Bait and Switch: Unethical Airbnb Owners

This story is regarding my Airbnb rental and my host, Caroline. On December 17th, 2016 I made a reservation with Caroline to rent a home in San Pedro, CA, I received confirmation of my reservation and at that time my credit card was charged $1,829 for a one-week rental of the home. The rental dates were from February 18-25, 2017. On December 18th, 2016 I wrote to ask Caroline whether, during our stay, we could have a luncheon for my 90-year-old mother in law. She wrote back saying that would be no problem. Then, on December 19th, 2016, I was shocked to receive the following email:

“Good morning! I spoke with the owners this morning again about your booking and they are really worried about a party and are not keen to it any longer. They went to a neighborhood party and a few people mentioned that they were not happy about the last party and would report them. I’m sorry. I wish I could change their mind and they are sorry too but they can’t afford the risk. I hope you guys can understand. They also mentioned the house was booked at $200 and that they can’t afford to stay at a nice hotel for that and that they’d prefer a minimum of $250 per night. I’m not sure how our minimum got changed to $200 but that wasn’t correct. There’s been some software changes in the system but we can’t figure out how that could have changed. I hope this isn’t all too disappointing. I’ve never asked for a guest to cancel but this is what the owners want me to do. If you guys can make it work then I’ll need you to accept the changes or if it can’t work, which I’d understand, then you can cancel. Again, I’m really sorry about having to chance this on you. But I hope you’ve got enough time until February to choose another place if that may be.”

I had made a reservation in good faith to rent this property and now, with less than 60 days until the short-term rental began, I was being told the rental cost was being increased by 24%. As this rental was found on Airbnb, I contacted them to ask about this uncomfortable situation. I was contacted by two customer service representatives who said this was absolutely not acceptable behavior, that it was a “bait and switch” tactic, and against Airbnb’s policies. A few days later another representative from Airbnb contacted me and said she would work to resolve the situation. Instead, on December 27th, 2016, they informed me my reservation was being cancelled. I believe the actions taken by Caroline were illegal under California State Law, specifically regarding short-term rentals: “If you have a month-to-month (or shorter) periodic rental agreement, the landlord must give you at least 60 days’ advance notice if the rent increase is greater than 10 percent.”

Posted in Airbnb Guest Stories and tagged , , , , , .


  1. I had a similar experience, where Airbnb quoted just under $800 for total cost, including line items for rental | cleaning | Airbnb charges | Tax. Then immediately after accepting the contract, the rental company contacted me to add $95: they’ve found that sometimes Airbnb underquotes their amount by roughly the amount of the Airbnb fees, and though they have 60+ properties, they wanted the renter of a finalized contract to pay the difference.
    Airbnb assigned a case worker, I let the rental company know this right away rather than pay the $95 upcharge, and we exchanged messages through the Airbnb communications channel (a great feature, btw, done through emails to/from Airbnb). The rental company communicated that it is their right to cancel — not a fair recourse, I think, because I already signed a non-refundable contract.
    A day later Airbnb informed me that the rental company needed to cancel the booking, and was good enough to also include a 10% credit for the trouble of finding another property on their site, so now I had about $880 to find another place.
    I’d say Airbnb handled this well.

  2. Airbnb’s policy is unhelpful on this. They encourage it to happen by not penalizing hosts sufficiently. We are in the middle of a bait-and-switch right now where the host waited until there were no other comparable listings available. We already spent a bunch of money on airfare, and we’re not going to be able to have the vacation we wanted, and Airbnb said they don’t care. They said it’s between me and the host – that they just connected us, but take no responsibility. If they cared, they could easily penalize hosts who did this by refunding airfare cancellations and withholding those funds from hosts.

  3. We had a bait-and-switch situation last year in Provence France. After we arrived, we tried to contact the property owner/agent but she couldn’t be reached. After at least 10 failed attempts, she finally called back to meet us in 30 minutes. We met her after about 1 hour. She took us to the property but did not show us the property. Instead, she said that there was plumbing problems with the property so she couldn’t give it to us. She took us to another property which was not even ready when we got there. We then suffered 5 days of mosquito bites and heat without air-conditioning (the original property we booked claimed to have air-conditioning).

    After the trip, we complained to AirBNB but no actions had been taken and no apologies. This bait-and-switch scheme appears to be more common in AirBNB. We also book a property in Paris through TripAdvisor. We didn’t have this issue.

  4. These hosts should be thrown out of the system. I am sorry this happened but the host is certainly not a reflection of most hosts.

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