Welcome to the first post in the KillingsVille Blog Series. By now, you know I am Felecia Killings, the Founder of The Killings Foundation. My team and I are committed to helping you (and women in particular) build businesses or ministries around their authorship.
Recently, The Foundation expanded its borders to include a new service model that allows women to build economic empires in communal settings. And through these networks, we teach our communal clients how to increase using a supportive network.
Communal living is close to my heart. Back in 2016 when I left my tumultuous relationship, I needed a fresh start. But I didn't have all the conveniences I once had back when I worked full-time as a teacher. Nevertheless, I needed a home for me and my daughter (who was 3 at the time). So, I took to Craigslist, sought a room to rent, and eventually began this journey of communal living.
This entire living structure changed everything for me. I was surrounded by other mothers and families, who loved being a part of a community. Each family was supportive, and anytime I needed help with my daughter, one of ten women were available to help me.
Living in communal environments also gave me the freedom to launch my online business and virtual ministry. More importantly, it allowed me to homeschool my daughter, which was a top priority.
Communal living and the room-tenant housing model -- when done correctly -- are game changers, especially for single mothers trying to get back on their feet. And I'm excited to bring this new business model to other professional, single mothers (millennials in particular) where collectively we can create economic empires.
The KillingsVille Blog is focused on teaching how to replicate the communal living environment in your own city. And one of the best platforms to implement these strategies is through AirBnb.
Every now and then, I'll share some of my experiences with some of the best (and worst) AirBnb hosts who cater to long-term stays. As you will come to learn from this post, AirBnb is the room-tenant's dream. There is a vast market of people looking for rooms to rent without the hassle of credit checks, security deposits, and shifty landlords. When used well, a single mother can live luxuriously and safely in any location she desires. And that's why I am so excited to launch KillingsVille on that platform.
Now, in this article, I will discuss my first, long-term AirBnb experience. Sadly, it was a complete disaster, and I will explain why. Even though things did not work out as planned, I would still use AirBnb for my newest business model. And if you're looking for creative ways to live in this new era -- especially amidst the vast changes we are experiencing -- then AirBnb and the room-tenant market are for you.
So, let's dive in.
The First House was Gross ... Like Really, Really Gross
On January 28, 2020, my daughter and I flew into Atlanta to start a new life in a new land. This was my second attempt to make this city our home, because I knew Atlanta was the place YahWeh had prepared for us.
Upon arriving, I was ready to enter our AirBnb where I could shower and relax. We had been traveling for hours all night, and there's nothing worse than smelling like airplane passengers.
When we arrived in Carrollton, GA, I was overwhelmingly disappointed. Before leaving California, I asked the Host, Syerena Orr, about the neighborhood and house I reserved; and she briefly shared that some AirBnb guests were displeased because the surrounding houses didn't look appealing. But that overall, it was a good, clean area.
Pictures are worth a thousands words, and I suppose the ones I saw were good enough, especially for the price. I needed to get us into a place immediately, so I booked our stay.
I wish I could say I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the house; but instead, it was gross ... like really, really gross. (I have OCD, so this situation didn't help at all.)
First, let's begin with the false advertisement:
Because of the mess and smell in the front room, there were large, dead roaches in the kitchen. And roaches are the absolute devil. After one look at the place, I understood why some guests were bothered. But I never read their honest reviews, and that was intentional on Syerena's part.
Prior to paying, the Host told me she had all her long-term tenants sign a contract, indicating we will stay in her property for 30 days and promising not to leave negative reviews on AirBnb about this particular property. I've been dealing with contracts for years now, so I knew if I wasn't happy with the arrangements, I could find the loopholes and get out of the agreement. So, I signed.
But after 2 weeks of tolerating the disgust -- despite me deep-cleaning some areas -- I told her I needed to leave and I wanted out of the contract.
She complied; and because of her swift response, I agreed to stay in one of her other properties in Kennesaw, GA.
The Second House was a Breath of Fresh Air
In one day, my daughter and I packed our belongings, took a Lyft, and traveled to Kennesaw where we made our abode in Syerena's other property.
What a difference, right?
I was so excited to be in a freshly cleaned environment. The roommates were quiet. The neighborhood was country but still had enough people to call "suburban." The kitchen was so clean, the furniture so nice, and I could finally shower in a bathroom that didn't scream of mold everywhere.
I was so thrilled by this place that I wanted to make this our long-term stay. So, I asked Syerena to sign a new contract (a room-tenant contract) that would lock us in for 90 days.
And for the most part, my experience was wonderful.
The Pandemic Hit, Disaster Struck, and Syerena Threatened to Have Me Arrested!
Around the end of March 2020, the nation experienced the first sign of the pandemic. Businesses closed down all across the nation; and for freelancers like myself, this hit us a bit harder because our income depends on our clients working.
In Atlanta, the mayor signed an Executive Order, forbidding landlords from evicting tenants during this time. In addition, the federal government issued several "bailouts" to businesses to help them stay above water.
Even AirBnb came through to provide their Superhosts -- like Syerena -- financial reprieve, especially because many guests cancelled their trips due to the virus.
Around this time, I reached out to Syerena, sharing with her that my income diminished slightly, and I would need extra time to come up with the rest of the rent for the end of April. (After all, I had a room-tenant agreement with her.) That's when she proceeded to tell me that because I made payments through AirBnb, I was not protected by any agreement; and as such, if I did not have her money by 1:00 pm on that day, she would call the cops to have me arrested!
Umm ... what?
I told her, "You can't evict your room tenants right now. There is an Executive Order in place. Plus, this is not the procedure for removing a tenant. I am simply asking for more time, because the money I have right now is just enough to feed me and my daughter for a few days."
But Syerena didn't care. She demanded I give her the money (I have the text messages to prove it) or I would be forced to leave. So, I paid her after being strong-armed. And then I quickly reported her threats to AirBnb.
AirBnb is a Room-Tenant's Dream Come True
The room-tenant market is vastly different than your traditional rental market. We have certain agreements that help protect us; but because we don't conduct business as usual, it's hard for us to claim our rights unless we are willing to go through the courts ... and that's a headache.
But enter AirBnb.
Their entire legal system works so well. And when I made my report to them about the threat (along with another situation that happened in the home), they responded to me within a couple days.
After telling the representative my situation, she mentioned that as long as a guest has an active account and reservation, AirBnb would do everything to protect us. I shared with the representative that I had an outside agreement with Syerena; but because it wasn't under the AirBnb platform, my agreement was actually subject to the laws of Georgia. After explaining another incident with the representative, she apologized for my experience and refunded me the exact amount I needed to purchase food for me and my daughter. (YahWeh is just like that sometimes.)
Their swift reply and willingness to refund me when I never asked for it told me everything I needed to know about AirBnb: They are a room-tenant's dream come true.
The Final Straw
After scrambling for days trying to find and borrow money to get us through the pandemic, my account ran completely out. I knew I still had the right to be in that room because of my agreement and Atlanta's Executive Order; but Syerena went stark mad about it.
After being literally one day late on rent, she text me and threatened me again. And that was the final straw.
I called a friend in Atlanta, asked if he could come get me and Aaliyah, and we packed and left.
But it didn't stop there. The next morning, Syerena sent me a "Request for Money" in the amount of $785 for overstaying after the check-out. Mind you, she threatened me to leave over being late by $72; threatened to have me arrested and taken from my daughter, who would have been stranded by herself out here; and further harassed me with demands to now pay her almost $800 for nothing.
Now, I had given this woman $3,000+ to live as one of her room-tenants. I paid faithfully during my stay and even offered to promote her services to my audience.
But this is how she treated me in the end.
So, I opened another case against her with AirBnb, and told them about her forcing long-term tenants to sign these agreements about not leaving her negative reviews. I said, "If the previous tenants had told the truth about their experiences, I would have never given $3,000 to Syerena. I would have spent it elsewhere."
My case is currently still open, and I'm waiting to hear back from them. But when I think about how a Host could be this callous, I am baffled that anyone would ever consider doing business with her again.
I know I won't. And she probably shouldn't have done something like this to someone who has a platform that reaches millions with her message. (Insert smile.)
So, Beloved, while my first AirBnb experience was a complete disaster, I still believe this platform is the best place for the room-tenant, communal living market. They deliver the kind of protection all tenants need, whether you stay long-term or short-term. Their customer service is top-notch; and I am looking forward to launching KillingsVille on their platform.
My Rating of Syerena's Place: 2/5
Based on my overall experience -- and being threatened -- I rate Syerena's AirBnb business a 2 out of 5 stars. Her first property was completely disgusting. But she made up for it with the second house. This initial experience shot her rating back to a 5. But after witnessing her customer services, not to mention her complete lack of empathy for my daughter's well-being, I dropped it to a 2.
If you're looking for a place to stay short-term, perhaps a couple nights, you will have no problem (as long as you avoid her Carrollton property.) But do not expect quality services from her if you plan to live in one of her houses long-term (90 to 180 days). She simply does not know how to work the room-rental market; and she believes she's above the current laws that prevent landlords from evicting their tenants. I chose to leave because the stress was too much for me. And as a new resident in Atlanta -- and 3,000+ miles from my family -- I need all the mental and spiritual strength I can maintain.
I'm grateful the Holy Spirit came through and made instant provision. And now Aaliyah and I are prepared to move forward on our journey of making Atlanta our home.
I am confident my next AirBnb experience will be that much more empowering.
KillingsVille: A New Way of Living for Today's Millennials
Ladies, join our newest women's movement that helps millennial single mothers build online businesses and virtual ministries using their authorship. Using the communal living business model, we partner single mothers together to live in large, luxurious houses in Atlanta, GA. And together, through our 24-month program, we work with the women to help them establish financial independence and community.
By the end of the program, the women:
If you're looking for a new way to live, join KillingsVille. This will be an experience you will never forget.
Felecia Killings is an award-winning coach and book-publishing expert. She works with women to help them build a business or ministry around their authorship.