Loopholes Enabling Unethical Airbnb Host to Bait and Switch

I booked a long-term stay for a two-bedroom apartment in NYC on Airbnb for two people. When I was doing the search, it showed the same price for one, two, or more guests in the same apartment. The confirmation came back for one person somehow, so I immediately (less than ten minutes from booking) corrected that in the app and received another confirmation for two people.

I was looking into the address details of the booking I just paid $3,500 for. Surprisingly it still only showed the street name without any other details. So I contacted the host — appeared to be some company instead of an individual host — who insisted that because the reservation showed only one person (who is rich enough to book a two-bedroom apartment for just one person in NYC?), they wanted to charge me more than $1,000 for it.

I looked back into the app, which in fact, still showed the same price for even three or four people. They claimed that it was a system error. At that point, I believed them, and allowed them to cancel so I could rebook. There were plenty other properties around that did not cost more than what they originally charged plus $1,000. This was within 20 minutes of booking.

I contacted Airbnb support. They said that on their end I was confirmed for two people and the price was right. So I let them handle it. The operator also said if I felt uncomfortable with the host, I could cancel for free within 48 hours. The next day, Airbnb support called me, informed me that the host insisted on extra charges even though it was advertised with two people with the price I already paid. And if I cancelled, they could only offer a $150 coupon to book again on Airbnb. They just pocketed $3250 dollars.

The host claimed it was an error with Airbnb, but they refused to accept the full refund cancellation request. Instead they intend to just keep my money or ask for even more. This is all within 24 hours of booking. So, Airbnb leaves me with two choices: either pay $1,000 above the market rate to accept the booking, or lose $3,000 more to cancel. That is the place where Airbnb want their customers to be.

Airbnb Complicit with Hosts on Bait and Switch Fraud

These are the facts regarding two identical occurrences over a 10-month period where Airbnb was complicit with hosts in a fraudulent bait and switch business practice. The first instance cost me $2,000, and the second instance cost me an additional $600. If you are a lawyer reading this and are interested in a lawsuit against Airbnb, class action or otherwise, please contact me.

I’ve spent hours upon hours communicating with the overseas customer support center. On the first occurrence Airbnb admitted to their wrongdoing. On the second, no admission. I have pages upon pages of these communications and the lackluster efforts of Airbnb customer support.

First I made a booking and sent payment to Airbnb. A receipt of the transaction was provided to me. Then the host cancelled with no explanation given. Eventually a refund of payment was issued by Airbnb. Immediately after the cancellation, for the exact time period of the booking, the host raised rates, and was allowed by Airbnb to book new guests at the raised rates.

I was told by Airbnb customer support to find a new Airbnb to book, as there was “nothing they can do.” Airbnb and the host both financially profit more from the new bookings at the higher rates, after my cancellation. Per Airbnb’s policy regarding host cancellations per the company’s website, the following actions did not occur.

A. The host’s calendar will become blocked and they won’t be able to accept another reservation for the same dates of the cancelled reservation.

B. If the host cancels before the day of check-in, an automated review will be posted to your listing’s profile. These reviews cannot be removed.

C. “Superhost” status was maintained, although neither listing met the 1% cancellation rate threshold at the time.

D. In neither instance was an Instabook used, which gives the host wiggle room to avoid penalty under an “uncomfortable with reservation” loophole.

So to summarize, Airbnb and the host both benefitted financially at my expense due to the host’s post-cancellation rate increases for the same exact time period. To me, this is a clear cut bait and switch fraudulent business practice. It was communicated to me but Airbnb customer support found another Airbnb reservation, the host’s “Superhost” status was not revoked, and in my opinion this is a complete fraud of a designation. The automated message in the host’s reviews detailing the cancellation was never posted to warn future guests of the risk they are taking with a particular host. So the reviews you read are not inclusive of cancellations, and in my opinion, fraudulent.

Airbnb Apartment on Active Building Site

I booked an apartment on Airbnb in Bugibba, Malta based on the description and location. The location was given to me by Google Maps coordinates and I was instructed to meet a rep there who would take me to the apartment. However, when she picked me up she took me to an entirely different area. The apartment was unfinished and in the middle of an active building site with workers carrying out work in front of the apartment.

I told the rep that this was not acceptable and to contact the host, which I did. He told me that he may have an alternative. As it was getting dark, I had to use the apartment as I had no alternative accommodations.

That evening as my wife and I attempted to go out for a meal we found it was impossible as there was builder rubble strewn about the area and no street lighting. We had not eaten since breakfast but it was impossible to leave the area. My wife and I are both in our 80s and diabetic so going without food was dangerous.

The next morning I contacted the host and told him we were moving out as it was dangerous to walk in the area, Explaining that the previous evening we had not been able to walk in the area. His response was “What can I do? Do you want me to come with a torch?”

This apartment should not have been rented out and giving an incorrect location is fraudulent. I am now in a different apartment at considerable expense to myself and when I requested my money back was just told no.

Italian Airbnb Serial Bait and Switch Cancellations

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A group of six UK pensioners, including one seriously ill from multiple sclerosis, had their six-months-in-advanced booked double 70th birthday celebration dream holiday to Florence, Italy cancelled the morning of check-in by a bait and switch scammer.

This “Superhost” was allowed to rack up 39 separate cancellations in a year. Rather than react to complaints and repeated scams, Airbnb simply did nothing, allowing him to ruin ten other families’ holidays over the next two months as new victims flew in from as far as the US, Algeria, and China. On the day of check-in, they found their “booked” apartment cancelled, forcing them to either take his alternative or be stranded in Florence, thousands of miles from home.

The “Romantic Flat in Historical Centre” with its high beautifully decorated ceilings, luxurious bedrooms and bathrooms and large dining area, looking out onto Il dumo, the famous domed cathedral in the centre of Florence, was used as bait to trap unsuspecting families into booking with the host. However, after flying thousands of miles to start their holiday months later, the flaky host shockingly informed them upon arrival in Italy that their booking was in fact cancelled, using excuses ranging from “the family needs it back up as an emergency” to “there has been a burst water main”.

He then offered a replacement, a run-of-the-mill bog-standard apartment, miles outside the centre of Florence and a far cry from the luxury of the booked one. This was done “as a favour” to the duped holiday makers, either at the same price or at a premium, as it was the middle of high season; “unfortunate, but that’s how it is.”

The group of pensioners were old friends who had booked the apartment in December to celebrate a double 70th birthday. One of the group, a 78-year old, had unfortunately been diagnosed with a serious case of multiple sclerosis two years before and his health and mobility had worsened drastically. This debilitating disease meant that this would be his final trip abroad. He loved Florence and Italy and was determined to enjoy it.

The pain caused by even basic movement such as walking meant that he had special requirements such as as a bath – he was unable to stand in a shower safely – and also an entrance with a lift, as stairs were also hugely problematic. They had booked this apartment so far in advance to ensure that his special needs were catered for, with two baths a lift, no steps and four bedrooms with a large dining area provided. They were also in the centre of Florence, minimising difficulty travelling.

However, when they were informed that instead of the luxury four-bedroom apartment that they had booked six months ago and had looked forward to, they were instead offered an insufficient three-bedroom flat, miles outside Florence, or otherwise find an alternative in the middle of summer season on the same day that they had flown in. They were forced to look for any last minute alternative and as you can imagine, none even remotely comparable, or suitable, were available.

They were forced to book two separate locations, via Booking.com, one thirty minutes outside paying a lot more, for a lot less, due to the last minute arrangements and total lack of availability. There were no baths, and there were no lifts resulting in a host of unwelcome mobility issues simply washing and entering and exiting the properties. The size and standard of the décor was woefully inferior to our original booking, being stuck with small, dark rooms with a lack of closet space.

One of the main and important features that we had most sought after was the large dining area, enabling us to eat together in our own comfortable and relaxed environment, without the hassle and stress – and expense – of having to eat out all the time. Neither of our replacement properties had a dining area even remotely sufficient to house all six of us, meaning we had to eat every single meal out, burdening everyone with significant additional unwanted expenses.

Instead of buying breakfast materials at a supermarket, every breakfast cost about €80 and each lunch and dinner at least in excess of €120. Suddenly, an additional £2,525.76 had to be immediately found and paid by six pensioners, most of whom had scrimped and saved to get the original sum paid, forcing them into debt and incredibly difficult, stressful situations as they attempted to source their share in just a few hours. This also impacted greatly on spending money available on the holiday.

The main intention of the holiday, namely living together, was now gone. Instead of a joint holiday and a joint birthday, they were now two separate parties, and a full fifteen minutes apart from each other by car. This meant that rather than being in the same property and location, they now had the difficulty, as well as the additional expense, of having to use taxis to transport one party to the other numerous times daily.

This resulted in significant previously unnecessary monies having to be spent over the duration of the holiday, not to mention the organisational and operational stress and effort and the extra time that this all took, getting everyone too and from the two separate locations, miles apart and away from the centre of Florence. Indeed, one of the elderly couples did not even have smartphones, which caused several difficult situations. These issues ruined everyone’s enjoyment of the holiday and sucked away time earmarked to enjoy the city and each other’s company, as originally planned and intended.

When the group got back after this spoiled expensive and ruined holiday, they investigated the host in greater detail and was shocked to discover that he had perpetuated the same cancellation trick on 29 other families during the preceding nine months, almost every single week. The group immediately complained to Airbnb but they tried to pass it off as an “isolated incident” and refused to take action. They then refused to compensate the group for the loss of enjoyment suffered and the fact that they had fallen victim to a scam artist, closing the matter.

The group persisted with their complaints and tried to highlight the scam. Eventually, three months later, they relented and offered to refund the difference between the booked holiday and the replacement one. This still did not address the loss of enjoyment or the issues raised and the group was concerned that the scammer was still free to continue with the trick.

Airbnb’s case resolution specialist had now gotten involved, promising a fair and unbiased investigation. He eventually came to the conclusion that the “matter was wholly unacceptable, and Airbnb does not tolerate this kind of behaviour. When the reservation was cancelled the host was penalised in violation of our hosting standard. This would greatly impact his hosting here at Airbnb.”

When pressed what the penalty was, or how exactly it “would greatly impact his hosting at Airbnb”, he repeatedly refused to say. He also refused the claim for compensation, only offering €181 (the difference spent) to resolve the matter without addressing damages and loss of enjoyment suffered. He also failed to say why the host hadn’t been stopped from operating.

The elderly group were shocked to discover that since their complaint, the host had continued to repeat the scam, accepting bookings for the apartment in central Florence and then cancelling on the day of check in, once the families had arrived in Italy. Since the complaint was made by the elderly group, he had cancelled bookings a further ten times in two months with seven of those cancellations done on the day of check in when families had already landed in Italy from countries such as Brazil, USA, China, Algeria and UK. Each one had left comments on their dreadful experience on the host’s page:

“[The host] cancelled the booking three hours before the check-in when I was already in Firenze. Even before the cancellation, he did not reply to my inquiry. Out of blue, without responding to none of my inquiry, he cancelled. The only explanation I got was that he had an issue to accommodate me and my company. This has never happened to me during my use of service provided by the Airbnb. I am strongly against his status as super host given his irresponsible and unthoughtful dealing of the situations.”

“The host cancelled on us the morning of our reservation (without explanation) which totally messed up all our plans. Looking at his history this happens often. Beware when booking. This guy is flaky!”

“Bait and switch scam artist! Do not book with this person. They show one apt and when you show up, they try to give you a dump not even comparable while you feel like a fish over a barrel. Leaving you and your family 1000’s of miles from home with little choice. Find another rental. This guy is a fake and a scammer!”

“Avoid! Well where to start. Unfortunately we never got to stay at this host’s Airbnb. We had been confirmed for many weeks. On the run up to our holiday I messaged [the host] numerous times regarding checking in process but he didn’t respond. On the day of arrival [the host] sent a computerised cancellation with no explanation or apology leaving us stranded in Florence with no where to stay! Airbnb were good in assisting with our situation but this should not have been necessary and to date we still have had no apology or explanation from [the host]. Avoid at all costs, it’s just not worth it best book somewhere where you can actually stay.”

The damning evidence was sent to Airbnb, demanding why they had not acted since their complaint and stopped the host from repeating the scam. However, Airbnb refused to respond. Our party is in the process of taking Airbnb to court for loss of enjoyment and damages and essentially causing their problem by allowing this person to perpetuate thirty cancellations before they had even booked with him.

Airbnb is responsible for their and indeed all of the 39 victims cases. If Airbnb had cared about its customers’ suffering at the hands of this con-artist, then they would have immediately shut him down. However, they were getting commission out of it, regardless of how that commission was earned, and allowed – and continue to allow – scammers to operate in this disgraceful and damaging way within its business.

Incredibly, the group discovered that subsequently all of the negative reviews (above) have now been removed, allowing more unsuspecting victims to suffer. Now, unbelievably, only 15 reviews (instead of the 498, including the 39 cancellations) are viewable, with him receiving 4.93 out of 5 stars. This disgraceful fact shows exactly how Airbnb operates and the sad fact is that this host continues to operate in this shady way today.

This sad and murky episode is completely unacceptable. People should start voting with their feet and spreading the word that Airbnb is not deserving of their business. There is a clear and real danger that if you book with them then the booking is fake and will be cancelled when you arrive.

Do not trust Airbnb. Do not use Airbnb. They will leave you stranded. It’s all about the money for them. They do not care about your welfare.

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Bait and Switch Scheme by Airbnb Host

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I am in a bad situation right now because the Airbnb host misled me badly about the location of my Airbnb. She listed the Airbnb in the listing as in Chicago (without a street address), so on Airbnb the approximate location pin appears on the center of Chicago. Then, after the booking, the real address was revealed to be far removed from where the pin was. I did not know about this until the night before checking in when I looked up the address.

This completely ruined my plans because there is a huge neuroscience conference happening at the same time of my stay and there is no reasonably priced listing anywhere left in the area where I need to be. My entire plans for the trip are ruined because of this situation. I can’t even book a hostel in the area.

Airbnb keeps forwarding me to other agents for three times now. I have not gotten any closer to resolving this issue. I do not want to go to my reservation because the host blatantly defrauded me. The only reason I would have booked that listing was for the location. I have never seen a location pin from the original listing so far away from where the actual address is. If anyone can help please let me know.

Bait and Switch Airbnb in Bilbao, Spain

I booked and paid for a three-night stay at an Airbnb within walking distance to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain in a really lovely looking place with a Superhost. Unfortunately due to falling ill in San Sebastian, Spain, I was only able to get to Bilbao for one night.

On arrival, I noticed that there were three bedrooms which I knew were not part of the description. After taking a nap, I had a better look at the apartment only to realise it wasn’t what I had booked. In contacting the host to ask to move me to the apartment I paid for, I was told that it had been given to someone else.

I was not provided with the apartment number at the time of booking. I was not advised before or on arrival of the change. I was given a substandard alternative which, amongst other things, was dirty and had exposed power points which let off sparks. The entrance and lift smelt of urine. These are photos of what I was given.

Classic Bait and Switch in Districts of Algiers

First time Airbnb user back in August 2019. l booked three bedrooms apartment in chic location of Algiers called Hydra. We were four people: myself, my husband and my two kids.

We were surprised as the first thing we did was to call the number listed with the apartment when we booked it; the phone number was not working. We went to find the address provided to us; the address doesn’t exist. We parked and tried to ask people there.

We were told that this address doesn’t exist and they had heard that there is a guy who meets people here as renting them the apartment but it turns out that he takes them somewhere else. Effectively that’s what happened to us, after a stressful afternoon trying to find the location and that phone number of the host was not working.

My husband checked his email and suddenly he found a message from the host providing a different number to call him. The host gave us a public location to meet us. We went there and met him. We were surprised right away that the host changed the apartment in Hydra, claiming that there was a water issue so he would take us to a different apartment that was nearby.

We were forced to accept this and follow him because our money was gone. We followed the host to the west side of Algiers which has new divisions far from downtown. We parked and went with him to see the apartment. We were surprised that the apartment was a very small one bedroom while I paid for three bedrooms. We told him to change it, that this was too small for us and we paid for a larger apartment.

The host then told us to stay that night in this apartment and he would try to find us another apartment next day. Just a note: while he was there I checked the dishwasher and found dirty dishes inside that had been there for days; just when I opened the door of the washer there was a fishy smell.

Anyway, in the morning we called him to check if he had something else. He told us to meet him in this apartment located in a popular neighborhood close to the airport (Bab Ezzouar). We went and met him there. The house was large and again supposed to be clean as he charged us $71 just for cleaning, $10 extra than what they charge in Algeria for cleaning.

Again checking the house I found the toilets had been used and never been cleaned. The apartment looked dusty. It had been closed for a long time and the fridge was messy with spills from other people who had used it before us. In addition, as we were forced to take this apartment I had to clean it myself and all the linen that was poorly taken care of.

That night we also found out that the wifi didn’t work. We called the host. He said he would come and check it. He came very late at night after we begged him and he said that it was not working but he would buy us a temporary modem. Guess what? We never heard from the host again and even we were tired of calling him every time.

The host called the evening of our check out to confirm that we were leaving. The day of check out we had until 12:00 PM to vacate the apartment. Suddenly around 8:00 AM I woke up to the door bell and found the housekeeper who came to “clean”. We told her that it was too early and that we have until noon. She was rude and started talking under her breath.

It’s not our fault that the host didn’t tell her or communicate with her. We called the host and informed him. He said to leave the apartment key with the housekeeper. I didn’t trust her; it looked like she was not a housekeeper in first place.

This was our bad experience with Airbnb. After I came back to the US, I called Airbnb to make a complaint. They said there was nothing they could do. We also wrote a long review but they never published it. They just included one sentence from a whole paragraph. I’m very disappointed and will never use Airbnb again. Guests are not protected and those listings are not verified. You never know what you will find.

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Terrible and Irresponsible Customer Service from Airbnb

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We booked an apartment in Panama City, Panama with a so-called Superhost. The neighborhood was so dirty and unsafe that we had to cancel our booking right after arrival. Please see attached one of the pictures and one of the many fruitless emails to Airbnb customer service. Airbnb not only did not refund our money, more importantly they did not do anything to rectify the situation and de-list this property so other guests don’t face the same situation. It seems they do not care about their reputation or the safety of their customers.

When we arrived at the location, we realized the condo was in an undesirable, unsafe and unclean neighborhood. Many people were hanging out and part of the intersection was under construction. Moreover, there were two big dumpsters right in front of the entrance, and homeless people were digging in. I have posted some pictures which show the garbage (even a toilet bowl) lying on the street and sidewalk right in front of the building.

We felt unsafe, both in terms of safety and health, to stay in that condo. I should also add that the condo we booked had a different name than the name sent by the host in the welcome note. When we inquired, the host mentioned that it was an error by their administration and assured the condo is the same as shown in the picture, while Google Maps shows them in two different locations.

As soon as we arrived and realized the situation, without checking in, we contacted the host’s assistant, reported the situation and asked if we could be placed in any other units owned by the host. Since they were all booked, she suggested that we cancel the booking to be refunded. We contacted another host, and he was kind enough to accommodate us last minute even by waiving the minimum 30-day requirement. We have since contacted the host and have asked for the full refund of our booking, which has been unanswered.

We would like a full refund including the booking fees charged by Airbnb. We have since given up on getting our money. Just wanted to share our experience so hopefully someone pays attention.

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Airbnb Bait and Switch, Fake Reviews

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We had a lot of problems with an Airbnb house in Houston. When I kindly told the host to fix the following problems he got extremely aggressive.

A few days before arrival, the host has switched the property. The property I initially booked is no longer listed on Airbnb. I paid more than double the price, as the host was asking for the new listing. The new listing said that it was located in a historic, quiet neighborhood. However, it was located in a run-down neighborhood.

The other neighbor had three big dogs (five feet away from the bedroom) which barked all day and night. We were always waking up and it felt very uncomfortable.

The TV did not work. When we arrived, the Internet TV had no power cable and it was not installed with the router. The stove and oven did not work either, because the gas meter was locked by the gas company. After two days, we had no more access to the laundry room.

As of April 1st, 2018, Texas law dictates that any residential and commercial structures with both sleeping areas and gas or fuel-burning appliances must install and properly maintain carbon monoxide alarms. However, there was only a cheap smoke detector, no carbon monoxide and no fire extinguisher. The host was very reluctant to solve these problems.

Without getting a review from me, the host was giving me a totally bad review, without reason. However, in the last email to me he wrote: “It was a pleasure hosting you! We will be certain to leave a great five-star review for your stay. If you ever come back, please let us know and give us the chance to accommodate you again. A five-star review for us as hosts is very important for our business. Please don’t forget to give us that.”

After checking the reviews of the listing, I discovered they were all fake.

Avoid Bait-and-Switch Airbnb Hosts in Paris

The following is the story of the last 20 hours. On April 1st, I received an email that my Airbnb flat wasn’t accessible 10 minutes before arriving on site. Since I was travelling, I only noticed when I arrived.

I was offered a different flat in exchange which was 7 km from the original one (I had my reasons to choose the area and good luck travelling through Paris during rush hour). I took it and spent the night there.

The morning of April 2nd we had an appointment at the original flat at 9:30. I was there; nobody came. After 45 minutes in the rain, a delivery service delivered some badges and a key. I entered the building as described in the access instructions, but there was no door that matched the description or the key.

After another endless back-and-forth via mail there was no conclusion because I realized that the person who claimed to be the owner didn’t actually know the premises at all. I went to the gardienne of the residence and with her help we found that the studio was in a completely different location, obviously without a lift as described in the access instructions.

While going to the studio with the gardienne we stumbled upon the owner who claimed not to know anything about the rental, and that he delegated everything to an agency. This meant that the person I was talking to and who claimed to be the owner was not. He didn’t tell me his name, even after I asked. In any case, the “real” owner rejected any responsibility, which I found outrageous, considering he was the owner.

When entering the location, I found a tiny room without daylight, dirty cupboards as if just installed, and so small that opening the only sofa for sleeping meant not having space left to move anymore. I felt very uneasy because of this unprofessional treatment. I lost an entire day because of these people’s inability to get organized, a day that I had planned to meet people that were only available this day.

I came here for business and instead of taking care of my business I had to chase down access to a studio, because nobody at Airbnb even knew where it was. When I saw the dirt on the cupboard I had had enough and booked a hotel nearby.

Alas, I didn’t take photos and I’m bracing for a long email exchange with Airbnb. There was another commentator who mentioned it looked like a cash cow and they weren’t concerned with the guests. That’s exactly my impression with this host.