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St. John’s couple’s Airbnb was noisy nightmare

A man stands outside the Rowe family’s Airbnb accommodations in downtown Atlanta.
A man stands outside the Rowe family’s Airbnb accommodations in downtown Atlanta. - Contributed
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

A St. John’s family’s experience with an Airbnb in Atlanta, Ga., might be a warning for other travellers to pay close attention to location and any reviewers’ concerns about noise or other bothersome features when booking through the popular travel site.

From April 15-19, Chris Rowe, his wife and their son took a trip to Atlanta, primarily to visit the city’s renowned Georgia Aquarium, a 10th birthday gift for their son.

A few months before the trip, they booked an Airbnb conveniently located in downtown Atlanta.

They don’t have a problem with the cleanliness or the amenities, but what they found was a ground-floor apartment, not a loft, and a noisy lounge/restaurant for a neighbour, as well as a second-floor resident with a loud stereo.

The deal breaker was a loiterer outside, loudly talking on a cellphone and apparently trying to look through the blinds of their accommodation.

Rowe contemplated calling the police, but didn’t want to wake his son, and eventually the man moved on.

The next day they moved to a nearby Hilton Hotel. According to Rowe, Airbnb offered them a US$100 refund on the US$350 they had paid for the Airbnb.

Rowe is still trying to negotiate a full refund.

“It is hard to believe no other person who stayed there found the situation as appalling as we had." — Chris Rowe

He used Google Streetview to examine the neighbourhood prior to booking and had noticed some mentions of noise in reviews. But the accommodation was highly rated and, since they wouldn’t be renting a car, ideal for walking to various sightseeing attractions.

The façade of the building seemed appealing. The neighbourhood, though, had a different vibe than what they were expecting. A door of the studio apartment opened onto a corridor shared with the lounge, resulting in heavy banging of garbage cans and loud staff coming and going in addition to the loud ambient noise of the business.

“It’s putting it mildly to say we didn’t see it coming,” Rowe told The Telegram.

He said the wording of the listing was ambiguous, so it didn’t raise any red flags that they’d be in for a street-level, loud situation.

The feedback he got from Airbnb is that the company can’t account for the space outside the walls of a rental.

Rowe said the apartment host knew the St. John’s couple was travelling with a child, and should have warned them it wouldn’t be suitable.

“It is hard to believe no other person who stayed there found the situation as appalling as we had,” Rowe said.

Rowe said the couple is citified — he has lived in Toronto and they’ve stayed in Airbnbs in Boston, Chicago and major cities in Australia — and so are used to urban experiences.

Rowe said he left it up to Airbnb to contact the host on his behalf and perhaps should have also copied that person on the message about cancelling the accommodation due to the situation.

“As we sat there, the voices and noise echoing through the corridor sounded just as if they were coming from the next room (since essentially, they were), and the music from upstairs was gradually becoming louder. This was about 5 p.m. We decided to call Airbnb to see what our options were in terms of booking an alternative place, as this one did not at all meet our needs,” Rowe explained in an email to The Telegram about the trip.

Around 10 p.m., they heard a man outside the apartment screaming and swearing on a cellphone. He also tried to peep in through the blinds, and knocked on the glass. The last of the noise from the restaurant finally died down around 3:30 a.m.

Rowe said because they failed to cancel by the deadline prior to their stay, the refund was initially denied. Days after they returned from the trip and had been in contact with Airbnb, they were offered the partial refund.

Rowe said it should be the guests’ right to enjoy a peaceful stay, but Airbnb seems inclined to side with hosts. It has soured the family on the whole Airbnb experience, he said.

“Definitely, without question,” Rowe said.

“It’s put me off trusting anyone in the future. You’re only relying on the honesty of the hosts.”

“It’s put me off trusting anyone in the future. You’re only relying on the honesty of the hosts.” — Rowe

Rowe said people need to carefully read between the lines.

Some of the reviews on the listing suggest the noise is not for everyone.

“This unit was right off the street and carried a lot of ambient noise from outside and traffic. This unit was on the lower level and prone to lots of sound traveling through the walls/flooring from upstairs. Bring earplugs,” said one from April 2018.

“Can get noisy sometimes due to being right next to the street,” said another from March 2018.

However, some more explicit reviews about noise were posted months after the St. John’s family booked the accommodation.

“The noise that other travelers talk about is due to the space staring a stairwell that leads to a door into a lounge that is right above the apartment. It has weird hours, so if you value your sleep, or want to sleep in, this place may not be for you,” a traveller in March noted.

Airbnb decided not to comment on the story, but offered tips, such as how to use search filters, advice on reading ratings and reviews, and how to stay in touch with the accommodations’ host through a secure messaging tool.

On Airbnb, people can search reviews for certain issues — for instance typing in “noise” will get the traveller all the reviews that mention noise.

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