New Zealand / In Case You Missed It

'Airbnbrothel' set up in suburban Dunedin home

10:38 am on 20 September 2019

By Jono Edwards for the Otago Daily Times

A quiet North East Valley street became a seedy hotbed after Airbnb guests allegedly turned a man's home into a busy brothel for two weeks.

Dunedin lights. File photo Photo: 123RF

The Dunedin property owner and sole occupant, who requested anonymity, said he was on holiday in Asia for a month in July and August.

His daughter helped him rent his home on Airbnb to two women, who were Chinese nationals, for 14 days.

When he arrived back it "felt icky and stank of cheap perfumes", a stock of 50 toilet rolls was gone and a few towels were missing.

The owner earned $1770 from the guests, but a graph of his power usage shows it quadrupled in August, costing him more than $600 for the month. He also spent hundreds of dollars on cleaning and plumbing costs.

The guests were not there long before the hot-water system broke.

They contacted the owner's daughter saying they were unable to have showers and she called a plumber.

The plumber, who also did not want to be named, said it was "amazing" how they transformed it into a centre for sex services.

"These girls had come down from Queenstown, travelling the country.

"It was very obvious what was going on."

The women ran four phones, had a room each and operated through the night.

One was in her 40s and the other was "lucky to be in her 20s".

"I was up in the ceiling working... They were heavy drinkers, drinking red wine."

The women had the curtains drawn, the heat pump on constantly and extra heaters operating, he said.

The owner said he was annoyed he was not told about the situation before he returned.

A few days after his arrival a man came to his door asking "Where are the girls?"

When the owner said they were not there, the man at the door verbally threatened him.

A police spokesman said this was reported and initial inquiries were made.

Officers determined no criminal offending took place so no further action was required.

A neighbour said she was in her garden when the would-be "client" clashed with the owner.

That same man had visited the house while the owner was away, the neighbour said.

"One night he banged on the door and got no response and was drinking something from a can, which he threw in the garden."

Throughout the guests' stay she saw many cars parked outside the property.

"They were all men. They wouldn't stay very long, usually 20 minutes, some for a bit longer. I first noticed the light on at night and we started getting suspicious."

She took photos of some of the vehicles.

She was told by the owner there might be guests in his absence, but was "kicking herself" she did not get his or his daughter's phone number before he left.

"I can understand it's like a break-in. It's like a violation."

Another neighbour said he did not notice regular visitors, but did once see a van parked outside with a "scruffy looking man" inside.

It seemed suspicious so he took down the number plate.

An Airbnb spokesman said unpleasant incidents such as this were extremely rare. Airbnb understood the host's concerns and offered its full support, he said.

"Our strict policies prohibit the activity reported and we have removed the guest from our platform."

Correspondence with the owner and Airbnb showed the company asked for receipts of the power and cleaning bills and would consider reimbursement.

The owner said he wanted Airbnb to consider payment for "emotional trauma".

His mother, who once owned the house, would be "spinning in her grave", he said.

"It's been the family home for 55 years. I just have that feeling of being violated."

- This story was first published on the Otago Daily Times website.