I have been a model customer of Airbnb, receiving nothing but five-star reviews. Between various accounts I have stayed in an Airbnb virtually every night since January this year. I was planning to use their service for longer. I book long term rentals (usually always over a month) so we are dealing with high volumes of money. I travel a lot for work and always make sure my booking is extremely close to a tube station.
I had long ago booked a long-term rental in the centre of London which was due to start on August 27th. Four days before this booking, the host cancelled due to extenuating circumstances. I received an email from Airbnb offering to assist me finding a new place at short notice. The assistance they offered me did not help. It was put on the highest priority and they only reiterated to me that there was nowhere similar in the same price range. This took two days.
With two days left, I tried to book into various places with no luck. There were not many places left and the people offering them had made mistakes in their profiles. With one day left, I booked a place that was approximately 1850 pounds. I was travelling and only had my iPhone and limited reception.
Although more expensive than I had planned, the property seemed to fit. It was a one-bedroom apartment listed as within Zone 1, and walking distance to London Bridge. That night due to an error on Airbnb’s system, the booking was automatically cancelled and I spent hours on the phone to a customer service agent who appeared to be helpful and sympathetic to the trouble that Airbnb had caused me. She thanked me for how reasonable and calm I was with her and said that she wouldn’t have been as cooperative as I was. The situation wasn’t fully resolved but she said she would sort it, as I told her I only had my phone with me and found it hard to work on.
The next day, I left Edinburgh for London with my partner and our bags. We had a busy day planned. It was when I got to London that I realised that the apartment was not within ‘walking distance’ from the station (30-minute walk according to Google) so we caught an Uber. We met the host’s mum at the property who showed us the property which we looked at quickly. She told us that the previous guests had only just checked out, and that’s why there were still dirty sheets in the apartment and in the washing machine. I had no time to complain because I had to make the next train to go to an event in London.
We left immediately, and once again took another Uber to the nearest tube station. I was planning to complain about all of this the next day. As I was running into the tube station, Airbnb rang me and asked if we were able to check in. I told her yes, and I was unable to talk at the moment as I was in a rush. We went to our function and got home at around midnight. Whilst walking to the apartment, there were some ‘shady’ characters standing outside of our apartment taking drugs and asking for money. They appeared to follow us down the road and watched us as we entered the apartment.
Once inside, we realised we were unable to lock the door due to some fault with the apartment. We tried for almost half an hour, and as my partner was scared, we grabbed our already packed bags, jumped into a cab downstairs, and went to our friend’s house for the evening (we slept on the couch). It was past midnight on a Sunday. We were tired and my partner had work the next day. We felt extremely unsafe and endangered.
As soon as I woke up at 7:00 AM, I emailed Airbnb telling them I was not staying in the apartment. I did not wish to stay in the apartment because I felt as if it was unsafe and fraudulent. I was tired and I had enough. I requested a full refund. Because I was such a good customer who had always been honest and good to deal with, I stupidly assumed that Airbnb would not want to side with a listing that is fraudulent, unsafe, and dirty. I then borrowed money off my parents who were in London on holidays and booked myself into a hotel. I am still in that hotel.
Airbnb eventually returned my calls the next day, but the representative sounded completely different and chose her words extremely carefully. She essentially said that ‘walking distance’ is subjective; although she doesn’t consider it at this length, Airbnb’s terms and conditions say that anywhere displayed on the map when booking is within walking distance (hours in some cases). She also told me that because I didn’t report the case (after midnight when my partner and I were scared for our safety), Airbnb didn’t have a chance to try and resolve the situation. It essentially was my fault the door was broken. For some reason the onus was on me to fix it after midnight on a Sunday whilst fearing for our safety.
Airbnb offered me 50% of the value of the booking in voucher form and said they would reimburse any Ubers or taxis. I declined this solution. I wanted a full refund at the very least. I have been a good customer and in Airbnb’s own words, beyond reasonable at times. This was a genuine case from someone who had proved themselves to be a loyal and honest customer.
After getting off the phone with her, I did some research and reread the Airbnb host’s profile. The profile said it was in Zone 1. A quick Google Maps search showed that it was not. The property was in fact deep within Zone 2 (closer to Zone 3 than Zone 1). Another finding was that on the map displayed by the Airbnb host, London Bridge Station was nowhere to be found, thus making it not within walking distance due to Airbnb’s own definition of the term.
I immediately rang Airbnb and told them this, and they looked into it. They agreed to the definition of walking distance that Airbnb listed; this was not walking distance. They declined to comment further on the situation and said they would need to look into it. I have since reported these facts to them, and requested a call back several times and have not received any response or contact from them. I told other customer service members about the fraudulent listing of the Zone 1 area. Nothing was done. I also spoke to them about how by Airbnb’s own definition of walking distance this was not walking distance. I sent a screenshot.
They took a couple days to get back to me then told me that it was within walking distance if you use an Android phone to book the property, but not if you use an Apple phone (seriously – this is what they said). Then they said they wouldn’t comment further and had to pass it onto the legal team. Since then, your customer service team has never returned my calls, and emailed me sporadically to ask me to restate the case again. I have been treated horribly.
Originally, I honestly thought that I would just ring up Airbnb and someone would help me find a new place and give me a small voucher for my troubles. I didn’t think I would have to go to this much trouble. I had planned to use Airbnb until the middle of 2019. Now I have checked into accommodation privately until January 2018, and have decided not to use Airbnb again because of the pain and trouble they have put me through. I did not think I would have to seek legal advice. All one has to do is look at my record to see that I am a loyal, good, honest, reasonable customer, that was not trying to scam anyone. I have always booked my accommodations close to a tube station and transport in London. This was the main reason I left.
The account was fraudulent and made out to be in a different area than it was. They have made me try and fight this meticulously and I have proven it according to the law and their own terms and conditions. It is a black mark against the name of their company, and this is not taking into account their blatant disregard for their customers’ safety. I have screenshots of every bit of evidence needed. The host still has the property listed as in Zone 1. Airbnb essentially told me that it was my responsibility to double check all information and only reimbursed me a third of what I spent on the place, despite the above evidence and me never using it. They also (for the first time) said that this was the case because I couldn’t provide evidence of the broken lock, despite the fact that the host admitted to it in private messages.