only one red flag. He had claimed he could not stay in an apartment with “other men.” Khawaja said she brushed it off and allowed him to check-in.
However, things got weird when Khawaja went out and returned home with a friend of hers (male). Her friend had entered the apartment first, noticing that Jackson was leaving Khawaja’s room–which was locked. Additionally, he “cleaned” the entire apartment. When Khawaja went into her room, she saw that her closet had been torn apart and all the photos she had of men/male friends were ripped up in the trash.
“He denied everything. I essentially kicked him out and he asked for a refund before leaving.”
She then realized he had stolen $500 from her. She decided to contact the police and Airbnb. The police had taken a report, and Airbnb proved to be unhelpful by saying all they could do was have her fill out a “conflict resolution form.”
I confronted him and he denied everything. I kicked him out and he had the audacity to tell me to refund him. I found out an hour later that he stole cash (around $500) and immediately contacted Airbnb— Alavia Khawaja (@EmpressAloeVera) October 27, 2018
But, Jackson then began texting and messaging Khawaja from the Airbnb app. According to Khawaja, he was saying uncomfortable and disturbing things such as: “come stay with me, I need you to be my wife one day,” and asked if she had condoms.
Then he started texting me. I ignored him. So he went on to message me on Airbnb pic.twitter.com/qU3djwylZ3— Alavia Khawaja (@EmpressAloeVera) October 27, 2018
Khawaja’s friend suggested that she answer the text messages to try and get Jackson to confess to stealing her money so that she can use the text messages as proof for a police arrest.
She called the police again after Jackson said he was coming over to her apartment again. The police, however, told her that they cannot do anything unless he actually shows up. Khawaja decided to get in her car and park nearby her apartment to watch and see if Jackson would come back. As soon as he showed up, she called the police and they arrested him for trespassing. However, they found three pistols on him–which, alarmed Khawaja.
As soon as he showed up, I called the police. They arrested him for trespassing and caught him with THREE pistols on him. They assured me that he would be in jail for a while........but was released 24 hours later— Alavia Khawaja (@EmpressAloeVera) October 27, 2018
BuzzFeed confirmed that Jackson was arrested for trespassing on October 20th. They also found that Jackson was also arrested on October 17th for unauthorized carrying of a weapon and drug charges. However, he was released from jail both times on bond. Jackson apparently tried calling Khawaja from jail multiple times. And, began messaging her on the Airbnb app again, when he was released.
He tried calling me four times from jail. Then he messaged me on Airbnb and that’s how I found out that he was out. The police didn’t tell me, they were “too busy”— Alavia Khawaja (@EmpressAloeVera) October 27, 2018
Khawaja, again, contacted Airbnb–who told her initially all they could do for her was have her fill out a conflict resolution form. After all of this went down, including Jackson’s arrest and warrant issued for theft, it took them two weeks to take down his profile on the app–which means that he could try to rebook a room with Khawaja, or other people on the app.
I told Airbnb all of this. It took them about two weeks to do anything about it. They deleted his profile yesterday. This is trash service. I could’ve been murdered. This is a warning to everyone who uses Airbnb— Alavia Khawaja (@EmpressAloeVera) October 27, 2018
BuzzFeed reached out to Airbnb, and spokesperson Ben Breit issued a response, admitting the company took too long to respond:
“This reported behavior is abhorrent and unacceptable, and has no place on Airbnb. We have removed this guest from our platform and are in contact with local law enforcement to offer our assistance,” he said.
“Our initial response to this incident was simply too slow and we are working to fully support our host. There have been over 400 million guest arrivals to date and negative incidents are extremely rare.”
However, Khawaja says that she is still worried knowing that Jackson knows where she lives, and feels vulnerable to him returning to her home. She also said she is disappointed and angry at the way Airbnb handled the situation–stating that other women have reached out to her online after sharing her story on Twitter.
If you’re someone who is thinking about renting a room/house out on Airbnb (or other apps and websites), be mindful and careful with who you let in–you never know what can happen.