Airbnb paid tourist $7m after rape at New York rental
Airbnb paid an Australian tourist $7m (£5m) after she was allegedly raped at knifepoint at a rental in central New York, according to media reports.
The woman received the payout after the attack took place during a visit with friends to celebrate New Year’s Eve in 2015, Bloomberg reports.
The suspect had reportedly made a copy of the keys to the apartment, which he accessed before the attack.
A $7m settlement between Airbnb and the victim’s lawyer was reached two years after the rape occurred. As part of the settlement, the victim cannot blame or sue Airbnb or the host of the apartment where the attack took place.
A team of Airbnb “safety agents” contacted the local police after the alleged attack, and organised for the victim to stay in a hotel. The company also flew the victim’s mother over from Australia for support, and offered to pay any health or counselling costs.
The $7m settlement was one of the biggest payouts the company has ever made – but an Airbnb spokesperson told City A.M. that despite its wording, victims can speak freely about their experiences in the sexual assault settlements it’s reached.
Breit also told the New York Post: “In sexual assault cases, in the settlements we’ve reached, survivors can speak freely about their experiences. This includes the NYC case.”
The friends picked up the keys for the West 37th Street rental at a nearby shop that evening and noted that they weren’t asked for any form of identification, Bloomberg reports.
It is yet unclear how the suspect, 24-year-old Junior Lee, gained access to a copy of the keys.
When the traveller returned to the rental apartment after midnight, Lee had allegedly gained access to the apartment and was hiding in the bathroom. He then raped the woman at knife point, according to the reports.
Mr Lee was charged with predatory sexual assault after the attack. He pleaded not guilty, but remains in police custody.
Airbnb has not changed any rules on keys and the arrangements that hosts make for their collection since the incident.
As it stands, hosts on the rental platform don’t have to tell Airbnb who else holds a copy of a rental’s keys, and they are not required to use keypad locks or change codes for keypads inbetween guests.