Airbnb paid a woman from Australia $7 million, one of its biggest payouts ever, not to blame the company after she was raped at a rental listed on its site, Bloomberg News reported Tuesday.
The 29-year-old woman was visiting Manhattan and staying at an Airbnb for New Year’s Eve in 2015, according to Bloomberg News.
My latest @BW cover story on the dark side of Airbnb. Violent crimes. Multi-million payouts. Forced arbitration. Here’s how Airbnb makes nightmares disappear:https://t.co/jSpJBAaqev pic.twitter.com/4Bd1KRRoVE
— Olivia Carville (@livcarville) June 15, 2021
The victim and her friends picked up the keys from a nearby bodega. When the woman returned to the rental on her own as her friends were still out celebrating, a man suspected to have been 24-year-old Junior Lee allegedly raped the woman, according to Bloomberg News. Lee was charged with predatory sexual assault and pleaded not guilty. He remains in custody. (RELATED: Homeowner Calls Cops On 300 To 400 People Who Rented His AirBnb Mansion For Party, Saw Gathering In House Cameras)
After the attack, Airbnb’s safety team reportedly relocated the woman to a hotel, paid for her mother’s flight from Australia, and flew both women back home, also covering any health or counseling costs.
Airbnb wrote the woman a check for $7 million two years after the assault in exchange for a signed agreement not to talk about the settlement or “imply responsibility or liability” on the part of Airbnb or the host, according to Bloomberg News.
Airbnb spokesman Brn Breit said that despite the wording of the agreement the woman “is able to discuss whether she holds anyone responsible,” Bloomberg News reported.
It was unclear how the man who raped the victim got the duplicate keys, but the incident highlighted the liability and security issues the company is often tasked with responding to. These incidents, which can include rape and assault, are reportedly handled by around 100 agents located in multiple cities across the world.
The agents are tasked with spending “whatever it takes to make a victim feel supported,” Bloomberg News reported. That can include paying for flights, counseling, or sexually transmitted disease testing for rape survivors.
The work on the safety team can be traumatic — so much so that agents have access to “cool-down rooms” that can help them remain calm for harrowing calls, according to Bloomberg News.
Some former agents reportedly said they were encouraged to get payout agreements signed as quickly as possible with customers in crisis. According to Bloomberg News, Airbnb spent an average of $50 million annually in “recent years” on payouts to hosts and guests, including payouts for property damage.
Since the attack in Manhattan in 2015, Airbnb has not changed its rules on where to keep keys that guests will be picking up, and hosts are not required to tell Airbnb who else has a copy of the rental’s key.
Airbnb did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.