Images on Airbnb Never Tell the Real Story


We are a family of four who loves traveling and exploring. We have been an avid fan of Airbnb for a few years and appreciated what it stands for: ‘community’, ‘trust’, etc. We understood that there are always unavoidable inadequacies with the advertised properties, and the photos do not represent reality. We never complained when some of these inadequacies arose, but left a fair review of the situation instead.

We were holidaying in the Spanish island of Majorca last August and stayed in three different Airbnb properties. The first one was beautiful but noisy. A cockroach appeared in one of the rooms. Other than that, the place was immaculate and lovely. It wasn’t a cleaning issue and the noise wasn’t the host’s fault. We left happy and our review reflected that.

The second property was another story. The bedrooms and kitchen were damp ridden, which was most visible in the main bedroom’s recessed wardrobe. The rest of the walls were repainted very patchy, trying to cover the visibility of the damp areas. At check in with a man who spoke no English (which is fine – that happens often), we thought the smell was the kind you experience in old houses. Anyway, the man simply pointed to an tiny old dehumidifier which was meant to resolve the problem of the smell in the air.

Once we realised it was more serious than that at first we felt helpless and cheated by the host. At peak season with two young kids, what were we supposed to do? We paid top price for the property. We had stayed in much better accommodations for that price, before and after our stay. Instead of ruining our only family holiday, we thought we would just bear with it until the next accommodation (which was a decision we were to regret later of course).

We stayed the full week, avoided the bedroom areas, and didn’t use the kitchen much. We documented the dampness, trying to visualise the situation which was not easy. As soon as we checked into the next property and settled in, we checked the Airbnb website to see how we could complain. The first option was to ask for a refund from the host, explaining why. We were told the host rejected our request completely on the grounds that we should’ve complained during our stay to give them a chance to resolve the issue. Okay… but how? Problems such as dampness could not be resolved in an instant. Furthermore, the host clearly lied about the condition of the property which surely must be against what Airbnb stands for: ‘trust’?

The next option was to ‘involve Airbnb’. We did, and returned from our holiday to no reply. After two weeks, we had to call them and we were then contacted through email, asking for more details, stating that we should reply within 48 hours, and that the decision they make would be final. We replied and presented the photos. They replied and rejected our claim. Apparently their policy requires the guests to contact the host or Airbnb with complaints during the stay. Because we didn’t, there was nothing they could do at that point. Okay, fair enough. We appreciated that the property also was no longer advertised on the Airbnb website, which was a relief.

However, is this the way to treat guests? Despite what the policy states, did we not alert Airbnb of this unsafe property and the host’s dishonesty? Were we not cheated? We were charged the full price, a cleaning fee, and an Airbnb service fee. Do we not deserve to have at the least cleaning fee or the service fee refunded, since we can prove the property was not hygenic and the advert on the Airbnb website was misleading? Surely that’s Airbnb’s fault? All we can say is we feel shocked how greedy the company is and the way they treat their customers. We all know that good customer service in respected companies goes beyond policy.

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  1. Ok. This sucks, but I can’t believe you mentioned “one cockroach” and “the man didn’t speak English”. You’re traveling to a country where it is hot, in summer, so yes, there will certainly be cockroaches. We get monthly pest control inside and outside our properties in Texas, and still can’t prevent one cockroach to hang out somewhere. Sorry cockroaches haven’t been banned from Earth yet. And for the English part: why didn’t you speak Spanish? You’re the one traveling.
    I agree with the previous comments: hotels are probably a better fit for you and your family.

    • But it’s mentionned that the cockroach (an other listing than the one posing problems ) and the man not speaking English is not a big deal. I would also mention those things in a review for further guests to be aware of what could happen.

      The real issue is they (feel they) have been false advertised

      However they should have reacted during the stay not after. Howcome the state of the place wasn’t reflected in reviews left by previous travelers, if it’s that bad it should have been in reviews. If not yet all they can do is leave a bad review.

      I’ve also stayed in several hotels and 1 Airbnb that looked a lot worse than the pictures, doesn’t mean we’re entitled to a refund but we can (and should) leave a bad review and complain as much as needed.

  2. Most people have the hotel mentality, which is why Airbnb will either fail or transition to professionally run properties where the guest experience can be consistent

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