Host Cancellation Policy Not Worth Paper it is Written On

Just a warning for you hosts out there. Airbnb can refund 100% of the rate you have agreed upon with guests, and will not even inform you about it. The first you will know is when you receive a statement saying they have taken the money from your bank account, or deducted it from a future booking (which is what happened to us). It does not matter if you have a strict cancellation policy; Airbnb’s terms and conditions allow them to override this and “steal” (there really is no other word for it) your money and give it back to the guests, and not even inform you about it.

We had a booking in August – our peak period, and so we spent time, money and effort preparing our property for these guests, including purchasing food for their stay, paying for staff (our villas are serviced), and arranging cleaning, only for the guests not to turn up at all. As people fly to Bali, such a late cancellation left us no chance of finding other guests to take their place. When we contacted the guests, we found out that their grandmother had unfortunately died, and so they had decided not to travel.

While we had sympathy for the guests, we assumed that they had travel insurance (as we recommend for all guests) and so would claim on that, and so we offered to provide whatever paperwork they needed to do so. This is our business and our only source of income, and so we have a strict cancellation policy, as losing an entire week of income would be a big blow to us. We thought because of our cancellation policy that we were protected by Airbnb.

If guests contact us we normally work something out, and have in the past. For example, we have let guests stay later in the year for free. However, instead of claiming this on their insurance, the guests just went directly to Airbnb, and the next thing we knew, 100% of the amount paid had been taken from us. No warning or discussion from Airbnb. No discussion or message from the guests. We had had no argument or difficulties with the guests, just minimal conversation as we assumed they were busy with the funeral arrangements.

We are left here with all the costs of setting up the villa for the guests and yet zero income, and no ability to get other guests to stay or to recoup the income we had expected. We complained to Airbnb and they told us that when using Airbnb, we have to follow a policy called Extenuating Circumstances. In Airbnb’s view, their policy is evenhanded as it allows hosts to cancel at the last minute, as can guests for reasons outside of their control. However, if a host cancels due to some unforeseen emergency, then the money is repaid to the guests, and if the guests cancel due to some unforeseen emergency, then the money is also repaid to the guests. The host loses out in both cases.

Guests can also insure against unforeseen emergencies, but there is no such insurance to cover hosts for last minute cancellations leading to a significant drop in forecast income. With no discussion, notice, message or anything we were given zero opportunity to challenge or question this. Airbnb did not even check if the guests had travel insurance, and could have claimed that; they just quietly took the money without telling us. Not only is this policy grossly unfair to hosts, it is totally unethical to implement it without any discussion at all, and tells you that trusting Airbnb as a company is a very dangerous thing to do. A massive warning to Airbnb hosts: you are not who Airbnb cares about.

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2 Comments

  1. I have an horror story. I have hosted for 2 years with great reviews.
    In Sept airbnb made a mistake and instead of paying me for an extension of one day, they showed that I owed them money. I cancelled the extension. Then they showed that I owed them over $800 for cancelling the previous stay, which I never did.
    Since they have kept $795.40 owing to me, and paypal shows I still owe $261.00.
    I even shut down for one week but they assured me that I would get paid, so I resumed business. I share this story via phone, and in writing almost daily for the past 13 days, but, they never fix anything. I have no choice but to shut down.

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