An Airbnb customer who noticed a strange light coming from a ceiling vent in a rental home claims to have discovered a camera hidden in the duct upon disassembling it.
The upset traveller took to Reddit on Feb. 18 to share the harrowing tale, which led to a 9-1-1 call and an online feud with the homeowner.
"I was in the living room of my airbnb (whole house) and I was taking a Snapchat when I saw something weird on my camera," the customer wrote. "It looked like light from the ceiling air vent. But all the rooms lights were out."
Thinking there might be a surveillance camera hidden behind the vent, the renter pulled a coffee table directly under it and used a tool to unscrew its cover.
"I pulled (the cover) down and it seemed to snag on something even though all the screws were out. I pulled a bit harder and it popped out," the Redditor recalled. "And hidden in the vent, in between the slats of it, was a small hidden camera with infrared LEDs."
"The wires were torn, I must have torn them when I yanked off the vent cover," they added. "I was shook, I'd been walking around the whole place just in underwear the day before."
"I was too skeeved out to stay"
The panicked customer took photos of the setup for evidence before accidentally slipping off the table and breaking it in half. They then called local police, who informed them that "it actually wasn't illegal for a homeowner to have cameras in common areas."
However, Airbnb's policy clearly states that all hosts are required to "disclose all security cameras and other recording devices in their listings."
"We prohibit any security cameras and other recording devices that are in or that observe the interior of certain private spaces (such as bedrooms and bathrooms), regardless of whether they've been disclosed," the company's community standards read.
The Reddit user maintains the homeowner did not disclose the recording device on their listing, prompting them to complain to the booking platform.
"I was too skeeved out to stay so I sent Airbnb a complaint saying there was a secret hidden camera, they'd been recording me undressed, and I wanted my money back and them banned from the platform," they wrote.
"You definitely deserve a refund"
After leaving the home to stay at a nearby hostel, the traveller said they received an angry message from the original host, who was "real mad I'd disassembled the ceiling, and broken a table with sentimental value."
"I replied 'ok pervert are you seriously gonna be mad when you were recording me and my unclothed body without my consent?' And I didn't get another reply," the customer revealed.
Many users seemed to be in agreement with the original poster, who said they're in contact with Airbnb and are hoping to receive a refund.
"It's the not being disclosed that makes it inappropriate," one wrote. "I mean if I was [an Airbnb] host I'd probably also keep cameras in common areas, but I'd also disclose it because as much as I would want to protect myself from something happening (let's go crazy and say drugs, or they strip my whole house) I wouldn't even want them to think about it in the first place because they know they'd be caught."
"As long as the cameras are disclosed, it's legal," said another. "If the host didn't disclose the cameras then you definitely deserve a refund."
Another added that the Airbnb camera disclosure "does not have to be in any way obvious."
"Some just say 'cameras are in use in common areas' in their fine print mixed in with the reservation details," the user said. "They also do not have to disclose the location etc of the cameras."
Airbnb defines a "recording device", which must be disclosed to renters, as "any mechanism that can be used to capture or transmit audio, video, or still images".
This includes, but is not limited to, "Wi-Fi cameras (for example, Nest Cam or Dropcam), nanny cameras, web cameras in computer monitors, baby monitors, mounted or installed surveillance systems, decibel and device monitors, and smart phones with video and/or audio recording capabilities."