Toronto couple says home 'trashed' after renters pose as family through online platform

A Toronto couple is taking legal action against an online platform that connects renters and hosts after their house was "trashed" by a group of people posing as a family.

The New York-based platform, called Kid & Coe, advertises itself as connecting families with family-friendly properties for rent or exchange.

Daniel Habashi and Andrea Van Leeuwen say that after agreeing to rent their house to what they believed was a family of three for several days in July, they came home to find their west end home vandalized and their valuables taken.

The couple say that the group who stayed in the house — who turned out to be a group of adults — threw a huge party, broke their children's toys, and used the family's luggage to cart away their possessions. 

"The entire house has been ransacked, every drawer, pulled out, flipped upside down," said Van Leeuwen on CBC Radio's Metro Morning, adding that recovering from the damage has dominated the family's life for the last few months.

A report was taken by Toronto police, who said an investigation is ongoing.

"It's been painful," Habashi said. 

"The reaction from our children has been devastating, to see tears in their eyes," added Van Leeuwen.

Legal action in U.S.

Habashi says that after struggling to get support from the company in the hours and days immediately following the incident, the couple received an email from Kid & Coe founder Zoie Kingsbery Coe that said the renter who had vandalized their property had tried to rent three other properties on the site with three other credit card numbers.

"Despite this obvious red flag, Kid & Coe allowed these criminals to proceed with another booking, which was our home," Habashi wrote in a public Facebook post.

The pair say they filed a complaint in New York asking for about $100,000 worth of damages from Kid & Coe after months of back and forth, during which the company has refused to pay "a dime" — including the original rental fee and security deposit.

Kid & Coe declined to provide a statement to CBC Toronto on Thursday, but published a post on their Facebook page in which they said that the incident "involved the fraudulent use of a credit card."

"We relied on our credit card processing company, and were utilizing the fraud prevention mechanisms available to us," the post went on.

Insurance won't cover family

Kid & Coe's post also says that Habashi and Van Leeuwen lacked adequate home insurance, something the couple say they were unaware of until after the incident. 

"I had a conversation with our insurer, asked about rentals in the home, asked a number of questions" prior to using the site, said Van Leeuwen. "When it came time to file the claim, there was a clause that we were not fully aware of that would be a cautionary tale for other folks that are thinking of doing this." 

Habashi said that the couple chose to file the complaint and make their story public in part because Kid & Coe had become uncommunicative — something Kinsbery Coe acknowledged in another Facebook post.

"We have not handled it as best we could — it has been far too drawn out which I know has been incredibly frustrating for the family," she wrote. 

Kingsbery Coe said she is focusing on reaching a resolution with Habashi and Van Leeuwen, and that the company will look closely at its security measures and roll out a "comprehensive insurance offering for our hosts" in the future.