Seven Guests Who Will Never Use Airbnb Again

On May 1st, 2017, through Airbnb, we booked and fully paid for a beautiful property at Helensvale on the Gold Coast which perfectly suited our needs in order to spend Christmas with other family members who are residents there. On June 15th, the host withdrew the property for personal reasons. We received a perfunctory automated email from Airbnb that the property had been withdrawn, our booking had been cancelled, and a full refund had been initiated. Seven people were left with no accommodation and out of pocket to the tune of all the credit card costs.

We immediately emailed Airbnb to ask why we were not offered the choice of a refund or assistance to rebook a suitable equivalent property, as per the policy published on their website where it supposedly explains what happens if a host cancels. It took five days to get a response from Airbnb that this cancellation policy only applies in very specific circumstances and not to us. We asked Airbnb to refer us to where we could read and understand the specifics of this policy and how it didn’t apply to us. Airbnb refused to do this. We also asked Airbnb why they had immediately refunded us without consultation, again apparently in contradiction of their published policy. Again, Airbnb refused to provide an explanation.

In fairness to Airbnb, they did provide links to several alternative properties which they said “may suit our needs”. We had been very specific that we needed five bedrooms and large living spaces, even if it meant a higher cost. The alternatives Airbnb suggested were 2, 3, or 4 bedrooms and all entirely unsuitable, as though they had completely ignored our requirements. When we asked why Airbnb kept offering completely unsuitable alternatives which were in no way equivalent to our original booking, Airbnb refused to respond. When we tried to pursue the matter further, Airbnb effectively terminated the conversation saying they could offer no further assistance. Further emails to Airbnb have met with zero response.

The lesson from our experience is that Airbnb may work satisfactorily when things go well, but if there is a problem, such as the host cancelling, Airbnb will leave you high and dry. They are very difficult to reach to resolve an issue in a timely manner, they seem to apply their published policies arbitrarily, they refuse to respond to the specifics of a guest’s legitimate questions, and their responses are generalized as to what Airbnb “can’t” do rather than what they “can”. In summary, don’t expect any useful assistance when things go wrong. You have been warned.

Bad Airbnb Host Cancels our Mexico Vacation at the Last Minute

I had a similar Airbnb Hell experience with Sofia in Tulum, Mexico. I had reserved her place for a three-week stay a full month in advance. We were so excited to have found a nice place at a reasonable rate. It was priced fairly enough that we could do some of the other fun adventures in the area. Ten days before the trip I tried to connect with Sofia to ask a few questions about the place; she did not respond. As we got closer to the departure date, and after a few more attempts to contact her, I started to worry. I contacted Airbnb and they confirmed the reservation was fine. Well, somewhere between takeoff and landing in Cancun, Sofia cancelled our reservation. She never explained why, refused to answer any questions, and never contacted me again. With only one day’s notice, we ended up having to book another Airbnb that was very nice, but twice as much money and nowhere near the beach, which meant a lot of money on taxis and not the Maya Riviera vacation we had planned for, dreamed and reserved. Because I was still on vacation, I missed the window to leave feedback on her profile on Airbnb. I suspect she got a longer stay offer or more money as it coincided with spring break in Cancun. I’m very disappointed. I spent well over $1000, more than I ever intended to, and it was not a relaxing time; it was very stressful. How can a host just cancel for no reason?

Airbnb Left me High and Dry for Nashville Music Festival

I booked this property on September 4, 2016 for a vacation I’m taking June 6-12, 2017. That’s nine months in advance because I knew the majority of properties would rapidly fill up and be extremely expensive seeing as it is the week of the CMA Music Festival in Nashville. I booked my property and paid in full that day for a great price and the house was spacious and beautiful. With that said, I stopped looking for places to stay because I had already found one. On Saturday April 29th, I received an email stating that the property had been sold. With that I expected to at least have a conversation with the host with alternatives or even an apology. What I got was a message saying “sold property.”

I’m utterly disgusted and livid about this situation. Why would a host be allowed to list a property that is for sale? Had I known the host was selling the property months ago or even weeks ago, I would have had many more options but I was kept in the dark. I’ve used Airbnb in the past and thought it was great but this experience has changed my perception. I’m absolutely out of luck at this point because now I have to find a different place to stay, all of which are nearly triple the price now if not entirely booked already. Airbnb says 75% of properties are booked for that time frame. Because of this, I’m looking into ways to cancel my flight and car rental but it’s not looking so promising.

I am absolutely outraged and disgusted by the host and the service of Airbnb. Clearly all the two care about is making a profit and not putting a single thought into the customer or their experience. I already paid close to $500 for the flight alone to enjoy this special vacation with my friends and now we’re looking at well over $400-$500 each more for just a place to stay because this service is unprofessional. I can’t believe our entire vacation was abruptly ruined without even a simple “I’m sorry for the inconvenience” or replacement accommodation.

Host Canceled One Week Before Halloween Trip

We booked our vacation to New Orleans four months in advance through Airbnb. It was for Halloween, the second busiest time of the year after Mardi Gras. About two weeks before our flight and week-long vacation, I contacted the host about our arrival, getting the keys, etc. He never responded. His profile had been altered and he had no contact number. I did finally find his old number from an archived email and texted him. He said he was no longer a host for Airbnb and now lived in Texas. He claimed his profile had been taken down, but it was still up. Neither the host nor Airbnb had informed me of this. So, here my wife and I were, without accommodation, and almost all the hotels were booked up… a very stressful place to be right before your supposedly relaxing vacation.

Apparently, Airbnb hosts can just cancel on a whim with no financial consequences to them, but if you as a guest cancel, your penalties may vary from 50%-100% of your deposit depending on the terms to which you agreed. When I contacted Airbnb customer service, their response was apathetic and unhelpful; they just sent me about five links to other Airbnb properties that I could spend the better part of the next week frantically trying to contact on my own. What would guarantee any of these hosts from also canceling? Their response was that Airbnb is just a “Third Party Community Platform” that “brings people together” and they’re not responsible. I responded that this is the equivalent of me buying my plane ticket on Expedia, the airline not honoring my purchase, and Expedia simply denying responsibility since they “are just a third party that brings people together.” It’s pathetic.

In any case, I informed Airbnb that this is an appalling way to run a business. This would be the first and last time I would ever use their service and would be shutting my profile down. They never responded. Luckily, I was able to book a motel on Booking.com where our reservation would be Guaranteed. Truth be told, I never saw any big difference in price between Airbnb and their traditional hotel competition (at least not in NOLA).

Remember: your Airbnb host can cancel on you at any time for any reason. Planning your Honeymoon to Paris three months in advance at peak season? Watch out. I know lots of people have had great experiences with Airbnb, but the real test of a great company is how they handle problems and stand behind their customers, not when things go smoothly (which has nothing to do with Airbnb anyway – the host turned out to be good). So essentially, they take your money in service fees, but if things go wrong in any way, you’re on your own.

Conned by Airbnb over Easter Weekend

I used Airbnb to book a villa for eight people… I thought I did anyway. Prior to that I had contacted several hosts and got exactly the same reply every time. I liked a villa whose host was named Sandy. Villa Vouglemeni looked great. I received a confirmation email and was then told the payment needed to be made via bank transfer as it had been confirmed but not yet booked. We turned up at the place after paying £2355. The villa was real, but the booking was a fraud. Eight people were forced to book hotels at a peak travel time (Easter). The real owner had spoken to Airbnb ten days ago saying the listing was a fraud but Airbnb did nothing to prevent further fraud from occurring. They left the link up, so we booked and got conned. Then we had to pay again for alternative accommodations. They ruined our holiday. We lost all our money and they refused to listen or help; they just kept sending the same form letter. Help me share this story and get my money back and everyone else’s.

Dishonest Host at St. Patrick’s Day Party House

I have stayed at three Airbnb accommodations. The first two were great. I always got excellent ratings and feedback form hosts. The third experience was not good. The ratings were all five star for the accommodations. Well, the other guests who stayed in this accommodation obviously do not know what a five-star rating means…. the living room sofa needed cleaning, the screens were ripped and falling off of two windows, there were huge cigarette burns in the outside deck upholstery, and the oven needed maintenance. Her personal clothes were in cupboards and drawers. The dresser drawers fell out when I tried to open them. There was partying outside all night for two nights – it was a rough area. My friend yelled at them as the noise was loud and went on for hours.

When we left we did not do the dishes. The kitchen was so small one person could hardly move around in it. There was very little counter space, the sink didn’t have a drain plug that I could find, and there were no dish towels. I was quite sick when we left. We did not put out the garbage; however, it was all contained in bags. I left a note to say why we did not do the dishes. The host said they could not recommend me again as a guest, saying we yelled profanities at the “people who were just celebrating St. Patty’s Day”. We did yell at them at 4:00 AM to be quiet after hours of yelling and fighting on the street, but there was no profanity from us. The people on the street were yelling at one another and uttering lots of profanities.

This review is now on my file. My understanding is that this will never be removed. This host is a little batty… we did not break anything. She did not hire a cleaning person – she expected us to clean afterwards. When I am on a holiday I do not expect to have to clean the place before I leave. I will never stay using Airbnb again. This review process has no recourse and can be very damaging to guests’ reputations. Airbnb should be inspecting these places and negative reviews should be shared between host and guest so both sides can learn from the experience. I would have been glad to pay for a cleaning service if I had known this was expected. I was very ill. However, Airbnb should require hosts to use a cleaning service.

Host Cancelled Ten Days Before our South African Trip

We made reservations for three days in Simon’s Town (near Cape Town), with plans to go shark diving. We also have two little kids, so it was fairly important that a particular location was large enough; we also wanted a pool for the kids. The reservation was made three months before the scheduled trip dates. Ten days before we were to depart for South Africa (from the United States), I received a message from the host that she didn’t realize the dates we selected were during the Easter weekend and that she had to cancel the reservation because they would be using the house. While we were able to find different accommodation, this was highly unprofessional. Airbnb also doesn’t allow you to leave feedback for a host that cancels a reservation; there is only an automated message that’s posted to their account. This is very frustrating because it doesn’t let you express your views of the host and thus there is little incentive for a host to think carefully before cancelling a reservation. I’ll think twice before using Airbnb again.

Airbnb Raw Sewage Nightmare over Spring Break

We had our vacationed ruined by Airbnb and a host who was an absolute nightmare. Upon arrival at our condo we opened the door to an overwhelming smell of raw sewage. I’m not talking about a slightly unpleasant smell but a “you had to cover your face and eyes watering” smell. The condo looked nothing like the pictures that were on the Airbnb website. It was listed as a two bedroom but was actually only a one-bedroom condo with a three-foot crawl space with two mattresses thrown on the floor, which I guess made the second bedroom. In the end, none of that mattered as the condition and smell of the unit made it unlivable. We tried to phone the owner who told us to throw a couple of cleaning tablets in the toilet and the smell would eventually go away. There was no way this smell was going away anytime soon and the fact that we could not air it out due to the cold weather with open windows and doors only exacerbated the problem. The ultimate insult was when we stated the smell was not going away and the owner hung up on us. At this time, he is still refusing to return any calls.

We could not live in the accommodations and so literally had to spend our evening wandering, trying to find a place to lay our heads during spring break. We finally found a place that could take us for two nights for literally double what we had anticipated paying but we had no choice as we were at their mercy. I guess we will spend the rest of our stay trying to find accommodations for the rest of our stay. I have tried to call the Airbnb customer service line only to be disconnected before I ever reach a live person. The reward is not worth the risk. Don’t risk ruining your vacation and being put in financial distress by using Airbnb; it is just not worth it. I would not wish what happened to us on our worst enemy.

Host Forgets About an Advance Booking, Denies Refund

I booked a place in Delhi around December 22nd, 2016 (our trip to the Himalayas started on December 24th). I made a booking for the night of December 31st at a place whose host was called Kshitij (the listing was “cozy room for three”). He had amazing reviews on Airbnb, and before our trip we had a brief chat in which I told him about the flight details and the place to which we were traveling. The Himalayas have yet to receive reliable wifi service and as we were a little distracted by the beauty of the place, we didn’t check our phones (our mistake, I agree). We reached Delhi on December 31st at 5:00 AM and from that time I tried to reach Kshitij over Airbnb messages, considering Airbnb sends an email or text for each Airbnb message. We waited for him to wake up, have his breakfast, and so on and so forth. By 12:00 PM I got hold of his number and called him to find out he had completely forgotten about the booking and was not in Delhi. We paid him 15 days prior and he forgot; I was sure he had used the money by then already.

Anyway, he helped us to find a hotel near his place which straight away said no to an ‘unmarried couple’ (yes, we’re Indian and not married). We had to pay double our booking charges with Kshitij to find a room for the night. Since then, I have been contacting Kshitij through calls, messages, WhatsApp and Airbnb texts; he hasn’t responded properly. He also said he has started the refund, however I haven’t received anything. I called him again on March 1st, and eventually after an argument he disconnected the phone, and sent me a text: “This is the number for Airbnb. Please call them and share all your grievances from the last three months.” I am shocked to know how these people are exploiting guests in the name of a big organization like Airbnb. On the other hand, Airbnb has no support system or help available for anyone using services from Airbnb. I have attached our conversation screenshots in case you want to browse through them.

Swindled by Airbnb for London Holiday Stay

On October 14th, 2016 I made a reservation through Airbnb for a two-bedroom apartment for myself, my wife, and our three kids – two boys and one girl. The address featured on the Airbnb website was in Earl’s Court in London. This reservation was between December 24th, 2016 to January 3rd, 2017. I made a payment of 19,596 NOK (Norwegian Kroners). Airbnb then allocated me this booking with a reservation code and the name and contact details of my host. My host was Ulya, and the Airbnb system provided her contact number.

Both myself and my wife started to have a hunch there was something amiss about this host since around November we started to receive both SMS and email correspondence related to this booking. What confounded us was that each time we responded it would transpire that these messages were not from Ulya but from different intermediaries. Since we had already paid, we continued to confirm our date of arrival and departure, grudgingly so.

On December 24th, 2016 we arrived from Norway at Gatwick Airport, London, and proceeded by train to Victoria Station. From the station we took a meter taxi to the address Ulya had given us which was in Earl’s Court. As we were in the taxi we realised that the address Ulya (the Airbnb host) had tendered on the Airbnb website was not valid. Whilst at the the taxi we made numerous calls to Ulya and her numerous intermediaries. Their phones were persistently engaged, so the taxi driver dropped us in the street. We related our plight to a stranger we found at the bus stop; she intervened and called the numbers for Ulya and her various intermediaries to enquire about the correct address for this apartment. This time one of Ulya’s intermediary gave us the correct address for the apartment we had booked, and she further advised that the apartment door was black. However upon our arrival at this address the door was purple and not black as we had been advised. It was at this point that it dawned on me, my wife and kids that we had indeed been swindled.

Realising that it was getting both late, dark and colder we then decided to proceed the Kensington Police Station at Pembroke Mews to report our plight. We received a hostile reception at the police station… perhaps the Kensington police thought we were either refugees or looking for accommodation. In either case, they gave us quite a hostile reception. They didn’t allow us anywhere near the precinct of their office. They ordered us to go and wait across the street. Our five-year-old daughter asked to use the toilet facility, an appeal that was not granted. After some time one police official came to us and harshly engaged us. We appealed to the police to at least assist us by calling the Airbnb host again. During this engagement it transpired that they learned I was a South African diplomat and that together with my family we were travelling on diplomatic passports. After having verified the authenticity of our diplomatic passports the police made numerous calls to both Ulya and her different intermediaries.

After these one of Ulya’s intermediaries gave the Kensington police an address on Ifield Road as the correct one for the apartment we had booked on Airbnb. We then took a taxi to this address. We stood at the street parking near the door of the apartment on Ifield Road for Ulya’s intermediary to give us the keys so that we could enter the apartment. Much to our surprise, the apartment door was not locked since the lady who came to give us keys just pushed it open and gave us a sets of two keys. Upon entering the apartment the first thing that we noted was that the bedrooms downstairs were cold and dirty. We immediately alerted the host intermediary about this. She indicated that she was in a hurry as it was Christmas the following day and that she didn’t know much about the apartment. She further indicated that Ulya had sent her to give us keys for the apartment. We nevertheless further appealed to her to at least turn on the heating mechanism for the two bedrooms, and she declared that these were on and would be warmer with time. She then left the apartment.

On our arrival we were greeted by garbage at the door. On seeing us entering at the apartment the neighbors complained that this pile of garbage had been there for a while. The very entrance to the apartment was visibly dirty. Later on, Airbnb’s partisan Resolution Centre dismissed this garbage as being of no significance. In the kitchen – which is combined with the lounge – the seats were falling apart such that it was not safe to sit on them. The only seat that seemed safe was the sofa couch which could also be converted to a bed. Again, Airbnb’s partisan Resolution Centre dismissed this as being of no significance. When we tried to connect our gadgets to the wifi which we found at the kitchen we discovered that whilst the modem was plugged in, there was no electric current. We tried it on the power outlet where the microwave was plugged in and it worked. To our surprise none of the power outlets in the bedrooms were functioning.

Upon proceeding to the ensuite bathroom we discovered that the light was not working and that the warm water was not functioning. We then tried the other bathroom and discovered that it was visibly dirty, just like the ensuite bathrooms. We alerted Ulya through a WhatsApp message about these problems and she promised to send an electrician to fix them. At around 19:30 Ulya informed us via WhatsApp message that she would be sending an electrician promptly. As we were exhausted both physically and emotionally after the aforementioned debacle of looking for an invalid address, we retired to bed early with our clothes on since the heating mechanism in the bedrooms was not functional. We also couldn’t wash ourselves since the warm water tank was not functional and therefore the water was cold. I took sleeping pills and slept much earlier than my wife and kids.

At around 22:50 I was woken up my wife saying there was someone banging on the main door. Fearful as I was, I climbed the apartment stairs and proceeded to the door to find out what was happening. I enquired who was knocking. The gentleman at the door indicated that he had been sent by the owner to check whether the warm water tank, power plugs, light in the ensuite and the heating mechanism were indeed not working. I opened the door for him to enter the apartment. He consistently purported to be engaged in a telephone conversation. Upon engaging this gentleman he indicated that he was not an electrician and didn’t have a toolbox but would call an electrician once he had confirmed that indeed the electrical problems which we had raised with Ulya were valid.

Clearly according to the Airbnb host our views were are not worth of respect. In the first place she didn’t do a basic quality assurance test to ensure that everything was in order in her apartment prior to us occupying the apartment. Even after registering our concerns inter alia about electrical problems in her apartment she elected to send her contact person who is not an electrician to ascertain the validity of the problems we had raised with her. What further astounded us was that even this gentleman kept on telling us us that he had been sent by a “he” not a “she”. When we enquired from him as to how come he is not an electrician since Ulya had made a promise that she would send the electrician straight away. This gentleman’s assertion confounded us even more since Ulya had told us that she was the owner of the apartment. Ulya later claimed that we refused her electrician entry into the apartment. Fortunately I had a gut feeling that something was amiss with this gentlemen and I took a picture of him inside the apartment.

Later on after cancelling the booking, a faceless member of Airbnb’s partisan Resolution Centre dismissed this picture of Ulya’s electrician inside the apartment as being of no significance and deemed not to give an idea of what transpired in the conversation between me and this gentleman in spite of me having indicated quite clearly that I had relayed this picture to refute Ulya’s false claim that we did not allow the electrician whom she had paid £100 to enter the apartment to fix the electrical problems we had raised with her. There was also insufficient linens on the bed; my two young kids coughed and cried bitterly the whole night complaining about the cold. With the bedroom’s heating mechanism not working, the bed linen provided by the Airbnb host was not sufficient. I again alerted the host about this fact and she maintained that there were was enough linen in the apartment. We live in Oslo, Norway, which is much colder than London, however we have never felt as cold as we did in Ulya’s apartment. Again, the Airbnb Resolution Centre deemed this fact did not warrant the cancellation of the reservation and a full refund.

Earlier on, immediately after assuming occupancy of the apartment and after realising that the electrical outlets in the bedrooms and some in the kitchen were not functioning my wife and kids went to a nearby shop and purchased an extension cord to charge our gadgets and continue to keep the wifi connected. I remained inside the apartment as I was exhausted, physically and emotionally. Upon their return we discovered that the main door keys were not compatible the door lock and therefore not opening. Fortunately I had remained inside the apartment and I opened it for them. Otherwise we were going to be literally stuck on the streets in a foreign country on Christmas eve.

Again the partisan Airbnb Resolution Centre deemed this fact did not warrant the cancellation of the reservation and a full refund. On the morning of December 25th, 2016 I awoke with my family hopeful that perhaps the the Airbnb host will send the electrician to fix the problems cited above which we had duly reported to her. As the day progressed without the electrician showing up, we washed ourselves by pouring water in the black bucket we found behind the apartment’s kitchen door. This bucket contained detergents and a mop for cleaning the floor. At around 12:15 PM on Christmas Day, and after it became clear that was going to be no substantive intervention by the Airbnb host to our plight, my wife and I agreed that we should cancel the reservation. Immediately after cancelling the reservation, the Airbnb host promptly sent me a message informing me that since I had cancelled the reservation our continued presence inside her apartment amounted to trespassing. She further threatened that she was sending her team to deal with us. We left the apartment.

On December 26th, 2016, the Airbnb host sent me a WhatsApp message claiming that we had damaged her apartment and therefore she had taken our fingerprints and would send us claim forms. At first after the cancellation I got a message from Airbnb confirming the cancellation of my reservation and informing me that my reservation was not eligible for a refund. This message further indicated that if there was an extenuating circumstance I should click on the link for the resolution center. Upon clicking this link I discovered that I qualified for a refund 17,650 NOK from the 19,596 NOK that I had originally paid. I accordingly filled in the message box included in the link. I got a prompt response from the host stating I would not get a refund because I had refused her electrician entry into the apartment and called her people names.

Since I had cancelled my reservation with the Airbnb host I had to endure further costs for an alternative accommodation and for changing the date of return for our flight. Given the Airbnb host’s refusal to refund me I escalated the matter to Airbnb’s resolution centre and I was given a reference number for my case. On December 29th, 2016 I got correspondence from someone at Airbnb’s Resolution Centre asking me to send him any pictures related to this matter. I immediately sent him pictures I had managed to take. Initially my correspondence with pictures did not go through. I kept on trying and then ultimately they went through. He responded that they were not convincing. I asked – among other things – if he thought I would leave the comfort of my place and subject myself and my family to cancelling a long arranged festive holiday accommodation for no valid reason. I further asked him how is he going to prove from the pictures that the electrical outlets and the warm water tank are not working.

In the first place, both Airbnb and their hosts have a responsibility. Ultimately the faceless member of the Airbnb partisan Resolution Centre gave me a meager refund of 5,000 Norwegian Kroner which did not cover the additional 10,000 Norwegian Kroner for changing the departure date for the family flight ticket due to the problems we had experienced with the apartment I had booked on Airbnb. Ulya’s Facebook profile picture was the same as her WhatsApp profile picture. The only difference was that on Facebook she used the name Elly. Her Facebook profile also indicated that she lives in London. Upon looking at her pictures on her Facebook timeline I recognised the area around the apartment we had booked. A dew days thereafter, with the intention to alert Airbnb and my bank about this, I searched for her on Facebook and couldn’t find her.

I’m just wondering if there is anything that can be done to assist me in this matter. It pains me quite profoundly because I lost a lot of money from this debacle and subjected my family to an infelicitous drama. I also believe that other people need to know about the shady side of Airbnb. I’m also wondering if anyone can kindly assist me to get a physical address of Airbnb’s offices either in South Africa or Europe.