UPDATE: In a statement to PEOPLE, Airbnb said, “Our original handling of this incident fell well below the high standards we set for ourselves. We have apologized to Dr. Jackson and Dr. Uwandu for our insufficient response. We are currently working with them to make this right, and we are reviewing every aspect of this case from the reports of the host’s disturbing behavior to our response. Our community’s safety is our priority, we are deeply sorry for the anguish and inconvenience our guests have experienced and again we are working to make it right.”
For one Boston couple, a simple California vacation turned into one of the scariest moments of their lives.
Jaleesa Jackson and her boyfriend, Chiedozie Uwandu, both of whom are residents in anesthesiology at large Boston hospitals, decided to go to Los Angeles for a few days for a restful vacation. They rented a small guesthouse through Airbnb, run by one of the home-sharing platform’s “super hosts” — someone with the highest rankings in the community. But the trip became a nightmare, the couple tells the Boston Globe reports.
When they arrived, everything seemed fine with the house. Their host, named JJ, had left them a cold bottle of wine and a note. But at 5:30 a.m. the next day, a man started banging at the door, yelling, “I know you’re in there, Kevin!” Jackson awoke and dialed JJ for help, only to hear the phone ring from the other side of the front door, the Globe said.
The host answered her call and said. “Yeah, that was me. Sorry about the confusion. Life’s too short for me to give you an explanation. Have a nice time in L.A.”
The couple brushed off the odd behavior and enjoyed their first day at the beach. But things took a terrifying turn that night. Jackson and Uwandu were asleep, when at 2 a.m. a man burst through the bedroom window. Glass shards flew all over the room, and the person was lying spread-eagle on the floor, face down, they recounted to the paper.
“I had no idea what was happening,” Uwandu recalls. “But I reacted like we were under attack.” He managed to pin the man down with a knee in his back.
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Then Jackson caught a glimpse of the man, who was wearing a gray sweat shirt with the hood pulled over his head, and recognized him as JJ. She called the police and explained what had happened, but authorities were initially skeptical that an Airbnb host would attack a guest.
The police then arrived via helicopter and put JJ in handcuffs. The host allegedly told police that he was trying to evict Jackson and Uwandu over cleaning fees. Soon after, the couple discovered from JJ’s landlord that he wasn’t actually allowed to rent out the space.
Naturally, Jackson contacted Airbnb that night to request compensation. Initially, the company agreed to pay back the entire fee for the stay, but it took months for them to send that money, the Globe reported. In addition, the couple wanted reimbursement for the hotel they had to stay in after vacating JJ’s, in total asking for $5,000. The company offered $2,500 plus therapy sessions to “overcome the trauma,” according to the paper. Uwandu and Jackson declined.
A representative for the company told the Globe at the time that, “safety is our top priority” and “negative incidents are extremely rare.”
According to Forbes, the company is valued at $38 billion, and every night, some 2 million people stay in Airbnbs in 81,000 cities around the world.