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.

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.

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