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24 Vacation Rental Horror Stories That’ll Make You Want To Stay Home Forever

Bugs, mold, phantom houses, and clowns — grisly tales from travelers who decided to skip the hotels to stay in someone else's home.

Posted on March 29, 2018, at 11:26 a.m. ET

It's never been easier to forgo a traditional hotel and instead stay in someone else's home. Or even just a sofa bed in someone else's home. Or a treehouse, or a boat, or a yurt — whatever your heart desires. The booming vacation rental market is already worth more than $100 billion, and it's only expected to grow in the next few years as websites attract more people (and investors) to list their homes to earn some cash, and a new wave of property managers springs up to handle the routine nuisances of operating a bed-and-breakfast. Of course, the fantasy of escaping the impersonal, sanitized trappings of ordinary hotels is appealing, but leaving behind these tightly controlled, often cookie-cutter accommodations sometimes comes with its own risks — horrible hosts, dysfunctional bathrooms, and lots and lots of bugs. And there's no front desk to call. We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us their vacation rental horror stories. Here are 25 tales from travelers who survived.
Ben Kothe / BuzzFeed News; Getty Images

It's never been easier to forgo a traditional hotel and instead stay in someone else's home. Or even just a sofa bed in someone else's home. Or a treehouse, or a boat, or a yurt — whatever your heart desires.

The booming vacation rental market is already worth more than $100 billion, and it's only expected to grow in the next few years as websites attract more people (and investors) to list their homes to earn some cash, and a new wave of property managers springs up to handle the routine nuisances of operating a bed-and-breakfast. Of course, the fantasy of escaping the impersonal, sanitized trappings of ordinary hotels is appealing, but leaving behind these tightly controlled, often cookie-cutter accommodations sometimes comes with its own risks — horrible hosts, dysfunctional bathrooms, and lots and lots of bugs. And there's no front desk to call.

We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us their vacation rental horror stories. Here are 25 tales from travelers who survived.

1. One night I slept in the yard because honestly, there were more bugs inside than outside.

"When I was about 10, my family rented a small house in Cape Cod for a week. It was really nice until I woke up in the middle of the first night and screamed when I saw little black dots all over the ceiling — it was like the ceiling was painted a different color. The house was infested with gnats (they're like tiny mosquitoes). They were insanely hard to kill and bit us everywhere. They were on the walls, the furniture, etc. Hundreds of them just everywhere. We spent an absurd amount of money on products said to kill them, but nothing worked. We basically stayed out of the house as much as possible and one night I slept in the yard because honestly there were more bugs inside than outside. It was miserable, like an actual horror movie. We all had hundreds of bites that ended up getting infected. I remember my mom trying to get our money back. All the owner said was, 'It's gnat season, sorry,' and didn't reimburse us. Worst family vacation ever."

tamarag4468b9feb

2. We had rented a big house and two yurts.

"My family had a big reunion in New York for a week. We had rented a big house and two yurts with wraparound porches.

My uncle was walking across the yurt porch and ended up falling through and cutting his leg open.

Then we had issues with the bathrooms in the house, so if you needed to go, you had to walk up the extremely steep hill and down a path to use one of the yurt's bathrooms. With as many people as we had, it ended up becoming a hassle. Plus, I was staying in one of the yurts, and having so many people come to do their business adds up after a while. It started to stink up the joint, so it wasn’t very pleasant. And the floor was so weak in one of the yurts that you felt like the toilet may fall through while you were on it.

Finally the plumbing got fixed after three days — when a plumber in scuba gear showed up. We were on a lake so he had to go underwater to fix it.

Then the door broke off the oven in the house so we had to cook in the yurts and walk the food down to the house or have everyone cram into the small yurts to eat.

It was a crazy and hectic week, that’s for sure, but we definitely made some memories. We won’t be going back there anytime soon."

jaimem4348b3795

3. One morning I woke up to THOUSANDS of ants ... All the host did was give me a bottle of ant spray.

"I stayed at a place outside of LA a couple of years ago, where we rented a room in a house. One morning I woke up to THOUSANDS of ants crawling all over my suitcase, clothes, and bed. It was an absolute nightmare. All the host did was give me a bottle of ant spray and say, 'Oh yeah, we've been having a problem with ants.' It took an hour or two to shake out all my clothes and make sure there weren't any more ants."

nicholefrancois

4. Clowns everywhere.

"The house was filled with clowns. Clowns everywhere. Little figurines and blankets and paintings. It was a nightmare and half."—hannahl470d3d495
Ben Kothe / BuzzFeed News; Getty Images

"The house was filled with clowns. Clowns everywhere. Little figurines and blankets and paintings. It was a nightmare and half."

hannahl470d3d495

5. BIG-ASS ANTS WITH FUCKING WINGS!

"We stayed in the cottage and it was fine, but we kept finding ants everywhere. And not normal ants — BIG-ASS ANTS WITH FUCKING WINGS! I was terrified of them! We found out there was an infestation and had to leave while they were exterminated."

ullrmad

6. The host pointed out the erotic photos decorating the walls.

"My now-fiancé and I went on a trip together to Philly a few months into our relationship. When we arrived, our host came down in her pajamas and slippers holding a small poodle... It became clear she wasn’t going anywhere and that the 'entire place' listing was incorrect. When we reached the room we’d be staying in, the host pointed out the erotic photos decorating the walls, saying this would 'set the mood' for our trip. She also let us know she would be in the room 'right next door,' working on a pending lawsuit she was filing. Throughout the trip, she would knock on our bedroom wall and speak to us through it. It also became clear through our stay that her dog, who she told us was a service dog, was never let out to use the bathroom but rather stayed in the house. We found dog poop and pee in various locations in the home, including in our room!"

laurenr49bc93530

7. Did I mention the literal shit all over the toilet?

"My husband and I moved to Georgia but didn't know the area well, so we rented a house for a month until we got acquainted with the city. After two days in the U-Haul, we arrived to the house and there are random appliances (dishwashers, refrigerators, etc) scattered throughout the house. There were no lights or windows in either bathroom, no hot water, and only the back door had blinds but almost half were missing. The bedroom was filled with trash, and there were stickers all over the walls. Instead of locks, they had wooden sticks to wedge into the frames. The fenced-in yard was also full of appliances and the fence was knocked over and lying on the ground. For some unknown reason, there were also cameras. Did I mention the literal shit all over the toilet? We ended up getting a hotel for the night, and thank God our bank had the money in our account the next morning and we were able to find other housing after a few days. About a week later, I got a text with a Wi-Fi password from the host's son. I reminded him that we weren't at the house, we never stayed, and got our money back. His only response was 'k, thanks.' Smdh." —j47453d368
buzzfeed.com

"My husband and I moved to Georgia but didn't know the area well, so we rented a house for a month until we got acquainted with the city. After two days in the U-Haul, we arrived to the house and there are random appliances (dishwashers, refrigerators, etc) scattered throughout the house. There were no lights or windows in either bathroom, no hot water, and only the back door had blinds but almost half were missing. The bedroom was filled with trash, and there were stickers all over the walls. Instead of locks, they had wooden sticks to wedge into the frames. The fenced-in yard was also full of appliances and the fence was knocked over and lying on the ground. For some unknown reason, there were also cameras. Did I mention the literal shit all over the toilet?

We ended up getting a hotel for the night, and thank God our bank had the money in our account the next morning and we were able to find other housing after a few days.

About a week later, I got a text with a Wi-Fi password from the host's son. I reminded him that we weren't at the house, we never stayed, and got our money back. His only response was 'k, thanks.' Smdh." —j47453d368

8. The house didn't exist.

"We had just travelled seven hours from England to Scotland expecting to rest after a long journey in the house we had rented on the internet, only to find that the house didn't exist. So we were stranded in a strange country at 12 a.m. in the pouring rain."

elenabrightstar

9. The “shower” was just a garden hose run from outside through a window and taped to the ceiling. Weirdly had hot water though.

"My family and I got a rental in England for THREE WEEKS. The pictures of the house looked fine online, a bit small but perfect for what we wanted. We get there, and this place is filthy, and about half the size advertised. The mattresses literally had springs sticking out of them. The Wi-Fi never actually worked. To really top it all off, the 'shower' was just a garden hose run from outside through a window and taped to the ceiling. Weirdly had hot water though. Also, the fridge was never actually on."

saskiac4879fdf3a

10. Our romantic stay on a boat turned into a strange, naked party with our host and his friends.

"On the last night of a trip in Maui, my boyfriend thought it would be nice to surprise me with a stay on a 'catamaran yacht' on the ocean. When we first met our host, he told us we would have to kayak out to his boat. The waters were rough and it was hard to get out there, but we made it. The catamaran was way dingier than described, but that was not the problem. Our host said another couple would be joining us, and that he had some friends coming as well. This is a pretty small boat, so we would all get to know each other pretty well. It's dark when they arrive, and once they are on the boat, we notice that they were all completely naked. They never got dressed.

Our romantic stay on a boat turned into a strange naked party with our host and his friends. They invaded all areas of the boat, swinging on bars, jumping on our bed, having strange conversations, and rubbing up all over each other. At one point they started lighting off fireworks butt-ass naked from the front of the boat to a friend in the back of the boat. They knocked a speaker into the ocean with the other couple's charger and phone attached to it. It was bizarre and uncomfortable, and WE COULDN'T LEAVE!

The next morning we were dying to get off the boat, but our host was too busy getting busy with a naked girl. When we got back to shore, our host says, 'Oh yeah, I guess I should have mentioned that the boat is clothing optional.' The cherry on top was definitely when my boyfriend got stung by a scorpion when retrieving our shoes from our host's 'hiding spot' on the beach.

We contacted the site and got our money back from a crazy night on the naked boat."

lilym4f547b1de

11. It was like the ending of The Birds.

"When I was a kid, our parents decided to save up to rent a beach house for a week in Texas on our school break. A few weeks before we went there was extremely bad rain that was going to clear up before we got there. The first day, there were a lot of mosquitoes, but we thought it was manageable. But each day became worse and worse. We ended up fleeing the house on day three. We left a lot of stuff there too, but it was like the ending of The Birds. When we opened the front door the wall was black. We tried to quietly walk past the hoard of blood-sucking monsters, then sprinted to the SUV. We all looked like we had chicken pox with all the mosquito bites we had."

jonathonscottc

12. Only a three-gallon hot water tank.

"Rented a 'cozy rustic cabin' for a week two summers ago on Lake Winnipesaukee. The website description left out a couple of small details: undrinkable water, only a three-gallon hot water tank, no insulation anywhere (the kids liked to pour stuff from the bedrooms upstairs to the living room downstairs...through the floor), and no waste disposal ('do you mind just taking it home with you?'). On day three, the house was overcome with flying termites."

georgyl

13. Turns out our apartment was a frat house.

"I went to Milan with my mom and got an online rental. When we got to the building, we were very excited and went into our apartment. When we walked in it looked very bare and had a large conference room with a pull out couch. Turns out, our apartment was a frat house and we were sleeping on the pull out in the conference room because a couple was sleeping in the guest room."

amandalc3

14. My lasting memory of that trip is of the ringworm I had for weeks.

"When I was about 13, my family rented a cabin in the mountains so we could go skiing. It became pretty clear that the place hadn't been cleaned and that none of the sheets had been changed... However, my dumbass immediately laid down on my bed. My lasting memory of that trip is of the ringworm I had for weeks after."

knr8269

15. On the desk was a list of people who were born and died in the house.

"Stayed in a mansion in the very quiet, very isolated northern Maine area.Pictures online had been taken about 10 years prior. The whole house had fallen into disrepair, with windows that had been boarded up, overgrown shrubbery, and the front door hanging off its hinge. The owner was an elderly man with one eye that swiveled independently like a chameleon's. There were dozens of feral kittens, which he warned us not to let inside the house. On the desk in the foyer alongside the guest book was a dish of dead butterflies and a list of people who were born and died in the house. I spent the whole night wondering if I was in a Stephen King novel."—emilymaemattson
Ben Kothe / BuzzFeed News; Getty Images

"Stayed in a mansion in the very quiet, very isolated northern Maine area.

Pictures online had been taken about 10 years prior. The whole house had fallen into disrepair, with windows that had been boarded up, overgrown shrubbery, and the front door hanging off its hinge. The owner was an elderly man with one eye that swiveled independently like a chameleon's. There were dozens of feral kittens, which he warned us not to let inside the house. On the desk in the foyer alongside the guest book was a dish of dead butterflies and a list of people who were born and died in the house. I spent the whole night wondering if I was in a Stephen King novel."

emilymaemattson

16. My host call me a liar (and many more much meaner names).

"I travelled to LA for the first time last year by myself. Got to my rental to find out 1. the host wouldn’t be there, 2. it was hostel-style, and 3. the place was filthy. Following the site's guidelines, I took pictures and sent them to my host. In response, my host call me a liar (and many more much meaner names) and cancelled my stay without a refund! I contacted customer service and they gave me my money back, but for an hour I sat with them on the phone while this lady called me names and admitted to lying to customer support while they could see her messages to me in real time!!!"

kealeaf

17. No matter how many times we called and emailed the guy we rented from and got assurance that he’d stop by, it was never fixed.

"My family rented a house in Orlando a couple years ago. Pictures looked great, and it had a screened patio with a pool and hot tub. The heater for the hot tub and pool didn’t work, and no matter how many times we called and emailed the guy we rented from and got assurance that he’d stop by, it was never fixed. There were holes in the screen outside, and fixtures in the bathroom were basically glued onto the wall instead of being attached properly."

rachelc43

18. I felt like death.

"When we pulled up to the house in Destin, Florida, it looked a little shabby, but we weren’t alarmed. We were just ready to get to the beach after driving 12 hours from Houston. Everything was fine until I woke up the next morning — I could barely breathe and my eyes were watering like crazy. Where did this sickness come from? I felt like death, but I was determined to enjoy my vacation, so I got up and got ready to head to the beach. The next morning, I felt even worse! What was going on?! Long story short, the house had a TON of mold because it was a CARPETED beach house. So I picked up some antihistamines and tried to enjoy my time while also counting down the days until I was home and mold-free."

alexal4cf6bbfea

19. He left a log in the toilet and never flushed.

"My family rented a house last summer and when we arrived it smelled moldy. Checked on the basement and it was full of mold. The owner sent someone out who threw bleach all over it, so now the whole house smelled of bleach. The third day my dad goes to the other side of the house and comes back with a random nervous guy. He stammers that he was there to pick up an old router and had no idea anyone was there. Later we find he left a log in the toilet and never flushed because my dad startled him. The hosts emailed this year, asking if we wanted to come back..."

leahb41c2286a0

20. Skipping the shower seemed more sanitary.

"The first time I ever used this rental site was in Boston. I spent the day doing tourist stuff, and wasn’t able to check in until after 8. I was pretty drunk so went straight to bed. When I woke in the morning around 5 to get ready and pick up my friend from the airport, I walked into the bathroom and saw this. Needless to say, skipping the shower seemed more sanitary." —ashleyd402c0c5d3
buzzfeed.com

"The first time I ever used this rental site was in Boston. I spent the day doing tourist stuff, and wasn’t able to check in until after 8. I was pretty drunk so went straight to bed. When I woke in the morning around 5 to get ready and pick up my friend from the airport, I walked into the bathroom and saw this. Needless to say, skipping the shower seemed more sanitary." —ashleyd402c0c5d3

21. Did I mention that the toilet had a sensitive septic system?

"My husband and I and our married friends rented a small cottage for a weekend. It was Valentine’s Day weekend in Canada. We got to the cottage, and there was a LOT of snow outside and the driveway hadn’t been shoveled or plowed. Inside, we found a small fireplace but no wood. The thermostat on the main floor was beyond fucked up, and it refused to heat up any part of the main floor. Meanwhile, the upstairs, the baseboard heaters worked well but left the air so profoundly dry that I thought my sinuses might split in half and bleed. The walls between each bedroom and bathroom were literally just planks of wood so we could hear everything: the snoring, the bathroom trips. Oh, and did I mention that the toilet had a sensitive septic system? For three days, we were not permitted to flush anything but bodily waste down the toilet. All of our toilet paper had to be kept in the tiniest little garbage bin next to the throne. *barf*"

kirstylm

22. Giant, flying cockroaches.

"My family and I went to Hawaii and rented a house around Hilo for a couple weeks. In the kitchen pantry and all the bedroom closets there were these giant, flying cockroaches that would launch at you every time you opened the door. After day two we didn’t open the doors, but we could still hear them rattling around the rest of the trip."

cierraf

23. Our neighbors just happened to have roosters. Not just a few roosters either — we’re talking about 25 to 30 of them.

"My family rented a house in Rincón, Puerto Rico that was situated on a very steep hill. The incline was so drastic that the second story bedroom windows looked out into our neighbor's backyard. Well, our neighbors just happened to have roosters. Not just a few roosters either — we’re talking about 25 to 30 of them. And every morning at 4:00 a.m., they would start crowing. Right at our bedroom windows. On top of that, the owners of our rental claimed that the hot water was powered by solar panels, but we couldn’t find the solar panels anywhere and had to take ice cold showers for the entire vacation."

sarahashtonl

24. In the carpet are literally THOUSANDS of ants crawling around. And now they're crawling up me.

"Florida, 2014. We were staying in a rental house on the beach. The house was beautiful. We're settling into our rooms, and so I'm lounging on the bed scrolling through Instagram. All of the sudden I feel a little sting and see an ant on my hand. I slapped it off and looked over at the bedside table and saw like 15 to 20 ants. I look down, and in the carpet are literally THOUSANDS of ants crawling around. And now they're crawling up me. I scream, jump on the bed and try and shake them off. I finally got them off me when I looked down and saw that in the 30 minutes I'd been there, they had completely infested my suitcase and my backpack. I'm nearly in tears because they were biting me and they were EVERYWHERE and I had no idea what to do. My dad gets ant poison and sprays the whole room. The next day there are thousands of ant bodies in the carpet and in my clothes and in my bed. We found enough crumbs and food pieces to make a sandwich behind my bed. I spent the rest of the week shaking ants out of every item I wanted to wear and praying they would not come back. Then half way through the week, my room started smelling like urine and no one knew why or how to fix it. We stay in hotels now."

skailyr

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity. Company names have been removed in line with BuzzFeed guidelines on Community submissions.

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