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Airbnb nightmare as renter turns squatter in Palm Springs condo

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Squatter nightmare: When Airbnb goes horribly wrong. (iStock)

Airbnb may be shaking up the travel industry, but without legal protections for tenants in some states, the number of rental-gone-wrong horror stories is on the rise.

The latest victim is host Cory Tschogl, a rehabilitation therapist from San Francisco, who is now facing months of legal proceedings to evict a non-paying tenant squatting in her Palm Springs condo.

In May, Tschogl agreed to rent out her 600-square-foot condo to an Airbnb user named ‘Maksym’ for 44 days. Despite the fact that he had no previous reviews online, Tschogl entered into a long term rental agreement. 

But the trouble started from the moment Maksym checked in. He complained about the tap water being too cloudy and requested a full refund, according to Business Insider.

For longer stays, Airbnb bills on a monthly basis rather than the total, so Tschogl agreed to the refund immediately and contacted the travel site to start the process. After two days, a company representative responded, alerting Tschogl that Maksym had been asked to leave.

But the condo owner says Maksym did not vacate the property.

"It became a confusing situation. Both I and Airbnb told the guest to leave, but he would not," Tschogl told Business Insider. 

Meanwhile Airbnb, was unable to collect the second sum of the money due from the tenant for the rest of his stay. After numerous attempts to reach the unwanted tenant by text—while simultaneously seeking the help from a travel site representative—Tschogl told Maksym that if he didn’t leave the property, the utilities would be shut off.

His response? 

A lengthy text in which the now-squatter explained that his livelihood would be threatened by loss of power and threatened to sue Tschogl for “blackmail and damages caused by your malicious misconduct…” (Full text here.)

The unfortunate situation has since turned into a nightmare for Tschogl. It turns out Maksym may be entitled to renter's rights under California law.

Since he has taken residence inside Tsgohl’s property for 30 days, Maksym is technically considered a tenant, not just a guest, and the process for evicting a person on a month-to-month lease can take up to six months, and thousands of dollars in legal fees.

While Tschogl recognizes that it was her responsibility to educate herself on local laws before initiating the rental process, she wishes the website would do more to warn potential renters of problems.

"Thousands of vacation rental owners are vulnerable, and they don’t know it. The public needs to know, lawmakers need to know, and sites like Airbnb need to know and improve upon their policies, procedures and protections," Tschogl told Business Insider.

The company’s response has been less than hospitable.

After being contacted by The Chronicle, Airbnb is now offering to assist in her legal fees and have apologized. When contacted by Business Insider about why it took someone so long to respond to the problemm they sent back a generic statement:

"15 million guests have traveled on AIRBNB and while the overwhelming majority of guests and hosts have a safe and positive experience we are constantly working to make our platform even stronger."

Tschogl hopes people can learn from her experience and wants Airbnb to change their policy.

"Collecting guest fees for 30+day stays for only 30 days at a time equals no guarantee to the host of payment in full," she said.