Trip Insurance is a Necessity When Using Airbnb

We have been with Airbnb for three years and most of our experiences have been good up until now. As provided in a formal feedback from my wife, guests buy trip insurance to cover crisis situations and illness. Airbnb is effectively negating this avenue by offering refunds at the host’s expense. It is completely unacceptable as a policy and puts the hosts in an untenable situation of loss that cannot be recouped for last minute cancellations – which, by the way, is why trip insurance exists.

Airbnb is hurting the small business owners who are the reason Airbnb is in business at all. Shame on them for allowing this and for interfering with legitimate trip insurance companies who protect the owners as well as the traveler when situations happen outside of either parties control. Airbnb clearly is not protecting owners and their businesses with this kind of policy. If you read some of the posts from hosts you will see what I am talking about.

We had a guest that was going to check into our property on December 6, 2017 and at the last minute something happened. They cancelled their reservation, and Airbnb refunded their money back to them. Now we are out over $600 to cover our mortgage and other fees and there is no time to rerent the property. I understand things happen that are out of a person’s control that cannot be helped. Thus the reason for trip insurance.

Suggestion: if you want to act like an insurance company and refund guests their money then charge a fee ($35 – $45 to be competitive with trip insurance companies) for that service, put it in a separate account, refund them out of that money, and offer it on the Airbnb website. Both guests and hosts will be happier. I purchase trip insurance just for that purpose. I read about another guest that cancelled at the last minute because they didn’t plan early enough and didn’t have their visa information in order. Airbnb refunded their money, costing the host a month’s rent that couldn’t be replaced.

If a driver is driving without insurance they are taking on the full responsibility if they get into an accident. You don’t have insurance because you plan on an accident, but to protect you just in case you do. Please protect your hosts and guests, as we pay your salaries.

Airbnb Considers a Loud Air Conditioner an Extenuating Circumstance

About six months ago I had a six-month reservation that was cancelled because we didn’t reply to Airbnb within one hour. Our listing was listed with a strict cancelation policy which states that we don’t offer refunds if the guest chooses to cancel. However, our guest was sensitive to the noise of the air conditioner in our apartment and there was a cockroach (we live in New York). Airbnb determined this to be extenuating circumstance and canceled on our behalf.

Since then we’ve been having issues because apparently, we owe Airbnb the one month’s rent that was paid out after the first night. We actually ended up losing over $20,000 with this reservation, considering we had to cancel our lease, forfeit our security deposit, and hire last minute help to vacate our apartment in just three days before leaving for our six-month trip around Asia which we planned during the rental.

Airbnb has been our main source of accommodations. In fact, just three days ago we were not allowed into Taiwan because our visa got declined and even in these circumstances, when we contacted Airbnb they said we needed to give the host 24 hours to reply and explained that it’s up to the host whether to give us a refund. This was indeed an extenuating circumstance listed on Airbnb’s policy (as we literally were not allowed into the country), but Airbnb still stood by the host’s cancellation policy.

Every time we had issues over the course of our travels, Airbnb gave the hosts 24 hours to fix them and placed us in a hotel for the night while the problems were resolved. In our case, Airbnb canceled our six-month strict cancelation policy reservation because we didn’t answer them within one hour while the guest did confirm we were in contact with her, trying to fix the issue – which seems extremely wrong.

All problems aside, last month we booked a place in the Philippines for three weeks and the apartment had multiple electricity issues for many of the days we were there: meaning we couldn’t cook, there was no internet, no lights, no hot water, etc. We contacted Airbnb and they placed us in a hotel for three days which they said would be refunded. However, now they are saying we owe them the first month’s rent that was paid out for the 6-month reservation in June (which they cancelled without our consent) and that they won’t refund us for the hotel stays. We think this is completely wrong and we wanted to hear anyone’s thoughts.

According to Airbnb’s policy, it’s up to the host to set their cancellation policy; we had set ours to Strict, which meant that the guest does not get a refund unless we decide to give them one. There’s also another policy that applies for 28 nights or more, the long-term cancellation policy. If a guest changes or cancels a long-term reservation their first payment is non-refundable. If they cancel after the trip has started, the remaining nights in their reservation are non-refundable. If they have more than 30 nights left in their reservation, only the next 30 nights are non-refundable.

Looking into the extenuating circumstances policy established by Airbnb, it states that deaths, illness, injury to the guests, ability to travel, natural disaster, urgent travel restrictions, endemic diseases, severe proper damage and government-mandated obligations are the reasons why Airbnb would be able to cancel a reservation without the host’s approval. The reasons why this was canceled does not fall into this scenario at all. A loud air conditioner and a cockroach does not sound life threatening to me.

Keep in mind, this guest actually came to the apartment prior to booking it on two separate occasions to determine if it was suitable for their stay and heard and saw the air conditioner. We gave them a full tour and walk through and even rearranged some decorations after their request, which says a lot about our commitment and quality provided to our guests. We have hosted many people before and maintain a 4.8 rating, whereas this person was a completely new user with no reviews. Not only that, none of our past guests (some of which stayed just a week prior to this guest) mentioned any of the problems which she claimed made our apartment uninhabitable.

That being said, the cancellation of this reservation violates Airbnb’s policy as none of her reasons fell into the extenuating circumstances clause and we were not given the standard 24 hours to seek a resolution for the issues. After consulting with our legal team, it seems we have very strong grounds to sue Airbnb up for these losses. We did in fact let it go at the time but considering it is being raised again as an issue of us owning money to Airbnb I think it is worth pointing out that this cancellation was not done by the book in any means.

Regardless, it’s completely unprofessional to have an agent email us confirming they would refund three nights in a hotel and then be told after the stay that the refund would not be granted because of a balance owed for a reservation six months ago, which we were never informed of. I’m sure this is against their policies as well. At the very least, it’s an extremely disorganized an unprofessional way to treat loyal Airbnb users as hosts and guests.

How would you handle this? What would you do in our shoes?

Airbnb’s Business Model Doesn’t Include Customer Service

It took one very bad weekend to learn that Airbnb is merely a platform and has nothing to do with customer service. I had a lapse in judgment and allowed young locals into my home because they agreed to abide by the rules and to forfeit their security deposit if they were noisy. After creating enough noise that I was alerted 3-4 times on my noise alert system, I asked Airbnb to cancel the reservation.

Airbnb wouldn’t do this because they don’t recognize any noise alert system as legitimate evidence and problems that exist only between the host and guest aren’t managed at all. If a neighbor calls the police, or complains, then it appears Airbnb may get involved since they have a dedicated page for neighbor complaints. The “case manager”, i.e., an untrained, uninformed, completely lacking in anything related to Airbnb policy, called my guest and made things far worse. She as much as told him that my noise alert system was bogus and I was probably being too picky.

Of course I got a text at 1:00 AM from a neighbor complaining of loud noise all night. My initial phone call to Airbnb support was at 6:00 AM and this “case manager” agreed to cancel the reservation and that the security deposit could be available if the guest broke house rules. By 2:00 PM, after numerous phone calls and texts, the “case manager” looked up the policy on noise only to find out there isn’t a policy on noise. Of course I could not use the security deposit for this problem.

My take away from this experience: governmental entities are at the top of the food chain for a company as massive as Airbnb. Without permission, Airbnb doesn’t exist. Collecting the tax money from guests is its highest priority. In regards to guests, Airbnb markets cater almost exclusively to millennials (yes, others use the site but marketing is geared to the 20-35 year olds). Airbnb could lose its supply of young guests very quickly if they made an issue about noise. The word would spread like wildfire on social media and leave the door open for another platform to pick up these customers.

Neighbors of Airbnb properties count, especially in huge centers like NYC, LA, and Chicago; too many complaints and the government entities may shut Airbnb down. Unless neighbors complain because of a very noisy vacation rental, the noise issue doesn’t exist for Airbnb.

In Airbnb’s business model, hosts are at the bottom of the food chain. We are easily replaceable 100% of the time. There will always be a steady supply of people willing to open their homes, rooms, or provide a sofa to make money. We simply don’t count for Airbnb other than as a place to keep their cash cows (guests) happy. I just learned this and honestly, if Airbnb would have been upfront with this, i.e. hosts don’t matter, I’d have done things differently. I would appreciate the platform, and the brutal honesty from Airbnb relative to hosts would save a lot of us time and money.

Hosts Don’t Get Off Easily When it Comes to Airbnb

Don’t bother hosting with Airbnb. I have done so for several years, but this year I have removed my property after it has become apparent that they do not look after their hosts if there is a problem. I had never had a problem before this year, but I think that the combination of advertising on TV and the flood of hosts has resulted in lower weekly payouts and, sometimes, the wrong type of customer. Following one family leaving early (definitely the wrong type), I have been trapped in several months of random communication with Airbnb with no outcome. Their customer service team is a joke. Their decisions (if you can find anyone that can actually make one) are made without your consultation, are random and, in our case, outside of the policies you signed and just hugely unfair. We are still awaiting a payout that they are withholding falsely. I get a different ‘story’ and ‘calculation’ each time I enter into a dialog and I’m just fed up with it. We have offered a charming little family home for very little money and the first time something goes wrong, they stitch us up. Don’t bother.

One Discrepancy in my Airbnb Ad Cost me a lot of Money

This past weekend, three lads from London were supposed to stay at my apartment, as I was out of town. After one day, however, I received an email from their agent at Trip Advisor, speaking on behalf of these men who stated they had left my apartment.

The reason? I had -unintentionally- misqualified my couch, classifying it as a “bed sofa” when the correct phrasing should – as I’ve come to learn now – have been a “sofa”. Airbnb agreed with their complaint, and imposed a penalty on me: the young lads would get all of their money back plus a restitution of their hotel expenses (except for the one night they did stay). This implied that I was left with nothing but a bad review and no revenue from renting out my apartment for the other two nights.

To make it very clear: I have one king-size bed, which is for two guests. My second bedding option for any third guest is my sofa, which is perfect for sleeping and measures the exact same as a normal person-sized mattress. It’s not a matter of me not being transparent or being dishonest by not offering three beds or sleeping options. I have three bedding options. I just ticked one box wrong in my ad (clicking “sofa bed” instead of “sofa”), without being aware of this immense aberration. As I’ve come to learn from Airbnb, a sofa bed is one that you pull out and a sofa is not (my couch is not a pullout).

This is according to Airbnb regulations which are nowhere to be found on the site. Even the manager I talked to acknowledged that that is something at Airbnb that ought to be changed. Still, Airbnb lets me ‘bleed’ anyways, instead of taking part of the responsibility (e.g. have me cover a part of the cost, instead of 100%). How should I have known this difference? English is not even my first language and I’m not a bedding expert.

The penalty is disproportional in my view, since I will not receive any money for the two nights they had booked, plus I am certain I will get a bad review. I have no doubt about that. I have never heard any Airbnb guest or other guest sleeping on my sofa complain about my couch. It’s truly a comfy couch, as is the rest of my house. I daresay that about my apartment because I spent months renovating my home and decorating it (one of my hobbies). My home truly is my sanctuary.

In fact, one reason I bought this couch recently is because it’s a perfect couch for sleepovers, which happen literally every week in my apartment. A good friend of mine sleeps on it every week, and believe me, he’s someone who is tall with a poor back and not afraid to tell me when my couch is not comfy. I know it’s not about my couch not being comfortable; it’s just petty people who have a working knowledge of Airbnb regulations (they’ll receive full restitution for the hotel they stayed at instead).

I just can’t believe anyone would go to these measures, all just because there is one wrong qualification in my ad. It’s not like they couldn’t sleep in my house (or had to sleep with their legs pulled up or whatever). The guest who had booked with me didn’t even consult me about my misqualification, but went straight for the official institutions – Airbnb and Trip Advisor – as if I were some scammer. I feel severely mistreated, both by these guests as well as by Airbnb and am seriously considering withdrawing from Airbnb altogether.

Host Cancellation Policy Not Worth Paper it is Written On

Just a warning for you hosts out there. Airbnb can refund 100% of the rate you have agreed upon with guests, and will not even inform you about it. The first you will know is when you receive a statement saying they have taken the money from your bank account, or deducted it from a future booking (which is what happened to us). It does not matter if you have a strict cancellation policy; Airbnb’s terms and conditions allow them to override this and “steal” (there really is no other word for it) your money and give it back to the guests, and not even inform you about it.

We had a booking in August – our peak period, and so we spent time, money and effort preparing our property for these guests, including purchasing food for their stay, paying for staff (our villas are serviced), and arranging cleaning, only for the guests not to turn up at all. As people fly to Bali, such a late cancellation left us no chance of finding other guests to take their place. When we contacted the guests, we found out that their grandmother had unfortunately died, and so they had decided not to travel.

While we had sympathy for the guests, we assumed that they had travel insurance (as we recommend for all guests) and so would claim on that, and so we offered to provide whatever paperwork they needed to do so. This is our business and our only source of income, and so we have a strict cancellation policy, as losing an entire week of income would be a big blow to us. We thought because of our cancellation policy that we were protected by Airbnb.

If guests contact us we normally work something out, and have in the past. For example, we have let guests stay later in the year for free. However, instead of claiming this on their insurance, the guests just went directly to Airbnb, and the next thing we knew, 100% of the amount paid had been taken from us. No warning or discussion from Airbnb. No discussion or message from the guests. We had had no argument or difficulties with the guests, just minimal conversation as we assumed they were busy with the funeral arrangements.

We are left here with all the costs of setting up the villa for the guests and yet zero income, and no ability to get other guests to stay or to recoup the income we had expected. We complained to Airbnb and they told us that when using Airbnb, we have to follow a policy called Extenuating Circumstances. In Airbnb’s view, their policy is evenhanded as it allows hosts to cancel at the last minute, as can guests for reasons outside of their control. However, if a host cancels due to some unforeseen emergency, then the money is repaid to the guests, and if the guests cancel due to some unforeseen emergency, then the money is also repaid to the guests. The host loses out in both cases.

Guests can also insure against unforeseen emergencies, but there is no such insurance to cover hosts for last minute cancellations leading to a significant drop in forecast income. With no discussion, notice, message or anything we were given zero opportunity to challenge or question this. Airbnb did not even check if the guests had travel insurance, and could have claimed that; they just quietly took the money without telling us. Not only is this policy grossly unfair to hosts, it is totally unethical to implement it without any discussion at all, and tells you that trusting Airbnb as a company is a very dangerous thing to do. A massive warning to Airbnb hosts: you are not who Airbnb cares about.

Airbnb Resolution Centre is a Lame Duck

I prefer to not even recollect the awful experience with a past guest, but I’ll try (above all mine is a criticism against Airbnb). Basically the guy started complaining from day one. He seemed to be bent on finding any hidden cracks and obscure issues – a truly nasty character who refused to provide the time he was arriving and then dared to complain he had to wait in his review (like it was someone else’s fault?). However, that was only the start. After three weeks I was left with two broken appliances (cooker and washing machine) and for the very first time I decided to use Airbnb’s Resolution Centre (after having about ten guests and very positive reviews).

The documentation they requested was nearly impossible to provide. The appliances had been there for nearly 20 years (but Airbnb wanted the receipts). Secondly, I wasn’t in the property and most of the documentation requested was out of reach; I was miles away from any “useful” documentation, but I posted the bill from the technician and the receipt for the new washing machine. The technician was paid the day my nasty guest left, as he didn’t notify me of the issue (the cleaners found out) and I had to fix the problem for a new guest arriving the next day. So I had to order a new washing machine just the day after receiving confirmation the old one was properly broken.

The other problem – the gas cooker – we discovered later on (remember: I wasn’t there and couldn’t verify these issues on the spot) that there was no cooking involved. The guy took some pictures of the burned knobs but no picture of any meal he made? A burned chicken? Or any dish ready to enter the oven? Nothing whatsoever. The cooker oven (electrical) was then turned on and left unattended for how many hours? Days? That’s a very good recipe to burn any cooker! It’s called inappropriate use or negligence, but the guy clearly omitted this fundamental detail (of course, I’m not there) and blamed me for being irresponsible for not providing an extinguisher and access to the gas canister and assembly.

Now, I’ve been a guest in certain properties advertised on Airbnb and I can assure you none had facilities which are common in hotels (would you paint an escape route in your house?). So basically the guy wanted the professional approach of an hotel at a fifth of the price. In my opinion we have a typical opportunist who deliberately stays in Airbnb properties (many like mine) where he knows there is no extinguisher to be found and he knows there is no escape route marked on the wall, then deliberately uses these issues as weapons whenever he files a complaint with Airbnb.

So the company is a lame duck; they can’t see this guy for what he is and boot him out of the system. Let’s face it: Airbnb can’t check all these properties and can’t compete with hotels in terms of a professional approach to guests (in general, certain hotels lack that too). This is the root of the problem. When first approached, Airbnb staff seem reasonable; they promise you a full investigation. The truth is that they don’t really want nor need to find out. I’ve received two calls from their headquarters in California during the period of the investigation. The phone rang only once and as I tried to answer, they hung up (so they can safely say, “look we tried to contact you but you didn’t answer the phone”?)

Their task is simple, to discourage complaints and break down any attempts at compensation: you start complaining and they put you under immense stress. It reminds me of the origins of eBay – does anyone remember the reviews? On paper you might have the advantage but Airbnb has the perfect solution: they encourage your opponent to escalate the matter (even without any evidence) and they too are allowed to ask for compensation for issues which were never ever mentioned during the whole stay. For example, my guest never complained about the Internet or noisy neighbours but all of a sudden these and other issues were presented and the guy is encouraged to request the full amount he paid back into his pocket? What kind of mind game is Airbnb playing here? This is the cheapest trick, the kind kids do in kindergarten. The guy shouldn’t be credible (not if there was no previous complaint), so how can Airbnb fall for it? They aren’t failing to investigate, they are just at the mercy of nasty guests like mine. Enough of Airbnb.

Ivan Vilches Quero – Liar, Cheater, and Hustler

On Monday, March 16, Ivan Vilches Quero and his wife came to my apartment in midtown Manhattan. He looked around at the space, over 500sq ft two blocks from Grand Central Station. Expensive location, renovated apartment, in an elevator building. They stuck around for 20m asking me questions about NYC, and the apartment. The cleaning crew had just left, and I needed some time to prepare fresh towels and clean sheets. He left their luggage, took my key, and said he would be back in half an hour. Less than an hour later, he writes to me on whatsapp. He doesn’t write to me on airbnb. He claims the apartment is dirty, that the windows are not clear, and he asks me to come back to the apartment. The next day Airbnb approves their cancellation. They refused to return my keys for 3 days and 2 nights, occupied my apartment, opened their luggage, left dirty dishes in my apartment, and slept in the bed. This man is a liar and cheater, HOSTS BEWARE of IVAN VILCHES QUERO of Seville, Spain