Airbnb Host Spying On Guests With Audiovisual Equipment?

When I made our reservation with Airbnb, I took advantage of their “Pay Less Up Front” program. I paid for only half the reservation at booking, and about two weeks later, I paid the rest. Who would know this would come back to bite me in the end? Let me back up a bit.

My group and I planned to meet at the airport for our flights to Atlanta at 11:00 AM Friday morning. Our flight was from about 1:00-3:00 PM and we were scheduled to check into the house we rented at 5:00 PM that day. At exactly 11:13 PM on the Thursday night before the trip, I received a heart-stopping message from my host:

“Dear Kayla, I am hoping you will get this. Airbnb Customer Service is getting in touch with you, as well. I am having huge septic tank issues and there is sewage in the house. I am not allowed to safely have anyone stay at this home. I have tried to let you know much earlier but Airbnb’s website would not let me cancel or notify you. I had to call Airbnb to cancel and they are now trying to notify you. I am so sorry for the inconvenience to your trip! Thank you for your kind understanding!”

Let me just put this out there: I had been in constant contact with the host, letting her know our arrival and departure times, and just discussing other little things related to the booking. I was just baffled as to how it was that she was unable to contact me until 11:13 PM the night before I was scheduled to stay with her. I thought it best that I not respond to her, as I know my words would not have been kind or understanding.

Instead, I immediately contacted Airbnb who had not even called me yet. The representative had no clue what I was talking about. The reservation was active and there were no notes on the account stating that it should be cancelled. She had to hang up with me and call the host to verify. Meanwhile, she told me to look for other listings and reach out to the hosts of the ones I like to see if they could take me at the last minute. Another blank stare moment.

Once Airbnb spoke to the host, she called me back and asked me if there were any listings that I saw that I liked. I explained to her that since I was looking to book something on what was now the same date I was expecting to arrive, that the prices were much more expensive than what I had paid. The only listing I found with a host that was willing to take my party at such short notice was $400 more expensive than what I had paid. Airbnb only gave me a $200 coupon, leaving me to come up with $200 more than what I had paid, all for something that was not my fault.

What the representative said next is what really blew my mind. I was informed that because I paid for the booking in two installments, instead of them transferring the money I’d already paid onto the new reservation, they had to charge me for the new one and I had to wait for the refund for the cancelled one. After escalating to a supervisor, I was told that the funds would be released to my bank in 1-2 hours and all I had to do was call the bank so they could make it available to me.

While speaking with my bank I learned that was hogwash and poppycock, told to pacify me and get me off the phone. Meanwhile, my account was severely overdrawn and I still had a flight to catch in the morning. To make matters worse, I only got an automated confirmation of a refund about the first half of my payment, which finally posted to my account on Tuesday. I never received an automated confirmation about the second refund. When I inquired via chat about the second portion of the refund, I was told the funds were never received.

Like I said, when I booked the reservation, I paid half upfront. I received several confirmation and reminder emails that the second half would be charged on Thursday, December 18th. Airbnb charged my account for the second payment on Wednesday December 17th, and sent me a confirmation email dated for Thursday, December 18th, thanking me for my payment.

What the heck is going on at Airbnb? Why are they charging folks earlier than they should, and sending confirmations for a later date? The first representative I spoke to that Wednesday night, when I called in irate about being prematurely charged, processed a refund for that payment. I escalated to a supervisor because I did not want to be charged again on the correct date while waiting for a refund, since that would mean double the amount would be taken from my account. The supervisor then cancelled the refund, kept the money and compensated me for my overdraft fees.

Fast forward to 2:00 AM last Friday, the day of my trip, when I was going back and forth with Airbnb. After reading the message that the second payment was never received, I demanded the supervisor I had been speaking with call me back. She called me back and told me the last message was an error; they did receive the second payment and they did process the refund. She typed an email to me confirming the two refunds and their respective amounts. A week later, I have not received the second refund. If they were both processed at the same time, shouldn’t they be in my account by now?

The madness does not stop there. The new host that I booked with was freaking me out from the beginning. She asked me the purpose of my trip, and constantly drilled that she lives in a conservative neighborhood and that her home is not a “party house”. I understood that – no one wants to have problems with their neighbors. However, the first red flag came when she asked me how my guests and I know each other. I let her know we’re coworkers and classmates, but I could not understand what that had to do with anything.

The second red flag came when she called me before we checked in. She let me know that once I got to the house, I would hold my license up to the camera at the doorbell, she’d verify my identity and give me a code to put in the keypad and gain access to the house. No problem. The issue is that she said the latch on her door “sticks”. She said we’d have to hold the latch tightly and push really hard on the door to get in. Every time we went to go inside the house, it literally felt like we were breaking in. I’m so glad we had two strong guys with us, because if not, I doubt us ladies would have been able to get in.

The third issue arose when we returned to the house Saturday night at about 2:00 AM and attempted to turn on the downstairs heater. It was 27 degrees outside. We are South Floridians who are not used to the cold, so we were beyond shocked when we tried to turn the heater on and discovered that the thermostat was now asking for a PIN number. I felt bad about contacting the host at such an hour, but heat in such conditions is like a basic human right. It couldn’t wait.

I practically found myself in an argument with this woman. The most unsettling part about this text exchange was the realization that she was eavesdropping on me and my guests. Notice her comment to me about her power bill. I never mentioned anything to her about it, but one of my guests had just said the reason she blocked us from adjusting the temperature was because she did not want to have to pay a high power bill. It was so scary that she turned around and mentioned it. She claims she was just clarifying, but who clarifies something like that without a question being asked?

We learned that the system she used to identify me at the door and remotely adjust the thermostat is called NEST and it provides clear audio and visual surveillance. I’m still creeped out by this. To make matters worse, the house smelled dank and musty when we first got there. We had to spray everything down with Febreeze. The host only gave us one set of towels each for the weekend. Imagine being a person that is used to changing towels daily, and having to use the same towel all weekend.

She claimed she had a cleaning crew but the house was horribly dusty. There was broken glass on the floor in one of the bedrooms and dog hair everywhere. The pots, pans and dish sponges were filthy. We had to buy dish detergent and new sponges so we could properly clean the dishes and cook our breakfast. I did my very best to overlook this situation, but Airbnb nearly ruined my birthday that I had spent months planning.

I cannot believe that a company that is supposedly the standard in home rentals is so careless and irresponsible with its guests and with who they allow to host. I’ve since learned that Airbnb does not even do background checks on its hosts. What if the lady that hosted us is some kind of sick voyeur and records or watches the people that she rents her home to all the time? I will never, ever, deal with Airbnb again.

Stranded With Young Children At Night In London

I booked a three-bedroom flat in Limehouse Basin on Airbnb about two months in advance of the stay. We were taking the three children to London as their Christmas present to visit Hamleys and do some sightseeing. We were in the taxi on our way to the flat when host suddenly cancelled the booking without warning, claiming the place had been ‘trashed’ by the previous guests. Amazingly this was only discovered at 4:00 in the afternoon. Airbnb did nothing whatsoever to help; they left me on hold for 15 minutes with a fast draining battery and wouldn’t answer messages or ring me back. You can imagine how we felt being stranded in central London, with three children under ten and the best Airbnb could do was offer an extra £30 and a link to the app. Be very very wary booking with Airbnb – their support and help has been non existent. I also discovered I couldn’t leave a review for the host (she has ten properties listed on Airbnb) to warn others.

Bait and Switch at San Diego Corporate Lodging

I reserved a penthouse in San Diego two months ahead of my visit. I arrived early in the day last Friday and went to eyeball the property at the address in the email. I felt odd as the view from the posting could not have been from the same address. There was no pool or spa and I felt like bad things were about to happen to my weekend. My host sent to me an address nearby.

About an hour before checking in, the host cancelled and I was offered another Airbnb and a 10% credit if I chose one of the offered locations. None had a view like the penthouse did. I went to the address the host provided to find out they had a very strict policy against Airbnb in the building. They only lease to corporate clients and when I showed them the pictures they confirmed it was their building.

They were pissed. I had been baited with the pictures and the view. They tried to switch me to another lesser property claiming maintenance issues. What a load of garbage. All the people I spoke to at Airbnb were the same, amateurs acting like they knew what they were doing. My trust level left me and I went to a hotel never to use Airbnb again. These bait and switch artists should be arrested for fraud.

Last-Minute Cancellation before Christmas Holidays in Hawaii

My booking through Airbnb six months ago for a monthly rental during the Christmas holidays in Hilo, Hawaii was cancelled at the last minute by the hosts and their agent. There has been no remedy or compensation for the last minute disruption or the costs incurred by us. This caused significant stress, anxiety and costs for us. Airbnb will not remedy the matter, the rental company has not responded to us – see my detailed issue filed with them – and there has been no remediation after many emails and phone calls. I would avoid doing business with these guys. The next step is to pursue legal action to bring the matter public and make buyers beware.

We are an elderly couple from Chicago. We planned to celebrate our Christmas holidays and spend our winter months with my wife’s aging mother in Hilo. This was a special occasion for us celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. It was also a final anticipated return visit to the island after 30 years for my wife’s mother. We spent a lot of time researching the house because my wife’s elderly mother needed a single level house with no steps to climb and a walk-in shower set up.

The house we booked met our needs. After the cancellation by the host, we scrambled to find an alternative through the agent as well as through Airbnb. Due to the last-minute nature of host’s cancellation, the local agent was unable to find any place suitable in Hilo for Christmas or in any of the neighboring islands. We requested help from Airbnb and they too were not able to locate a suitable accommodation that met our needs. This caused significant stress to our family, incurred additional costs, and disruption to our long-anticipated vacation.

We had airline bookings that we could not cancel. My daughter and her husband were planning to be with us for Christmas and had booked all their flights and made plans to be in Hilo. We ended up finding a small two-bedroom townhouse in Oahu on our own after two weeks of searching in Hawaii and ended up paying a much higher cost and a premium to get the property during the Christmas holidays. We also paid a penalty to change the flights to Oahu instead of Hilo.

The townhouse does not meet our needs and we are not happy. My daughter and her husband could not change flights due to the Christmas rush and were not able to celebrate Christmas with us. They had spent money out of pocket to find accommodation and transportation in Hilo and it caused significant hardship to them. Given the unexpected nature of this cancellation by the host for rental during the holiday period, our options were very limited. We hold the owner, their agent and Airbnb responsible for this cancellation.

Two Last Minute Cancellations and a Noisy Apartment

Six weeks ahead of our family Christmas vacation to Peru, we booked two Airbnb listings. One was to be the same place twice for a total of five nights (with a short excursion to another place in between) and the others for a single night in Lima before leaving to go home. Fortunately, I had the sense to book a hotel for our first night in the country after getting off our international flight late at night and the hotels for our excursion were handled by our local guide.

Four days before our trip, our first reservation was cancelled. The host messaged me and said that he is new to Airbnb and didn’t know how the system worked, that he shouldn’t have confirmed the booking in the first place because he would be away leading a tour that week. Four days before our trip, we had no place for our family of seven to stay in a popular tourist destination during the holidays. The host was very unsympathetic to our situation.

We managed to find two separate bookings for the stay on either end of our stay, both at a higher rate than we’d originally had, and neither was an entire apartment like we had booked before. There were not any places left that were a single unit for a family. The first booking turned out to be a small local B&B that was nice and friendly, but not what we’d been planning on originally and at a higher cost.

While we were packing up to leave for our excursion, I got a message from our next host on the other end of the excursion that just said, “I’m sorry. Family emergency,” and the booking was cancelled. When this second one canceled for New Year’s weekend, I began to believe that they had found other folks willing to pay more or were giving the space to family or friends instead. I could be wrong. Maybe I’m just that unlucky. However, it was highly suspect.

Fortunately, the little B&B we were just preparing to leave had room for us and we were able to book privately with them and just take a refund from Airbnb on that second reservation, even though on their Airbnb page, it didn’t look like they had space that weekend. When we arrived to our last night’s location, I was very gun-shy about the whole Airbnb thing after the last minute cancellations. I had a little more hope for this place because the host was a “superhost”.

The host (who was listed as speaking English and Spanish and with whom I’d had conversations in English on Airbnb messaging) had informed me that he would be out of town while we were there and his sister would meet us and let us in. I called the sister immediately when we landed to confirm that were weren’t going to be left high and dry again. Both the host and his sister were very sweet, but his sister’s English was about as good as my Spanish, so we had a difficult time communicating.

The apartment was neat and clean, and we even had one more bed than expected. The neighborhood was a little sketchier than we expected and we had trouble finding a restaurant or grocery store because of our communication gap with the host’s sister. (Again, not her fault, but if the listing says the host speaks English, the host’s representative should too.) We managed to figure that all out, but our kids were shot by the end of the day and walking around trying to find food with three cranky kids in a foreign country is not exactly relaxing, to say the least.

That night, we decided to turn in early to reset for our last day in Lima. And at around 8:30 PM, a party started in the apartment downstairs. It seemed to be a child’s birthday party or something. There was little to no sound protection between apartments, and there were no fewer than a dozen loud voices loudly shouting and talking, including small children running around and screaming until just before midnight. I can certainly understand and tolerate some amount of kid noise. We knew there was a family downstairs in the apartment below us. But after spending the whole trip reminding my own kids about manners when there are other people in the building, the screaming children downstairs until midnight was inexcusable.

Our kids were crying because they were tired and couldn’t sleep with the noise. Our host was out of town, so I couldn’t communicate through messenger. My only recourse would be to call his sister at night and try to explain to her in my terrible Spanish what was happening and ask what to do about it. Since we were, admittedly, trying to turn in early that day, I figured I’d give them a little time. By around 10:30 PM, they quieted and we all breathed a sigh of relief… until a half hour later when they started back up. At this point, I didn’t want to call the host’s sister that late at night, so I went to Airbnb customer service who basically said, “Sorry. Should have video taped it. Hope you have a better experience next time.”

Next time? That’s cute, guys. After two last-minute cancellations on a family of seven over a holiday and a night of no sleep because of noisy neighbors at what was listed as a “quiet apartment”, there is no chance of there being a “next time”. In my tired, sleep deprived state, trying to comfort my kids to get them to sleep, video taping a party downstairs wasn’t exactly something that occurred to me to do.

There is no way Airbnb was worth the few dollars we saved. Save yourself the trouble and the headache of trying to book things last minute or the chance of getting super noisy neighbors and just book a hotel. Buy a Lonely Planet Guide for where you are headed, and check out TripAdvisor. That is how we always traveled in the past and that is how we will always travel in the future.

Airbnb Cancelled Without Reason in Long Beach

We had booked a home from Airbnb for the first time. We were to stay at a house in Long Beach, CA. We have used VRBO many times in the past without any issues from us or our hosts. My husband was graduating from Biola. We had married at a young age and never got to have a honeymoon, so we were excited for his graduation and time together alone. We booked the home months in advance.

We pulled up to the Airbnb and the owner was very aggressive, wanting to know who we were. When we explained we were the people supposed to be spending the week at her home, she stated Airbnb cancelled our reservation without reason. Because we were in Long Beach it was just 0.5 miles to the Westin (very nice) where we stayed.

Multiple attempts were made to reach Airbnb to find out what happened. This was a month ago. We have not received a response, though we did get our money back in full. I will never rent an Airbnb again. I tell anyone who will listen not to either. We will go back to our trusty VRBO. My family and I live in the southern outer banks of NC. Let me say that if you paid for an Airbnb here in the summer, and they cancelled last minute you would be sleeping in the sand. Luckily for us, we were in a large urban area with many options. Someone else might not be so lucky in a smaller area.

Avoid Hosts who Leave you out in the Cold

We arrived to be left on the doorstep for 45 minutes. It was damp, the gutter was dripping on us the whole time, someone was obviously in the room (they looked through the curtain of the room we had booked and paid for). We continued to knock until eventually I banged on the door saying that if the door was not answered I would be calling the police. By some miracle, the host came to the door and asked, “Why are you banging on my door?”

I asked, “Are you [host]?”

She said, “No, who are you?”

I explained that we had booked and paid for the room for six nights. She then said “You will get your money back. I am cancelling your booking.”

We had been travelling all day, starting early that morning from Spain (she knew this). There was someone in the room we had paid for (probably why the door wasn’t answered). This person, who resembled the picture on the site, was the host, proof of which was clear when she said she would cancel.

We are both getting on for 68 years of age, my husband wasn’t well, we both received extremely bad colds, mine resulting in bronchitis due to standing on the doorstep in the cold night air, getting wet. We had nowhere to sleep that night and ended up sleeping the first night in our hire car, as there wasn’t anything available in the vicinity. The rest of the time sleeping on the floor of our daughter-in-law’s. As we had paid over a month in advance, and this was obviously double booked without giving prior notice, I find this appalling behaviour.

What were we supposed to do? Just disappear into the sunset after paying for the privilege of standing on the doorstep for the better part of an hour knocking on the door? Avoid Airbnb like the plague.

Customer Service over Cancellations is Lacking

We had a reservation in South Lake Tahoe over Christmas paid in full, that was abruptly cancelled today, nine days prior to arrival. There was no explanation why, just a gratuity voucher if we could find a replacement for $195. This is the first time some of our family have used Airbnb, and I have to say we are all totally dissatisfied with all that has transpired. Our daughter has received no response to her email from Airbnb or from the host. We reserved in August, well in advance of the holiday. Two of the families are flying up here from southern California. This cancellation has not only made a mess of our well planned trip but also left us scrambling to find a replacement which is not proving to be easy at this late date near the holiday. I haven’t even mentioned the stress of the entire issue. I would think there would be some restrictions to the owners in regards to cancelling, as there is to the renter. $195 for our trouble doesn’t even begin to make things right. They can be sure we will be sharing this with all we know especially to those who use the service.

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.

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?