“Pseudo Hosts” using Airbnb as a Money Machine


We are a couple in our 70s who travel the world and have used Airbnb since its inception. Through the years we have experienced many disappointments but as good soldiers we accepted minor imperfections as part of the experience in a foreign country. My husband did book a horrendous accommodation in Iceland this past year but let it slide. Our experience here in Costa Rica, however, cannot be overlooked.

We booked an Airbnb in Costa Rica for nine nights. Upon our arrival at Liberia Airport we rented a car and drove the hour and a half to Playa Potrero where this unit is located. We tried to find our way with the directions the host provided. It took us to the general vicinity. We were advised to pick up the key from a local laundry place in Potrero between 3:00-5:00 PM as arranged by the host. When we arrived shortly after 4:00 PM no one was there. We waited a bit and no one arrived.

We asked a local business to please call the laundromat’s telephone number which was listed on the window. She was advised that the key was with the guard at the entrance to the condos. We were never given the correct name of the complex. After spending too much time trying to find right complex it was already late and we were travel weary. Finally we found the guard who had the key and he pointed out where to park and walk to the unit.

We entered a unit that was pathetic. The Airbnb ad promised a queen size bed, a dining room, and kitchen utensils, which was important as we eat in most of the time. There were two twins beds with very thin mattresses and cigarette burns in the sheets. The closet was in disrepair. The bathroom was funky and foul smelling. There was no dining room as advertised. The only table and chairs were out on the patio and inaccessible as the sliding door was inoperable. The kitchen area was barely usable, with very few utensils, no coffee maker, and a stove that needed cleaning.

By the time we got to the unit it was very late for us to find somewhere else to stay so we spent the first night, kept our luggage packed and left the very next morning. We advised the host that we were leaving and he offered another place with the stipulation that we commit until February 28. We attempted to inspect the offered unit but were denied access. Anyway, we could not commit to that lengthy a stay.

We submitted a request to Airbnb for a refund for the nine nights we did not stay but the host denied our request. He also posted a very nasty personal attack on my Airbnb profile. We requested Airbnb mediation and due to the difficulty in communications between here in Costa Rica and the US we waited days for a response, having had no fewer than three Airbnb case managers respond – no personal touch at all.

This entire ordeal regarding my request for a refund for totally unsatisfactory accommodations has become frustrating and really diminished my confidence in Airbnb. I did submit a request to Airbnb to become involved in my request due to the the host refusing to make the refund. What happened to the statement “Our Guest Refund Policy protects you and your money”?

I am stranded in Costa Rica waiting to recoup my payment in order to continue my trip. It is urgent that I receive the refund as soon as possible. I feel that this host is nothing more than a con man who uses the Airbnb forum as a means to dupe unsuspecting travelers. We received a response from Airbnb as follows:

“We have reviewed this case once again, and as previously said, unfortunately, as the guest refund policy wasn’t followed, we can’t adjust the host if the host doesn’t agree with the refund. I’m really sorry to hear about this situation, but unfortunately, there’s not much I can do. However, I would be willing to offer you a $100 coupon, and even though it’s not near to what you requested, is what I would able to give.”

An absolute insult. We paid over $1,000 for one night in a sleazy accommodation that we would never have committed to if we had seen inside first. Airbnb has neglected its responsibility to protect the renter. This man should have been investigated further by Airbnb since it is obvious he is using the platform to his advantage in representing unsatisfactory accommodations which he does not own but merely acts as a rental agent for various properties.

As a company, Airbnb seems to only be interested in their fees from acting as the forum for hosts and guests. They assume no responsibility for allowing unsavory con men from using their forum and falsely describe their accommodations knowing that they will be paid upfront and have the upper hand.

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


  1. I am not quite sure exactly what prompted Airbnb to respond to our complaint but I received a message and subsequent tel call that lasted 30 min. We followed some of the suggestions that are given on Airbnbhell’s website. We posted the above chronology and followed up by sending the same info to both of the suggested contacts. In our request to Airbnb’s CEO to intervene we told him that we had already posted on Airbnbhell and copied Airbnb’s “Minimum Quality Standards, Host Responsibilities and Reimbursement to Guest” which clearly spells out the responsibilities of the host in a situation such as ours. In none of our communications were we threatening or use derogatory language but we did put the onus on the host for not complying with those requirements and acting fraudulently in his presentation of the property he was offering. We did mention that our difficulty in communications here in Costa Rica contributed to our inability to respond. In closing we said that upon return to the US we intended to contact our congressman for help with filing a complaint to the FTC. We have no idea of which of the above did the trick, but we did not give up and kept pressure on Airbnb so perhaps the old adage of the squeaky wheel getting the oil that may have helped. We were completely satisfied the resolution.

  2. As Airbnb told you, you failed to follow the correct procedure.
    You have to contact (or try to contact) the Host – AND you MUST contact Airbnb within 24 hours after checking-in.
    Of course you should also take photographs, and perhaps video, to prove there were problems.
    Hosts are not paid out until 25 hours after check-in. So Airbnb can withhold their payment as long as they are informed of any problems in time. Once the Host is paid there is not much Airbnb can do to assist you, untess the Host agrees.

  3. Airbnb is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, if you ever find yourself in a situation where there is a problem, call them or get on social media immediately. Even if you end up staying the one night because it was so late, if you had said something within the first 24 hours, they would have been able to get you into a totally different place and or a refund, even though with a refund you would have been waiting a week + forthat because of your banks refund policies. The guest refund policy is very clear AND in the Terms of Service you agreed to when you made the reservation.

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