From Free to Strict Cancellation Policy Before Stay

I live in London and I needed to book a house for my family in the same borough. My family was supposed to come here for my wedding. I found one house for them on Airbnb last October. I booked it accordingly with the cancellation policy, which reported a total refund if you cancel by 15 days before the check in date. This was perfect for me as I wouldn’t have booked a house with a strict cancellation policy in October for May given these strange times, the COVID issues related to many aspects of life and travels, as well as the age of my parents.

I even put this deadline in my agenda to remember it and not risk losing my deposit. Moreover, I remember a strange fact: I wrote to the host because when I was trying to pay to book it, the system was stuck. After a few minutes, it worked normally again. Unfortunately, my family cannot come in May as the situation with COVID is still risky and they are older people. In any case, I did not need to explain the reason to cancel the house as I was supposed to be on time to get back the whole deposit.

On March 2 when I was cancelling my reservation, I noticed a different cancellation policy in the house page on Airbnb. This ‘new’ policy said that you can have the whole deposit back only if you cancel 48 hours after the reservation. Or you could have 50% back by May 3.

I immediately wrote to both the host and the Airbnb Help Center. The host was upset, writing me back that she didn’t have my money that I had to ask Airbnb for it. The Airbnb Help Center asked for my money back from the host but she declined it. So, again, no money back for me.

Airbnb said that the booking confirmation email in my inbox reflected the correct policy. I noticed that it showed the ‘changed’ policy, not the one that caused me to book the house. It’s my fault for not having checked it properly when I received it but I was sure that it was alright. If I saw it, I would have cancelled immediately.

I also tried to get back at least 50% of my deposit, asking for it from the host. She declined, saying “I understand your frustration but it’s policy.”

Given the circumstances, this was gratuitously unfair. For this reason, I have been asking Airbnb to send me some evidence that shows what happened while I was booking, if it is possible that the host changed this policy while I was booking. My belief is based on what happened when I wanted to pay to book the house. The system was stuck for a few minutes. Is there anyone here that had this kind of experience?

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


  1. indeed–I noted that there are two tier payments, one without refund, the other with some refund upon cancellation. It is tragic that airbnb has become a member of greedy Corporate America. The original idea was great but it no longer works. Note also that airbnb has been hi-jacked by investors who buy rundown apartment buildings and convert them in their entirely into airbnb. I am staying in one right now and it is nothing but a slum. pity. thankfully there are alternatives and many hotels offer comparable amenities for much less and without an exorbitant service charge.

  2. A host can change policies any time however the rate & cancellation policy in effect when you booked will be the policies for your reservation and should not change.

    You should’ve received a link to a guest confirmation with booking details or itinerary.

    The cancellation polices are strict (50% refund if cancelled 7 nights prior to start), moderate (refund if cancelled 5 or more nights prior to start), flexible (refund if cancelled 24 hours prior to start).

    ALL reservations made at least 2 weeks prior to start have the full refund option for 48 hours after reservation made.

    However some hosts offer a 10% discount option if you agree to NO REFUND if you cancel the reservation.

    Hosts are allowed to provide a more generous refund than their policy. For example: Person A has a reservation starting in 3 days. Booked under moderate policy so at this date no refund. A contacts the host and explains circumstances. Hosts says, “if I rebook any nights if your trip after you cancel, I will refund 75% of your payment for those nights.” Host rebooks 3 of the 5 nights booked. Host can request Airbnb provide the refund.

    I suggest you do as described above. Contact the host via Airbnb messaging, explain the Wedding has been moved/cancelled & you recognize the host has not received payment yet. (Airbnb transmits payment after the guest has been happily checked-in for 24 hours) Also you thought you had booked under a moderate cancellation policy. Ask if you (the guest) cancels, will the host consider approving a refund. If the host says yes, Airbnb can use the thread conversation & issue a refund. You must contact Airbnb for the refund.

    It is wise to always grab screenshots of the reservation confirmation details so you will have them in case if a dispute however for thus situation it’s too late.

    If you accepted the 10% discount to forfeit any refund, then you may be out of options.

  3. If you show the dirtiness of an Airbnb accommodation to Airbnb and refer to their cleanliness policies, Airbnb will tell you the place isn’t dirty enough. It’s incredible. Airbnb is a scam of monumental proportions. NEVER use Airbnb.

  4. Hosts will change the listing after you booked. If you ask Airbnb for the original listing they will not give it to you. In fact, they will not respond to your request or they will lie and say “it’s an internal document”; which it is not because it was the advertisement publicly posted to trick you into giving them your money. Airbnb “customer service” staff will tell customers ‘the host refused a refund so there’s nothing we can do’. Another lie. Airbnb and the host have stolen your money together and they split it between themselves. NEVER use Airbnb.

  5. OMG the same EXACT situation is happening to me right now and I am furious and frustrated. I cannot get anyone to help me. I get the same back and forth bs runaround you are getting I had a 48 hour refund then *poof* I had a strict NO REFUND policy. I would NEVER pick a place with a no refund. How did your situation end?

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