Landlords and short-term rental “hosts” are reacting to the spread of the coronavirus by canceling short-term rental reservations if they think the renter in question might be a medical professional, according to a report in the Daily Beast. Multiple nurses reported their short-term rental reservations were canceled when hosts realized they were traveling for work and planning to work in medical facilities, including one nurse who said she had to sleep in her car in order to stay in close proximity to her work location.
While most of the reports seem to be short-term rental cancelations, some doctors and nurses have been evicted from their rental homes. In most cases, they were asked to leave because the landlords lived in the same residence and had underlying health conditions or were in a high-risk category.
“I was just really heartbroken and just felt like, ‘How could somebody treat me like this, all because I’m a nurse?’” said one Las Vegas medical professional whose elderly landlord requested she vacate her second-floor apartment within 24 hours of receiving her eviction notice. The landlord and her husband are both older and expressed regret that they had to make the decision, but held firm.
“I’m sorry for the abrupt notice, but given the situation, it’s the choice I’m making to protect myself,” read an email from the landlord to the Las Vegas tenant.
Prior to her eviction, that tenant had routinely done her landlord’s grocery shopping and even prepared her meals. After the COVID-19 outbreak, however, the landlord established certain hours during which each of them would use the kitchen and asked her to observe strict rules for shared spaces and items. When the tenant and her husband pushed back, the landlord said she would change the locks and consider “items still in this unit after 7 p.m. on March 22…in a trespassing status and you will forfeit.” The landlord added, “I will not be bullied or intimidated.”
Landlord and Tenants Rights in Conflict
Many healthcare workers who are finding it nearly impossible to locate a place to stay while they work out-of-town in hardest-hit areas say that denying them housing is a form of harassment with dangerous consequences. Although major lenders have enacted moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures during the coronavirus outbreak, these actions do not apply to homes owned free-and-clear, to short-term rentals, and to many properties owned by individual, “mom-and-pop” landlords.
Airbnb itself noted that many of its hosts are not evicting nurses, doctors, and other traveling medical professionals. In fact, they are offering their rentals to those individuals for free.
“We’ve heard from countless hosts around the world who want to provide a comforting home to heroic first responders,” Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia said in a public statement. “Medical workers and first responders are providing life-saving support during the coronavirus outbreak, and we want to help.”
Airbnb set a goal of housing 100,000 medical workers for free, worldwide. Even if hosts do not opt to offer their properties for free, Airbnb will still waive all fees on the stay, the company said. Airbnb hosts who are declining medical workers in their properties say they have concerns not only about their own families, in instances where the rental unit is part of an owner-occupied home, but also about their ability to effectively clean the rental unit after the medical worker leaves and their potential liability if a future guest contracts the virus.
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