‘Van Life’ Strife: NYC Tourists Tricked Into Staying in Illegally-Parked Vans on Airbnb

by Courtney Blackann

Who doesn’t love a bargain? Especially in one of the country’s most expensive cities – the Big Apple. Well, unfortunately for some tourists, they didn’t quite get what they bargained for. Some sound advice we like to adhere to is that if something seems too good to be true, it generally is. Which is exactly what guests of an Airbnb offering the “van life” found out.

“Love to travel and explore the world. I’m a fan of tiny and unique homes. Hoping to share a part of van life experience with all travelers! I have lived in NYC all my life so I can recommend you the best places to see, eat and go!”

This is what the ad for an exclusive “glamping” experience in New York City offered by its host “Nancy,” according to The New York Post.

Now, tiny home experiences can be fun and unique. And generally, the company does a good job of vetting properties that appear on the Airbnb website. For some reason, these less-than-stellar van experiences slipped through the cracks.

Instead of the affordable, yet pleasurable, experience the advertiser promised, guests showed up to a tiny, smelly, illegally parked vehicle. Inside was even more disappointing. The van wasn’t anything the ad promised.

Moreover, how safe could you feel sleeping on a side road in the East Village? Not very, is the answer. This all came to light after a journalist stayed in the “tiny home” and documented his experience.

Airbnb Guests Arrive to a Mess

Uptin Saiidi was promised a room “with a view.” What he got was something else.

“The worst thing was the anxiety of where to pee when you gotta go. I went into the van at 10 p.m. and then woke up at 7 a.m.” he said. The ad also noted that public restrooms and showers were available at a nearby pool – which didn’t exist.

“What is interesting was how awful I slept because you have people walking right next to you. You have people literally outside walking and talking and cars trying to parallel park next to you all-night long,” said Saiidi.

All in all, New York officers impounded five illegal vehicles being marketed as Airbnbs on Manhattan streets. The vehicles also had expired registration and new Jersey plates.

Together with the NYPD Document Fraud Unit, the Sheriff’s Office seized the vans citing that the “operation of alleged fraudulent and illegally registered vehicles being used as Airbnb rentals on various streets in Manhattan.” Officials also alerted Airbnb, who have since removed the ads online.

Airbnb verifies properties with a blue checkmark. It’s unclear how the host ‘Nancy’ received verified marks from the company.

While law enforcement officials did not cite Airbnb for the incident, the company has not commented about the incident.