SF Airbnb host faces $300K in damages after guests clog toilet, flood home

"I woke up to the sound of water," said Gemzer. "Water coming from every crevice, every opening, every light fixture."

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Saturday, October 21, 2023
SF Airbnb host faces $300K in damages after guests flood home
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A San Francisco Mission District Airbnb host is facing $300,000 in damages and losses after guests clogged the toilet and flooded the home.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A San Francisco Airbnb host was left with a monstrous mess. She said her home was flooded out by guests, leaving her with a massive bill and nowhere to live.

Erika Gemzer said she is now facing nearly $300,000 in losses and damage after some guests left her unit in the Mission District flooded and in disrepair.

It's hard to believe that a clogged and broken toilet Could have caused so much damage.

"It was the toilet that was broken and running over for 15-plus hours," said Gemzer.

Gemzer and her husband -- who are expecting their first child any day now -- were forced to move out of their home in the Mission District six months ago. Their house is still unfixed.

"There is no kitchen, no bathrooms that are usable," said Gemzer.

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On March 15, four guests signed on to stay in her upstairs unit for one month.

"They actually left evening April 13, presuming right before or after this clog started," said Gemzer.

Gemzer lived in the unit directly downstairs. She didn't see any red flags until it was too late.

"I woke up to the sound of water," said Gemzer. "Water coming from every crevice, every opening, every light fixture."

Gemzer immediately called Airbnb who then told her to get a full estimate and receipts for the repairs to her home. She says the extent of the damage made it impossible to get a quick assessment.

"I tried to explain to Airbnb, this is not a broken door, and this is not furniture. This is an entire home destroyed - two homes," said Gemzer.

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The family described the unit they rented as uninhabitable. The discovery forced them find alternate arrangements on a busy holiday weekend.

Gemzer says it took weeks for Airbnb's investigative plumber to arrive and determine the cause of the clogged toilet.

"He said there's baby wipes all through the S-trap in the toilet," said Gemzer.

Gemzer does not blame the guests.

"It's all three of those things happening -- the feces; it's the baby wipes that they used during the 30 days they were there. That's their standard of cleanliness and that is what they wanted to use; and them trying to relieve the clog by messing with the tank," said Gemzer.

Gemzer estimates that the damage done, the lost revenue from not being able to rent her place, and other costs add up to about $300,000.

Gemzer says she's disappointed by Airbnb's coverage policy for hosts.

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"They advertise it as $3 million for hosts for guaranteed protection. So as a host, the idea is we have you covered top to bottom, so don't worry," said Gemzer.

According to Gemzer, that's not the case.

"It turns out 90% of that is not covered. They have given me an offer of $31,000" said Gemzer.

Gemzer says she believed she was fully covered, between Airbnb's host coverage and her own homeowner's insurance.

"I believed it. I believed my house was covered for $3 million. My house is not worth $3 million so I assumed with that and my home insurance I was covered. That was not the case. So for people who are thinking of being a host, look into all the insurance you could buy all of it. Buy all of it," said Gemzer. "It's such an over-promise/under-deliver situation. If hosts were aware of the situation, they could take out additional insurance for these types of catastrophic situations."

Late Friday, Airbnb spokesperson offered ABC7 News this statement in response to Gemzer's case:

"We take Aircover requests incredibly seriously, including in this case, where we tried to send a third-party investigator to review the damage, but the Host declined, stating that her homeowners insurance company was supporting her with the damage as well as temporary accommodation. Still, we offered to pay the loss of bookings, her insurance deductible and additional reimbursement as a gesture of goodwill. We have been in continuous contact with the Host, including speaking today, to continue to support her."

Gemzer responded saying she's astounded by the statement. She said much of it is untrue. According to Gemzer, she has 60 emails with the third-party investigator trying to get him to come out and review the damage. But he never did.

"I provided multiple availabilities for this third-party adjuster to come on site, and I have never rejected any offers of support or help from Airbnb," said Gemzer in text. She went onto state, "Airbnb hired a third-party - Crawford and Company. They never came out, but Crawford hired a third-party plumber who came out on May 31, seven weeks after the flooding."

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