Penalized for Cancellation due to COVID Exposure

My friend and I booked a week in a New York state lake house for August. Five days before the vacation was to begin, her roommate was exposed to COVID, and said roommate wasn’t aware of her exposure until three days before our trip, at which point she informed my friend.

Out of an abundance of caution, concern, and unwillingness to potentially spread COVID, we made the painful choice to cancel our trip. The host was immediately rude, behaved like we’d set out to screw her out of money intentionally, and mocked us for believing COVID to be a concern. Airbnb was zero help, and didn’t seem to give a damn about the fact that we were operating under extenuating circumstances while trying to be good members of our national community.

We managed to get half our money back after extensive time spent publicly confronting Airbnb on various social media channels, but the entire thing was disgraceful, and cemented the distrust I’ve always had for Airbnb (I mean, what with destroying rental markets, pricing locals out of their communities, and the racism far too prevalent on their platform). I will never book through them again.

Airbnb and its Hosts’ Unethical Practices

In November I booked a stay at an Airbnb one bedroom condominium in Palm Springs listed as for mid-February to late March. Per Airbnb requirements, I paid a total deposit of $3,135 for this to Airbnb. At the time, COVID-19 was declining.

Then in December 2020, the COVID situation turned worse in California and on Jan. 6, the California Department of Public Health issued a travel advisory stating that “non-essential travelers from other states or countries are strongly discouraged from entering California.” The official state document issued by the governor’s office, referenced in the travel advisory, also included a restriction that stated for “hotels and lodging: allow to open for critical infrastructure support only.”

Based these conditions and further recommendations by Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health professionals that the COVID-19 crisis was still on the rise in California and not likely to see a reduction soon, and that Riverside County (home to Palm Springs) had one of the highest infection rates in the country, I cancelled the reservation in mid-January and told both Airbnb and the hosts that I would be willing to use my refund amount to rebook at this property at a later date and suggested specific dates in April and May.

The host told me they (and Airbnb) agreed to this in January and told me “they would contact Airbnb to find out how to allow me to book for these new dates using the $3,135 I already paid” for the reservation in February. During the next two weeks, I kept asking them when they would do this. They kept saying “we are busy and will do today” but they never did.

After two weeks of pleading with them to follow up on their agreement to allow me to rebook using my deposit for the original reservation, and still no action on their part, I had no choice but to realize they never intended to allow me to rebook using my deposit. When I contacted Airbnb, they told me “the host was refusing to release my deposit” to use for a booking in the future. When the host finally did respond, after I repeatedly complained to Airbnb, the host told me “it was really Airbnb that was not allowing them (the hosts) to use my deposit to rebook at a later date.”

So now the hosts were blaming Airbnb for this debacle. I’m stuck in the middle of the hosts saying Airbnb won’t let them rebook my new dates using my deposit, and Airbnb saying the hosts won’t allow a refund. Both Airbnb and the hosts were blaming each other. In the meantime, the hosts rebooked guests into their property during the time I originally booked so they are receiving payments for the new bookings and keeping my deposit. Essentially making twice the price for the time between mid-February and the end of March while I’m out $3,135.

While this may not be illegal, I certainly think it is unethical and wrong. Then to top this off, the host tried to get me to put an additional deposit down for future dates and saying they “would release my original deposit when they received additional deposits for future dates.” I told them they must think I’m a fool if they thought I would give them more money while they still had my original deposit and would not use it to rebook. How these hosts can maintain their status as “Superhosts” while consistently lying to me is unbelievable. How Airbnb sanctions this wrongful behavior is equally unbelievable to me.

Greedy Airbnb Host at Apartment in Hobart, Australia

February was proving to be a tough month in Perth. Effective from 6:00 PM Jan. 31 until 6:00 PM Feb. 5, the Perth metropolitan area, Peel and South West regions entered a lockdown. At the same time, out of control bush fires were raging in the Perth hills and 86 homes were lost.

I had booked a much needed holiday in Hobart for Feb. 4 and was going to catch the bus up to see my dear friend in Burnie, Tasmania, on the 11th. I had to cancel all my reservations for Airbnb accommodations and sightseeing tours, and every vendor returned my money with a full refund.

With only one community transmitted case of COVID initially reported, the lockdown was immediate. We have had an almost honeymoon period, without any community transmitted cases of COVID-19 in Western Australia for ten months due to fast and strict measures by our state government.

As a mental health professional, I had been feeling I was approaching burn out and was finding the large influx of domestic violence cases had recently deeply affected me. I was waiting for a break. It looked like with no new cases had been reported we would be returning to low risk status, or so I thought.

Knowing the importance of self care, I booked five days at an Airbnb in Hobart and was going to travel to see my friend in Burnie after that stay. When I checked the cancellation policy, which was not upfront when I booked, the link took me to a long legal written description of exemptions for COVID-19. As every other vendor had given a full refund I was lulled into a false sense of trust.

I wrote the host when I booked, briefly explaining my situation and saying I wasn’t sure if restrictions would be lifted in time to travel on the 11th. I would never have booked if I knew it was a no refund property. An honest person would have messaged back that this was a no refund property and let me change the booking. I cancelled the booking one day later, after it became clear that Wester Australia’s status as a high-risk state had not changed.

That’s when I found out the host would only return the cleaning fee of $25 and was keeping the $466. I feel so enraged by this, not just the loss of the money but the lack of compassion and greed behind it. How can the host justify keeping my money under these circumstances? What else could it be but greed?

I contacted Airbnb and their representative was very gracious but the decision is the host’s to make and he would not refund my money. I am a kind and compassionate person and enraged that people like the host get away with taking advantage of others. A belief in justice is naïve and I choose to be an open-hearted person. Writing this post was a helpful outlet to let go of feeling like a victim to the host’s greed.

Airbnb Host Will Not Allow Us to Reschedule

My family and I booked a home for five days in Sedona, Arizona through Airbnb. We were so excited to go and learned, after our booking, that our sons, who serve in the United States Army, could not travel due to COVID restrictions. We asked Airbnb to reschedule our date (they were very nice) but the policy, as they explained eventually — six emails and three calls later — states that the host ultimately decides if you can reschedule your trip or not. He would not allow us to reschedule our trip under any circumstances and thus we are out $2,800.

It amazes me that we were not informed of this policy prior to our booking and that we were told, due to COVID, we would be able to reschedule if needed. Ten of us are out of a family vacation, one that we were really looking forward to. Disappointed to say the least.

Stripped of My Superhost Title Through No Fault of My Own

Just two days ago I was notified by an email from Airbnb that my Superhost status had been removed, and my many years of hard work and continually abiding by the rules had been cancelled from my Airbnb listing. On investigating the listing, it is true that as of March 20, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had no accommodation sales from Airbnb (in fact it is the same for all our suppliers: Expedia, Agoda, Booking.com, etc).

Our 14 Airbnb bookings were cancelled until January. This was somewhat like “a kick in the guts” or “a kick when you are already down in the gutter.” My accommodation business has had zero guests since March, resulting in no income. I have supported Airbnb for many years, and Airbnb supplies my accommodation business (as they do for many others in Bali) with possibly 80% of our clientele. I am grateful for that.

Bali, being one of the largest tourist resorts in the world, has been closed to overseas tourists since March, and has only just opened in September to its domestic market. Obviously, your automated system is unaware of what is going on in the world, and shows no compassion to many of your clients who have supported you for so long. Even though we have had no guests since the middle of March, I have endeavored to keep all my seven staff employed and on full salary, not forgetting dealing with their emotional issues and trauma  as well as my own caused by this damming virus.

Indonesian citizens receive no financial support at all from their government, unlike the U.S. and many western countries. Life is tough, and in addition to fighting the virus, people are hungry. We are hoping the vaccine is developed quickly and hopefully the Indonesian overseas tourist restrictions will be lifted soon. It is then we will be able to try to get back to some normality.

I am therefore asking Airbnb to consider placing the Superhost title decision on hold until the restrictions from the pandemic are eased, and start to show some compassion to the clients who have supported them so well in the past. It might be of benefit to review the situation, rather than acerbate and remove rewards that clients have worked so hard for (COVID-19 is no fault of their own). This would not only be of advantage to the client (in this case, the Superhost and possibly other related issues) but also be of advantage to Airbnb in rehabilitating a stricken industry.

Airbnb’s demotion email has affected me greatly. Such a shame after such a good association.

No Compromise For Changing Dates Whatsoever

Over the last three years I have stayed in 19 Airbnbs. I would consider myself to be a loyal Airbnb customer. I made a reservation for the Thanksgiving holiday for 10 days in San Diego because it was not only a vacation, it was also an attempt to support Airbnb during these difficult times. I know that Airbnb hosts are probably suffering from lower than normal occupancy rates.

A couple of weeks ago I started having growing concerns because the number of COVID-19 cases was starting to rise. I contacted the host, who in this case was represented by a vacation rental company in La Jolla. I mentioned to them that I was concerned about the situation and wanted to know what my options were. I never mentioned the idea of requesting a refund. Rather, I asked if I could modify the dates until the time when the virus started abating. Their response was that they would not allow any modifications.

A few days later the State of California raised the level of COVID restrictions from Code Red to Code Purple. It is the highest level that they have, effectively closing all restaurants to indoor seating, closing all non-essential businesses, and closing all theme parks (if they weren’t closed before). In addition, a stay-at-home recommendation had been issued for the area. I also mentioned the fact that state officials were recommending a 14-day quarantine if one traveled to California.

I brought this to the attention of the vacation rental company and they refused to accept an official modification request for the dates. After pleading with them about being upset that my entire $4,900 deposit was in jeopardy, they said that, if I canceled my reservation, they would attempt resale and issue credit for what they could resell. On the outside that sounded reasonable until I realized that they would sell it for a greatly reduced rate and that if they were unable to sell any of it, I would receive no credit.

I want to also include here that, if you go to the availability chart for this property, with the exception of one week over Christmas, this home is completely unavailable until Sept. 4, 2021 — good luck to those renters if they decide not to go. I decided not to accept their offer. It’s not like they would be refunding me and losing this income; all I wanted was a modification of dates. I went to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website and noted that this company is not held in high regard. I also noted that Airbnb has an “F” rating. The BBB apparently is looking into this issue and we’ll see what they come up with.

I have also written the Governor’s office. Airbnb has been essentially worthless. They sure know how to support their hosts, but the customer is screwed. I have written 4 emails to the CEO of Airbnb and have heard nothing in response. The management company constantly refers to the fact that they are going to follow the letter of the contract I signed. That, to me, is laughable.

I signed a contract a month earlier for a home in Truckee or the month of June next year. It was accepted and I got the “you’re going to Truckee!“ message. That to me is confirmation of a contract and I got the receipt for the full payment. Five days later I got a message from the owner asking me if I could change the dates of my stay in order to accommodate other clients. These clients turned out to be people he referred to as friends. To make a long story short, Airbnb customer support — instead of defending me and supporting my contract — cancelled my reservation.

I am feeling incredibly frustrated. I am not seeking a refund in this issue with the house in San Diego. I am just wanting to change the dates until the Code Purple restrictions are relaxed and it’s safe to travel again. I would appreciate any assistance in my issue with Airbnb. It’s getting to the point where a lawsuit appears the only thing that will get their attention.

Superhost Status is a Joke for Cancellations

I had booked an Airbnb in Sydney well in advance for my wife’s significant birthday in April. Exactly two months before check in, we made the difficult decision to postpone our trip from New Zealand due to the Australian bush fires (smoke which was polluting Sydney’s air) and the worsening worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

We advised our Superhost, believing that we were doing the decent thing by letting them know well in advance. Because we had passed the free cancellation period, the Superhost refused to refund any of our money (we’d paid for half the stay), saying she’d refund us if she secured a replacement booking for the same dates. Despite our pleas, she was immovable and wouldn’t listen to reason.

By the time Easter arrived, Australia and New Zealand were in lockdown so we wouldn’t have been able to travel anyway. We contacted Airbnb to get their help but initially there was confusion as both parties (Airbnb and the Superhost) said it was the other’s decision whether to refund me. Neither wanted to make a decision. As I had no luck with the Superhost, I turned my attention to Airbnb Support to try to have them refund me from Airbnb’s not insignificant funds.

They’ve so far refused to, citing in email after email their Extenuating Circumstances policy and that I was not covered by this (since I’d had the decency and foresight to cancel before the policy was introduced). I’ve also emailed senior management at Airbnb to ask them to help but no one has replied to my emails, preferring to pass my request onto the Airbnb Support team, who keep giving me the corporate line about not being able to help. They do apologize each time though.

The senior Airbnb staff I’ve contacted repeatedly — most recently on all correspondence with all the different “Support Ambassadors” assigned to my emails — have included Brian Chesky (CEO and Founder); Susan Wheeldon (Australia & New Zealand Country Manager); Tara Bunch (Global Head of Operations) and Derek Nolan (Head of Public Policy, Australia and New Zealand). But. Not. One. Response.

I’m not sure where to go from here. Guess I’ll keep emailing them so they have to assign another Support Ambassador to me. Or maybe by some miracle Brian or Susan or Tara or Derek will get in touch. Or I’ll get that refund I asked for months ago.

Airbnb Allows, Maybe Even Assists, in Fraud

I booked a place via Airbnb to stay at Shawnee Village Resort. I booked through Airbnb instead of via Craigslist, because I felt Airbnb would reduce my risks and provide assurances against anything irregular such as fraud. Even though I could have booked a lake front home near the Shawnee Village Resort for the same amount of money, I just felt uneasy booking with someone on Craigslist — does the house even exist? What guarantees do I have that they won’t pull a fast one and take my money or ruin my weekend? Booking through Craigslist, I have nothing to support me.

S0, I booked this two-bedroom place for three nights in order to get away for the long weekend. I booked it on Oct. 1 and it was confirmed for Oct. 9-12 by the host via Airbnb the same afternoon. Then on Oct. 8, he contacted me and said that “due to COVID restrictions” he was unable to provide us the first night and our RSVP needed to be amended to arrive on Saturday, so only giving us Oct. 10-12. That is not a long weekend get away.

He said that I could phone the resort and enquire about the COVID restrictions, which I did. I spoke with the property manager, who told me that no new restrictions have been put in place; they are operating under the same rules as when they reopened in July. She also told me that they have been “booked to capacity (which was limited to 75% since July) for this long weekend for more than two weeks.”

My point is, the host advertised and accepted a reservation from me for a property that he did not have at his disposal. It wasn’t available to be rented on Friday night, and instead of telling me that on Oct. 1 or any day in the last week (when I may have had better options) he waited until the last minute, knowing that I would be stuck and have no choice but to accept the shortened stay. He screwed me.

As if that’s not bad enough, Airbnb has done nothing to make this right by me. In trying to get a hold of anyone, their answers were late and didn’t even provide an answer as satisfactory as the solution (a discount) that I had already worked out with the host on my own.

What exactly am I paying Airbnb for? I would have been better booking on Craigslist. I hope they make some attempt to correct this. The host advertising a property that is not available is fraud. Airbnb enables him in committing that fraud.

Vacation Rental in Charleston Goes Wrong

We had a poor experience with an Airbnb in Charleston. In the midst of COVID-19 and the challenges of traveling at this time, we were disappointed that neither the host nor Airbnb would refund (nor give us a credit for) our $670 deposit.

My friend and I booked our trip to Savannah/Charleston back in October 2019. Our original dates of travel were for March and April 2020. With the onset of the pandemic and our optimistic belief that we would be able to travel again, in early March, we contacted our Airbnb hosts and changed our reservations to September. They both agreed and extended the reservations until September.

In June, we cancelled our Airbnb reservation for both Savannah and Charleston. We did this for several reasons: instances of COVID-19 and resulting deaths increasing in our country; restrictions put on place by our governor for travel to New York from South Carolina; nothing in the data indicating that the pandemic would be over (or a vaccine/cure would be ready) by September; and my personal health issues of diabetes and hypertension.

Advice from the CDC and my own physician indicated that individuals with these conditions are more vulnerable for serious health implications from COVID and should not travel. In good faith, we wanted to give our hosts plenty of notice and the opportunity to rebook if possible. Our Savannah host did refund our money except for $81.45 in fees which we appreciated. However, our host in Charleston refused to refund us our $670.

When we reached out to the Airbnb Resolution Department, the representative was not able to resolve this issue for us. He was professional and kind but simply quoted standard cancellation policy. At his request, we provided him my personal health information and a letter from my doctor. Bottom line, no refund.

We have written to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky as well and are awaiting a reply (so far two certified letters have gotten lost). We find this unacceptable and unethical. Our Charleston host has $670 of our money for services we are not receiving due to the pandemic. Airbnb’s own extenuating circumstances policy was recently extended to the end of September.

In good faith, we gave plenty of notice of cancellation. We feel strongly that an exception should be allowed for this pandemic. Airbnb has stepped up to provide assistance to their hosts in this financially difficult time. We are shocked that they are not supporting their customers in the same fashion. Be aware if you are booking through Airbnb.

No Refund for $2600 Due to COVID Circumstances

We cancelled our rental on March 21 for our stay in Austin scheduled for October 22-27 through Airbnb with a deposit $2,581.62 due to COVID-related complications. We booked in January. Neither the host nor Airbnb will refund our money due to their strict policy of “no cancellations” unless there are extenuating circumstances. COVID falls under that clause.

We have been fighting with them since March to get a refund. Our business was shut down due to COVID on March 13. We are now hiring an attorney to recoup our money. Do not use Airbnb. They have no compassion for the current climate or what people are having to endure. These are huge businesses which are not interested in the welfare of the clients. Losing $2,600 is a big deal to us, especially now.