Airbnb Nightmare: Can’t Leave Australia for UK Airbnb

VRBO

I am trying to get Airbnb to refund my $3000 deposit for a house booking in London for July 3, 2020. The last of my 50-odd attempts to contact Airbnb was through its support email. It bounced back: “We’re writing to let you know that the group you tried to contact (support) may not exist.”

I had my four children at home at Christmas and as a gift I booked a house in London through Airbnb in order to give all my family a well-earned holiday after years of hard University study. As I am 64 years old, when the WHO declared a pandemic, I got scared and cancelled the booking on March 20 thinking I would get my deposit refunded.

Apparently according to Airbnb, the coronavirus pandemic is not an extenuating circumstance and I should toddle off to London in July with all of my family. We may all die; however this apparently is not a problem. Dealing with Airbnb for a refund has been the most frustrating experience of my life .

The information below is the gist of my submissions to Airbnb:

I am having great difficulty phoning or contacting Airbnb. I am receiving zero support and zero resolution.

In a nutshell I booked and paid for an apartment in London in December 2019 for July 3-8, 2020. I recently cancelled the booking because of the extenuating circumstance that the Australian government has banned overseas travel and because of my age I will probably die if I contract coronavirus.

The host has written to me and declined to pay back my deposit. She is “deeply sorry”. However, my $3000 deposit should ease her sorrow particularly in view of the fact that it is money for nothing. I would like to know where my money is and when it is being transferred to the host.

Although we are not directly covered by the specific COVID-19 policy we are clearly covered by the general extenuating circumstances policy on the following grounds:

  1. Government-mandated obligations – there is an indefinite ban on Australians travelling abroad under the Biosecurity Act 2015 and my son and daughter are government employees who cannot travel under order of government directives. We face imprisonment and other penalties if we breach the Biosecurity Order.
  2. Travel restrictions – the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has the following specific advice for the UK “We now advise you to: do not travel to the United Kingdom.”
  3. Transportation disruptions – at this time it is impossible to secure travel to the United Kingdom that is reliable. There have been endless cancelations and rescheduling. There is not a reliable way to book travel to the UK at this time
  4. Epidemic disease or illness – the WHO declared a pandemic; the Olympics have been cancelled for the first time since WWII and children in the UK are saying goodbye to their parents via video link as they die. The policy at the time of our booking clearly states that an epidemic declared by a credible organisation is sufficient as an extenuating circumstance.

The booking was for a house in Kensington. We chose this so our entire family could attend. The purpose of this accommodation was for my family to have a holiday together after my daughter’s wedding in Scotland.

Included in our party to arrive was my son and daughter. He is a medical practitioner and junior House Officer at Cairns Base Hospital. He is employed by Queensland Health, a state government department in the pediatric department while she is a teacher employer by the Department of Education.

At the time of lodging this request for a refund, both of them have “indefinite” bans on international travel. According to a COVID-19 team brief he has received, he has been requested by the QLD government health authorities not to go on leave, while schoolteachers are also banned by the Department of Education.

Please note that although our travel was for July, Australians are legally banned from travelling abroad indefinitely at this time. The Prime Minister announced a ban on Australians travelling overseas under the Biosecurity Act 2015 and this is in addition to the standing advice to not travel overseas by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This is effective indefinitely and our family risks imprisonment, fines and potentially quarantine on a remote island on our return.

This means that at this time we are legally prevented from travelling. The only logical way to read this policy is that if someone is banned from travelling to the country right now and indefinitely into the future they have an obligation not to travel and have an extenuating circumstance under this possible. Any alternative to this reading is not workable.

For example, if a person was not allowed to travel because they had been charged with a crime it is possible at some point in the future the charges may be dropped and the ban lifted. However ‘possibilities’ are besides the point. We are legally barred from travelling by the law right now. The Australian government has advised multiple times Australians should expect these measures to be in place for at least six months.

According to this news article, the following applies to international travel :

Thousands of Australians have been left stranded overseas as airlines cancel flights and countries across the globe shut their borders entirely in an effort to contain the spread of Covid-19. 

Australians caught by closed borders, airport shutdowns, cancelled flights or soaring ticket prices say they are trying to heed the government’s advice to return home for the duration of the pandemic, but can’t. 

At least 100 Australians are isolated in Peru after the government in Lima closed all borders and land crossings and stopped international flights in and out.

At this time it is impossible from any practical standpoint to book travel as international travel at this time is completely unreliable. This is further backed up by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which advises:

If you’re in the United Kingdom and want to return to Australia, check your route carefully with your airline or travel agent as a number of key transit hubs, including the UAE (Dubai and Abu Dubai), Hong Kong and Singapore are suspending flights, including transits.

Please note that our claim clearly meets the epidemic disease or illness under the current policy. However, the policy as it existed at the time of our booking in January was much more clear. It is this policy that formed a part of our contract, in which valid circumstances include:

  • Urgent travel restrictions or severe security advisories issued after the time of booking, by an appropriate national or international authority (such as a government office or department)
  • Endemic disease declared by a credible national or international authority (such as the US Centres for Disease Control or the World Health Organization)

The Australian Government has now advised every Australian not to travel overseas in light of the Coronavirus Pandemic. The WHO has declared this a pandemic. This happened after we made our reservation. Under the clear policy in place at the time we booked we clearly meet this circumstance. There was not a special review policy at the time of our booking.

The current policy, Epidemic disease or illness that suddenly affects a region or an entire group of people. This doesn’t include existing diseases that are associated with an area—for example, malaria in Thailand or dengue fever in Hawaii is also clearly met by the current circumstances.

My wife and I are over 60 and this places us in the most vulnerable group for overseas travel. The American Centre for Disease Control CDC has advised people over 60 and those with underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus to stock up on supplies and avoid venturing out of their homes, except when necessary.

The Coronavirus Pandemic has made it impossible for my family to travel to London to take up accommodation in Kensington in July. I booked the house in order to give my family a well-earned holiday after years and years of hard University study.

My daughter (a state school teacher) was going to be married in Scotland and then we were travelling to London. The Queensland Government has now banned all State School Teachers from overseas travel. My son is a doctor and Queensland Health Department have banned him from overseas travel also. My youngest son was going to travel from Canada however he cannot get there as Canada has closed its borders. My eldest son is an Immigration Agent and Australia has now closed its borders and ended his business.

The Australian Prime Minister has made a statement listing new measures to protect Australians from Coronavirus. The Prime Minister says, “Australians should expect these measures to be in place for at least 6 months”. As of this writing there have been 472,529 cases and 21,305 deaths from Coronavirus.

Because of  the danger, the travel bans and all the listed extenuating circumstances I am asking Airbnb to reconsider the $0.00 AUD refund and have my full deposit returned.

We were really looking forward to this holiday and I realise that Airbnb’s business will be badly affected on a worldwide scale. We have used Airbnb many times and may look at a new booking at a later date when it is safe.

VRBO

Being Scammed with a Fake Listing Would have been Better

VRBO

We booked this Airbnb in Switzerland, seeking a peaceful beautiful corner of Swiss alpine experience that was indicated in the advertisement. Instead, we would instead just putting up a tent in a train station. You would have more room, and get the same experience of living on a railway track.

Literally every few minutes a train was passing by, even throughout most of the night. Many were so fast that the place shook. It is so close to the train station that we could hear the noise of cars being loaded onto the train. It was the complete opposite of the peaceful and scenic spot that we were expecting.

Sleeping in train station might also have been cleaner. The bed sheets were disgusting, stained and grimy. Desperate for sleep, we even stripped the bed hoping that the mattress might have been less awful. That was a mistake; it was a stomach-turning science experiment.

The towels looked marginally clean, so we made pseudo sheets out of them and disinfected ourselves in the morning. The floor and chairs were covered with spots of grease; we just didn’t feel like touching anything without putting on gloves or needing to take a shower afterwards.

Someone in the building must be a chainsmoker, as we were so often greeted with puffs of cigarette smoke floating into the place. Not exactly the fresh alpine air we had in mind.

We have stayed at hundreds of Airbnbs and similar accommodations at this point. This was nearly the worst. The only ones we can think that might surpass the awfulness of this place are the couple that were pure scams that didn’t exist. Honestly, we would have preferred this to be a scam versus the misery of staying at this place.

We should have left in the first hour, but all the hotels in town were booked and we just didn’t want to spend our limited time battling with the host and Airbnb. Anyway, we realize it is impossible to post negative reviews on Airbnb without getting hassled or blacklisted. We’re hoping this candid review ends up helping someone else avoid our experience and just put up a tent in a nearby train station instead.

VRBO

Airbnb Not Honoring Policy, Screwed out of $1017

VRBO

I was not given the refund outlined by Airbnb’s COVID-19 Extenuating Circumstances Policy at the time of cancellation. When I cancelled, my host instructed me to go to Airbnb customer service.

I went round and round with my customer service agent for several weeks when he would take 24 hours between responses. He gave me three different excuses for not getting my rebate.

The first excuse was that the booking dates/location were outside of the policies in place at the time of the cancellation. This was not true since my reservation was made before March 14th and for March 17-20, well within the COVID-19 affected dates.

The second excuse was that the cancellation occurred before March 14th. However, Airbnb posted a note on my reservation saying this was in a COVID-19 affected area and they would honor a refund.

The third excuse was that they said they needed to see a message from me asking for a refund within 24 hours of canceling. I asked to have this policy shown to me but they refused to do so.

At this point, I think customer service was making up stuff to get rid of me. I paid $1836 for a reservation that was not fulfilled because of the virus shutdown. My host gave me a partial refund of $820 based on the standard cancelation policy set in place before the policy. I am owed $1017 from Airbnb.

VRBO

Canada Closed but Airbnb Refuses to Refund

The Canadian Prime Minister closed the country’s cruise ports until July 1. All cruises until July 1 are cancelled, including ours. We were coming from the U.S. to Vancouver for one night at an Airbnb. It would have been our first time ever using Airbnb. Every other airline and hotel gave us a full refund the same day we called.

Not Airbnb: they have a COVID-19 policy until May 31 only. We were checking in June 1. Even with a ton of documentation, their “case managers” still denied us a refund because their policy is just until May 31.

The host is very difficult to work with and won’t budge on her strict policy even though we just booked it days before the shutdown in March and we’re two months away. What a selfish human being.

We have no control over this global pandemic and they have been a nightmare to deal with. We call everyday and get the runaround from customer service. Airbnb is a fraudulent company. I’m talking to a lawyer.

Airbnb Inconsiderate of Older Travelers

Airbnb refused to refund my March 18-25 stay, which I cancelled on March 9 after the CDC urged people over 60 to socially distance and not travel. Their ‘extenuating circumstances’ policy for refunds doesn’t kick in until March 14, days after the CDC issued contrary guidelines for older travelers. This makes no sense and is, if anything, discriminating to those of us in that age cohort. I’ve long been an Airbnb booster, but this ends now.

Airbnb Travel During a Worldwide Pandemic

The Airbnb website says if your travel is before May 31 you are entitled to a full refund. However, when I tried to do my cancellation it charged me the cleaning fee. I have sent repeated messages to our host and she has not responded to what kind of documentation is required for a refund.

I would think that with a worldwide pandemic and stay at home orders everywhere that further documentation would not be necessary but I cannot get a response and I have not received any confirmation of the cancellation or the refund.

This booking was for 11 days in the UK so it is a lot of money I am out if they do not follow through. If they fail to refund, I am hoping the attorney general will take action to ensure we are not cheated out of this refund.

Hosts Have a Big Say in Your Refund

In the middle of a global pandemic, this host was incredibly uncooperative, rude, arrogant, and kept reiterating that my refund was up to Airbnb. In addition to keeping in contact with the Superhost, I was also in touch with Airbnb. I got the runaround, until finally, I spoke with a decent human being.

I sent a link showing my state’s stay at home orders. I had to jump through many hoops and talk to a variety of people at Airbnb before anyone acted on it. To make matters worse, the Superhost was completely uncooperative.

Airbnb’s policy is unclear and dishonest as guests do not truly have an option for a refund during the COVID-19 crisis. You only get a refund if your host has updated their cancellation policy. It is ridiculous.

Keep in mind that the host does have a say. I am a host with a strict cancellation policy. When the guest cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis, I thought that was it. Several days later I had to approve his request for a refund. Why should I have had to approve it? Shouldn’t Airbnb automatically do it?

I don’t even get paid until the host is scheduled to check in. Airbnb is holding that money, and probably making money on it. Of course I approved his request, as in my eyes it would have been unethical to do anything else.

We are in the middle of a global crisis and nobody should be traveling, let alone haggling with unethical hosts and Airbnb. So, keep in mind that when a host tells you they don’t have anything to do with the cancellation policy, it is a lie. Hosts set their own cancellation policy, based on choices Airbnb provides.

All hosts were contacted and encouraged to alter their cancellation policies due to the pandemic. As some of you have experienced, many have not done it. I encourage you to write reviews naming your hosts and as much details about their rentals, as possible. This way, for those who dare to continue using Airbnb, potential guests can at least find out who was unethical during the pandemic — and avoid booking with them at any cost.

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Can’t Stay at Airbnb if There’s Nowhere to Park

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I saw this website. I discovered it was impossible to stay at the “cottage” I reserved on Airbnb. I could not park anywhere for blocks (possibly miles) around. It turned out to be located in a very congested neighborhood where cars lined the streets on both sides.  I felt misled as to the listing.

The attached picture is not what I saw. It was inaccessible; the directions said to enter the “cottage” by going through the yard of a “different house” — the one that was facing the street. The driveway of this “other home ” had a sign posted that said “do not park”.

I was  a nervous wreck, as I contemplated what on earth I was going to do if I couldn’t even park my car. Impatient drivers behind me kept honking their horns. One car was able to barely squeeze his way between my car and the row of cars to his left. He leaned into my car and said, “Get out of the way!”

I had nowhere to go but forward. As soon as I was able, I called the “host”, who did not answer. So I left a voice message saying, “I can’t stay at your house if I can’t even park my car. I expressed that I didn’t know what to do. I never got a return phone call.

I went to the Airbnb message center and chose the red highlighted area that said “contact Airbnb”. In between each four-way street traffic stops I wrote my complaint.  It took several attempts at explaining why I wanted to cancel. The site didn’t like “because I had nowhere to park” and it didn’t like “because the ad was misleading”, so I entered “because I don’t feel safe”.

Apparently it is some sort of preset answer/question format that has to see a certain reason as being acceptable before it comes back with the response I was looking for. Finally the response came back as “you will receive a full refund”.

At that, I headed home, all the way from Queens, New York (where the coronavirus had practically become an overnight pandemic) to Conway, Arkansas. I had not slept in over 24 hours because the other reservations I had made through Airbnb had to be cancelled when I saw that it was in a very high crime area. At least that reservation was cancelled without a problem.

Well, I arrive home three days later. I booked motel stays along the way (did not want to bother with Airbnb anymore) and guess what? I got an email from Airbnb that I was not entitled to a refund because of my host’s policy.

Boy, was I mad. My husband was furious. He jumped down my throat about booking with that company instead of just getting a motel. I immediately tried to complain. But, for some reason, I don’t recall why — I could not get a person to talk to.  I had to write my complaint out and waited for a reply.

When someone did contact me, after explaining all of the reasons I cancelled, I was told I had no supporting facts: no pictures, no correspondence.

How am I going to get that question/answer form that is on their end only? How am I supposed to get a picture of that sign in their driveway which said “do not park”?

As of now, I am out $260. I know that is not a lot of money, especially in comparison to some of these other unfortunate victims. If I were rich, I would pursue this with an attorney just for the principle  of the matter. I have submitted a third request for the refund I was promised.

COVID-19 Scam Over Bali Cancellation

I booked an Airbnb in early February 2020 with a host in Bali, Indonesia from May 15, 2020 through May 28, 2020. Well, sure enough, because of the coronavirus, my flight got canceled and both Singapore, where my layover was, and Bali are no longer accepting non-essential travel. This can be proven on both governmental websites.

I decided to cancel on March 25, 2020 and called Airbnb to speak to a representative. The representative informed me that because of their extenuating circumstances policy, I would be able to get refunded since I booked in early February.

Due to her negligent misrepresentation about the company’s policy, I cancelled my trip only to be refunded $0 and my cancellation had to be accepted by the Airbnb host. I immediately called back and was informed now the host had to accept my cancellation.

Well, the host never accepted my cancellation, told me he basically “had mouths to feed”, and I wouldn’t be seeing my $560 deposit. I immediately called Airbnb and told them I was impossible to go to Bali and it is unconscionable to take my money due to the first representative’s misrepresentation and the fact the government isn’t allowing me to travel. She informed me to submit documentation for internal review.

After this, Airbnb informed me he’d be eating my money too since I cancelled before the policy updated to extend to May 31st even though I cancelled five days before the extenuating circumstances policy updated.

I am advising everyone not to book with this Superhost who should have this status revoked and never to book with Airbnb. I have filed a complaint with the BBB since this is unconscionable and is a complete scam.

Even people who are covered under the extenuating circumstances policy still have to go through the same runaround and get the host to accept their cancelation. Airbnb is a scam.

COVID-19 Airbnb Cancellation not Refunded

I have never experienced customer service as terrible as this. I had a house booked in a couple weeks just outside the full cash refund bracket but that was fine; I was still entitled to a full credit refund which I could use in a future trip.

When I had realized the current state of emergency wasn’t getting any better, cancelling the Airbnb booking was a must. I went through the app to cancel and was shown two options. The first was a “receive a $0 refund from host” as it had surpassed her cancellation date, and the other option was “receive $320 travel credit for next trip.”

Part of this was my mistake, as I didn’t realize I needed to select an option. I had thought it was giving me the details of my refund rather than giving me the two options I had. As far I remember I don’t think there was anything that said I needed to select an option either.

Straight after that I had contacted Airbnb, first through messages and then a call. I was on hold for about 50 minutes, which is understandable during this period. Once I got through I explained my details to a very uninterested lady. She asked if I was looking for a full refund to my credit card, I said I was more than happy to accept travel credit.

I explained I think I had accidentally selected the wrong option as I didn’t see any travel voucher/credit to my account after that cancellation. She had told me she didn’t have the power to do the refund and that she’d speak to someone higher up and contact me later.

One week later, I hadn’t heard anything back. I sent them another message in case she had forgot. At that point I decided to call back, this time with a different person. I explained the whole situation again, and told him I had been waiting to be contacted by Airbnb. I asked if he could help me but once again he said he could not but will speak to somebody that can.

He then sent me a message after the call and said: “Thanks your patience, somebody will get in contact with you within 24 hours to resolve your issue.”

Six days later… nothing. So now I’m wondering if they’re going to refund my money or just tell me there’s nothing they can do as it is my fault for selecting the wrong option. Is it common for these guys not to contact you when they have promised or do they just try getting out of giving your money back?