Airbnb goes silent after promising to investigate a bad rental

When Bob Yoo and his family checked in at their Airbnb rental in Bellevue, Wash., they found trash everywhere, soiled carpets and cobwebs in the corners. The house was uninhabitable.

The Yoos immediately contacted Airbnb to complain. Airbnb’s agents were sympathetic. They promised to get the Yoos a full refund of their deposit. But they didn’t follow through.

Yoo’s story contains some valuable takeaways about self-advocacy: When filing a complaint, do so as soon as possible. Document your case as thoroughly as you can. And never lose patience — even if your claim isn’t settled overnight, the company may still act in your favor, provided you haven’t alienated its agents with harsh language and sarcasm.

As part of Airbnb’s flexible cancellation policy, its agent immediately credited the Yoo’s account with a partial refund of $253. Then they asked for pictures of the property, which Yoo sent them, albeit “with some difficulty.” (We don’t know the nature of the difficulty.)

The next day Yoo received a call from an Airbnb representative who told him that Airbnb would investigate further. According to Yoo, “he sounded encouraging regarding a full refund.”

But after that call, Airbnb went silent.

The only communication Yoo received from Airbnb indicated that it was closing the case. It neither explained why Airbnb was closing the case nor indicated whether its personnel were investigating Yoo’s rental situation further. There was no comment from Airbnb’s agents about the pictures Yoo sent to Airbnb.

Then Yoo asked if Airbnb sent someone to inspect the property prior to taking the owner’s side. That question didn’t yield any response from Airbnb.

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You can understand why Yoo was irritated. Airbnb was giving him the silent treatment after leading him to believe that he would receive a refund for the remainder of his deposit. But asking that question was a mistake and apparently alienated Airbnb’s agents. It didn’t yield any answers to his questions.

At that point, Yoo contacted us to ask for help in securing a refund of the rest of his deposit.

Although we agreed to advocate for Yoo, he opted to escalate his complaint to upper-echelon executives of Airbnb, using the contact information for Airbnb on our website.

Within hours of Yoo’s emailing Chip Conley, head of global hospitality for Airbnb, Yoo received a response from Conley indicating that he was assigning Yoo’s case to an agent to follow up. And shortly after that, Yoo was told by another agent of Airbnb that he and his team members had reviewed Yoo’s case and were issuing him a full refund of the remaining deposit.

Yoo contacted us to provide us with an update and thanked us for our contact information. “If you didn’t have a list of names for Airbnb I am not sure I would have been able to move things up the line to a satisfactory conclusion,” says Yoo.

We’re happy to help out whenever we can — and however we can. You’re welcome, Bob!

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

  • Bill___A

    Good job, although it is regrettable Airbnb needed the additional push.

  • AAGK

    Chip Conley sounds awesome! I’m so glad they took care of Mr Yoo. I hope Airbnb removes its listing.

  • I complained about an AirBnB rental in Mexico City last year. Though I did not ask for a refund or even a credit, I just wanted them to know the condition the apartment was in was less than stellar. Actually, it was just barely livable, but the bed was clean and comfy. This was the only saving grace.

    We scrubbed it a dozen times. The floors were horrendous. We had had a week in a home exchange in another part of the city. This was our second week on our own. We did not want to waste the time looking for something better, but felt AirBnB should know.

    I sent them a dozen pictures showing the filthy parts of the place before we scrubbed, but it was still marginal.

    The response I received: “Some people have different standards than others.” End of story!

  • cscasi

    And, by using Chris’ list of executive contacts, Mr. Yoo was able to get things resolved to his satisfaction.
    It is a shame he got the runaround like he did, but persistence seems to help in many cases.

  • cscasi

    With a reply like that, it would not endear me to want to use AirBnB for a rental; especially with the photographic evidence he provided.

  • DepartureLevel

    Serious question….Is AirBnB really such a bargain? I have no desire to use them with visions of the above problem (unclean environment). What about previous guests – are they bringing in bed-bugs or other yucky things? Are people finding linens and bath towels old and worn ? Are these homes and apartments really being thoroughly cleaned, sanitized and left in order for the next guests ? I’ve read of homes being vandalized, things stolen, crowds of people visiting “tenants”. Please enlighten me.

  • DepartureLevel

    Sounds horrible and the last thing you want to do on vacation is scrub down your surroundings.

  • Annie M

    People should not be so trusting of these AirBnb listings – and make sure they carefully read the policies and pay the way AirbNb advises them to. I hope he has the opportunity to leave a review for others – how else can people learn to stay away from a particular property if honest reviews aren’t allowed?

  • Annie M

    From all the complaints here, I wouldn’t rent from them either.

  • Dutchess

    I’ve used Airbnb all over the world and never had an issue with an unlivable apartment. I’ve had one apartment, in a minor Mexican city where the host wasn’t as fastidious with cleaning as I would like. I called them, and they sent a housekeeper to fix it right away. Other than that, Airbnb has been awesome. I’ve stayed at amazing apartments that were so much more comfortable and spacious than tiny hotel rooms. Yeah, nobody came in and cleaned the bathroom every day, and made the bed for me but that’s not that important to me and most vacation rentals don’t come with daily maid service. Most Airbnb’s have cleaners that come in and service the apartment after you leave or before the next guests otherwise the host does it. I’ve never encountered dirty or worn sheets. If you do your research BEFORE renting, and read the reviews and go with established hosts you’ll be surprised by how nice an experience it is renting an apartment vs a hotel room.

  • PsyGuy

    I have to be honest, if I was in the executive office of a company I would just block you Chris. It’s nothing personal, you’d just make more work for me to do everyday.

  • PsyGuy

    It depends where you go and for how long. If I’m going for anything lover a week or have a large party than I’d prefer ABNB

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