D.C. police are looking for Airbnb renters who allegedly stole items and broke furniture while staying at an upscale Northwest Washington home last month, authorities said.
Eight people stole items worth thousands of dollars and trashed the furniture at a home along Leroy Place NW near Columbia Road in the Kalorama neighborhood, police said. Authorities released surveillance video that shows several men on the back patio smoking and appearing to take selfies.
D.C. police said the incident happened between March 9 and 11.
Elizabeth Borodkin, who manages the home for the owner, said a group rented it for two nights and it “looked completely official.”
She said they went through the normal procedures of renting it on Airbnb’s website, and she received a notification the home had been rented. Typically, she said, she gives guests a tour, but these guests “adamantly refused a tour” and said they were “antisocial.”
While she thought it was suspicious, she didn’t think much of it after recently renting to a business group that also said a tour wasn’t necessary.
“I figured they were similar to that group,” Borodkin said.
During their stay, neighbors complained about loud noise, she said. She called the renters and asked them to quiet down, and they agreed.
In one call, they also asked her about staying a bit past the 11 a.m. checkout time on March 11, saying they were tired after staying up all night playing cards. And they told her, “the house is so beautiful. Thank you so much,” she said.
After the guests checked out, a cleaning crew found the mess.
Borodkin alleged that the guests burglarized and trashed the house. They reportedly took four flat-screen TVs, two Amazon tablets, bed linens, an iron and a Fendi men’s track suit. The stolen items were estimated to be worth about $5,000, according to a D.C. police report.
The renters also broke a mirror, dining room chairs and other furniture, and rummaged through mail, presumably looking for credit card and other personal information, Borodkin alleged. She said they also used an Amazon account linked to the home’s electronics to order sportswear that was allegedly sent to an address in Northeast Washington.
Borodkin said the home, a nonsmoking property, smelled heavily of smoke. She found cigarettes and marijuana, along with empty pizza boxes, bags of Doritos and other discarded food.
“So they basically came in, threw a big party, and then cleaned it out on their way out,” Borodkin said.
She said she feels awful about the incident.
“I feel like basic safety and privacy was violated,” she said. “I walked into a private home that was always well-respected and found it unrecognizable.”
A police report didn’t specify how the group initially paid to use the property. Airbnb says homeowners who offer their homes to guests can recover up to $1 million in property damage protection.
“The safety of our community is our priority, and we are urgently investigating this incident,” the company said in a statement.
Consumer fraud experts said cases like those involving the Kalorama home often involve stolen credit cards — or cards that are used and subsequently canceled.
Jack Gillis, a spokesman at the Consumer Federation of America in Washington, said there are risks for both property owners and renters who use services such as Airbnb.
“You really have no idea who’s renting your place,” he said. “That’s a risk you’re taking.”
His advice is to require an in-person tour so you can meet the renters and get a deposit up front. Meanwhile, renters should be aware that there might be security cameras on the property, he said.
Borodkin said the Kalorama home has been rented for several years through Airbnb. The seven-bedroom, three-story home, built in the early 1900s, features an eat-in kitchen, high-end appliances, a garden, fireplace, limestone staircase and spacious living room areas. It is assessed at about $2.8 million, according to D.C.’s Office of Tax and Revenue.
The home was built for a senator and has had two presidents dine in it, Borodkin said.
It isn’t the only home with a reported theft after being rented through such services.
A few years ago, a man in Toronto said his home was ransacked and roughly $21,000 worth of valuables were stolen after he rented it to guests. And a home security system allegedly caught an Airbnb renter stealing roughly $35,000 worth of items from a San Francisco home.
A reward of up to $1,000 is being offered for information in connection with the D.C. case that leads to an arrest and indictment, police said. Anyone with information is asked to call 202-727-9099.