Using Airbnb During a Natural Disaster

There have been a lot of natural disasters devastating areas across the world, from the recent wildfires in California and Hurricane Maria across the Caribbean. There’s no doubt this won’t be the last of them.

Although Airbnb has infiltrated nearly every corner of the globe, the recent hurricanes have been particularly noteworthy – at least, from a hospitality perspective – because they struck areas popular with vacationers at generally pleasant times of the year. The sudden appearance of storms and earthquakes can make cancelling a trip a necessity for safety or a choice as a matter of comfort.

When you’re using Airbnb during a natural disaster or have a reservation for one when one is predicted, assuming your life isn’t in any immediate danger you probably have some concerns regarding your plans, your money, and your continued safety.

 

Prior to Departure

If you booked an Airbnb in Florida before one of the hurricanes was announced, you technically qualify for a full refund under the Extenuating Circumstances clause of the cancellation policy:

“Significant natural disasters or severe weather incidents impacting the location of destination or location of departure.”

The procedure, however, may not be readily apparent unless you read everything thoroughly. If you made a reservation and then discover a hurricane, earthquake, or other natural disaster is scheduled to hit or has already occurred in the same area (not necessarily the property itself), you’re supposed to cancel immediately, regardless of whether the host has a strict cancellation listed. Inform your host via the Airbnb messaging system that the natural disaster is the sole reason you are cancelling. Then, as long as you file a claim with Airbnb within two weeks, you might be entitled to a full refund.

“Might” is the term Airbnb uses on their own website, and with good reason; even following these exact guidelines, we at Airbnb Hell have heard of Airbnb not honoring a cancellation refund for a Puerto Rico property in Hurricane Irma’s path:

“Both of these reasons [for cancellation] were valid in this case. I was told by Airbnb that this did not meet the definition and they suggested that I rebook with the host or try to work it out with her. It amazes me that this was their response and that they provided no assistance whatsoever. It is disturbing to know that both the host and Airbnb are willing to risk the wellbeing of their guests to make money. The current state of Puerto Rico is still a disaster area and the money I lost is small to what they are suffering. I do wish I could have that money back to spend time with my family but it would have been even better to be able to donate it to my family still in Puerto Rico.”

 

During a Natural Disaster

Everything aforementioned might seem just like small potatoes when you consider guests are safe and sound outside the disaster area – not that hundreds or thousands of dollars should be wasted. However, what should you do if you’re currently staying at an Airbnb and a natural disaster is supposed to strike? This situation may apply to those in Bali facing a volcanic eruption.

The same Extenuating Circumstances should apply whether you’re cancelling prior to a trip or already staying in the Airbnb, though naturally a refund would only be issued for the nights you didn’t stay. However, neither of these situations takes into account whether a host decides to cancel due to the natural disaster.

There could be a variety of reasons for this. Some hosts use their primary residence on Airbnb and may wish to return to remove any valuables and secure windows, etc. Others may take a nobler angle and simply not wish to risk the lives of any guests, regardless of whether they’re willing to complete their scheduled stay.

In any case, this reason for cancellation is just as likely to be honored by Airbnb on the host’s side as it is on the guest’s, particularly because hosts may cancel due to “severe property damage or unforeseen maintenance issues that directly impact the ability to host safely.” If this means kicking out paying guests who want or have no choice but to wait out the storm, so be it.

 

What can you do if things don’t go your way?

If you’re unable to get a refund or find yourself homeless with no chance to escape the upcoming emergency, there is always the option of turning to social media. During deadly hurricanes and earthquakes, so many eyes are on social media, including Airbnb’s PR department; the last story they want spreading like wildfire – hopefully, that’s not the disaster you’re escaping – is one of the company stranded or defrauding guests.

Some Absolute Nonsense at Thailand Airbnb

My group had been looking for a beach house in Thailand for a three-day stay for days and finally found a reasonable option for all sixteen members of our group (do you know how difficult that was, logistically?). We booked our stay and they took our money. We thought we were good to go.

The owner emailed us the next day and lied, saying that we had misled her about the year we wanted to stay. She kept saying we wanted to book for 2018. Under no circumstances did we say that. Our reservation was cancelled and now all the other options are over $1000 more than the original price. We can’t be spending that kind of extra money. When we called Airbnb, all they kept saying was sorry. They said they would help us rebook but then reneged on that real quick. That does not help with the money problem.

They also reassured us that the host had to pay a cancellation fee but it’s Airbnb that gets all that money. If we were able to use that money to get a comparable rate then I would be happy to keep using Airbnb, but they get the profit and we have to spend extra money because they did not have it together. Absolute nonsense.

Terrible Host Leaves us Stranded for First Experience

My BFF and I booked our first ever Airbnb for a trip down to Los Angeles for a race we were both participating in. We booked in advance, but realized we hadn’t heard anything from our hosts until we were on our way down to LA (again, it was our first Airbnb experience, so we had no idea what to expect). We texted, called, and messaged our hosts for hours, only to get nothing back. Finally, after hours of already being in LA (it’s a four-hour drive from where we live) we got a response that an unexpected emergency came up… yeah, right. We ended up having to pay for a hotel room at the last minute. We requested a refund multiple times, and never heard a word from the hosts. They have now stopped being hosts… I wonder why. Airbnb has not been any help either.

Stranded in NYC After Last Minute Cancellation

One of my best friends and I decided to take a trip to New York City. We thought it would be a great experience because I have never been before. I reserved an Airbnb over a month before our stay. Keep in m.,ind it was my first time using the platform because I was told it was a cheaper alternative. I even paid for an extra night for an earlier check in because we took a red eye and would be landing at JFK at 5:00 AM.

Just as I was about to contact the host to let him know we had landed at the airport and would be on our way, I received a message from him saying: “Hey, unfortunately the reservation had to be cancelled. The website will do everything on their end to help you with it. Appreciate it and I hope you will find a great place.”

So now there we were in New York City, having traveled across the country with no place to stay and no place to go. I received no real explanation from the host which I’m sure had just been copied and pasted from Airbnb with zero contact information. I spent over a grand on a place where the host could just cancel at any time and leave the guests stranded with nowhere to go.

I finally got a phone number from Airbnb Hell (which, by the way, is 100% correct). Customer service said I was issued a refund as soon as the host cancelled – which was a lie; my bank confirmed they had no incoming refunds. Basically Airbnb is a POS service, and here we are almost three hours later and still stuck at JFK trying to find a place to go. All in all, it was not a lovely first trip to NYC.

Worst Possible Reaction from Airbnb in Puerto Rico

I spent the last 15 months working with my extended family to arrange a trip to Puerto Rico where my wife’s family is from. If you can imagine the time it takes to get three families, their children ranging from 2-14, and your in-laws to settle on a date that all can miss work, school, sporting event’s, doctor appointments and save you know this is no small task. That being said, we worked hard at it as my in-laws are aging and we felt it was important for our children to experience the island with them and share stories.

Finally the date was set and as we drew nearer to the trip the excitement increased for all involved. Then the hurricane hit and our mood quickly changed. Our thoughts changed to concern over loved ones that we could not contact and overall remorse for those on the island. My attention turned back to our plans and it was evident that we would not be able to make this trip with small children and aging parents that have some medical concerns.

When I reached out to the host about the cancellation I was told that they had strict cancellation policies and I would lose half of what I had paid. this was escalated to Airbnb as a extenuating circumstance. The site states that “valid extenuating circumstances include: significant natural disasters or severe weather incidents impacting the location of destination or location of departure and urgent travel restrictions or severe security advisories issue and reason after the time of booking, by an appropriate national or international authority (such as a government office or department).”

Both of these reasons were valid in this case. I was told by Airbnb that this did not meet the definition and they suggested that I rebook with the host or try to work it out with her. It amazes me that this was their response and that they provided no assistance whatsoever. It is disturbing to know that both the host and Airbnb are will to risk the well being of their guests to make money. The current state of Puerto Rico is still a disaster area and the money I lost is small to what they are suffering. I do wish I could have that money back to spend time with my family but it would have been even better to be able to donate it to my family still in Puerto Rico. Shame on them.

Airbnb Cancelled Month-Long Stay A Week Before My Flight

On April 9th of this year, my wife and I reserved an apartment in Colorado Springs with Airbnb for the entire month of September. We received a confirmation from our host the same day. Plans were underway and we were anxiously anticipating our autumn trip to Colorado. We made round trip airline reservations from Raleigh-Durham to Denver and made other ancillary plans and reservations for a rental car, etc.

On the evening of August 23rd, I checked my email and was shocked to learn that my Airbnb reservation had been canceled by the host. She explained that she had to sell the property but didn’t tell me until seven days before my flight to Colorado. A subsequent cancellation email arrived from Airbnb. My wife and I worked frantically to find another property, but due to the popularity of Colorado (especially during autumn), we were unable to do so. I contacted Airbnb and a customer service representative offered to help us find another property. He sent a list of five or six properties for us to evaluate. After an exhausting evening of research and property evaluation, we determined that only one met our long-term stay criteria of a kitchen, laundry facilities, and in a safe neighborhood. That property was almost $1,000 more.

However, to salvage our trip, we had no other choice but to shell out $1,000 more to book the only available property in Colorado Springs that met our criteria. When we tried to reserve the property, we were informed that it had already been booked just minutes before we submitted our reservation request. At that point, we were frustrated and exhausted. Greatly disappointed with the last-minute cancellation and with Airbnb’s inability to provide comparable lodging, we reluctantly cancelled our trip.

We had no place to stay. After several email’s to Airbnb Help Center and several phone calls, the Airbnb manager said that I didn’t give Airbnb a chance to resolve the problem and that “I was being too picky.”

Really? Who cancelled the reservation seven days before my trip? Never again will I book with Airbnb. It’s simply too risky and Airbnb isn’t willing to resolve the issue. I lost a considerable amount of money in non-refundable fees, but Airbnb only offered a refund for my lodging and less than 40% of the nonrefundable airfare/hotel costs. Other expenses linked to lodging were absorbed completely by me. The biggest disappointment was our loss of a much anticipated vacation in Colorado during the fall. Airbnb’s “Long-Term Policy” is supposed to be neutral, protecting the host and guest equally. In this case, the policy protected the host with the last-minute cancellation and shifted the burden to me. I’m very disappointed.

Airbnb is a Useless Service that Holds Money Indefinitely

We booked three weeks’ accommodation in December 2016 for December 2017. At the time of booking there was a large variety of options to book from at varying prices. We needed to book in a particular resort because we were going to be holidaying with friends (they booked with a different agent).

Last week, nine months after booking, we received an email from Airbnb saying our host had cancelled our booking. For nine months, Airbnb held our money interest free. They appeared to think I should be grateful that they returned our money. At this point there is only one house available in this resort for five times the price. Everything else has been booked long ago. Airbnb just couldn’t care. I emailed them and spoke to them but they were not prepared to listen or help. They claim the host can cancel whenever they want with no compensation offered. Had we decided to cancel as guests we would have had to forfeit 50% of our money. I will never ever use Airbnb again.

Airbnb Fraud: Someone Cancelled the Reservation For Host

We were contacted after midnight by a guest asking if we could take him and his family on such short notice and check in at 3:30 AM. We worked our butts off to get the house ready for him and his family and accommodate them on short notice. My husband was in the backyard cleaning up the pool at 3:30 when they arrived. We greeted them and welcomed them to Dallas; they checked in and then out at 11:00 AM. In the morning I discovered someone on Airbnb had posed as me, canceled the reservation, and without even so much as a phone call or message, the payment had been removed from our account.

We have a strict cancellation policy which doesn’t allow cancellation without 24 hours’ notice and at 50% of the cost. The guest had concerns about the Internet and TV, which he just needed to contact us to get access. Instead he went around our backs to Airbnb and then committed fraud by logging in as me and cancelling the reservation. Airbnb sent me a message three days later telling me that our Airbnb host status was in jeopardy due to the cancellation. We want our money back and the cancellation removed. This is not the first time Airbnb has interfered with payments in the past. A guest was looking for a cheaper stay and they refunded the reservation, even though they didn’t give us notice and broke Airbnb rules by having a friend make the reservation and not stay there. Third party reservations are against policy. They took money out of our future reservations to refund them.

Cancellation Policy Defrauds Guests of 50% Payment

I put a question to a host about her apartment directly on the beach in Tavernes de la Valldigna, Valencia, Spain including booking dates. She came back with the answer stating the dates were a little difficult and provided dates that would be better. My dates were still showing as available on her calendar. I was just replying to say those were our only dates when I received two more emails offering a discount if I booked by a certain time that day. The website was showing my dates for the booking and nothing about the dates not being available or “difficult”. I naturally thought she had solved her problem and paid for the dates which were only three weeks away. I then received an email from her saying I had not replied to her email and she was shocked at receiving my booking payment as she had offered alternate dates. When I checked the cancellation policy it said if cancelled more than seven days before booking I would receive 50% of my payment; that’s a good way to fraudulently get money for no work and hassling tenants. If I did not use the refunded money for another booking I would charged a 20% administrative charge for Airbnb to refund it. That is 50% of the total then another 20% of the remaining half… 60% of my money with no booking. Is this fraud, or what?

Is Hurricane Harvey a Sufficient Reason to Cancel?

I’m supposed to go to Austin tomorrow for a work event but unfortunately my flight and several others have been canceled. I informed my host of this and she (after speaking with her husband) said that they won’t be refunding me my $600+ because they already paid for cleaning and lawn services and that I really need to ” understand where we are coming from.”

I’m sitting here trying to contact Airbnb which is a nightmare as many of you know. I talked to a woman who was obviously from a call center overseas and she was next to useless. I’m super pissed. I feel like this is a friggin’ fraud. I made every attempt to keep my reservation, but there is a literal hurricane barreling down on Texas and this woman has the nerve to say to me “I spoke with Airbnb and they said that since the severe weather isn’t in Austin itself then our original cancellation policy is still in effect, so unfortunately I can’t offer you a refund. ”

Hmmm… okay… here is a quote from the latest news article I read on this storm…

“In all, the storm could dump at least 15 trillion gallons of water on Texas, WeatherBell meteorologist Ryan Maue said. In addition to the Corpus Christi area, near where the storm should make landfall, Harvey ‘has the potential to cause very serious flooding in such highly populated, flood-prone regions as the Austin-San Antonio corridor and the Houston metro area,’ Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters said. Harvey may be the strongest landfall in this area known as the Texas Coastal Bend since infamous Category 3 Hurricane Celia hammered the Corpus Christi area in August 1970 with wind gusts up to 161 mph, the Weather Channel said.”