Next time you stay in vacation rental, you may want to check the room for hidden neighbors. A couple said they found hidden cameras inside a San Diego Airbnb and have filed a lawsuit against the homeowner.
The guest, identified as “John Doe,” and his boyfriend booked a stay at a converted garage at a home on Willamette Avenue in Clairemont in November 2018. Three days into their stay, they claim they made a “horrifying” discovery: someone was watching them in rooms where they had sex.
The lawsuit claims the guests called San Diego police who “confirmed the existence of the cameras. She noted in her report that one of the bathroom cameras was so well hidden that she had to have [the guest] point it out.”
Homeowner Paul Vukelich ran the Airbnb at his home on the 4100 block of Willamette Avenue and is being sued for invasion of privacy, inflicting emotional distress, distributing sexually explicit materials, distributing the videos and more.
"In California, we take privacy extremely seriously,” said David Beavans, the attorney representing the guests in the civil case. “And when somebody steps over the line and violates somebody's privacy, then the consequences can be very severe."
Beavans said his client found three hidden cameras: two hidden in small holes in the bathroom and one in the ceiling of the bedroom.
"You can imagine his horror at discovering that he had been filmed,” Beavans said.
Almost one year after the alleged invaded vacation, Beavans said his client is still traumatized.
"Everytime that somebody looks at him funny... for the rest of his life, he's not going to know whether the reason is because he was recognized [from the hidden cameras].That's where the harm here comes in," Beavens added.
The homeowner and defendant, Vukelich, did not want to talk to NBC 7 on camera, but said there were never any operable cameras inside.
“Not really surprised,” said neighbor Brett Packard, who added that Vukelich is unpopular on the street.
The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
"He's looking to make sure the defendant in this case is never able to rent to anyone again,” Beavans said.
A spokesman for Airbnb sent NBC 7 the following statement: "The safety and privacy of our community are key priorities, and we maintain strict rules regarding the disclosure of security devices - which includes an outright ban on cameras within bedrooms and bathrooms. Once this incident was brought to our attention, we removed the host and listing from our community and worked quickly to support our guest."
Eva Velasquez is the president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resources Center. She said hidden cameras are now so affordable and easy to hide, that sweeping your vacation rooms to check for them is now “the new normal.”
"You should probably do a 15-minute check and look around,” Velasquez said. “If you see a motion detector in the corner in the bedroom and it's the only one in the house, that should be a big red flag. If you see a smoke detector positioned right above the bed, you probably want to check that out."