Airbnb and the owner of a Michigan rental called "The Castle" are being sued by a group of senior women who say their stay at the property turned into a night of "horror" after a horde of brown bats infested the home and bit some of them.
The suit was filed Monday, fittingly one day before Halloween, in Alpena County Circuit Court against Airbnb, the owner of the property and manager of the rental, by seven women who stayed at the Victorian-style home in Alpena for their 50th high school reunion in late July.
The suit alleges that Airbnb negligently allowed the infested home to be advertised on its platform and that the homeowner and those responsible for maintenance failed to ensure the home was safe for renting.
Jon Marko, who is representing the plaintiffs, described the ordeal as "a scene from a Halloween horror movie."
The group of eight women had enjoyed their stay at "The Castle" for three days. But on the evening of July 26, two women staying in the large turret room of the home were shocked awake by screeching noises and dark shapes moving along the walls, the complaint says.
The women screamed and ran into the hallway, slamming the door shut and sealing the frame with blankets, Marko Law said in a statement.
But soon after, another bat came screeching down the hallway, and more followed, the statement said.
The women “ran to the stairwell but found it consumed with bats,” it said.
The guests looked for the nearest bed, blocked the doors with window sashes, towels and pillows and hid underneath the covers, according to the statement.
“More and more bats began entering the living quarters. The bats were coming down the old lathe walls and entering through the gaps in the baseboards. The night was littered with screams that could be heard from one room, then the next, then the next,” the statement said.
The bats got entangled in some of the women's hair, and some of the women were struck by the creatures and others were bitten, the complaint says.
The ordeal ended when dawn came and the bats retreated to the attic, it says.
An exterminator was called and found “a large colony of Michigan Brown Bats living in the attic,” the statement and the suit say. The exterminator also allegedly found “multiple inches of bat guano caking the floor,” as well as “bat urine running down the basement walls.”
"The exterminator estimated that this colony had been present in the attic for multiple years," the complaint says.
The women were instructed to undergo a series of rabies vaccinations because of their close encounters with the bats, the filing says.
Marko said: “This is every renter’s worst nightmare. What was supposed to be a fun vacation turned into a house of horror for my clients. No one expects to be attacked by a horde of bats.”
The Airbnb listing for the property shows a review from July in which where a renter wrote: “We were pleased with the stay for three nights. On the fourth night, perhaps due to excessive heat (the upstairs isn’t air conditioned), bats emerged through the walls from the attic in every bedroom and in the hallway.”
“The host did not respond to our eleven calls during our terrifying night with the bats, beginning at 12:08 a.m. The co-host answered my call but could not offer any help. We did not hear from the host until I checked Airbnb and saw he had responded via Airbnb email at 7:30 the morning following the invasion,” the review continued.
The Airbnb host, named "Thomas," replied, calling the incident “incredibly random and unfortunate to begin with.”
He said a professional bat control and removal expert was hired and onsite “within hours of me waking up and being informed this occurred.”
“We did immediately provide the refund as requested, and additionally offered to pay for your hotel lodging and dinner. No expense or effort was spared to rectify this as promptly and professionally as possible," he wrote. "Ultimately, the expert was only able to find one (likely transient) bat. Bats are very active this time of year in Northern Michigan and it’s unfortunate one found its way inside."
Airbnb said it has not been served with the suit yet.
The homeowner and the Airbnb host described as "responsible for the maintenance and renting of the subject property" did not immediately respond to requests for comment.