A stay in a strange, filthy Airbnb is just not her thing

When Andrea Walker is directed to use the service elevator in the building where she is renting an apartment for the weekend, she’s slightly suspicious. However, when she opens the door to the unit she knows she definitely won’t be staying. The owner apologizes for the state of the filthy Airbnb rental and quickly agrees to a refund.

So why does the host later tell Airbnb that she spent the whole weekend there?

Question

We rented a place on Airbnb. I had trouble reaching the host when it was time to check in. Finally, I reached him. And he asked us to bypass the front desk and access the apartment through a back service elevator.

This place was filthy and had a broken bed. I spoke to the host on the phone while we were still in the apartment. He told me that he would give me a full refund. I had my two girls with me, and we ended up a local hotel. That place cost me $700.

When we got home, I contacted the host, and he claimed we stayed there and that he never spoke to me. This voice sounded different but at the same phone number. I think there may be an issue with co-owners.

I contacted Airbnb, and the “case” went on for weeks. Airbnb supported the host despite evidence that I was telling the truth. I found other reviews about this same host. These reviews support what I’ve been telling Airbnb.

In total, I’m out nearly $1,100. Airbnb then closed my case without contacting me. The Airbnb representatives claim they issued me a refund. They did not. Now, Airbnb won’t return my phone calls.

I would like a full refund for this filthy Airbnb (about $460). And now I would also like compensation for the hotel room I had to pay for on a busy holiday weekend (almost $700). Initially, I was not asking Airbnb for all of this. However, I have changed my mind. I would appreciate a full refund for my time and trouble. Do you think you can help? Andrea Walker Hemet, Calif.

Answer

If you didn’t stay in the unit and the owner promised you a refund, then he should uphold this agreement. But he didn’t. Then to add insult to injury Airbnb sided with him concerning your “stay.”

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We’ll get to why Airbnb initially rejected your claim in a moment.

A truly filthy Airbnb rental — accessed through the service elevator

Of course, you should never be required to enter an Airbnb rental through the service elevator. That request was your first warning that you might not be in for the luxurious “LA penthouse” girls’ getaway experience that you expected.

But yours is not the first complaint that we have heard in which a renter was asked to sneak into an Airbnb unit.

Last year, Alex Tarce was left out on the street in Tokyo after he refused his Airbnb host’s request to circumvent the security desk in the building of his Airbnb. His case ended on a happy note, and so I was hoping for the same for your situation.

Your description of this filthy Airbnb sounded truly abysmal. With overflowing garbage cans, a broken bed with questionable linens and an overall unclean state, you just wanted to hit the eject button.

However, there were several problems with your case.

You made the Airbnb rookie mistake of leaving the location and securing a new accommodation without giving Airbnb a chance to resolve the problem. You also forgot to take any photos of the deplorable condition of the unit.

And by doing all this, you opened the door for this host to keep your money by claiming you had stayed. After all, it’s his word against yours as to whether you completed your weekend at the unit. And he told Airbnb that you did.

The importance of the Airbnb Resolution Center

The Airbnb Resolution Center provides a perfect system to create the paper trail that you needed to vindicate yourself and get your money back.

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Unfortunately, you didn’t use it.

If you check into an Airbnb and find it unacceptable, you must let Airbnb know within 24-hours. You also must allow Airbnb an opportunity to find you alternative accommodations. This is outlined in Airbnb’s terms of use.

Contact us within 24 hours of check-in to document the issue and place a hold on the host’s payment. Include photographs or other evidence of the issue as part of your claim.

If you want your money back, it’s critical to document the problems, photographically and in writing. You can do all of this directly within your account in the Airbnb Resolution Center.

It’s not unusual for our advocacy team to hear from Airbnb guests who have not familiarized themselves with the Airbnb resolution process. And then they end up in the situation that you found yourself in — no proof, so no refund and no resolution.

Not just an Airbnb guest — you’re an Airbnb host

But what is unusual about your circumstance is that you aren’t just an Airbnb guest, you are also an Airbnb host. So when I read your paper trail, I was puzzled that you were not aware of how to document and officially request a refund for an unacceptable Airbnb.

Your first written request for help through the resolution center occurred after the weekend in question.

It would appear that this misstep is what caused Airbnb to initially side with this host. You had no proof that you didn’t stay there and this host maintained that you did. By the time you reached our team, you were well aware of this mistake:

I know, I should have known better. I just never had any problems while hosting; anything that came up on my end I dealt with fairly and compensated people. Any time I dealt with Airbnb, it seemed fair to both my guests and me. Neither side was left disgruntled. Believe me, I have learned this lesson. I was naive, but I’m not a liar. And what little evidence I have proves that. Airbnb just didn’t want to deal with it.

You forcefully defended yourself with Airbnb. By providing receipts that showed that you stayed at a neighborhood hotel during that weekend, you hoped Airbnb would believe your side of this story. And you sent the link to your host’s negative reviews.

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Eventually, it appeared that Airbnb agreed with you. Over the phone, a representative told you that Airbnb would refund your stay.

Will this Airbnb fiasco ever be over?

Then you waited for this refund to appear, but it never did. And Airbnb refused to discuss the case any further with you. The company sent you a final message concerning your complaints about this filthy Airbnb rental.

We have already consulted our other Case Managers, but we will really not be able to provide the full refund and hotel reimbursement. I am really sorry about that.

Stunned by the last message, you contacted our advocacy team. I reached out to the executive resolution team at Airbnb to see if we could unravel this mystery refund and stay.

After reviewing your case one more time, Airbnb agreed to refund your “stay” at this filthy Airbnb. Additionally, the Airbnb executive team granted your request for reimbursement of the unexpected hotel stay. And although you really wanted us to share the listing here so that this host and his “LA Penthouse” won’t blindside any other unsuspecting travelers, we can’t, because Airbnb removed the listing.

You are pleased to be fully vindicated now. Airbnb has sent the refund, and your reimbursement. And you have assured me that in the future, should you find a need as an Airbnb host or guest, you will follow the steps in the Airbnb resolution center to a T.

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, SEO-lady, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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