My husband and I are going to be in Brazil for Christmas and New Years 2016. We found a great apartment minutes from the beach for $200/night, so I booked 2 nights for New Years eve and the day after. It took a while to get through the booking process as I had to take a photograph of both sides of my driver’s license to prove my identity, but I finally made it through the process. The reservation was accepted and my credit card was charged.
5 days later, the host sent me the following email: “Hi Chris, thank you for your reservation and your preference. I am so sorry about the price i haven’t seen the price, it is wrong. In the new years eve it will be $250 daily for 15 nights minimum or i can make for you $400 daily for this 2 nights that you want . what do you think?” So the host claims that she made a mistake in pricing, tries to double the price, or asks me to extend my day from 2 days to 15 days for a price per day 25% higher. Right, that sounds like a good deal. AirBnB’s online documentation for what to do if the host asks for more money (https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/251/what-if-a-host-asks-for-more-money) says: “If a host asks you for more money than what you paid on the site and the extra charge wasn’t stated in the listing or in the message thread, contact us and we’ll contact your host directly.” So I responded politely to the host’s email: “Hi Paula, I received your message. According to AirBnB’s documentation, https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/251/what-if-a-host-asks-for-more-money, in this circumstance they recommend that I contact them directly about such a request. I have just sent AirBnB customer service an email describing your request. I expect you will be hearing from them shortly.”
I expected that AirBnB would require the host to honor the contract made for this location. I was shocked when AirBnB replied: “Hi Chris This is Luka from Airbnb again. I spoke to your host and she decided to cancel your reservation. I am really sorry about that. You can either request your full refund or having the amount you paid transferred to another host. Please check the email you received from us with the subject line: “Reservation Canceled at Luxury 2 bd steps…” I hope you will find a nice listing for the dates you need. Please contact us if you need any help. Warmest regards, Luka” Ok, the host cancelled, and I got an apology and “warmest regards”. How politely disappointing. If I rebooked at a different location, they would give me a small credit. Or I could get a full refund. Better than zero, but what happened to the greedy host that cancelled?
According to AirBnB’s documentation (https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/990/how-do-host-cancellation-penalties-work), if a host cancels without extenuating circumstances, they suffer penalties. In particular: “Your calendar will stay blocked and you won’t be able to accept another reservation for the same dates of the canceled reservation” Furthermore, “An automated review will be posted to your listing’s profile indicating that you canceled one of your reservations. These reviews can’t be removed, but you can always write a public response to clarify why you needed to cancel.” As to “extenuating circumstances”, when you click on the link, it doesn’t offer any more information. In fact, the link takes you back to the “how-do-host-cancellation-penalties-work”. Reading more of the fine print on the page, AirBnB gives hosts that allow for instant booking three (3) get-out-of-penalty chances “if they have concerns about a guest’s behavior.” This listing allowed instant booking. However it goes on to say “Calendar inaccuracy, confusion about pricing or availability, and extenuating circumstances are not covered by this policy”. If the host was confused about pricing, as her email clearly indicates, then the host should not be immune to the cancellation penalty.
However, I went on the AirBnB website for that listing and saw that the property (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9772188) was available for the dates that I had booked, been accepted and been summarily cancelled 5 days later, not for $400/night, but for $250/night. The minimum stay is still 2 days, not 15 days. Furthermore, there was no review stating that a reservation had been cancelled. Clearly the host was trying to scam me by doubling the price, or requiring me to stay for more than 2 weeks. And yet apparently there’s no penalty to the host. But the worst is that AirBnB demonstrably does not live up to their published terms of service.
What are the consequences to AirBnB for a breach of their stated terms of service?