Moldy Dirty Airbnb Montclair: Why Cleaning Fees?

We were a group of seven adults trying to get up north for a close friend’s birthday and it didn’t turn as great as we wish it had. The first weird moment was when I got a text from the host telling me the hot tub was on, and if we were going to use it, it would cost $50 for utilities and a cleaning fee, when the hot tub had already been included in the listing. Who would want to jump in a hot tub outside in the Oakland/Montclair area in February while it’s pouring rain? We arrived there to find out that none of the “entrance doors” we going to be locked during our three-night stay. The host told us it was a really safe neighborhood and that he was a part of the “neighbor safety watch council.” We obviously had luggage as we had booked from Friday to Monday morning, so we were a bit skeptical by this news that had just fallen on us. After getting some of our belonging in the rooms, we noticed some of the beds were in fact only mattresses on the floor, which was different than those in the pictures on the listing. Some of the rooms had a really dusty/stuffy/moldy smell and it made it awkward to breathe, so we opened the windows a bit, even if it was pretty cold up there.

We all went out to the birthday boy’s dinner, to find out after coming back that the kitchen counter was not even clean. Why would they rent a dirty house to people? When adding some beverages to the fridge, we realized that the entire place was just dirty. Two of the rooms had a space heater, but the third one had nothing. The people staying in there were freezing during the night and tried to turn what seemed to be the “full house heater” on the next day, but the box didn’t even work. When it came time to take a shower, we realized that not only was there rust, the towels were falling apart, the rod used for the curtain was actually a metal pipe, and the bathtub was actually moldy all over. The listing showed a $75 cleaning fee. I’m not sure who is enjoying that charge, but definitely no one who ever touched a sponge, scrubber or any cleaning detergents.

The house all around was really mismatched and decorated in a really weird way, but what was shocking is the fact that only a homemade sliding door was separating our “entire place” booking and where the host lived with his girlfriend. If the door was closed and locked all the time, it would have been ok, but in our case, we found that door wide open every morning, after a few of us had already left. The host might have thought it was cool to just go around during our “rental time” without letting us know. He could have at least warned us. Also, please read the “Hot Tub Rules” that were listed on the side of the dirty fridge, and tell me if you believe this is okay to ask your guest to be completely naked to use the jacuzzi. There is so much more I could say about our stay, but I’ll just share the few pictures I took of that place that should not be on Airbnb before getting cleaned and updated.

I requested a part of our booking fee back from all the people who rented that place with me and didn’t get any answer. I believe that rust, mold and unlocked entrances at all times should not be a part of the Airbnb policy. The nonexistent customer service pretty much tells people like us, to resolve the issue with the host and would get involved only at the crucial part. I feel like it is a great business for them as they are charging quite a bit extra to the guest and take a nice part of what the host makes as well, just for the access to their website. For all the money they are taking away, I wish they would support whoever goes through that kind of experience a little better. Hopefully someone will get back to us and at least get us the cleaning fee and Airbnb fees back.

Tampa Nightmare: Airbnb Doesn’t Care About Guest Safety

I really wanted to have a good experience with Airbnb. Really. The concept is simple enough: rent out a room in a “host’s” home and save considerably over the cost of a hotel room. Unfortunately, my first (and last) reservation with Airbnb has risen to the top of the list of the worst customer service experiences this quinquagenarian has ever seen. I accepted a new position with a software company in Tampa with the hopes of relocating my wife (and our dog, Lucy) sometime in the first quarter of 2017. Unfortunately, President Trump issued an Executive Order that implements a hiring freeze for all non-medical employees of the Veteran’s Administration, my wife’s employer. Since her move was postponed, my employer has graciously allowed me to return to North Carolina every 2-3 weeks. Because this situation is no fault of my employer, I am responsible for my housing while in Tampa.

It’s only natural that I would look for the least expensive roof to put over my head. My philosophy is that for the majority of the time I’m under the roof, my eyes will be closed, so my decorative expectations are low. I started by searching for a no-tell motel near the office. It turns out most motels in downtown Tampa double as retail crack and prostitution outlets. Who knew? The chain hotels, including the long-term suites, are just outrageously expensive. I resigned to the idea that the least expensive route was probably going to involve a shared property or roommate.

Enter Airbnb. I searched the site and discovered that not all of the listings are for roommates. Some listings were for entire homes and apartments. Others are homes that are set up like European hostels with digital bedroom door locks and shared common areas. I was optimistic as I inquired about several properties. One of the first hosts to get back to me were “Chris and Loni” who listed a “Luxury Private Room” in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa. Chris and Loni don’t live in this Ybor City house, but it appears as though they recently purchased it and have set it up as a hostel. I have driven through Ybor many times and it appeared that parts of it were being redeveloped. Other parts seemed to have not come around yet. Naturally, one of my concerns was the safety of the neighborhood. Before I made the reservation I asked about safety. They responded: “I can assure you this is a safe and friendly neighborhood.” I accepted their assurance and made the reservation.

After a nine-hour drive last Sunday, I started to approach Chris and Loni’s “luxury private room.” The first thing I noticed was the dilapidated houses, overgrown yards and then… there they were. Plain as day. Practitioners of the world’s oldest profession, approaching slow moving cars within 100 yards of Chris and Loni’s hostel. I continued down the street and past the little blue house, until the street dead ended at train tracks. To Chris and Loni’s credit, their house appeared to be the nicest one on the street. People were relaxing on their porches and in folding chairs and milk crates on their lawns. Many of them sipping on beverages wrapped in brown paper bags. I decided that it was probably best for this unarmed, white male driving a Prius, not to get out of the car. I found a McDonald’s, called the Airbnb customer service number, and expressed my safety concerns. The agent on the other end of the line offered to contact Chris and Loni and request a refund. About twenty minutes later, I received a text from the hosts that read: “This is a last-minute cancellation and we will not offer a discount. You’re welcome to cancel and address this with Airbnb.”

This text was followed by responses defending the safety of the neighborhood. I have been addressing this issue with Airbnb for four days now. Here’s a synopsis of my Airbnb customer service experience:

Sunday, February 19, Afternoon – after those texts from the hosts rejected my request for a refund, I called Airbnb customer service. After being on hold for 25 minutes, I finally spoke to “Miriam” and presented my case. She offered to contact the hosts and attempt to negotiate a resolution. Later on the same day, I received a phone call from Miriam indicating that she had not been able to reach the hosts.

Sunday, February 19, Evening – I booked and checked into another (more expensive and safer) place I found on Craigslist, called Airbnb, and asked to speak to a supervisor. I spoke to “Billy” who offered to open a resolution case. He suggested that I cancel the reservation, so that the dates would be made available to rent to someone else, thereby giving Airbnb more leverage to negotiate with the hosts. I promptly canceled the reservation. I am also told that my case manager, Miriam, will be off until Wednesday, but Billy was going to assign it to someone else.

Monday, February 20, Morning – I do as Billy suggested and covered all bases by going online and opening a resolution case with Airbnb. I submit crime statistics for the neighbor that show the area is 52% more unsafe than any other Tampa neighborhood. No communication from Airbnb.

Tuesday, February 21 – I contact Airbnb to determine the status of my request. I’m told that they have not yet received a response from the hosts. I tweet my frustrations to Airbnb and its CEO. I get a response indicating a case manager will be in touch shortly.

Wednesday, February 22, Morning – Miriam calls to tell me that the hosts have not responded to both email and telephone calls.

Wednesday, February 22, Evening – No more communication by 6:00 PM. I tweet: “Day 4 of no resolution and no refund from Airbnb or slumlord “host” Brian Chesky probably spends my $300 on bottle of wine at dinner tonight.” Shortly thereafter I receive a call from Miriam indicating that the owners had responded to resolution case with additional BS about their neighborhood being safe and refusing to offer any refund or compromise. She tells me that “safety” is not among the hosting standards of Airbnb and it is my word against the owners about crime. I suggest they review the crime statistics I sent. She tells me that I will not be getting a refund or even a partial refund. I go on a rant and asked to speak to a supervisor who can make a decision. Miriam tells me that supervisors don’t talk to customers and that they are only there to guide her.

My gasket is blown. It’s not enough money to sue over. My credit card company says it may or may not allow me to challenge the charge. The paperwork is extensive, has to be notarized, and may take 30 days to get an answer. This morning I sit here, for the first time in my life, contemplating contacting one of several Tampa-area consumer reporters who I’m sure would love to take on Airbnb. Does anybody have Keith Morrison’s cell phone number?

Airbnb Denied Refund for Rental in Austin, Texas

I was in Austin, Texas for the week of February 6th, 2017. I decided to stay an additional night and went back to Airbnb again. The place I had booked was not available for Friday night, February 10th, so I booked a place in an area of North Austin called Hyde Park. From the photos it looked like a sweet deal. I went by the location Friday morning to drop my car off and was quite shocked by the area: it was run down, “no parking” signs were everywhere, and there were several gun concealment signs. The few people in the area did not look inviting at all. Given the air of the location, I was concerned about leaving my car parked on the street as well as my safety staying the night there. I promptly cancelled my reservation and booked a hotel. Given my concerns I requested a refund from the host and then Airbnb. Both refused. In one of the replies from customer service, the agent stated, “…we have issued our final decision for this case and we will disengage from further discussion on this topic.”

Talk about just telling a customer to f*** off. The bottom line is I feel I should have my money refunded. The area of this rental is unsafe for any visitor. Airbnb deleted my review. My review was not inappropriate nor did it indicate anything about the inside of the unit. It simply stated my concerns about the area. If Airbnb insists on keeping my money, my review should be visible for others to read and decide for themselves. If there were other past reviews of this rental that did indicate a problem with the location or safety and Airbnb deleted them, then shame on them for their actions.

Moderate Cancellation Policy Leads to Terrible Customer Service

After our Airbnb reservation was canceled by the host less than 24 hours prior to our arrival in Los Angeles (it had been booked for two months), we were in desperate need of booking a new place as soon as possible. We quickly booked the first one that looked good to us but unfortunately once they showed us the address, we realized it was in the wrong location. We then canceled it so we could book a new place in the right location. The cancellation policy was ‘Moderate’ which essentially means they only refund you 50% of the full payment. The Airbnb property had been booked for less than twenty minutes and we felt we should have gotten a full refund. We could have used it towards a new reservation in the part of the city we were expecting. After speaking with about six different customer service representatives who all told us the exact same thing – we cannot get a full refund because it’s ‘policy’ – we were furious. We were in a 24-hour battle over the phone with a number of different reps who did absolutely nothing to help us. They were unsympathetic toward our situation which we wouldn’t have even been in in the first place had our original Airbnb host not canceled on us. They refused to refund us the rest of the costs and did nothing to even put us up in a replacement Airbnb. We ended up having to book a hotel room for our first night in LA because our Airbnb account had been disabled. This was a huge inconvenience for us and had a huge negative impact on the rest of our trip. We will not be using Airbnb in the future and will tell all our family and friends to boycott it as well. Airbnb should get better customer service.

Airbnb Cancellation Woes: Double the Price?

Having used “instant book” online my host then requested double the rate. I refused and was refunded the sum paid plus given a 10% discount on my next Airbnb booking. I made another booking immediately and paid £673… relatively onerous cancellation terms for me. Five months later that host then requested double the rate paid. I refused, and the host cancelled. Such hosts suffer a modest cost penalty imposed by Airbnb and that particular period booked for that property can no longer be booked through Airbnb. The guest receives a full refund and a 10% discount on their next booking. This is totally inadequate compensation for wrecked travel plans so long after the initial booking. Why does Airbnb not provide some financial compensation for holding a good chunk of money for so long? I have unsuccessfully sought some financial redress from Airbnb but keep getting the same standard responses. Airheads! Potential bookers: be aware of what might lay ahead. Hosts might cancel late in the day if they get a better offer.

Worst Host Ever After Guest Breaks Elbow

The host is called Maryann, and she has a listing titled “Vermont, Mt Snow Ski house in Dover Vt”. Do not, and I mean, do not ever ever book or rent from this woman. She is the meanest, nastiest, greediest person alive. It’s no wonder she has zero reviews on this property. Here are the details.

My friend booked Maryann’s Vermont Mt Snow Ski house for February 17th-20th, President’s Day Weekend. My friend made this reservation primarily so she could go snowboarding at Mt. Snow. After all the house is titled after the resort so the host tries to capture this crowd. However, my friend broke her elbow on January 15th while snowboarding at Mt. Creek. She dislocated all of the bones in her elbow as a result of her fall. She went to the hospital and the doctor reset her bones and put her in a cast. The doctor told it would take months for her to get most of her mobility in her elbow. So my friend contacted Liftopia who she used for the lift tickets; they gave her a full refund after she sent them her medical documents.

My friend then notified Maryann. She even sent her the medical and doctor release forms and analysis. Could you believe Maryann asked to see the x-rays? About a week after the accident, my friend had her first checkup and got a letter from the orthopedic surgeon that she would not be able to snowboard for three months; she would be in a cast for an additional four weeks. My friend then sent all this to Maryann she wrote: “You and your friends could still come and enjoy the house and area. It is not rented with the idea that one must be on the slopes. Thank you but I do not feel any further funds should be refunded.”

This woman who titles her house “Mt. Snow Ski House” is now telling customers that the house is not meant for going to the slopes? Why else would we be going to Vermont in February? If the Airbnb policy was so straightforward why did she ask for medical forms? This is absolutely crazy. The host has had over a month to find another customer to rent her house. My friend, in addition to all the pain she has endured, the countless medical bills that she has to pay and continued future physical therapy, has the added insult of this nasty host who prefers to keep my injured friend’s money. If this is Airbnb’s policy, do not ever rent from them, and do not use their services.

Biggest Storm of the Decade not a Valid Excuse

My wife booked a house for out winter vacations in Lake Tahoe. The check-in time was at 3:00 PM. Around 1:00 PM an avalanche blocked the highway. We were 40 minutes away from the house and ready to go. However, we were asked to wait until the road would be accessible so we waited. The officers told us they would clean it up in a few hours but it kept raining and snowing; it was the biggest storm in the past decade. We had to drive back that night because there were no hotels available. I checked the news the next morning and the storm was even bigger; the road was blocked for two days, so the only way to get to our Airbnb reservation was with a helicopter. Obviously, we didn’t have one. Our host refused to give us a refund. This is ridiculous; even hotels and other Airbnb properties refunded others. This was an extreme situation and it wasn’t fair our vacation got ruined. We lost our money. There must be something bigger than a “partial refund” from Airbnb customer service.

Airbnb Hell: Forced to Cancel Reservation First

I will never use Airbnb again. My host canceled our reservation in New York City because he got fined. He contacted me but did not contact Airbnb. So I had to cancel the reservation online. Now have to wait up to 48 hours for the host to respond. I made the horrible mistake of calling Airbnb. I was on hold for over an hour listening to the same miserable song playing over and over again, then got some nitwit on the phone who knows nothing. He told me I’d have to pay $117 because I canceled the reservation due to the host canceling. I tried to explain to him over and over again that I didn’t cancel but the host did. Now he sent it to the Airbnb “case manager”. Is this for real? Do they really have case managers? I already paid over $1,000 and now I feel like I’ll never see the money again.

Uncomfortable Airbnb Experience in California

I booked an Airbnb for the first time for a recent two-week stay in the Los Angeles area. I was messaging the female host who sounded pleasant but upon arrival was greeted by her “boyfriend” who I was never even told lived there. He helped me with my luggage and I was taken to my room. I was never greeted by my host, saw her in the flesh or spoke to her in person. I started to question if she was even real. The boyfriend told me to keep quiet to the neighbors about him as he wasn’t on the lease. The whole thing felt sketchy and I was a woman traveling alone. There was no way I was going to stay there for one night, let alone two weeks, so I left and got a hotel. I called Airbnb, told them that I did not feel safe and that the listing was not as advertised which they seemed understanding about. I am now in a dispute with the company and had the full prepaid amount of nearly $1000 reversed from my bank as the case was being disputed.

Today I received a letter that I lost the dispute because of the Airbnb reservation policy and will only receive a partial refund of about a third of what I prepaid. I was in the room for less than one hour and their policy includes you must be greeted by the host. This is ridiculous and I am looking into small claims court. Has anyone else experienced something similar? This service came highly recommended to me by friends who both host and others who have been guests. I am beyond disappointed with this experience and being told I’m obligated to pay for a misrepresentation of the service being offered. All hosts should have to supply documentation of other residences and have a formal letter from their landlord or coop that they are allowed to host.

“You have to use the Resolution Center, sir.”

I made a reservation for three weeks in Coral Gables, Florida. Based on the information in the listing, it looked perfect for my daughter and me. I’m 70 years old but my daughter is 38 and positively brilliant. She took a look at the listing and said “Dad, did you see these reviews? They’re pretty bad… and I think there’s no wifi or internet.” I had not looked at the reviews. Having had very good experiences with Airbnb for the last few years, I trusted their vetting process. Sure enough, this host had five different listings for the same property, under different headings. This normally isn’t a big deal, but every other item in “amenities” apparently had problems according to the reviews (of which there were 79). The property was an apartment building, not the home of a host; there was nothing kosher about this guy. According to the reviews, the listed wifi was essentially non-existent, 30Kb/s at best – virtually dial-up speed, if that. The electricity had gone out, there were stained sheets and mattresses blackened by the filthy tiled floor, unusable pots and pans, one towel for four guests, and two instances of this host canceling reservations a day before due to “a calendar sync issue.”

The list went on, from severely uncomfortable spring mattresses to the host being inaccessible. When I called this host, the phone number he’d listed with Airbnb had a recording I’d never heard before: “This customer is not taking incoming calls.” Ok, the plot thickens. First I called my credit card company, and before I could say anything, they wanted to know if there was fraudulent activity for a charge in Miami of about $1,400. “You bet your ass!” I replied. My pal at Capital One said, “Hold on, I’ll get Airbnb on the line and you explain your situation, see if they’ll cancel this recent charge… geez, it’s not even an hour ago! I’ll be listening in.”

Well, I got an amiable young man at Airbnb and explained my situation. He brought up my booking request, informed me my request had been accepted and if I wanted to cancel, the host’s strict cancellation policy applied: I would lose half the amount for canceling, since he said the payment had gone through. Although the reservation had been confirmed, the payment was still pending.

I replied, “No money was transacted, am I right? Airbnb is still holding that money, isn’t that correct?” Of course Mr. Amiable goes circuitously vague and obtuse. I continued: “This charge has not ‘gone through’ – it isn’t even an hour old! The reservation was made under false pretenses. Regardless, this host shouldn’t even be with Airbnb; this isn’t his home, he’s just renting out apartments and doesn’t give a flying crap about any guest-host relationships. He lied about a few things in his listing and I’m not going to be staying in his crappy apartment.”

“Well, you have to cancel the reservation, then take the issue to the Resolution Center and they will resolve the issues between you and this host,” said King Solomon.
“No,” I replied, “because by canceling a reservation, I will be reaffirming that the reservation was made legitimately and will be bound by the host’s cancellation policy, isn’t that right?” Dead silence on the other end of the line, so I answer my own question. “Yes, that’s right and that’s why I’m not canceling this reservation. Instead you, an Airbnb representative trained in conflict resolution, are trying to get me to validate this fraudulent host and his cancellation policy, so that I will be out $700 for services not rendered in the slightest and you are refusing to cancel a charge that was made one hour ago, for a reservation based on fraudulent information.”

I caught my breath and simply asked to speak with the supervisor. After a minute, Mr. Aimless came back and tried one more time to spin what was clearly a losing argument, for which I presented his points as illogical, incorrect and otherwise invalid again. “And by the way, why are you not letting me speak with your supervisor?” I asked this because I had been hearing this knuckle-dragger consulting with that supervisor several times, while I was talking.

“Sir, he has to deal with about 40 Airbnb agents…”

“Fine, you tell that young lady helping you that I’m retired and have nothing better to do but sue Airbnb for the most ridiculous refund policy ever presented. I would hate for a lovely corporate friendship to end in a court of law but you leave me no choice. Oh, never mind. Just do what you want. This charge is not going through and if you pay that crook of a landlord money, you will not be getting reimbursed.”

There were some clicking sounds, after which my pal at Capital One said, “Mr. Haber, once the charge is submitted to us for payment, we will explain why there will be no reimbursement. Capital One has your back.”