Airbnb’s Unethical Service Fees

Let me start by saying I am a host and other people have cancelled on me before. I also use Airbnb to travel to other sites. It is currently April. I booked a trip for July for work back in January. However, funding for my trip was cancelled and I am no longer able to go on the trip. I wrote to the host and asked if she would be willing to cancel my trip and issue a full refund. She said, “Yes of course! Let me just figure out how!” So I waited and waited and later got notification that she acknowledged my cancellation and issued a refund of about 3/4 of the money she said she would. Meanwhile, Airbnb kept $70 of the original amount I paid, citing that they were “service fees” and, therefore, nonrefundable. A service rep wrote to congratulate me that the host refunded the room outside of the strict policy (less than she said she would refund). I responded asking to be refunded the $70 services fees. Back and forth, back and forth. And still the answer was “no, the service fees will not be refunded.” Note that it is early April and there are still over three months before my planned check-in date. As a host, I KNOW that the likelihood of re-booking is high. Airbnb has a valuation of billions of dollars and now I understand why: keeping money for services NOT rendered and unethically keeping any money they are able to process… simply because “you agreed to” when this caveat is written in fine print somewhere. The attitude reminds me of street vendors in 3rd world countries. I’m not opening a dispute with my credit card company and hoping to find an alternative to Airbnb to both host and locate other go-to destinations.


My husband and I are going to be in Brazil for Christmas and New Years 2016. We found a great apartment minutes from the beach for $200/night, so I booked 2 nights for New Years eve and the day after. It took a while to get through the booking process as I had to take a photograph of both sides of my driver’s license to prove my identity, but I finally made it through the process. The reservation was accepted and my credit card was charged.

5 days later, the host sent me the following email: “Hi Chris, thank you for your reservation and your preference. I am so sorry about the price i haven’t seen the price, it is wrong. In the new years eve it will be $250 daily for 15 nights minimum or i can make for you $400 daily for this 2 nights that you want . what do you think?” So the host claims that she made a mistake in pricing, tries to double the price, or asks me to extend my day from 2 days to 15 days for a price per day 25% higher. Right, that sounds like a good deal. AirBnB’s online documentation for what to do if the host asks for more money ( says: “If a host asks you for more money than what you paid on the site and the extra charge wasn’t stated in the listing or in the message thread, contact us and we’ll contact your host directly.” So I responded politely to the host’s email: “Hi Paula, I received your message. According to AirBnB’s documentation,, in this circumstance they recommend that I contact them directly about such a request. I have just sent AirBnB customer service an email describing your request. I expect you will be hearing from them shortly.”

I expected that AirBnB would require the host to honor the contract made for this location. I was shocked when AirBnB replied: “Hi Chris This is Luka from Airbnb again. I spoke to your host and she decided to cancel your reservation. I am really sorry about that. You can either request your full refund or having the amount you paid transferred to another host. Please check the email you received from us with the subject line: “Reservation Canceled at Luxury 2 bd steps…” I hope you will find a nice listing for the dates you need. Please contact us if you need any help. Warmest regards, Luka” Ok, the host cancelled, and I got an apology and “warmest regards”. How politely disappointing. If I rebooked at a different location, they would give me a small credit. Or I could get a full refund. Better than zero, but what happened to the greedy host that cancelled?

According to AirBnB’s documentation (, if a host cancels without extenuating circumstances, they suffer penalties. In particular: “Your calendar will stay blocked and you won’t be able to accept another reservation for the same dates of the canceled reservation” Furthermore, “An automated review will be posted to your listing’s profile indicating that you canceled one of your reservations. These reviews can’t be removed, but you can always write a public response to clarify why you needed to cancel.” As to “extenuating circumstances”, when you click on the link, it doesn’t offer any more information. In fact, the link takes you back to the “how-do-host-cancellation-penalties-work”. Reading more of the fine print on the page, AirBnB gives hosts that allow for instant booking three (3) get-out-of-penalty chances “if they have concerns about a guest’s behavior.” This listing allowed instant booking. However it goes on to say “Calendar inaccuracy, confusion about pricing or availability, and extenuating circumstances are not covered by this policy”. If the host was confused about pricing, as her email clearly indicates, then the host should not be immune to the cancellation penalty.

However, I went on the AirBnB website for that listing and saw that the property ( was available for the dates that I had booked, been accepted and been summarily cancelled 5 days later, not for $400/night, but for $250/night. The minimum stay is still 2 days, not 15 days. Furthermore, there was no review stating that a reservation had been cancelled. Clearly the host was trying to scam me by doubling the price, or requiring me to stay for more than 2 weeks. And yet apparently there’s no penalty to the host. But the worst is that AirBnB demonstrably does not live up to their published terms of service.

What are the consequences to AirBnB for a breach of their stated terms of service?

Airbnb is very unfriendly to consumers!

I’ve booked once before on Airbnb and it worked out great. Second time, not so great. I use the filter and put “dogs allowed” I checked a couple of places in one area then moved about 1 mile away to another set of listings. Apparently the filters do not carry over. It did not dawn on me that I would have to re-input all my filters again! If I have an account with Airbnb and a profile, shouldn’t all my standard filters be saved?? I found a house, sent a note to the owner. This listing was not an “Instant booking” so you are required to fill out a request form and “tell the host a little about yourself” I sent a note and told the host we are an older couple who want to have a reunion with our adult children and that we travel with a 9 lbs dog who is with us at all times. My husband and I work remotely from home and the dog is used to being with us all day and night. (so I tipped the host off to our having our dog with us) The owner said “yes we can accommodate you for those dates” and sent a payment request for me to pay. I paid. This was in October for a reservation for December 26-30th–way, way in advance. About 24 hours later, the host sends a note saying “oh sorry, we do not allow pets” It was not mentioned in the house rules or anywhere else on the listing. The reservation was cancelled in 24 hours and my money was credited to my card by the host, but Airbnb took their $80 fee. I contacted Airbnb and was told if you change a reservation for any reason Airbnb does not return their fee. I had to escalate my complaint to a manager who called me and said “we are going to refund our fee this time but in the future, YOU need to be more careful to read everything before booking” I told her she need not chastise me-I am a grown ass woman- and as far as I was concerned the error was on the host’s part for not clearly stating what their rules even after I sent a note telling her I was traveling with my small dog. I’ve also checked into other listings and found the advertised rental price is not always what you get. For example I pre booked another home for the December trip that was listed as $230 per night. When I got the booking information the nightly cost jumped to $330 a night. The host said the amount listed in their posting is only “a typical nightly rate” and that the rate can jump up during the Holidays. Additionally even if I tried to cancel a reservation 24 hours later, their policy is a “strict cancellation” and even with the reservation being for months away, the host can still keep 50% of your payment regardless of the possibility the host may re-rent for the dates you cancelled!!! Very unfriendly to consumers!

Reservation canceled last minute, couldn’t get refund!

Found a great looking sailboat to stay on in the keys. paid for 3 nights. did airfare and rental car and another night at a hotel in Miami. Got a reminder on Tuesday of this week that they are looking forward to our visit next week. Got an email last night that the owners canceled our reservation. No explanation, nothing. The email had a spot that we could click if we wanted to use the money that had been billed for another reservation. When we clicked it we were asked to find a site. When we did, it asked for credit card info. Nothing hinted at the fact that we were using monies already put on the card. The way the site is run I was not anxious to throw more money down a drain that so far I could not get it out of. The other button was for a full refund. I clicked it…..and was taken to a page that dealt with referring friends to AirBnB…are you kidding me?!?!?! Again…no sign that another button on this page would get me my money back. It was like me taking a toaster back to the company I bought it from because it did not work…the person at the desk asks me how many egg timers I would like…..What……I want to take something back that is broken…don’t ask me about buying more. Will NEVER use this airbnb crap again.

Cancelled Ocean Beach reservation

Airbnb doesn’t allow reviews on hosts who cancel reservations but felt the need for the public to know about a host who cancelled on us the week before a wedding in Ocean Beach, California just so you can be aware this may happen to you should you try to book with this host. Name: Dan Correa Property: Cozy Sunset Cliffs Ocean View Condo Location: San Diego, CA (Ocean Beach) If this property is available to reserve, beware the owner may cancel on you without prior notice or explanation. Now, we’re left with trying to find a place to stay for a family wedding in one week.

Heads Up for People Looking for Hamptons Rentals

To people doing research on AirBnb: Avoid the East Hampton Get Away listing on Three Mile Harbor Rd by Bob Nicholson! He is highly unreliable – we paid for the listing two months ago for july 4th weekend, and were just notified yesterday (June 15) that he’s cancelling the listing, leaving the eight of us 2 weeks to find another place in the Hamptons. At this point, it’s almost impossible. All travel costs will be forfeited, making this a very expensive non-vacation.