Host Tries to Claim an Extra $1500 with Fake Photos


A group of friends and I were delighted to find a listing that had private rooms and bathrooms for each of us in Hong Kong. We booked way in advance before the protests started, and the entire listing was over $1300. Later, as the protests got more intense, that particular area became quite the hotspot. I saw videos online of bricks being torn up to create roadblocks, of police tear gassing protesters – all within a block of the Airbnb.

I contacted the host to see if we could cancel and got our first lie in response – that the Airbnb was ‘far from the protests.’ She said we could cancel but we’d lose half of what we’d paid. $600+ is nothing to sneeze at, so we reluctantly decided to risk it. Luckily, the situation calmed down.

Upon arrival, it was clear she was lying. The sidewalk in front of the Airbnb was cemented over because, though it wasn’t featured in the videos, it had been torn up during protests. That was no big deal compared to the actual Airbnb itself and her later behavior.

We checked in, and all the rooms except one (the one heavily featured on the listing) were much smaller. The photos, on closer inspection, had been taken with a fisheye lens to make them look bigger. The size we could live with. The smell and grime we could not. The place smelled of musty mildew and that smell never went away.

The bathrooms were also tiny, having the shower placed pretty much above the toilet. Again – this wouldn’t be that bad if it weren’t dirty. One toilet was so close to the wall you couldn’t sit without your knees touching the wall. The person in that room gave up after a night and got a hotel room for the rest of his stay. The rest of us endured but also got hotel rooms for two nights.

We were not aware that we could have complained to Airbnb and gotten alternative lodgings. I had never encountered such a situation before, having had positive experiences, so we assumed that if we were to back out we would be out of $1300. Now I know better.

After the stay, I submitted my review, and after discussing it with my fellow travelers, got over my dislike of confrontation to ask the host for a refund. She offered to refund just the cleaning fee of $60. I then submitted a formal request for a refund via the resolution center, and this is where it gets crazy.

She claimed the place had been professionally cleaned (please look at the photos and tell me if you think that counts as professional cleaning) and threatened to report me to the police and said she would be charging me for damage. What damage? She sent me a request for an additional $1500 for stained white sheets, complete with photos. The photos were fake. We had taken a video before we left that clearly showed the sheets provided to us in completely different colors and patterns.

I refused to pay this, of course, and this was the final straw that made me escalate to Airbnb support, who – to their credit – gave me a 50% refund. The host sent me one last message before I blocked her, saying she’d reported me to police for refusing to pay. Needless to say I will never use Airbnb again if I can help it.

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


  1. This should be a lesson to not use a new type of service without reading the contracts or at least the refund policy.

    What is obvious to me, is that near zero details are even listed in this story, making it more of a story and an opinion from a customer complaining and trying to get out of a commitment when it goes a little scary.

    Here are some details and facts that would show more of the whole story here:
    1.)How many rooms did you rent for that price and how many nights?
    Let me guess that this is a bargain lower priced rental for the area! Did you really expect a Marriot room? The pics don’t seem that bad … in fact misleading on the marble toilette seat.
    Yes … cheap rooms can be small and not perfect! It seems like everything is in working order.

    2.)A traveler must realize that it is a high risk (maybe breaking airbnb policy) to re-rent rooms to friends in a group rental of rooms maybe set up as separate rentals? I can only guess due to lack of details.

    3.)When weather, politics, or even fires and floods happen in the area of a rental, the contracts and agreement are typically valid until a “formal closure or evacuation is issued by local gov”. This is because many things are beyond control of the host, and as long as you have access and agree to services by staying, you really need to pay! Remember that hosts loose money from cancellations and unexpected events too, and you need to be part of the risk in exchange for a reserved rental! Bargains are not free of risks!

    4.)It is always a bad idea to start complaining and asking for returns for a rental you have already committed to in contract! Things are bound to go defensive or biased on one both ends.

    5.)Learn about a rental platform, like refund policies and other tricks to limit scams. Watch for listing with poor photos not showing every room … or those identical to other listings that are maybe duplicates. Read reviews and try to call a host to verify things and see if host or rental even exists.

    6.)Never expect AIrbnb … or other P2P platforms to fix your problems created by ignorance.
    When you pay less, you typically get less service! Dealing directly with self employed, many times untrained and un-experianced hosts is what you agree to on P2P rental sites! It is usually a trade for getting a bit more local and home feel. You need to connect and be ok with the hosts or local accommodation for an area realizing it is also an adventure.

    • What other details would you like?

      1) We got the number rooms that were promised. That, and how tiny the space was, wasn’t the primary issue. As I said in my story “The size we could live with.” The issue was the mildew smell and the documented photos showing the place was far filthier than the listing photos showed. And that is not a marble toilet seat. That is a very dirty toilet seat. Are you being sarcastic?
      2) We didn’t re-rent rooms? My fellow travelers were listed on the stay with me. The place was one giant flat that had been converted into a narrow hallway and 5 separate rooms. Is that against policy?
      3) Yes? That’s why we didn’t cancel, after consulting with the host, and attempted to stay. However, her dishonestly is the issue here in telling us it was far from the protests.
      4) If the rental is significantly different from what was promised, then the other party has breached the contract. According to Airbnb policy,
      5) I’ve certainly learned my lesson. I’m not a frequent Airbnb user, but I’ve never had issues like this before in all my previous stays. And, if you had read the entire story, you would know I escalated to Airbnb AFTER the host tried to scam an extra $1500 from me.
      6) When we booked, this was not in fact lower priced rental for the area. it was a good price, but not significantly cheaper.

  2. threatening language or behavior that is documented through the airbnb app will get you a refund alone. keep pressing for it.

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