Obesity row Airbnb hosts shrug off fatphobia claim

A piece in today’s Times, which will be shocking to people “living with obesity”, like myself:

A couple who imposed a 100kg weight limit on people staying in a cottage on Airbnb blamed “easily offended snowflakes” and fat people for the property being removed from the website.

Marcus Farkas, 52, and his partner Zsuzanna, 34, vowed to continue their policy at the 15th-century home in Sandwich, Kent.

The couple, who claim to manage 20 properties on the site, shrugged off accusations of “fatphobia” and “discrimination” from campaigners but they removed the listing indefinitely yesterday, complaining that they had been “spammed by fat Airbnb people”.

The original advert for the medieval cottage, called Bobbit’s Lair, provoked outrage from activists over its list of rules, which included weight limits for “bigger than average” holidaymakers.

Mr Farkas claimed they were acting on the advice of a builder who said large people would cause “serious damage” to the oak beams of the medieval cottage. The row prompted Airbnb to pull the £199-a-night property off the site as the company investigated accusations of discrimination. It was later uploaded again, but with no reference to weight restrictions, before being taken down once more.

Mr Farkas, who does not own the property, said: “My builder said we shouldn’t rent the cottage to big people. We agreed and unfortunately some snowflakes took offence. It’s understandable, people are easily offended by the truth unfortunately. It’s being spammed so much we have pulled it. The owner is concerned.”

He suggested that despite the backlash, they will continue to enforce the 100kg (15st 10lb) limit. “The host will still choose and has ultimate control. [The website] is favoured towards the host generally,” Mr Farkas said.

On the website the property was advertised as a “fine medieval” two-bedroom cottage from the 15th century. Among its many conditions were bans on children, moving furniture and allowing more than four people in the hot tub at once. Red wine must be kept away from bedrooms and carpets.

Sarah Le Brocq, the director of Obesity UK, a charity supporting those living with obesity, [LAF emphasis] cast doubt on the couple’s explanation for the ban, which she said will be “psychologically damaging” for larger people.

She said: “Structural stability of a property is one thing, but how many people are you limiting in the house? If you’ve got ten people all weighing 99kg then surely that’s just as bad as having two people that might weigh 100kg each.

“It just sounds like madness. They’re trying to frame it as the stability of the house, but ultimately what it comes down to is clearly fat-shaming, weight stigma and real prejudice against people with larger bodies.”

Airbnb said: “Discrimination and bias have no place in our community, and we have suspended the listing while we address the matter raised. We enforce a strict non-discrimination policy and under our Open Doors initiative, if a guest feels they have been discriminated against, we will provide personalised support to ensure they find a place to stay.”

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