I would just like to share my recent experience with Airbnb. I booked and paid for a property in New Orleans in August 2018 in preparation for Mardi Gras February 2020, three weeks ago. After just shy of 12 months of it being booked, the host canceled and the host’s booking page was suspended. I did received a full refund which was little help as the prices in New Orleans have gone up considerably; Mardi Gras is approximately five months away now. The thing that has really annoyed me is that last night the host messaged me through Airbnb to inform me the house is available again albeit just over double what I’d initially paid. My first booking totaled £1019 now the host’s price for the exact same dates are £2189. Could someone please explain to me in what world can this sort of practice be legal or acceptable?
I’ll tell you what I think happened.
The host made a mistake when he set up his listing which was to allow bookings too far in the future. If he knew his market and his platform, he would have changed the booking window for his listing to only “3 months into the future” or “6 months into the future” instead of “all future dates”. That way, he or the automated tools he uses could gauge the market prices and adjust accordingly.
At some point he probably realized his blunder and made the change, but he still had a bunch of reservations that were booked by “savvy” guests so far out that Airbnb’s market adjustments don’t even get applied. The host is now seeing those reservations on his radar and realizing he can get twice as much money for the same product.
The host is feeling screwed by Airbnb because he used their Smart Pricing tools which they recommend because they are supposed to adjust to the market rate, but they didn’t because the tools don’t look more than 1 year into the future. He probably called Airbnb to complain and they said they did everything they could to just to get him off the phone and never actually did anything after that. But they’re making him honor the far-below-market pricing that they screwed up on.
So now, he’s cancelling the reservations that were booked at low prices and allowing the dates to get re-booked at the market rate. He likely got suspended from Airbnb for too many cancellations, but at this point he doesn’t care because the rewards far outweigh the costs (the penalty from Airbnb is $100 per cancellation). He can always switch over to another short-term-rental platform such as VRBO, booking.com, etc. until his suspension is over.
You, of course, are feeling screwed by the host because you booked a place at a price that was probably too-good-to-be-true at the time of booking and now it’s cancelled.
So to answer the question about it being legal and acceptable. It’s definitely not fair for the host to break his commitment to guests, but it’s not illegal. However, it’s definitely not acceptable to Airbnb and that’s why his account is suspended.