Airbnb in Sicily Grossly Misrepresented, Still No Refund

My friends and I booked an Airbnb house In Fiumefreddo, Sicily. We chose this house because it could easily accommodate three couples, as there were at least three bedrooms with queen beds and three bathrooms. At booking, the owner confirmed that we would indeed have the entire house.

We arrived on October 3rd, 2017. The house had obviously been misrepresented by the owner. There were indeed three queen beds; however, one of those beds was in an alcove with curtains around it, curtains which could not have been hung more than one foot from the bed. That is not a bedroom.

There was an extremely narrow spiral staircase. I am a very small woman and could barely fit on the staircase, so we were certainly not going to be able to carry a suitcase up there. This meant whoever stayed on that floor would have to keep their suitcase on another floor and carry clothes up as needed. There were only two bathrooms and the older couple in the house informed us, through an interpreter, that we did not have the entire home, as they lived there.

We called the owner to inquire about the third bathroom and bedroom with queen bed. She told us her parents were living in the house on the first floor and had the other bedroom and bathroom, and said she would have her parents leave. We were not going to put two elderly people out of their home, as we would not be disrespectful to this man and woman. Their own daughter had misrepresented the situation.

We contacted Airbnb with the issues we faced: a house that was completely misrepresented by the owner. We requested a refund and were told we would get $500. This hardly compensates us for the money we paid and we feel cheated. If this is how Airbnb treats customers, it is very disappointing, and they have now lost six customers. We are all well traveled, and thought the Airbnb business model was one we would utilize for this trip. It was such a bad experience, and we have been poorly compensated. This was the first and last time we will use Airbnb. Our file needs to be reviewed again and we, who have been wronged by the homeowner, should be reimbursed if not for everything, then at least 80% of what we paid.

Airbnb Blames Guests for Hosts Violating TOS

My brother had spent hours trying to verify himself via Airbnb’s verification process for creating an account. He called me for help, and after Googling it, I discovered that there is a known issue with Android phones and verifying with Airbnb. Since we had found an entire house available for ten days for my brother to stay in while visiting California, and at a reasonable cost, I emailed the hosts, told them about the trouble my brother was having verifying, and asked if I could book the house for him using my verified Airbnb account. The host said I could book on behalf of my brother, and in fact, she book on behalf of her son, so it was “no problem”.

When I took my brother to the house to check-in, we were really surprised and dismayed to find that he was renting a room in a four bedroom house, and that four other people would be staying in the house while he was there. I’ve used Airbnb for years and booked many rooms in houses, full homes, and so on. I understand that when it says “a room”, it means a room in a house. However, in all the Airbnb rooms I’ve booked, I knew that the host was either staying in the home as well, or the listing stated that other people would be staying in the home at the same time I would be staying there.

If the host is not the person staying in the home, I don’t book the property. Why? Because obviously I do not want to stay in a house with people I do not know and who come from who knows where. If the host lives in the home, their photo, information, etc. is known to you when you book it, and they are verified. I do not want to sleep in a house of strangers when traveling alone.

This particular listing did not say that there would be others staying in the house. We actually thought that it was a small, one-two bedroom house that my brother would have all to himself. I contend that the listing and the photos and the description were vague and misleading. The host offered to give the money back, or, try to find an alternate place for him to stay, but having just arrived from New York and it being evening time, we were stuck. There were no other choices for him.

We did not check him in; we went to my place and I called Airbnb to try and find a solution, and two things happened. First, they told me that hosts are not obligated to let you know that other people will be staying at the house. Now, think about that: if I were a single woman who had booked this room, and three or four other men or people whom I did not know, who came from who knows where, were staying in the same house with me, I would not feel safe. I think hosts should tell guests that other guests will be staying in the home with you.

The person at Airbnb told me also that “for security reasons” the hosts are not obligated to tell guests there will be other people in the home. Really? Whose security, I wonder? Second, the guy at Airbnb told me that I had “violated the third-party booking policy” by booking the room for my brother, and that that negated any help they would give me. I lost it at that point, and told him that the hosts agreed to me booking the room for my brother. They were the ones who broke the policy.

My brother and I went back to the house, and he checked in, again, because he had no other options. Guess what happened? The other guests, a couple who booked another room in the house, who also thought they had booked an entire house for themselves, were checking in and were arguing with the host because my brother was there. They too “misread” this listing, thought they had booked an entire house to themselves, and were upset to see my brother in the house.

My brother is a really sweet guy, but he is huge and very imposing looking. If I did not know him, I would be dismayed at this very large Italian-looking guy (very handsome, though) was sharing a house that I thought I had booked to myself. The couple wound up talking to my brother, and all agreed: this was really a dishonest ‘bait-and-switch’ experience with Airbnb, and they have the worst customer service. Airbnb blamed the guests and refused to help us. Now Airbnb wants me to “review your experience with your host” which I will not do.

One other thing: while my brother was staying there, the host had a contractor there to enclose the deck into another bedroom that they can rent out to yet more Airbnb guests. I’ve written to Airbnb, and not received a response. So, I’m taking to social media to tell this story. If you rent out rooms via Airbnb, great, good for you. Run your home like a hotel. But hotels have to be honest to guests, and have rules they must follow for the safety and security of the guests. Airbnb cares only about the hosts, not the guests.

If you are a single woman traveling using Airbnb, be very very careful when booking a “room” and make sure to ask if other people will be staying in the house with you, and who they are if they are not the host.

I just got an email from Airbnb that is really just unbelievable:

“About two weeks ago we were recently notified that you may have made a reservation on behalf of someone else… Transparency builds trust, which is why it’s important for everyone on Airbnb to represent themselves honestly. Given the circumstances, as this is a violation of our Terms of Service, we have revoked the capability to leave reviews. If you have any questions or concerns, just reply to this email. We’re here to help!”

I noticed today that the hosts have changed their listing to inform guests that there will be other guests staying in the home. Too bad they didn’t do it sooner.

Airbnb Takes Host’s Side in Flophouse Complaint

It’s been ten days since I discussed the complaints about my host with Airbnb’s resolution center, to no avail. She won’t understand my queries. She uses all her energy to agree with the host and dismiss me. All she understands about my complaints are the cleanliness and misrepresentation, and that’s okay with her.

On April 21st, 2017, we reserved the master bedroom of for an appartment in Hollywood. The listing claimed the following amenities were included:

– You get your own master bedroom with a private bathroom, closet, balcony
– Sleeps three (third person can choose to sleep on living room couch or an air mattress)
– Free wifi
– Central air conditioning and heating
– Hardwood floors (carpeted bedroom/walk-in closet)
– All brand new furniture and apartment
– Dishwasher, microwave, full size stove
– Laundry Facilities inside the unit (modern washer and dryer)
– Cleaned by professional maids
– Full kitchen
– Extra comfortable mattresses: 600 thread count sheets, high quality comforter sets
– Chic and modern design
– Stainless steel appliances

We demand a refund for the following reasons. Before reserving, we asked for more pictures, because only one was provided in the listing. A woman claiming to be the host said that she did not have any at the moment. When we saw the apartment, we understood why she would not provide pictures. We did have our own room with a private bathroom. It was very sparsely furnished with just a bed and a TV. There was No bedside table or lamp, no dresser, no chairs, and no sofa, contrary to what was shown in the picture. In addition:

• We had to ask for the air mattress, which was stored in a pile in the dirty living room. • It smelled like cheap perfume in the room, as if someone wanted to hide a bad smell.
• The bath, sink, and mirror were dirty.
• The only linens that were provided were five washcloths and a hand towel.
• The blinds did not work properly, missing many slats
• The balcony was cluttered with stuff belonging to other people (and the host responded that he wasn’t responsible for the comings and goings of the people in the apartment)
• The room could only be locked from the inside, so we could not lock it when we wanted to leave.

Furthermore, the front door was always unlocked. The host only gave us the key to the building, not to the apartment, claiming that there was always someone there. Therefore, both the front door and the door to our room were always unlocked, so we could easily have been robbed. When we confronted the host about these problems, he made up excuses and said he would get the air mattress (which he did) and extra linens (which he didn’t). When we explained our problems with the state of the apartment, he replied that we had only rented a room, disregarding the fact that we were supposed to have access to the kitchen, which was in a horrible state.

As for the rest of the appartment…

• There were four or five occupants in the living room and kitchen when we arrived (alone, because the host did not meet us). These were all temporary lodgers or Couchsurfers, judging by all the couches and air mattresses.
• The kitchen and fridge were dirty and smelled bad, just like the rest of the apartment.
• There was no coffee maker, and no glasses. We only managed to find two cups.
• When we woke up, six people were sleeping in that mess of a living room. We have traveled a lot (often using Airbnb), enough to know what to expect from a room costing 123 CAD (plus fees) in Hollywood. We did not expect the Ritz, but we will not accept paying that for a room in a dirty apartment that felt like a bad youth hostel.

We also had the following problems communicating with the host:

• He made me repeat a lot of information before we arrived, while I was in Venice. All that information was already in our Airbnb messages.
• I had to insist that he take our luggage on the morning of our arrival, as agreed, because he thought he might no longer be available.
• He arranged a meeting to pick up our luggage, not in front of the apartment, but across the street. It wasn’t the host who met us, but a lodger who had been woken up at the last minute, and was late.
• When we came back that night, we again had to meet across the street. He then gave us confusing information, and asked us to claim that we are family if anybody asked.

The host did try to be courteous, and said he did not want us to be dissatisfied. He even made a brief attempt at tidying up the kitchen, but that did not fix anything. We had to sleep there the first night, because we arrived at 7:45 PM (as he requested), which was too late to find any other accommodations at a reasonable price, though I searched for three hours. I did find something for the next two nights, but it cost more than my Airbnb booking. At such short notice, barely anything was available in Hollywood. For all these reasons, and generally for false advertising, we demand a complete refund.

On a final note, I don’t think this host even has the right to rent out his apartment, because he always refused to meet us in front of the building, never came in with us, and asked us to claim that we were family if asked. I have contacted his co-op board to find out. Thank you for your attention and your cooperation.