Based on EJ's description of AirBnB customer service, and the 2,000,000 bookings the founders cited earlier today, we'd be fools to think this was the first time someone broke the law using AirBnB -- I'm guessing the others just gave up on support after being ignored, and focused on talking to the police.
The real black eye here is the kind of support EJ received before she wrote her blog post -- most people can't write that well and don't have readers who will submit the story to HN.
In the comments to the other story, people kept talking about how it is safe to rent using AirBnB. If the owner here had been less understanding, I'm guessing you would have at least spent the night in jail (assuming you speak German and everything else went well).
Someone who was not the real owner of the apartment (presumably thief/criminal) put the place up on AirBnB. You unknowingly rented the place from this person, and during your stay, the real owner showed up and asked what you were doing in his house?
In practice, most Berlin landlords won't ever notice their flat being occasionally sublet to tourists by the tenant, but they will probably not be too happy when they notice.
From when I lived in Berlin it seemed subletting rental apartments wasn't uncommon. Subletting where you live has been common practice in Germany for a long time predating the rise of AirBnB, etc. Typically on classified ad sites or through specialist agencies. I've seen stores like yours before from a few years back discussed on toytown (an expat forum for people living in germany), so it's not just an AirBnB thing.
I tried to contact ABnB, to find alternative place for me and nothing. No reply or anything that day, even though it was office hours. Really abysmal customer service. I'd hate to think if it was a more serious case...
It was a hot summer day, we had the door open to get a cool breeze going and hadn't noticed the apartment manager fixing some lamps in the hallway. Suddenly he pops his head in, surprised to see a bunch of folks he'd never seen before instead of the tenant and asks "Are you the tenants? If you are staying here, I need your name on the lease!".
Turns out our landlady wasn't supposed to sublet in the first place and hadn't told the manager about it (she had always paid the rent though). Fortunately, the situation could be rectified and we could stay for the rest of the summer as subtenants.
We figured the manager was cool with us when he realized we were behaving well (in contrast to some of the deadbeats in the complex like the dude next door who scammed one of our guys out of a hundred bucks, or the lady across the hallway who had just gotten out of jail and whose nutjob sister would yell around for hours threatening to call the police when she wouldn't open the door for her).
They don't have a 24 hour hotline? Crazy. Hotels do. Seems like this would be something worth spending the money on.