Airbnb Considers a Loud Air Conditioner an Extenuating Circumstance

About six months ago I had a six-month reservation that was cancelled because we didn’t reply to Airbnb within one hour. Our listing was listed with a strict cancelation policy which states that we don’t offer refunds if the guest chooses to cancel. However, our guest was sensitive to the noise of the air conditioner in our apartment and there was a cockroach (we live in New York). Airbnb determined this to be extenuating circumstance and canceled on our behalf.

Since then we’ve been having issues because apparently, we owe Airbnb the one month’s rent that was paid out after the first night. We actually ended up losing over $20,000 with this reservation, considering we had to cancel our lease, forfeit our security deposit, and hire last minute help to vacate our apartment in just three days before leaving for our six-month trip around Asia which we planned during the rental.

Airbnb has been our main source of accommodations. In fact, just three days ago we were not allowed into Taiwan because our visa got declined and even in these circumstances, when we contacted Airbnb they said we needed to give the host 24 hours to reply and explained that it’s up to the host whether to give us a refund. This was indeed an extenuating circumstance listed on Airbnb’s policy (as we literally were not allowed into the country), but Airbnb still stood by the host’s cancellation policy.

Every time we had issues over the course of our travels, Airbnb gave the hosts 24 hours to fix them and placed us in a hotel for the night while the problems were resolved. In our case, Airbnb canceled our six-month strict cancelation policy reservation because we didn’t answer them within one hour while the guest did confirm we were in contact with her, trying to fix the issue – which seems extremely wrong.

All problems aside, last month we booked a place in the Philippines for three weeks and the apartment had multiple electricity issues for many of the days we were there: meaning we couldn’t cook, there was no internet, no lights, no hot water, etc. We contacted Airbnb and they placed us in a hotel for three days which they said would be refunded. However, now they are saying we owe them the first month’s rent that was paid out for the 6-month reservation in June (which they cancelled without our consent) and that they won’t refund us for the hotel stays. We think this is completely wrong and we wanted to hear anyone’s thoughts.

According to Airbnb’s policy, it’s up to the host to set their cancellation policy; we had set ours to Strict, which meant that the guest does not get a refund unless we decide to give them one. There’s also another policy that applies for 28 nights or more, the long-term cancellation policy. If a guest changes or cancels a long-term reservation their first payment is non-refundable. If they cancel after the trip has started, the remaining nights in their reservation are non-refundable. If they have more than 30 nights left in their reservation, only the next 30 nights are non-refundable.

Looking into the extenuating circumstances policy established by Airbnb, it states that deaths, illness, injury to the guests, ability to travel, natural disaster, urgent travel restrictions, endemic diseases, severe proper damage and government-mandated obligations are the reasons why Airbnb would be able to cancel a reservation without the host’s approval. The reasons why this was canceled does not fall into this scenario at all. A loud air conditioner and a cockroach does not sound life threatening to me.

Keep in mind, this guest actually came to the apartment prior to booking it on two separate occasions to determine if it was suitable for their stay and heard and saw the air conditioner. We gave them a full tour and walk through and even rearranged some decorations after their request, which says a lot about our commitment and quality provided to our guests. We have hosted many people before and maintain a 4.8 rating, whereas this person was a completely new user with no reviews. Not only that, none of our past guests (some of which stayed just a week prior to this guest) mentioned any of the problems which she claimed made our apartment uninhabitable.

That being said, the cancellation of this reservation violates Airbnb’s policy as none of her reasons fell into the extenuating circumstances clause and we were not given the standard 24 hours to seek a resolution for the issues. After consulting with our legal team, it seems we have very strong grounds to sue Airbnb up for these losses. We did in fact let it go at the time but considering it is being raised again as an issue of us owning money to Airbnb I think it is worth pointing out that this cancellation was not done by the book in any means.

Regardless, it’s completely unprofessional to have an agent email us confirming they would refund three nights in a hotel and then be told after the stay that the refund would not be granted because of a balance owed for a reservation six months ago, which we were never informed of. I’m sure this is against their policies as well. At the very least, it’s an extremely disorganized an unprofessional way to treat loyal Airbnb users as hosts and guests.

How would you handle this? What would you do in our shoes?

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One Comment

  1. Is it legal to rent a whole flat out on airbnb in New York city with the housing crisis? Why not do a regular sublet? Airbnb doesn’t give a damn about hosts or guests. I would sue them (if you rented out legally of course)

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