An Airbnb host has been suspended after a gay couple said they were turned away from accommodation and then ridiculed due to their sexuality.
Shrewsbury couple Richard James, 30, and Fernando Martinez, 32, are indignant after being blocked from an Airbnb booking because they are gay.
The couple are now demanding the online accommodation platform crack down on discrimination and say it could be as “serious as life and death” – citing a homophobic attack outside a London nightclub where two men were stabbed 24 hours prior to their experience.
“We were going out for our friend’s birthday and were looking for somewhere local to stay for the night,” Mr James told BirminghamLive.
He said: “We messaged a host and told her we were gay before booking – which we always do out of courtesy.”
He added: “To our shock she replied ‘no thanks’ and then proceeded to laugh at us and even called us criminals. We couldn’t believe it was happening.
“If we hadn’t told her we were gay, who knows what could have happened to us?
“People will say ‘book somewhere else’ but they don’t understand the impact on your mental health and sense of wellbeing – it makes you feel dirty.
“As far as I’m concerned this is breaking the law. It makes me question whether Airbnb is carrying out adequate checks into its hosts before they sign up to the platform.
“Airbnb needs to be held accountable for who it allows to host. It could have really serious consequences for our community if a bad host does something to someone.
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“You’re at your most vulnerable when you’re asleep – Airbnb needs to make sure hosts’ homes are safe and that it has carried out adequate checks.
“It’s as serious as life and death.”
Airbnb said all hosts must agree to the company’s non-discrimination policy, community standards and community commitment policies which require users to treat each other “with respect and without judgement or bias.”
It said that since 2016, it had removed more than two million people for violating the policies.
A spokesperson said: “Discrimination has no place on Airbnb, and we reached out to the guest to provide support as soon as we were made aware of this issue.
“The host has been suspended from the platform while our specialised team thoroughly investigates this matter.”
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