No Penalties for Airbnb Hosts Increasing Rates

My mother is visiting me in Sydney from Canada this February. She booked her trip months ago after we told her of our news that my husband and I will be expecting our first child. She is visiting for close to three weeks and we wanted her to be comfortable and within walking distance from our place in Coogee.

Having lived in the eastern suburbs of Sydney for almost five years and a host on Airbnb myself I know how quickly places near the beach book out especially in summer, so I started my search in September as soon as she booked her flight. I was thrilled when I found her a two-bedroom apartment close to the beach within ten minutes walking distance from us. Not only that but the price was reasonable; it seemed perfect.

I contacted the host prior to sending through my booking request letting him know I was booking on behalf of my mother visiting from Canada and asking if I could go ahead with my booking request. As an Airbnb host myself, I always appreciate receiving a message from potential guests finding out a bit more about them and feel it is important to do the same as a guest. He replied right away, agreeing and advising that he was “flexible with check-in times so to let him know what time she arrived.”

This was great news, so I proceeded to book and pay for her accommodation. However, while my husband and I were overseas on holiday over Christmas I received a notification from Airbnb that I had been refunded my booking fee for my mom’s stay. I received no other communication from Airbnb or the host explaining why this had been cancelled. I contacted the host as soon as I found out, asking him why he had cancelled my booking and did not receive a reply. I still haven’t over a week later.

I soon discovered he had rebooked his apartment on Airbnb for double the original asking price he initially listed for my exact dates. I contacted Airbnb right away and was informed by a member of their customer service team that the reason for the cancellation was that I was in breach of their “third party booking” policy and that I should not have booked on behalf of my mother. My mother is 70, not particularly tech savvy, and has never booked with Airbnb before. Not to mention I would be staying with her some of the time, I was making the payment in AUD, and I had checked with the host.

I screenshotted my correspondence with the host to Airbnb and the customer service representative merely offered an apology that the host had not informed me he was “uncomfortable” booking on behalf of my mother. They did not address my concerns that he had subsequently relisted his apartment at double his original asking price for the same dates I had booked. I also asked the representative if the host had been in contact with Airbnb to which he replied: “No. I have yet to speak to him.”

The customer service member also sent me several links of new places to check out. Out of the four links he sent me, none were remotely in the location I wanted and were well over what I had paid originally. In one case, a rental was almost $1500 more. I did a quick search myself and there was less than 3% availability left for our dates in my area. To add insult to injury, on my Facebook, Instagram and Airbnb app the apartment I booked is advertised everywhere as a place to book. Seriously?

On the Airbnb website it states: “Because cancellations disrupt guests’ plans and impact confidence in the Airbnb community, the following penalties will be applied for host cancellations: unavailable/blocked calendar. Your calendar will stay blocked and you won’t be able to accept another reservation for the same dates of the cancelled reservation.”

However, when I asked customer service why this has not applied to the host involved in my case, this is the reply I got: “Hosts and guests do have the ability to cancel a reservation for whatever reason they choose on our platform and in this situation, he will not be penalized for wanting to cancel this reservation.”

The bottom line is Airbnb safe guards the host’s right to make more money should they decide they listed a property at a bad price. There is no booking protection for guests. None. You can pay for accommodation and think you’re secure but you’re not. Airbnb presumes to know why a host has cancelled a booking despite never having been in contact with them. Hosts don’t need to have a reason to cancel your reservation. I have advised Airbnb that I want to escalate this matter further, to which I haven’t received a reply.

Beware of Moderate Cancellation Policy, Negative Reviews

My family of four plus two grandparents booked a whole house in Phuket, Thailand with a moderate cancellation policy, allowing for cancellation during the stay. In the master bedroom, the en-suite bathroom smelled of poor toilet drainage, and the house was generally filthy despite the advertised housekeeper. After a few nights we decided to cancel and book ourselves into a hotel. We would have acted sooner but were very jet lagged after a 24-hour flight, We gave the host a heads up and followed the moderate cancellation policy (allowing for a 50% refund for unused days).

The host was very angry and wrote a negative review saying we were the worst experience he ever had. We left the house in a cleaner state than when we had arrived with no breakages. We were highly courteous throughout the stay. After going back and forth with the case manager Airbnb decided that the review was within guidelines. I am writing to warn future guests to document everything through email and photos and if you make a complaint do it within 24 hours even if there is a moderate cancellation policy.

Accused of Breaking Host’s Things Without Any Proof

I stayed at a complex called Platinum Suites one night through Airbnb. After my stay, I was accused of damaging one air conditioner – there are three AC units. From the start of my stay, I only turned on two units; the other was not turned on because it seemed to be broken.

Shortly after check out, the host filed a claim saying I had damaged the air conditioner. How could I have reached an air conditioner mounted high on the ceiling, when the stairs were not available? I’ve contacted the Airbnb resolution center; they said they have documentation, but when I asked what was the evidence that I damaged anything, they could not answer. Please be careful when staying at an Airbnb, or wherever you stay. You should first video the contents of the room so you are not accused of damaging the property of people. Airbnb has no proof I did anything but still made a statement as they liked it to appear. It is unfortunate. Even though this apartment was in good location – nice scenery, nice swimming pool – I stayed somewhere else.

 

Airbnb Refunds are not Honoured as Advertised

I cancelled a long-term reservation and fully expected to pay a penalty. What I did not expect was that the penalty would be 100%. The host’s listing stated that if a reservation is cancelled more than seven days prior to the start, then a 50% refund would be given. See photo of screenshot.

After contacting the host a couple of times, who did not respond, I sought a resolution by involving Airbnb. They correctly stated that Airbnb’s policy is a one-month penalty on long-term bookings but that hosts can decide on different terms not strictly supported by Airbnb. If that is the case then it is misleading, deceiving travelers into thinking that they will get a refund when in fact they will not.

The host has since changed his listing to match Airbnb’s conditions. The host has also found a loophole in Airbnb’s platform. Somehow the host was able to delete all previous reviews of their listing. Again, this is deceiving travelers. All this was pointed out to Airbnb in the photos attached. They closed the case and are now refusing to respond to my emails. I have now lost a substantial amount of money which I believe was through misleading information. I will never use or recommend Airbnb again. I feel sorry for all the legitimate hosts using Airbnb’s platform.

Airbnb Guests are not Protected from Bogus Damage Claims

Last month, I was part of a group of seven people who were visiting New Orleans for a wedding. We we very careful to take good care of the house. Everything went seemingly smoothly with our check-out, until we were notified of a lengthy list of bogus damages that amounted to $178 out of our security deposit. There was no evidence that demonstrated we had caused any damage (because we didn’t), only a few very low-quality photos with no context for when or where they were taken in the house or what damage they were supposedly showing. Furthermore, I feel that the evidence that we submitted in support of our innocence was pretty solid. It was the text message exchange from when we all found out about the damage claims. It clearly demonstrated our bafflement at the bogus claims. After being contacted about this claim, we of course formally disagreed, leaving it to Airbnb to determine how to resolve the dispute. Despite our strong denial of causing any damage and despite the lack of evidence to the contrary, Airbnb blindly sided with the host, and now we are left with almost $200 stolen from our security deposit. This is an unacceptable experience, and we will contest this whatever way we can. Users of Airbnb should be warned that even if you respect your rental house and follow all of the rules laid out by the host, you are not protected from being held liable from bogus damages.

Be Prepared to Kiss your Damage Deposit Goodbye

Along with my husband and adult daughter, I rented a modest basement apartment from April 15-17 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada through Airbnb. This location was chosen for an Easter visit because of proximity to our son, daughter in law and grandson. I was surprised at the high damage deposit of $500 for this sparse unit but, knowing we are very careful, I decided to go ahead. During our stay the seat of a chair broke. I immediately let the host know and apologized, receiving a hostile response. Examining the chair and a matching chair, revealed dry, fragile leather that could be easily torn with fingertips. The second chair had a slit through the seat that one could see right through. We also realized that several other items in the unit were broken, precariously placed, or on the verge of breaking.

I met with the host alone, so no other family members would suffer. She demanded money, tried to shame me, pushed me and insulted our son. Once home and already stressed, I was confronted with a claim for $2,000. Several months passed with many reassurances of ‘fairness’ from Airbnb employees and promises that a manager would contact me. They took $250 from my damage deposit, even though it was clear the host was lying. Also, others should know that when I complained that her review was full of lies (a mistake, since I have no intention of ever using Airbnb again, but a matter of principle) they took it down but also took mine down. Do not believe reviews; the bad ones disappear. Now that fall is here, I have resumed my efforts to shake a responsible person out of Airbnb and to warn others. I am especially concerned for young people who rely on Airbnb. They worry that their reviews will be poor and likely hand money over to such unscrupulous hosts.

Airbnb is a Pig in a Poke: Don’t Trust Them

I was a great fan of Airbnb for about two or three years until I faced an ugly situation. I had a bad experience with an apartment in Tel Aviv in the high season, August. It was so bad that when I provided photos to Airbnb, they refunded me 50% of the total cost. Later I understood why there were so many good reviews (good scores) for awful apartments. It is just the policy of Airbnb. They do not want to spoil their reputation and image by admitting they allow bad hosts to keep using the site. That’s why they do their best to hide negative reviews. After my experience, I left an honest review of the apartment and they hid it. The explanation was that the host provided them with some evidence that I accepted a bribe from him for a good review. I have provided our SMS exchange and WhatsApp messages, but they took his side. It was especially strange and disgusting taking into consideration that the guy lied about the apartment description; there were awful conditions and his ad was a fraud. They themselves forced him to pay me back 50%. I will never recommend using Airbnb as you are buying a pig in a poke.

Host got a better offer and cancelled my reservation

On September 21, 2017, I booked a room over the New Year’s holiday in a resort town in Southern California. I made the reservation and paid in full in good faith. Yesterday, my host canceled my reservation. She got a better offer; I was dumped. This was her message:

“Regretfully, I will be cancelling your reservation as I will be out of town and have a family interested in renting the entire house for the holidays.”

Besides being pissed and having to scramble to find another place to stay in a popular location over a holiday, I have two basic questions (both likely rhetorical). Why do I not have the ability to leave public feedback about her regarding this? My host could have penalized me if I would have cancelled on her by retaining a portion (up to half) of the money I paid her. Yet as a guest, when my host cancels on me, I have to just take it. Why is she not monetarily penalized for my inconvenience as I would have been for hers?

Host Charging me for a TV that was Already Broken

A couple of months ago, my wife, my parents, and I booked an Airbnb in San Antonio. The pictures looked nice and the place was in a central location. When we got there, the place was disgusting, with mold and dust everywhere. The fridge hadn’t been cleaned in ages, and there were dirty sheets on the beds and dirty towels tucked away in the closets. In addition, the TV wasn’t working.

We contacted the host by phone (our mistake – we should have done it on the Airbnb app, but at the time it seemed more convenient by phone). The guy said he didn’t care and wasn’t going to do anything about it, so he would just give us a full refund. I contacted Airbnb for them to find us a new place and they said they wouldn’t (first time something like this happened to us, and it was definitely alarming to see how Airbnb didn’t give a crap about us not having a place to sleep).

Anyway, we managed to find another place, and left this problem behind us. A month later I get a message from Airbnb saying that our host (even though we didn’t stay there) was charging us $2300 because we broke the TV. At first I thought this was a joke, and replied directly saying that we didn’t break anything so I wasn’t paying anything. The host then involved the resolution center. A month later I get an email from the resolution center saying they “feel” that the fair thing to do is for me to pay $1000 (why it went down from $2300 to $1000, I have no idea). I replied saying that I didn’t do anything; I wasn’t paying anything, and that I didn’t give them authorization to charge my card. If they did that, I would consider it fraud, since I am explicitly not giving my consent. I can’t believe that a host can just say that something’s broken and charge it to the guest. Sufficed to say I won’t ever use Airbnb again.

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.