Left Airbnb with Nothing but the Clothes on our Back

My 16-year-old daughter and I just relocated to California and made a long-term reservation through Airbnb (11/18/17 – 03/30/2018) to provide us time to find a permanent home. We are renting a guesthouse in Sylmar, CA, right in the center of the fires which are currently raging through LA.

I contacted Airbnb yesterday afternoon at approximately 3:00 PM, after being advised by my host (the owner of the guesthouse I’m renting) that due to toxic smoke it is unsafe to return to Sylmar. I was just leaving my office in Culver City, so had nothing but the clothes on my back (same for my daughter). My host also contacted Airbnb, advising them of the dire situation. I waited and waited for Airbnb to contact me, but after they failed to do so, was forced to book a hotel.

Airbnb did not contact me until the next morning and after re-explaining the entire ordeal, the case manager advised that she would have to speak to my host and I would also have to send documentation proving my situation. I advised the Airbnb case manager that I would have no problem proving the situation and she could verify by simply googling “LA Fires”. After about three hours, I received an email from Airbnb stating that although they are sorry about the situation, the only thing they can do is cancel my long-term reservation, from yesterday (12/5/17). I immediately called Airbnb to discuss this, as they should have.

Cancelling the reservation is not a solution. We have just relocated from Arizona, have no family out here, can’t get any of our stuff, and can’t afford to stay in a hotel every night. As I explained to the Airbnb case manager I was assigned, I just spent $275 on groceries for the month, which is money that I’ve now lost and couldn’t afford in the first place. The case manager said, and I quote: “It is not Airbnb’s fault that the fire started and we don’t have any alternate places right now that we can book you in, so there’s nothing further we can do for you.”

I asked to speak to her supervisor and she hung up on me. I don’t know what to do and am in desperate need of assistance. This treatment by Airbnb during such a scary situation is horrific and unfair. This wasn’t a week-long booking; we were supposed to be there until the end of March. We have nothing; all of our stuff is stuck in a guesthouse we cannot gain entry to and we have nowhere to go.

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


  1. Headline could have just as well said
    “Airbnb treated fire victim ethically and legally”
    Because that is what they did. They treated you ethically by quickly returning your unused rental payment to you.
    You fail to understand the gravity of the situation – there was a catastrophic fire.
    Act of God.
    Airbnb did not profit from this situation, the host LOST income in this fire and some how you think you deserve something?
    Even Homeowners with insurance will lose in the situation. Renters have lost a lot in this situation and they will wait a long time for a return of the their unused prepaid rent and security deposit. You should be thankful that your unused rent was promptly returned to you

  2. No, I did not receive a refund AND so much more has occurred since posting this. I’ve now retained legal council, who has found just cause to sue both Airbnb and the host on 5 different laws which were broken. Just to address some of the comments, I did not expect anything other than to be treated with common decency. I understand that I was not renting a room from Airbnb. I was lied to and about, threatened, my things were destroyed, my money was stolen, the list goes on and on. In fact, I have such a strong case that a TEAM of lawyers has agreed to represent me on a contingency basis, meaning they don’t earn a penny, unless the case is won.

    • I’m glad you obtained a lawyer. This whole situation is so messed up. I wish you were able to give out more details. Keep us posted.

  3. If you received a full refund, I don’t see why you can’t book another Airbnb that isn’t in the fire area.

    I live and host in West Los Angeles which is much closer to Culver City than Sylmar is. This entire area isn’t in the fire area.

  4. Sorry to hear about your situation. The issue is that these are rentals by owner and AirBnb has put itself in the middle of the transaction. If AirBnb owned homes, they could find something, but they don’t anything, they don’t pay the mortgage, don’t clean the house, don’t buy cleaning supplies, etc.

    Don’t know why people think they are staying at a AirBnb. You’re staying at someones home that used AirBnb to advertise their property.

  5. IANAL but If the host has evicted you with no notice and is holding your possessions, I would call the POLICE. If they are not able to help you, and you truly have no resources, I would call a legal/social agency such as the Red Cross or the City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department.

    If you feel that this could have been a misunderstanding and you are willing to return to the guesthouse, I would contact the host to see if they will allow you back, according to the LA Emergency Mangement Agency, the evacuation orders have been lifted so decisions that might have been made in haste may be reconsidered.

  6. Airbnb have cancelled and refunded the entire amount? Or not?

    Is your complaint then that you’re expecting airbnb to pay for other accommodation, a fridge full of food and to clothe you?

    No, seriously? What are you expecting here?

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