Does a urine-soaked mattress at an Airbnb rental qualify for a refund?

When Ricardo Perez discovers a urine-soaked mattress at an Airbnb rental, he thinks he’s entitled to a refund. Airbnb disagrees. That’s when Perez calls on our advocacy team.

Question: I stayed at an Airbnb in Boston for four nights. The bed was horrendous. It was super soft and had a plastic mattress protector. This made the bed very hot.

I removed the horrible plastic mattress cover and to my surprise discovered an unhygienic cloth mattress covered with urine stains.

I brought this to the attention of the onsite host, who ignored me. I contacted the Airbnb resolution center and was offered $100. I want a full refund for my stay. Will you help me? Ricardo Perez, Miami, Fl.

Answer: I’m sorry you were subjected to these conditions. I was also disgusted when I read your help request. But when I looked at the photo you included I was genuinely nauseated.

This is one of the most upsetting cases I’ve ever written about.

The fact that the onsite host ignored you when you informed her of your discovery is unbelievable. I consider both your accommodations and the host’s conduct to be deplorable.

Here’s how you explained the situation to our advocates:

On night one there were air fresheners hidden all over the apartment, making it hard to breathe. I informed the host and she responded immediately. I located all the air fresheners and removed them to the balcony. I tried to go back to sleep, but the plastic mattress protector made the bed very hot after a few minutes.

On the second night, I moved the mattress protector to the side of the bed. But because the mattress was so soft I again had difficulty sleeping.

On night three, although I slept much better than the previous night, I decided to remove the plastic cover and flip the mattress around to see if it was firmer on the other side. That’s when I discovered the disgusting urine-stained cloth mattress protector.

You immediately notified the host. Unlike her expeditious response to your complaint about the air fresheners, there was no response this time.

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You left the unit the next morning, but again followed up with the host to ask if she had inspected the mattress. Receiving no response, you contacted the Airbnb resolution center.

First, let me say that you took the right steps to attempt to obtain compensation for the conditions in your rental. You took a picture of the mattress, immediately and politely notified the property owner, requesting $500 in compensation, and, when that failed, you contacted Airbnb, requesting a full refund of the $828 you had paid.

The customer service representative responded to you, saying, “Because it’s your only reservation, I would like to offer you a refund of $100 from me as a courtesy. I hope this helps but please let me know if I can do anything else for you.”

Excuse me?

Not surprisingly, you found this “courtesy refund” unacceptable. You asked to be referred to a senior manager at Airbnb, but your request went unanswered.

When you received the initial response from Airbnb, you could have escalated your case using the executive contacts on our website.

You took a different approach, contacting our advocates for help, and at the same time posting your story (and that revolting picture) in our forums.

In addition to the details of your case and the picture, you told our advocates that you were the general manager of two resorts in St. Maarten. You said, “The treatment I received is not how I would deal with this type of major issue.” We completely agreed and contacted Airbnb on your behalf.

Our advocate received a response from an executive at Airbnb the same day she contacted him. The executive responded with an apology and additional encouraging information.

Apologies for the confusion here — it looks like two different teams crossed paths on the guest’s complaint. I had our premium customer service team look into this case and they determined that the original decision should be overturned.

As of this morning, we have issued Mr. Perez a full refund (inclusive of guest and cleaning fees) as well as a $200 travel coupon for future use on the site.

Additionally, we are in the process of coaching the agent who issued the original decision and we will follow up with the host regarding this matter as this was a violation of our hospitality standards.

Both you and our advocate were satisfied with this resolution. More importantly, Airbnb is going to inform the property owner and retrain their customer service representatives. The situation you encountered should never take place anywhere, and hopefully it won’t ever happen at this property again.

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Chip Hiebler

Chip enjoyed a successful career in the IT field. Now he's retired and splits his time between experiencing destinations and cultures beyond his home in Baltimore and generally having fun. He currently supports the mission of as the co-director of the research department.

  • Bill___A

    Good job!

  • AAGK

    Yes. Just based on the headline alone.

  • finance_tony

    How do you differentiate a urine stain from a water stain? The story mentioned no smell (other than the air fresheners).

  • greg watson

    If Airbnb can’t approve all these places first hand, they should have ‘accurate’ photos from the hosts & compare them to the photos from the guests, if there is a problem. Not necessarily mattress pictures, but a good collection showing all the rooms etc. This would be a start………….also retrain their customer ‘service’ personnel…………………..or fire them.

  • LDVinVA

    Mattress protector – probably white. Urine not white.

  • Rebecca

    I’m impressed with the executive response. They immediatley addressed and owned the problem, didn’t make excuses, and offered a good solution.

    This type of top down customer service standard is so important. They didn’t throw the misguided employee under the bus, but still acknowledged their error. The culture in a corporate call center/chat/correspondence is so important.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Um…EWWW??? ;-)

    I’m glad to hear that Airbnb came through. I will say it seems a bit odd that he stayed there for three nights…I think I would have left sooner, given the copious air fresheners (red flag! What are they hiding?) and the uncomfortable mattress. But I accept that the LW didn’t discover the…uh…true grossness until day four.

    I’m thinking the initial offer from Airbnb, while unsatisfactory, may have been for that very reason…he did sleep there for three nights. But finding out that he slept on THAT is definitely grounds for a refund! Glad he got one.

    I just returned from two weeks in Scotland & Ireland, Airbnb-ing it for most of it. We had four different places, first time using Airbnb. I’m happy to report each place was absolutely fabulous! So far I’m a fan. And relieved to see they resolved this case satisfactorily.

  • michael anthony

    Yes, it’s the 2bd or 3rd story on them where they were going to retrain the host. Yes, there are issues where retraining make a sense. But air fresheners all over and a urine soaked mattress seems more like a “coverup”. I don’t know where in the world people would fun that acceptable. Thus, why retrain? This is a common sense issue and a host displays such lack of common sense, then they should be removed. Or, hire a group of employees that visits sites a month or two later, undercover. Then remove them if they find issue a remain.

  • cscasi

    I am glad why Chris and company was able to help convince Airbnb to issue the full amount requested by Mr. Perez.
    My only question is, why did Mr. Perez continue to stay in the place after he discovered the issue with the mattress? He notified the Host after discovering the issue and got no response. I believe the next immediate step would have been to contact Airbnb and have the complaint logged; not continue to stay there if it was that bad. To do that and then want a full refund from Airbnb is asking for a little much, in my humble opinion. Nonetheless, I am glad Airbnb was, in the end, gracious and gave Mr. Perez a full refund plus a $200 certificate for future use. That shows great customer service on the part of Airbnb (even though Chris and company had to prod it to get that to happen).

  • greg watson

    did I say “retrain the host”…………..hmmm

  • joycexyz

    It was the agent who apparently thought the property was just fine. Coaching or retraining??? There’s no such thing as instilling common sense in someone who has none–or apparently a sense of smell. Deserves the boot.

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