From Free to Strict Cancellation Policy Before Stay

I live in London and I needed to book a house for my family in the same borough. My family was supposed to come here for my wedding. I found one house for them on Airbnb last October. I booked it accordingly with the cancellation policy, which reported a total refund if you cancel by 15 days before the check in date. This was perfect for me as I wouldn’t have booked a house with a strict cancellation policy in October for May given these strange times, the COVID issues related to many aspects of life and travels, as well as the age of my parents.

I even put this deadline in my agenda to remember it and not risk losing my deposit. Moreover, I remember a strange fact: I wrote to the host because when I was trying to pay to book it, the system was stuck. After a few minutes, it worked normally again. Unfortunately, my family cannot come in May as the situation with COVID is still risky and they are older people. In any case, I did not need to explain the reason to cancel the house as I was supposed to be on time to get back the whole deposit.

On March 2 when I was cancelling my reservation, I noticed a different cancellation policy in the house page on Airbnb. This ‘new’ policy said that you can have the whole deposit back only if you cancel 48 hours after the reservation. Or you could have 50% back by May 3.

I immediately wrote to both the host and the Airbnb Help Center. The host was upset, writing me back that she didn’t have my money that I had to ask Airbnb for it. The Airbnb Help Center asked for my money back from the host but she declined it. So, again, no money back for me.

Airbnb said that the booking confirmation email in my inbox reflected the correct policy. I noticed that it showed the ‘changed’ policy, not the one that caused me to book the house. It’s my fault for not having checked it properly when I received it but I was sure that it was alright. If I saw it, I would have cancelled immediately.

I also tried to get back at least 50% of my deposit, asking for it from the host. She declined, saying “I understand your frustration but it’s policy.”

Given the circumstances, this was gratuitously unfair. For this reason, I have been asking Airbnb to send me some evidence that shows what happened while I was booking, if it is possible that the host changed this policy while I was booking. My belief is based on what happened when I wanted to pay to book the house. The system was stuck for a few minutes. Is there anyone here that had this kind of experience?

Even a Plus and Superhost Place Still Went Wrong

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We booked a lovely Airbnb Plus with a Superhost for New Year’s. We booked early since this place is very popular. We were so happy to be able to snatch it in time this year.

After we booked, it was confirmed. Later, the owner messaged to inform us about the possibility of future cancellation because the local community was banning Airbnb. Why was this not mentioned in the description?

The owner should also have not put this up for grabs why ahead of time if there are these known risks. We were not made aware of this risk in the description. Now that we are trying to cancel, we will lose some money due to the service fee.

This is neither reasonable nor fair since the owner did not inform customers of this and still put the listing up. We would have sought other accommodations if we had complete information that allowed us to make a sound booking.

After knowing this new information, that our place may be potentially cancelled and we would get our money back, who would go through such risks? I tried to cancel and we couldn’t get everything back because of the service fee. I reach out to Airbnb several times and they agreed with me that the owner should cancel and I would get the fee back as well.

I reached back to the owner who had given no apologies whatsoever until this point. They refused to cancel. How irresponsible. We had to do it. They offered to pay half of the fee which was better than nothing, but it still sucked that we had to cover for something for which we had no wrongdoing. I also told the owner to fix and be transparent in the descriptions so that no one else would have to face this. We just wanted a happy relaxing holiday — it turned out far from it.

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.

Strong Arm Robbery, Never Stepped Foot in Airbnb

I made an Airbnb reservation a couple days in advance in Oakland for a work-related stay that the host was aware of. I cancelled within the 48-hour timeframe due to a job termination. The stay was for Sept. 21 to Oct. 19 for $1281.27. I waited the 15-day grace period for my refund and it never arrived.

I wrote to the host inquiring where my refund was and she never responded. I never stepped foot in her home and she pocketed my $1281.27. I am a single mother with four kids that are still dependent on me. The Airbnb help center was of no help — they do not hold their hosts accountable.

I would never recommend Airbnb to friends or family; it’s been a terrible experience. Unfortunately common courtesy and hospitality are not in this host’s nature.

Airbnb Returns Payment 17 Days After Stay

Airbnb support wrote to me:

Good morning and thank you so much for patiently waiting regarding on this matter for that payout adjustment. I regret to inform you that it was certainly a reservation that is illegitimate and did not pass the verification process and for security purposes the guest was not able to contact you about it. Please understand that this was all about your safety too regarding on your property and because of that adjustment has been made and that payment was returned to that guest. We apologize for the inconvenience, I know that it makes you feel unfair on your part since it was a past reservation but there were also information on that case that were too sensitive and cannot be disclosed as well but in general it was about your security and safety too. I hope you would understand and thank you so much for that.

My response:

Nonsense, Airbnb permitted that guest to make that reservation; that means he was properly vetted by you. Neither the guest nor Airbnb contacted us whatsoever with so much as a cancellation or otherwise (refund of the guest’s money 17 days after the last day of rental) and for no specific reason Airbnb refunded his money, unannounced nor approved by us. Nor did Airbnb properly notify us. For these reasons both parties failed and refused to abide by our cancellation policy, failed and neglected to follow the terms and conditions and are failing and refusing to provide adequate reasoning behind the return of the guest’s money.

This is wrong and Airbnb should pay this guest’s stay for mistakenly returning the guest’s money long after the stay ended. After all, we could have re-rented our property, but, as a result of Airbnb and the guest’s actions we were not notified and nor did Airbnb clear the calendar for the days the guest did not show up. I am not satisfied with the resolution to this matter. Please contact me. Furthermore, Airbnb stole $189.15 that did not belong to them. That was the cancelled guest’s money and Airbnb took it without authorization.

Airbnb Support:

Thank you for taking the time to share your perspective and again we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. After gathering and carefully reviewing all related documentation, we decided to close out this case, and we are not able to provide that payout back to you since it was just refunded back to the guest, and we did not keep that. Since we have provided all related information and explanation about this case, we will be closing out this ticket for the time being. We consider this decision final. Thank you very much.

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.

Not Happy After Leaving Airbnb in an Hour

It’s been a long time since my little family and I had gotten away. We chose a home in Lantana, FL through Airbnb to rent for the Labor Day Weekend. As soon as we got there, there was a very strong mold and mildew odor and of course my oldest daughter has allergies. That smell triggered her in less than five minutes.

The house has changed since their pictures had been posted: the reading room is something to be said for; the couch cushion was torn and sewed; the dining room chairs were all stained (who was gonna get blamed for that?); the bunk beds in both rooms said use at your own risk; the master bed literally sat on the floor; the back shower now looked like a jail walk-in shower (not that I know about that, seen on TV); the home was hot as hell and we turned the AC down to give it a chance; and the water was coming out yellow.

We felt so uncomfortable that I realized none of us would sit down. In less than an hour, I said we should go find a hotel. We found one finally about 10-15 minutes away and rented there, went back to the Airbnb, and collected all our items. I contacted the host and out of everything I had an issue with his response was it was cheaper to stitch the couch than to replace it and to try turning the AC down. I informed him that we had done that. He also stated that he went by and saw nothing wrong.

I have requested a full refund because we did not cancel. We showed up and his home was not okay to stay in. The mold and mildew smell alone was too much to handle. Of course there was no refund to give per the host or Airbnb (as if they actually go out and check things). His pool table room is a whole different color now (this is not a problem). They should update their pictures to match all the changes they have made and give someone a fair chance to say this is or is not the home for them (people have gotten too comfortable with ripping others off). I’m definitely not done with this.

Charged for Two Airbnb Stays in One Night

The Airbnb unit we were staying in developed a water leak from the upstairs apartment. We called the host and tried to get in touch with Airbnb, but could reach neither. It was getting late and so we panicked and booked something else nearby.

We drove over to the new booking and it was just a rundown residential suite. It didn’t even have an outside window — not what we wanted for our vacation in the mountains. I promptly cancelled but the host would not return my money. He had done nothing at all and lost nothing in the brief interim between my booking and cancellation.

We ended up staying at the original place once the leak was repaired, but there were drying mats down and two dehumidifiers for the remainder of our trip. Airbnb never did respond to our initial plea for help and sided with the host of the apartment we panic booked. Surely there must be some negligence on their part for not responding.

Promised a Full Refund, Only Received Half

Anticipating the craziness of a parents’ weekend lodging nightmare, I made a reservation right away on September 19 after we got home while my hubby was still dragging bags from the van. The reservation was for October 1-4. At matriculation day on August 15, I received an email from my son’s school that the weekend was cancelled due to COVID-19.

I went online on the 16th to cancel my reservation. The instructions stated I should call my host to ask for a full refund. If she agrees, I would get my full refund. She did. I got an email back that I would be refunded the full amount of $200.98 but in reality, I only got half: $100.74.

I called the host back. She said that she gave me a full refund of $170 and sent me the receipt with a note stating it was a “penalty free” refund. I told her I did not get the $170. Instead I have $100.74 and I do not need the $170, just $100.74. She said that I should take it to Airbnb now since it is between me and Airbnb. Her partner explained to me that when I booked, the money went to Airbnb; they get paid after the guests stay. I compared her refund receipt number and the Airbnb refund receipt number; they were the same.

What happened to the $170? Where is my money? Their cancellation policy on COVID-19 is quite confusing because it states that they will give a full refund if the cancellation is due to COVID-19 and the hosts agree, which I qualify on both. But, it has also a window of dates that they consider “emergency dates” which my reservation and cancellation did not fit since I booked before COVID-19 and cancelled past their end of emergency date. Thus only a 50% refund.

Why would I be penalized for something that is out of my control? I made the reservation in good faith, paid in full for an accommodation I wouldn’t be using until a year later, and I did not cancel for whatever silly reason. I cancelled because due to COVID-19 our son will be “secured” in the barracks until his December holiday pick-up.

I called the number for help but of course there is no option about my situation because they do not entertain refunds (only current reservations). Instead, they encouraged me to read the link they sent me which is more or less the explanation again of their outrageous and unfair cancellation policy.

My son has two years left to complete his degree; I guess we will have to stay at Howard Johnson then. At least it gives me a clear option to book securely for an extra $10 and get a full refund in case of cancellation. I will continue to fight this to the end and will inform my son’s school’s alumni office which helps parents with accommodation information. We certainly do not need this degree of aggravation due to unfair policies. Thank you for providing this space where we can express our angst of injustice.