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The Hunt is on
August 15, 2014 3:14 PM   Subscribe

Huntbnb is a new service that helps landlords and neighbors find Airbnb listings within their own buildings. While Airbnb does not list actual addresses for listings, HuntBnB matches user-entered exact addresses to Airbnb listings within close proximity.

From the How It Works page:
How does Huntbnb present airbnb listings?
- We are capturing listings data from airbnb through their publicly available API. Then, we match results based on the address you’ve provided, using our own algorithm
- Our algorithm uses the location you’ve provided, creates a Geofence of a certain radius around it, and presents you with all the listings in that circle
- We believe that this is very close to the radius that airbnb uses for randomizing their location pins (the inaccurate ones)
- We then filter the listings based on the street name you’ve provided to further narrow down the matches. This further improves the accuracy of finding your listing
In New York City the attorney general estimates almost two-thirds of more than 19,000 listings on Airbnb are illegal, while in San Francisco Airbnb has been the basis of city-levied fines, eviction notices and tenant buyouts. (Airbnb, previously)
posted by 2bucksplus (45 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
N.B. I tried this with a few rental apartments I've lived in, both in New York and San Francisco and gotten immediate and obvious hits in most cases.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:14 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Holy crap, I think I just discovered one in my own building.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:22 PM on August 15


I put my address in, and the two apartments that came up are VERY obviously not in my building.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:26 PM on August 15


Something something disrupting the marketplace!
posted by Existential Dread at 3:26 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


So, it's only for US addresses?
posted by sadtomato at 3:27 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


The fraud aspect is interesting, that leasees in rent-controlled apartments are flipping their rental without the landlord's knowledge. I wonder how widespread it is.
posted by Mr. Six at 3:27 PM on August 15


Surprisingly all my prior renting situations don't have any listings. I guess that's good?
posted by Carillon at 3:28 PM on August 15


>Airbnb does not show the exact physical location of a listing for various reasons that they don’t disclose

I can think of a perfectly cromulent reason: you might not want to advertise the precise location of your somewhat furnished property that sits vacant some % of the time.

Or, the same reason people don't attach their addresses to their craigslist ads.
posted by pmv at 3:29 PM on August 15 [9 favorites]


Darn, no results near my house. Because it would be hilarious to rent a room for a day and then show up an have this person realize that they've seen me walk by on my way to the bus like a hundred times.
posted by nanojath at 3:31 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


Actually, I got some conflicting feelings about this one.

Regardless of how one might feel about Airbnb, their intentions, the sharing economy at large and the role of hotel regulations, there is a specific intent in obscuring people's addresses.

Tho I'm sure some majority of Airbnb hosts are running under-the-table bed and breakfastses, lots of people do rent out spare apartment bedrooms.

I think this would've been better presented as a security vulnerability finding, in so far that AirBnb is accidentally leaking their user's information. The lesson here ought to be more along the lines of "mapping is hard and naïve solutions can expose your users' information".

The site doesn't mention them making any kind of disclosure, so I'm going to go with +1 for snark, -10 for ethics.
posted by pmv at 3:38 PM on August 15 [8 favorites]


It nailed one unit in my building, plus one across the street. Works pretty well.
posted by aramaic at 3:39 PM on August 15


I'm going to go with +1 for snark, -10 for ethics.

Perhaps accurate, but Airbnb has an ethics problem as well, at least in cities that have rent controls like SF, where someone paying controlled rent below market can turn around and sublet for market rates, pocketing the difference. Landlords have a legitimate need for a service to find out whether their tenants are in breach of their leases and profiting from the rent controls. If you don't want your address out there, I guess the solution would be don't post your unit on Airbnb.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:42 PM on August 15 [8 favorites]


Wait, TWO units in my building, the second one just has unbelievably bad taste so I didn't recognize it. Ha! This is kinda fun...
posted by aramaic at 3:45 PM on August 15


So on a list of 1 to 10 where 1 is nbd and 10 is Bush lying about WMDs how bad would it be for me to list my horrible upstairs neighbor's apartment on airbnb and then forward that listing to my landlord

asking for a friend
posted by elizardbits at 3:46 PM on August 15 [26 favorites]


Yeah, I'm conflicted about this.

I'm actually a little taken aback about someone in my building renting out the space (and I'm 99% sure it's in my building - the name of the host matches someone in my building, and the layout of the space looks familiar). I have had a breakin in my building, and everyone in my building knows it. My roommate and I are sure to lock our doors, even if we're home, but some day we could forget....

But on the other hand, the breakin was a guy coming through the fire escape window. This has apparently been going on for a month, too, and I haven't run into trouble; also, if it's who I think it is, she's around the house a lot taking care of her kid, and she's on a teacher's salary, so this is probably some important income.

And, I have a pair of friends who are on a similarly limited income and use AirBnB for their own space. They are above board about it and spoke to their landlord before they even took the space, and made sure it was okay if they hosted people before they signed the lease. The landlord was copacetic with it. And doing AirBnB is helping them keep their place.

So the most I'm uneasy about is that my neighbor didn't give us all a heads-up if she is a host - but I also do understand why she wouldn't have, and wouldn't begrudge someone in her position deciding to being a host.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:46 PM on August 15


We just had a case here in my neck of the woods where a landlord stumbled upon a group of guys partying in her apartment building. The men had rented the apartment via Airbnb, the regular tenant was on holiday in Europe. Probably financing her holiday in Europe via the Airbnb rental by the sounds of it. I'm sure there will be many landlords happy to use this new site.
posted by Cuke at 3:47 PM on August 15


sorry the friend part was a lie

im bad at this
posted by elizardbits at 3:47 PM on August 15 [13 favorites]


There are a lot of Airbnb horror stories, definitely enough to dissuade me from listing my apartment when I'm out of town. Even though, just as a simple math exercise, I see an apartment I'm pretty sure rents for $1,500/month, listed on Airbnb for $150/night. There are fees and taxes (hopefully!) but that's easy math.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:52 PM on August 15


On general principle, I think you should be able to sublet space you rent. There should maybe be some regulations (by the applicable government), but I don't think your landlord should be allowed to prevent it. You rent the space as a place to live, you should be able to decide who sleeps there.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:52 PM on August 15 [5 favorites]


So the most I'm uneasy about is that my neighbor didn't give us all a heads-up if she is a host - but I also do understand why she wouldn't have, and wouldn't begrudge someone in her position deciding to being a host.

I don't think you should have to go around and get all your neighbors permission, just the landlord.

The landlord doesn't have to ask everyone if they like a new tenant in another unit. How is this that different?

A lot of the concerns i hear, in that regard of personal safety about airbnb, strike me as weird purse clutching. Hell, you yourself said the breakin came from the outside.


This site itself honestly irks me a lot. It seems like it would be too easy to use it to case places that you can verify with airbnb, are empty if they're available certain dates and it's obviously not a place anyone permanently resides(and there's a lot of those on airbnb)

Think what you will about the service, but i think this is clearly more unethical than airbnb itself.

Major dick move, honestly.
posted by emptythought at 3:57 PM on August 15 [7 favorites]


I think broadly we have similar view points wrt to the role of Airbnb, and probably also regarding the rights of landlords to scope things out.

I'm kinda grey on the whole "rent out your place while you go on a trip". That feels "ok". Maybe you should have to get some kind of insurance.

That said,

> If you don't want your address out there, I guess the solution would be don't post your unit on Airbnb.

I disagree with that stance. I don't know what the right solution is; saying "herp derp some kind of regulatory power or discretion, the city should take care of it" is hand wavey and wishy washy. Maybe the answer is to force all listings to be public.

But in isolation, this site is exploiting an artifact of how Airbnb implemented its mapping feature to violate people's privacy.

Here's a really good parallel, in my mind. It turns out that thru a flaw in how Tinder implemented its mapping feature, it was possible to pinpoint the physical location of its users. It would be really uncomfortable if that researcher had a) not disclosed the finding prior to reporting and b) had posted the working app.
posted by pmv at 3:57 PM on August 15 [3 favorites]


And i mean, hell, to directly respond to that article:

“I find it terrifying,” Letarte Pettas said of the experience. “(Airbnb guests) could break anything, they could burn down the building ... bring bedbugs, anything. We worked so hard on this investment.”

And? it's the tenants responsibility. They signed a contract with you, they're liable. You already have someone on the hook who can't just skip town and run away like the airbnb people. That person knew the risk they were taking when they let other people stay there and left town. If anythings damaged, bill/sue the tenant.

This is total catastrophizing.

Somehow, no one cares that when i went out of town for 3 days i let my partners coworker and her boyfriend rent my place out, go to a nearby music festival, and party really hard in it. But bring airbnb into the mix and suddenly OMG THE SKY IS FALLING.

And that's completely ignoring the issues PMV brought up with this app, compared to the tinder security flaw. That's on point.
posted by emptythought at 4:01 PM on August 15 [6 favorites]


My sole beef with airbnb is how it can form this weird dynamic between the tourist industry and the local rental market, depending on the state of the local economy. Currently, tourists coming up this way are totally OK with dropping what would be a month's rent on just a few nights in someone's apartment. This kicked off a snowball effect to where rents are skyrocketing right now. Hopefully the tide will recede once summer is gone.

Apart from that, sure, do whatever you want with your apartment.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 4:10 PM on August 15 [3 favorites]


Tho I'm sure some majority of Airbnb hosts are running under-the-table bed and breakfastses...

Airbnb is not under the table. You get a W2 or whatever form for your taxes.
posted by goethean at 4:11 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


As it stands 'no sublet' clauses are enforceable on leases, so the way to fix that issue would be legislative. Currently you'd simply have to negotiate with the landlord. The issue of making a profit by subletting your apartment will always be a sore point, especially if the landlords are prohibited for raising rent to market rates through rent control while you post on Airbnb for market rates or higher. Perhaps including a clause in the lease agreement that specifies a profit share for subletting would be a step down this path.
posted by Existential Dread at 4:17 PM on August 15


Hm... this would actually explain why the people next door change "tenants" so often and are so weird when we say hi to them in the hallway.

And? it's the tenants responsibility. They signed a contract with you, they're liable. You already have someone on the hook who can't just skip town and run away like the airbnb people. That person knew the risk they were taking when they let other people stay there and left town. If anythings damaged, bill/sue the tenant.

I don't really care if the building management can sue the tenants. I don't want random strangers walking around my building, next to me in the gym that I paid extra to get access to, or taking up laundry machines that there already aren't enough of, etc etc. Unknown people who, as you put it, get to skip town and run away.
posted by zennie at 4:18 PM on August 15 [9 favorites]


So it seems my house is not being put up on airbnb. What a relief.
posted by rocketman at 4:18 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


The airbnb is coming from inside your own house!
posted by item at 4:33 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]


On general principle, I think you should be able to sublet space you rent. There should maybe be some regulations (by the applicable government), but I don't think your landlord should be allowed to prevent it. You rent the space as a place to live, you should be able to decide who sleeps there.

I don't know about that; when you rent a place you also rent some neighbours. Being able to screen out bad residents is useful for the landlord, but it's also useful for other residents to feel secure in their own homes.
posted by pwnguin at 5:29 PM on August 15 [3 favorites]


In my city, which has very tough rent control and tenant protection laws, subletting a rent controlled unit for fewer than 30 days is a code violation. It's also grounds for eviction per many/most leases on rent controlled units.

If I were to airbnb my place while I was traveling, I could easily clear $2500/month (plus get my rent covered). I don't do so because it's disrespectful to my neighbors in the building; it's disrespectful to my landlord (and while I have had my share of set-tos with him, I did after all sign a contract agreeing to certain terms, and to go against those is dishonest and selfish); it's disrespectful to the community (the city) that I call home. It's selfish.

Beyond all that, though, subletting my unit for personal gain (profit) goes against the spirit (as well as the law) of rent control, which was a hard-fought battle in my city, and one that requires citizen vigilance and activism to protect in the face of wildly escalating speculative development in my community. Putting those protections at risk by flaunting parts of the rent control law is anti-social behavior.

There are many, many hotels and motels and long-term executive suite lodgings in my city; those businesses pay a bed tax / tourism tax that goes back to the city, and supports the services that are used by all of us -- residents and tourists alike. Airbnb does NOT contribute to that tax base.

Also (and this may seem odd since I am a tenants' rights advocate and organizer): it isn't cool to "stick it to the man" just because you can. It creates extra tension in the renter vs. owner/developer dynamic, and it adds fuel to the pro-development movement. A few rogue tenants put the rest of us at peril by weakening the perceived need for rent control protections.

If your lease, or city code, says it's a no-go, and you choose to Airbnb anyway, then you are saying that you are special, above the law, and don't give a shit about the ramifications of your actions on the larger community.
posted by nacho fries at 5:35 PM on August 15 [37 favorites]


My sole beef with airbnb is how it can form this weird dynamic between the tourist industry and the local rental market, depending on the state of the local economy. Currently, tourists coming up this way are totally OK with dropping what would be a month's rent on just a few nights in someone's apartment. This kicked off a snowball effect to where rents are skyrocketing right now. Hopefully the tide will recede once summer is gone.

This seems like a chicken and egg thing to me, though. In a lot of expensive major cities, rents were climbing hard anyways. Is it because of this, or is this an organic response to that? The answer is probably somewhere in-between, but i've definitely heard more than one account of someone whose lifestyle was essentially financed by renting out their room, or entire place a few nights a month because the rent was simply Too Damn High.

It strikes me as a bit specious to assume that rents climbed because people were doing this and the landlords knew they could get away with it... or... something. Rents climbed because people with higher incomes moved in and were willing and able to pay them.

San Francisco and Seattle and stuff have shitty high rents because of amazon and google and such, not airbnb.

I don't really care if the building management can sue the tenants. I don't want random strangers walking around my building, next to me in the gym that I paid extra to get access to, or taking up laundry machines that there already aren't enough of, etc etc. Unknown people who, as you put it, get to skip town and run away.

I used to feel this way, and then i realized it was completely irrational. I used to live in a huge, 125 unit building. There was a moving truck outside the front or back seemingly twice a week, and just constant turnover. People sublet places and had roommates swapping in and out constantly, including in my unit. This was all seen as completely normal.

Then i heard a lot of the same people in and outside the building getting outraged about this and realized... how is it any different? None of us know eachother, or know eachothers backgrounds or anything. It's an ever changing wall of people moving in and out. The landlords would basically rent to anyone with a pulse and a checkbook(we didn't even have JOBS when we moved in, just savings and inheritance). It's not like they were doing background checks or anything.

I think a lot of peoples sense of security from regular rentals of these spaces is completely false. Especially as someone whose family used to manage an apartment building about half that size, and had tons of problems and stupid useless tenants. If there aren't enough laundry machines, that's going to be a problem whether these people are there or not. And hell, if the people who usually live in that apartment are out of town... then what extra space are they even taking?


I realize that on this site, i've been a fairly strident defender of these "sharing economy" services. I know they have issues, but i think a lot of the accusations lobbed at them and problems they're pointed to being at the center of already existed, and that whatever existed before or how the system presently works has a lot of the same problems. Maybe even worse.
posted by emptythought at 5:36 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


I don't think you should have to go around and get all your neighbors permission, just the landlord.

Oh, I didn't mean to imply the other tenants needed to give permission; my bad. More like, it feels like it would have been....more neighborly to get a heads-up, or something, I guess? You know, "hey, just letting you know, there will be a lot of guests coming in and out of here, but let me know if they give you any trouble and I"ll be on it." That's all.

Even so, though, I do get why they wouldn't want to. This isn't anything I'd make a stink over, just more, I may be a millimeter more reserved around her for about a week. That's all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:36 PM on August 15


San Francisco and Seattle and stuff have shitty high rents because of amazon and google and such, not airbnb.

In SF, at least one landlord has illegally removed his units from the rent control market, and is now charging mach-looney Airbnb nightly rates for them. By removing units from the already limited pool of affordable (for some value of "affordable") apartments in SF, competition for other units is driven up.

And in another scenario: Airbnb allows tenants to use their rent controlled units in prime areas to fund a second apartment in an outlying, non-rent controlled, relatively inexpensive area -- this secondary apartment is where they actually live while they use their rent controlled place as a cash cow. Again, this removes a unit from the intended rent control user base -- people of limited means, people who will live and be invested in their community -- and makes it a crashpad for transient visitors who have no vested interest in being good neighbors.

And one more, extra sketchy ploy I am a seeing: a third-party who acts as the "front" to multiple tenants who are doing illegal Airbnb rentals. This "front" is using bait-and-switch tactics: she advertises the unit at one rate (on the low side), and then once someone wants in, she adds a fake "city tax" that must be paid via a means other than Airbnb (so it can't be tracked). Because the tax sounds legit, it gives the Airbnb customers a false sense that they are doing something legal. (The front takes a cut of the tenant's profit, and runs interference so the landlord can't as easily ID his/her tenant during the exchange of info/money.)
posted by nacho fries at 5:54 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]


This seems like a chicken and egg thing to me, though. In a lot of expensive major cities, rents were climbing hard anyways. Is it because of this, or is this an organic response to that? The answer is probably somewhere in-between

No, the answer really isn't somewhere in between, at least in this neck of the woods. Post-recession economy + new apartments being built slowing to a crawl + large spike in tourists + apartment owners (not renting by lease; but actually paying a post-crash inflated mortgage to a bank on an apartment) seeing a golden opportunity to pay down their massive debt fast = what we got here.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:59 PM on August 15


Just one point of reference - the only two AirBnB properties I've been in (and am currently in one as I write this) were actually listed through professional property managers on behalf of the actual owners. If I was a landlord, rather than blocking sublets, maybe another option I'd consider is requiring any sublets / AirBnB use goes through them so they could share in any upside. But it seems like there can be a load of abuse on either end of the deal here.

If I could get HuntBnB to work for me (getting timeouts and server 500 errors), it would probably be useful to help me nail down exactly where a property is before selecting it.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 6:00 PM on August 15


Huntbnb is giving me the cheap thrill of seeing how people in my area decorate their interiors. The baller place going for $325/night nearby has those hideous full-length mirror sliding doors on the closets in the bedroom. Ewwww. But it apparently belongs to the really nice lady I see out and about with her 21-year-old dog (old dogs are the best dogs), so that lapse in taste shall be forgiven. (And that nightly rate will pay a lot of vet bills...)
posted by nacho fries at 6:16 PM on August 15


And hell, if the people who usually live in that apartment are out of town... then what extra space are they even taking?

Many people don't leave town. Instead they have paying "guests."

I have no problem with AirBnB in principle. Just not under the table, when it's basically breaking the rules you agreed to when you joined the community. Management is never going to control every single person who comes in and out, but that doesn't obligate me to be OK with people intentionally giving strangers (who they don't know either) free access to the building.
posted by zennie at 7:05 PM on August 15


I'm surprised there aren't more lawsuits involving airbnb. It seems very obviously problematic: renter's insurance isn't necessarily going to cover your airbnb guests if they get injured, and the cost all goes to the person renting out their apartment.
posted by graymouser at 7:40 PM on August 15


The point nacho fries makes about the bed / tourism taxes is a really important one. Undermining the tax base in big cities so people can make a personal profit is problematic. I don't think paying income tax on that money is the same thing.

A bigger issue for me -- and perhaps an irrational one, since it's based on a phobia -- is bedbugs. I am terrified of the little fuckers. Hotels deal with a lot of infestations. The high turnover rate of travelers contributes to this. Bedbugs can absolutely travel from apartment to apartment. Because I don't have a lot of options, I accept the risk apartment living brings with it, but I would not be thrilled to have my neighbors cranking up that risk vector by using their apartments as hotels. There is a difference between the infestation risk from an occasional visitor or out of town guest and the one posed by, say, 20-30 different people renting that room for a month.

And extermination isn't a cost that a landlord can easily pass along to the tenant as emptythought suggests. It's not easy to isolate where an infestation begins.
posted by diamondsky at 7:41 PM on August 15 [3 favorites]


I've used this process for traveling with my kids and had more space than a hotel room, and no issues. The people I've worked with cared about our experience, and I'd like to think other than my young children greeting new people enthusiastically on the elevator (in a non-rent-controlled area) we were good visiting neighbors and didn't get bedbugs, or pass them on. Reviews are left on the properties. You would know in a hot minute that bedbugs were an issue.
posted by childofTethys at 6:38 AM on August 16


I went to a conference recently and got talking to a guy who'd gone there as part of a delegation from his company. They'd rented a big house together via AirBnB, and he was also hosting couchsurfers there. That blew my mind a little.
posted by daisyk at 7:35 AM on August 16


It worked to find the airbnb rental that I'm sitting in right now.

However, I think the host actually lives here, unlike the other places I've stayed in that have been of the "one-room hotel" variety. There is food in the fridge and partially used, full-size toiletries in the medicine cabinet.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:43 AM on August 16


The point nacho fries makes about the bed / tourism taxes is a really important one. Undermining the tax base in big cities so people can make a personal profit is problematic. I don't think paying income tax on that money is the same thing.

When we look at it as renting out a part of your home for extra cash [for reasons], or driving around to make an extra buck, or doing some chores for some money, what we're seeing is a pattern of informal economic activity.

Calling it "sharing" economy and designing fancy apps for facilitating doesn't take away the fundamental fact that urban economies are changing as there are less formal jobs with regular paychecks and more attempts to make ends meet through a variety of income streams.

Stepping back in order to see the bigger development may be more helpful for mitigating the expected future impact of this trend than focusing on any particular app.
posted by infini at 7:50 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


Ain't clear to me that our patchwork system of rent controls really achieves Adam Smith's goals. We probably need stronger but more elastic measures that limit renting, like maybe high taxes on monthly rents above 40 * minimum wage per expected occupant. In other words, we should penalize landlords for the rent being too damn high if workers cannot pay it in 40 hours work. Actually I'd prefer a much smaller number, but hey. Way more fair than rent controls. It'd crash the house priced of course, but that's also desirable.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:47 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


Interesting. Found one across the street from my apartment. (nicer looking inside than I would've expected given the building's exterior...)
posted by dnash at 10:39 AM on August 18


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