Construction Airbnb Nightmare in Napa, No Refund Given

I initially booked a home in Napa for the weekend of April 6 through April 9, 2017, through Airbnb. The home was advertised as recently renovated. The pictures provided on the website displayed what appeared to be a clean home in reasonably good condition. Upon arriving at the home late on the evening of Thursday, April 6th we found that the driveway was inaccessible due to heavy construction equipment (a skip loader to be precise). A portable lavatory and run-off barriers blocked the driveway entrance which was still in the process of having a roadbed installed for what must be assumed as subsequent paving and surfacing. It was evident that the property was still undergoing construction as another home was under construction in the back of the property.

The entryway leading to the front steps of the home was laden in mud and debris from the construction and lack of any ground cover to absorb the recent rains. Little if any illumination made it treacherous to maneuver to the front steps of the home late at night and several of the guests stepped in deep puddles of mud, ruining their shoes.

The beds had no sheets and linens and towels were piled near the washing machine in the laundry area. It was very evident that the home had not been prepared for the arrival of new guests that evening. I immediately sent the owner an email expressing my displeasure with the condition of the home and received no response. The following morning, Friday, April 7, I attempted to take a shower only to find out that there was no hot water. I called the owner but was unsuccessful in reaching him. Shortly thereafter he returned my call and explained that his cleaning woman had gotten into an accident that same Thursday and did not show up to clean and prep the home for arrival of new guest. I also mentioned the lack of hot water and he indicated that he would have his plumber come by immediately to inspect the situation.

When I asked how long that would be the owner indicated that his plumber would be arriving within 30 minutes. I did impress upon the owner that this was unacceptable and that we had a very tight schedule that morning and may not be able to wait around. The plumber did arrive and I personally accompanied him to the basement to review the hot water heater, which was dated 1990, yet the listing for the home clearly stated that the home was recently remodeled with new plumbing. I stood by and watched the plumber attempt to get the pilot to the hot water heater ignited, which after several attempts he was successful in doing so.

I along with my guest waited for over twenty minutes for the hot water to begin flowing so that we could take our showers but the hot water never did come on. In addition, we noted several GFI receptacles in the kitchen had been tripped, suggesting that there may have been a short somewhere along that electrical line, which I was quick to point out to the plumber. He offered no suggestions, which meant that several of the electrical receptacles in the kitchen were inoperable.

We left for our morning appointments and later that day I contacted the owner to inquire as to the status of the cleaning of the home, changing of the linens and towels, and most importantly the status of hot water. The owner assured me that all issues had been rectified to our satisfaction. Upon returning to the home later that evening, the ladies wanted to shower prior to dinner only to find out that of the four guests only two were successful in taking a warm shower as once again the hot water heater shut off.

The following morning, Saturday, April 8th, I again contacted the owner but this time he did not respond to my calls or text messages. I was successful on my own in getting the pilot lit for the hot water tank but the hot water stayed on only long enough for two of the four guests to get a shower. That evening and the following morning we had no success in getting hot water in spite of my numerous attempts to contact the owner.

From all accounts, the property was not ready for placement on Airbnb and was grossly misrepresented. Although there was clear evidence of some significant remodeling to the kitchen, the simple amenities that travelers expect (e.g. hot water on demand, a mud-free entry to the premises, clean linens, towels, soap and toilet tissue) were all lacking. Upon my personal inspection of the crawlspace below the home there was no evidence of new plumbing but instead, a patchwork of some replacement pipes. Advertisement for the home clearly indicated the home had recently received new plumbing yet the owner had failed to upgrade a hot water heater that dated back to 1990; this was an egregious misrepresentation of the condition of the home.

Having stayed at Airbnb homes all over the world this was unquestionably the worst facility I had ever had the misfortune of renting, not to mention the embarrassment of having another couple endure this hardship with us. The Tuesday following my return home, I made one last attempt to contact the owner to give him a chance to make some reasonable accommodation for the terrible hardship we endured at his home. Again my outreach fell on deaf ears as he never returned my calls.

One most interesting lesson learned from this ordeal was you need to choose your credit card company carefully. I have been an American Express Card holder for over 37 years and my attempt to obtain a refund through American Express would not have posed any difficulty for me. However, this is not the case with Chase and the Mileage Plus Visa Card, which unfortunately I chose to use to secure the property with. I initially disputed the charge with Chase but with each volume of documentation provided to them as requested, was met with another ridiculous request for further documentation.

From the outset, Chase contended that the charges were valid and sided with the merchant (in this case, the host). Never once did Chase speak or receive any documentation from the host to refute my claims but nevertheless, they were reluctant to resolve the matter yet provided a phone number to contact them to discuss. Needless to say, each attempt to contact a human at Chase was met with “the person you are trying to reach is away from their office right now”.

I did finally seek assistance from Airbnb who attempted to reach out to the host but was also unsuccessful in receiving any return call from him. Airbnb did post a small credit (just under $300) to my account but I felt considering the gross misrepresentation of the property by the owner that a more meaningful adjustment was required. I am currently still pursuing the matter and seeking a further adjustment through Airbnb. I have since cut up my Chase Mileage Plus Visa Card and the other Chase Card and returned them to Chase with a stern directive as to where they now can place their cards.

Moral of the story: there is a reason why I have held the Amex card all these years and have no problem paying the annual fee. Had I used the Amex card for the this trip I would have had this resolved back in April. Further, Airbnb needs to do a far better job at screening their hosts and protecting their customers.

Know What You’re Getting Into Before You Book

In the city center of Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands of Spain, there was a cozy and quiet Airbnb apartment for rent in a building over 100 years old. It was newly renovated and in the historic center of Palma, located 150 meters from City Hall Square (Cort), 300 meters from the cathedral, and just 70 meters from the Plaza Mayor.

I would like to share my experience with you about this Airbnb host. I heard that Airbnb will start doing inspections and I am very glad for this. My last experience at Palma was not very good for a few reasons. I don’t want to make this story very long but I want it to convey what you are getting into if you are thinking about renting this apartment. The only good thing I can say about this apartment is that it was a good location if you like to be downtown. The rest I will be honest with you about; not a word of this is a lie. I have pictures and recordings to document my stay.

The stairs (she mentioned that there was no lift) are a nightmare. They aren’t meant to be used by older people; this should be mentioned in the listing. What she forgot to mention was that the building right beside the apartment (I mean less than two feet away) is under construction. The sound of drilling is still in my head. We had to leave from 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM. The noise seemed like they were actually in our bedroom. It was really terrible and extremely loud.

On a previous trip to Palma, we went to the beach and came back around 3:00 PM to take a nap. Not this time. One day we arrived at the apartment early and it was impossible even to talk because of the noise. I wrote a private letter to the host and the answer I received was not very good. He gave a very poor apology, saying that it was not noisy. I have this recorded.

There was also a very bad kitchen. It said on the listing that the kitchen was fully equipped, but there was not even a kettle to heat water. One knife that barely cuts.

The most important aspect for me was the safety. There was no fire escape, only two fire extinguishers in the second floor (people could be fighting over using them). I don’t know the rules in Spain, but this is unacceptable. An accident can happen when people smoke everywhere. There was no place to go in the event of a fire. There were also ants everywhere; the host was so “kind” that he left an ant killer spray.

Horrible Host and Pathetic Customer Service

I checked into an Airbnb on June 12th, 2017. There were a few issues that I realised were not advertised on the Airbnb listing. The “The Chinese spa style bathroom” advertised in the listing was just an old bathtub with no shower handle, meaning you had to use just the hose to take a shower. Furthermore, the bedroom did not have any curtains, just decorative tulle over the windows that did not even cover the whole window. As there was construction going on next door and there was a scaffolding, it was uncomfortable to sleep and get dressed in the bedroom without the windows being covered.

Finally, the listing stated: “Your bedroom is situated upstairs with the living room, the bathroom and the toilet that are only shared with me” which led me to think that she had a bedroom upstairs too. When I went to collect my keys she told me I would be staying in her room and she would be sleeping on the couch in the living room, which was not advertised. She did not stay in the house for the duration of my stay. I did not complain about these at the time because of the cancellation policy. I thought I could just get on with it.

I did contact Airbnb to say I felt uncomfortable at the property, and wanted to talk about my options. I left the property on the morning of June 20th, and did not come back until the next night. When I entered the house, the bathroom was a complete mess, and the bathtub was under construction and not usable. Even the sink was blocked with heavy furniture so I did not have access to any water. I’ve added photos from my first cancellation request; however, if needed, I can provide more photos.

This was a week in which the temperature was over 30 degrees in London. Since I work full time, not being able to take a shower or even wash my face in the bathroom sink was extremely inconvenient. If the construction started after I left on Tuesday, then she or the flatmate had more than 24 hours to let me know about the construction. If it had started on the morning of Wednesday, they had a full day (12 hours) to let me know about the construction. Yet no one informed me.

When I went to the property to pick up the keys on June 9th, the host had told me that there could be some quick work going on in the bathroom during my stay, but she told me she would give me notice. This was not ideal either, as if I had known this I would have not booked the property. This should have been told to me before the booking process.

After I left for work not having taken a shower, on Thursday, the host told me I could use her flatmate’s shower. However, the flatmate had strictly marked her own areas in the house and was not friendly at all, so I would have not been comfortable using her shower. I am sure the flatmate would not be happy with it either. More importantly, there was also work being done in that bathroom with tiles missing and dust around. Therefore, there were no clean usable shower amenities in the house. This is contrary what was advertised and I believe constitutes a Travel Issue under Airbnb’s Guest Cancellation Policy: “The listing booked is misrepresented (ex: number of bedrooms, location, lacks promised amenities).”

On Friday, June 23rd, I messaged the host, asking to shorten my stay and leave on Sunday. She immediately agreed and gave me the option to deal with the refund through Airbnb or directly with her. She gave me a calculation of how much my stay had cost with the weekly discount rather than the monthly discount, and agreed to refund me for the nights after my checkout. We then agreed that I would leave on Saturday, June 24th, making my stay 12 nights. However, I had not stayed in her house since Thursday, the 22nd, meaning that I only stayed at hers for 10 nights.

In short, from the first moment she agreed to refund me. All this is documented in our messages (not on Airbnb but if required I can provide screenshots of the conversation). If she had not agreed to refund me, I would not have left the property and would have stayed there until the end of my tenancy, July 10th. I immediately contacted Airbnb on what to do, yet I was kept being promised a call back from my case worker but I never received one. After calling Airbnb many times over the week I was advised to cancel my reservation and then ask for a refund.

I was advised to ask for a refund starting from the night I stopped staying at the property due to the bathtub construction, so I calculated my stay only for 10 nights. I cancelled my reservation and asked for a refund based on 10 nights, however the host declined my request. I imagine you can see her reply – she said that it was my responsibility to know the refund policy. I was aware of the refund policy; that’s why I wanted to confirm that she would refund me for the nights I did not stay. When she confirmed she would refund me through our messages, I cancelled. So I feel victimised now that she is saying she won’t refund me after I left the property. Like I said, if I had known, I would not have left.

Secondly, in her response she said that the construction had been finished in two days. When I went to collect my belongings on Saturday, the bathroom was still a mess; the bathtub was not finished and unusable, there were still construction equipment, and there was dirt and a mess all around the bathroom. There was no one working on the construction and since it was Sunday the other day no one would have been working on it the whole weekend. This means that the construction was going on for four days, and was probably going to go on for the next two days. Her claim in her response is simply untruthful.

Finally, in her response she said that I stayed 12 nights (even though it was 10 nights in reality), and that I should submit a refund request for the remaining nights after my stay. This is against what Airbnb advised me to do, but I just wanted to be done with this whole process and get my money. I requested another refund for 12 nights as she said. It has been more than 72 hours and she hasn’t replied. I’ve sent her another reminder message and she hasn’t replied to that either. I have been calling Airbnb every single day for he past week, and I can never reach my case manager. I don’t know what to do.

Airbnb Refused to Allow me to Write a Negative Review

I booked a last minute apartment in Athens, Greece called “50 Shades of Grey with Acropolis View” by Minas. Upon arrival, I discovered there was a full scale renovation of an apartment above mine creating loud noise all day and into the night (I arrived at 8:00 PM and there was still noise). I immediately told my host that I would not be able to stay there, but he refused to give me a refund. I also called Airbnb but they offered no help. In addition, because I told them I would write a review about the construction to warn future guests, they told me I would not be able to write a review. So yes, they charged me (even though I stayed elsewhere that night) and they denied me the right to write an honest acurate review because this particular host is a “superhost”. Airbnb has become a shady company and I won’t be using them anymore. They care more about receiving their service charge from a stay than the guests or hosts themselves.

Worst Experience: Airbnb Under Construction in Italy

I have mixed feelings about Airbnb because I’ve had many good experiences being a guest and using the platform. However, it takes only one horrible experience to make me reconsider using Airbnb ever again.

I booked this apartment located in Scandicci, Italy. The big mistake I made was booking the apartment without seeing any pictures from the inside (there were none on the site), but the location was very convenient for my purposes. I checked the apartment description and amenities out very thoroughly. The host also assured me that he would have a photoshoot and send me pictures within a week or so. I decided that however the apartment looked, it would be a good choice.

What I didn’t consider is that if a booking doesn’t have pictures from the inside, there is usually a reason. In my case the reason was that the apartment was under construction at the time and not ready to be rented out. Of course the host “forgot” to mention this little detail and despite the fact that I booked weeks in advance and wrote to him multiple times requesting pictures, he would avoid the subject or not respond. I just went with it and once I saw the apartment I was pleasantly surprised; it looked very nice.

It was obvious that he had been renovating until the very last minute. The floors were covered with building debris. I am not a clean freak and I’ve never ever had the urge to clean the floor of an Airbnb (or any other) apartment I had rented until this one. I cleaned the floors (I took photos, in any case) and I wasn’t even going to mention it until multiple other problems started popping out. The three main things were: no wifi, no air conditioning, no TV. These were all promised in the description of the apartment and at this point I confronted the host about them.

His response about the wifi was that the apartment is brand new so he didn’t have time to install wifi; this takes a lot of time in Italy. Of course, I booked the apartment weeks in advance, but even if I had booked a day before my arrival, his problems shouldn’t be my problems. His apartment shouldn’t be on Airbnb in the first place if he is not ready, or just shouldn’t advertise that there is wifi.

When I asked him about not providing a TV, his response was that this was his choice as this it was supposed to be a tourist apartment (because apartments for tourists never have TV…) and not a living apartment. The air conditioning had an even more interesting story. There was visibly an air conditioner in the apartment, however there was no remote control or any way to turn it on. The host said that probably somebody from the builders or something took the remote.

After further inspection of the power switches, I noticed that there were switches for everything that was present in the apartment except the air conditioner. I think his story, as all of his other stories, was BS and the air conditioner was not even connected to the electrical grid. The biggest surprise came the morning after (this morning) when we discovered that there was no hot water for the shower. The shower was obviously installed incorrectly and this just made the living conditions unacceptable. He said that he is going to send somebody to fix the shower tomorrow morning, so we will see.

I contacted Airbnb this morning when I discovered the shower situation, because I thought that this definitely qualified as an emergency, but I have heard no response as of today. I am extremely unsatisfied. This has been a vacation from hell, so if I don’t hear anything from Airbnb by tomorrow I will file a claim with my bank to reverse the charges.