Inside One Man’s Airbnb Nightmare in South Philadelphia

What do you do when your Airbnb guest refuses to leave … for months? Plus, the return of reader mail!

the 1500 block of Christian Street in South Philadelphia, where an Airbnb nightmare has been playing out since 2000.

The 1500 block of Christian Street in South Philadelphia, where an Airbnb nightmare has been playing out since 2000 / Photograph by Laura Brzyski

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Inside One Man’s Airbnb Nightmare in South Philadelphia

I’ve stayed in Airbnb properties all over the world — even in a tent on a Point Breeze rooftop. But I don’t think I could ever be on the other end of the Airbnb relationship. I don’t think I could rent out a home, room or apartment to a total stranger. And now that I’ve heard the nightmarish Airbnb story of one South Philadelphia man, I’m quite certain of it.

Joseph Foresta’s Airbnb problem began in 2020 and continues to this day. The longtime South Philadelphia resident, who is 62 years old, bought a home on the 1500 block of Christian Street for $40,000 in 2003. Years later, he began renting the property on Airbnb. And on July 13, 2020, Foresta rented the Airbnb to Lawrence Jackson, a man he didn’t know, for one night. On July 14th, when it was time for Jackson to leave, he didn’t, according to court documents.

Instead of leaving, Jackson allegedly changed the locks and refused to allow Foresta into the home. Then, claims Foresta, Jackson invited others to live in the home and collected rent from them. The nerve!

And it doesn’t sound like Jackson and the other occupants were model tenants. Far from it.

According to court documents, they basically trashed the house, allegedly damaging water pipes, windows, doors, furniture, banisters, railings, fire alarm systems, floors and walls.

Foresta says neighbors began complaining to him about noise and trash problems caused by the home’s occupants. And then there’s the story about the time one of the tenants had to be carried away on a stretcher. Why? Because he, for whatever reason, tried to get into the house by climbing in through a second-floor rear window. It didn’t work out so well. He fell, breaking his legs.

This all went on for months. Eventually, on September 9, 2020, after unsuccessfully attempting to serve Jackson and the other occupants with a lawsuit over and over again, Foresta was finally able to obtain a court order to have all of the people in the house removed. And the Sheriff’s Department, which handles such things, did just that.

Foresta says the ejectment process cost him $4,500. Then there was all the damage to the home. He says repairs cost him more than $75,000. The damage was so extensive that he wasn’t able to complete those repairs until December 2021.

So where was Airbnb during all this?

That is exactly the subject of a lawsuit Foresta filed against Airbnb in Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court and that was this week transferred to federal court. Foresta alleges that Airbnb did absolutely nothing to help him get Jackson and his pals out of the house, not even bothering to reply to his phone calls and emails for months.

In the lawsuit, Foresta argues that Airbnb is responsible for who it places in a home and that the company is also responsible to take action when there’s a problem. He accuses Airbnb of breach of contract and is seeking $170,000 in damages to cover his aforementioned costs as well as his estimated loss of rental income for the time it took to make the home inhabitable again.

“It was horrible for everyone, including the neighbors,” says Joyce Ullman, Foresta’s attorney in the whole mess. “How Airbnb even exists, legally, is beyond me.”

I had absolutely no luck tracking down Jackson. (“Good luck finding that one,” Ullman told me with a laugh.) When reached to discuss the situation, an Airbnb spokesperson said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Political Movements

If you’re one of those people who believe there are just too many people running for mayor in Philadelphia, this week brought you some relief. First, Maria Quiñones Sánchez dropped out of the race. On Thursday, Derek Green pulled the plug on his campaign.

So that leaves us with six viable candidates in the Democratic primary: Jeff Brown, Amen Brown, Allan Domb, Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker, and Rebecca Rhynhart. Will one of them drop out, narrowing the race even further? The smart money says no, barring any kind of major scandal.

Thursday also saw Jeff Brown pick up the valuable though not-without-controversy endorsement of Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police — not without controversy because it’s 2023 and police are, well, controversial. And it doesn’t help that the FOP prez is a MAGA Man. Outgoing City Council President Darrell Clarke endorsed Parker. And Allan Domb, who hasn’t exactly been racking up endorsements, just grabbed one from a PAC called Philly Forward.

Speaking of PACs and Domb, in an emailed statement he just called out Jeff Brown, demanding that Brown reveal the names of all the people he solicited dark money from via the super PAC under investigation by the Philadelphia Board of Ethics. Brown probably isn’t going to do that. And he basically ran away from an NBC 10 reporter who was trying to question him about the ethics probe.

One more note about Domb: Joyce Abbott just joined his campaign as co-chair. You probably have no idea who Abbott is. But you certainly know about the TV show Abbott Elementary. Abbott was Quinta Brunson’s sixth-grade teacher, and Brunson was so inspired by her that she named the fictional school after her in the hit series.

No Republicans on City Council-at-Large?

In case you need a Philly civics refresher, there are seven City Council-at-Large seats that serve the city as a whole (as opposed to district council seats, which cover a specific geographical area). And there are a ton of people running for City Council-at-Large — 37 to be exact.

The voters vote and the top seven vote-getters become members of City Council-at-Large. Well, sort of.

By law, two of those seven seats have to be held by members of a party other than the majority party, the majority party being Democrat. Traditionally, those two held seats have gone to Republicans. But that changed last time around when Working Families Party member Kendra Brooks won a seat that historically would have gone to a Republican. And this time around, it sounds like third party candidates have a pretty damn good shot at shutting Republicans out of Council-at-Large entirely. Chris Brennan of the Inquirer has the full story.

Say Goodbye to the 80s

It’s been fun, but after a high in the mid 80s today, our temperatures will begin to trend downward. This weekend brings us highs in the low-to-mid 70s, with potential for a thunderstorm on Saturday. By next Tuesday, a high of just 57. The horror! Don’t worry, though. It looks like the weather gods might be aligning to bring us some glorious summerish weather for next weekend.

By the Numbers

2 million: Estimated quantity of dimes (yes, dimes) stolen from a truck in Northeast Philly.

100: Percentage of Philadelphians wondering why there was a truck filled with dimes in Northeast Philly. (The answer appears to be that the driver of the truck picked up the load of dimes from the mint in Philadelphia and decided to knock off at home for a few hours before driving them to Florida.)

0: Laughs I got when I jested, in light of this news, “Well, I sure hope the thieves brought a big dime bag.”

10,950: Consecutive days this woman supposedly visited her local Wawa.

$6 billion: Amount Sixers owner Josh Harris and other investors are expected to pay to purchase the Washington Commanders football team. This would reportedly be the most money ever paid for a sports team in North America. Earlier this week, Harris landed on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people.

When Readers Write

I get a good amount of mail from readers, and so I thought I would, on occasion, publish these pieces of correspondence. (Should you want to send me a note for consideration — you can ask me for advice, you can tell me I’m a jerk, you can give me your recipe for meatballs — just use this form, or find my email address like many people do.)

In this edition of When Readers Write, a reader takes me way back to 2017, when I went to Atlantic City to see Teresa Caputo, the “Long Island Medium”, in action. You can read my full review here. Fair to say I wasn’t a fan after observing the cheap techniques she uses to come off like she has some otherworldly talent.

This reader mail came from a woman named Diane, who saw Teresa Caputo live in St. Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday night and somehow found my review:

Having just seen Theresa Caputo live last night, I can’t believe how disappointing and inaccurate your article is. She may not have zeroed in one person but she always walked to that general area. She knew an elderly woman had a tattoo… she knew a little girl could see dead people, she knew a couple was grieving the loss of their dog. She knew the exact words a daughter said to her mother at her coffin. I would say that’s pretty specific.

It’s so tiring that skeptics always want to say that she makes obvious general statements or reads body language and some of it sticks. And it’s always men!!!!!

I don’t believe anyone could have the experience I had last night and walk away not believing she communicates with the dead. It’s a shame you don’t allow comments after your articles so you can get some feedback. I’m pretty sure most would disagree with almost everything you wrote.

Want to make up your own mind? Teresa Caputo “performs” at the Wind Creek Event Center up yonder in Bethlehem on August 19th. Tickets here.

Philly Sports Desk contributor Sandy Hingston is on break this week. And, therefore, so is the Sports Desk. In the meantime, check out our guide to the Sixers playoffs here.