Forget the Mueller investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. There is an equally important scandal right here on the East End. Our team has been independently investigating claims of falsified rental guest books since late 2016, and the findings will astound you.
Many owners seeking to rent their homes out for the summer have guest books, which are typically displayed in a conspicuous place. This is a forum, where renters can offer comments about the property and their stay. And it’s pretty standard that current renters will read the comments from previous renters. This sets the stage for “Guest Book Gate.”
Just as sure as we have fake news, we have fake guest book entries.
Guest Book Gate involves owners of rental homes entering false information into their guest books in an attempt to foster positive gossip that will potentially increase demand for future occupancy and drive up rental prices.
Let’s start with a simple 2-bedroom/2-bath house in Southampton. It’s nowhere close to the beach and has no significant amenities. Yet, an entry in the guest book, dated July 3–7, 2018, reads:
“Stedman and I really enjoyed renting your home. Gayle expressed that she was very comfortable in the spacious and well-appointed guest room. Every morning she and I would hop on our bicycles and ride to the coffee shop. The neighborhood is very quiet. One day we all went clamming and cooked up a whole pot on the stove along with some corn and potatoes from the farmers market. We would recommend this home to anyone. See you next summer –xoxo”
Research proves Oprah Winfrey did not rent this home during that period. Instead, it was occupied by a couple and their two kids from Baltimore, Maryland.
This is not an isolated event. We checked scores of books from all over the Hamptons and found dozens of what appear to be phony entries. For instance, do you believe that Barack and Michelle Obama rented a one-bedroom beach bungalow in Ditch Plains in 2016? Maybe you would if you read the following entry:
“Michelle and I just loved the accommodations. Although the Secret Service had to pitch tents all around the place, we were able to escape to the privacy of our cozy little cottage each night. The sound of the waves made for a very romantic weekend indeed.”
Who wouldn’t want to stay in the bungalow that once housed the former President and First Lady?
But as a matter of law, are guest book entries required to be factual? An East End attorney, who wished to remain anonymous, stated the following:
“If the guestbook was the sole reason a potential client had for making their decision to rent a property, then I would expect the door may be partway open to litigation under some obscure truth and advertising clause. However, I would expect the clients also saw pictures and descriptions of the rental prior to securing it for their enjoyment. Additionally, the guest book entries I reviewed did not feature last names of previous renters, thus eliminating the idea that they were indeed the inferred celebrities. Maybe they were meant to be comical? If you rented local comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s house for the week, wouldn’t you expect this type of funny entry, perhaps a reference that Kim Jong-un and his mistress stayed there each summer?”
Despite this legal opinion, there is much more to it than this. These owners may not actually be in violation of the law, but we must have accountability. The Court of Public Opinion is what matters most. If these fake entries are not eradicated, we could be looking at a serious rental credibility problem, which could lead to a reduction in East End rental rates in the future.
Rest assured that we will be following-up on this, and will do our best to make sure that Guest Book Gate is scrupulously investigated and the offending individuals will be appropriately brought to justice. This could also extend to others who were aware of the entries and did not report them to the authorities.