This is what happens when you hate your vacation rental and leave

Mary Shaw was confident that she had done everything right while planning her trip to Paris. She had carefully selected what she thought was the perfect apartment for her family. But when Shaw arrived in the French capital, she hated the vacation rental so much she knew they couldn’t stay.

Now Shaw wants to know how she can get a refund from the unwilling Airbnb host.

If you’re currently in summer vacation planning mode, you’ll want to read about Shaw’s horrible vacation rental experience. Her tale serves as a reminder that not all listings are as they seem. So it’s critical to be aware of how to protect yourself and your finances should you arrive at a vacation rental that you absolutely hate.

A horrible vacation rental: “The place was filthy with bloodstained sheets.”

Shaw and her husband paid $2,491 to rent the Parisian apartment in question for one month. She would arrive several days before her husband to settle into the vacation rental.

Early on the morning that their rental was to begin, Shaw landed at Charles de Gaulle International Airport. After collecting her luggage, she hailed a taxi and headed to the Airbnb rental.

During the 45-minute ride, she looked forward to settling into the quaint apartment with a charming balcony. The photos on the Airbnb website showed a small, clean home where everything was in its place. And Shaw thought it seemed like the perfect location for the couple to enjoy the City of Lights.

She wants a refund for this horrible vacation rental
This is the lovely balcony that Shaw thought she was going to enjoy in Paris.

It turns out that she could not have been more wrong. And she was about to be confronted with a shocking reality: The photos on the Airbnb site weren’t current. And the apartment was definitely not orderly or clean.

“The place was filthy,” Shaw reported. “There were bloodstained sheets, mold and old food in the kitchen. And every shelf and closet in the entire apartment was filled with junk.”

“I hate this vacation rental. I need to leave!”

Walking into the apartment for the first time, Shaw was speechless. She says that it looked as if no one had cleaned the place for a substantial period.

“I immediately hated everything about this vacation rental,” Shaw recalled. “It bore some resemblance to the listing’s photos, but there was clutter everywhere. The place was so dirty.”

After a long, overnight flight from the United States, this was the last thing Shaw wanted to be confronted with. She had been hoping to unpack her luggage, take a power nap and then head out to explore her new neighborhood.

Unfortunately, now her day would be spent on another task: extricating herself from this horrible vacation rental.

She tried to reach both the host and the local agent via email:

I am very disappointed and angry. The apartment is not as you advertised. It is dirty and smells of cigarette smoke. The kitchen is dirty and full of junk. The bed linens are stained. The couch is filthy. The closets are filled with trash — there is no place to hang my clothes. There is only one bed, not two as advertised. The list goes on and on.

As day turned into night, Shaw did not hear from either the host or agent. She tried to make the best of it and spent one uncomfortable night in the dirty apartment.

It would be her only night there.

Leaving this horrible vacation rental and expecting a refund

The next morning, a Sunday, Shaw sent another email to the host. This time she informed him that she would not be staying and she asked for a refund. She also contacted Airbnb and advised the representative of the same.

Shaw then gathered her belongings and checked into a local hotel.

Finally, more than a day after Shaw had first been confronted with the disgusting rental posing as a Parisian vacation getaway, the owner responded.

In his email to Shaw, the owner expressed bewilderment as to why Shaw found the place objectionable. He said his maid had cleaned the apartment before arrival. But he pointed out that the rental is actually his home, so his belongings are there too.

This is my apartment and some places are not for you to use as my personal effects are [there]. Maybe the places are not organized, but your living space must be clean. I added a brand new table and seats. The old ones have been badly used by former (website hidden by Airbnb). I decided to change them for you.

[The maid] can come back and clean whatever you want. If you need more space, we can move some of my clothes to the cave. [This is] not an apartment made only for rental. There is a life in it. I’m sorry you did not like it. I’m not in France and cannot meet you.

Shaw responded that she would not be coming back to the apartment. And she repeated her request for a refund. She then followed up by sending photos (and a video) of the unacceptable vacation rental to Airbnb.

What does Airbnb think about this filthy vacation rental?

A few days later she received yet another shock. After reviewing her photos, an Airbnb representative told her that he determined there was a only a “minor” problem with cleanliness at the apartment. As a result, Airbnb would allow the host to determine her refund eligibility.

We reviewed the case as well as the documentation sent in accordance with the refund policy. This issue is primarily a minor cleanliness issue that could have been easily resolved by the host by cleaning up and replacing the sheets. By canceling the reservation, the host did not have the opportunity to solve the problem. Reasonable efforts were not made to attempt to remedy the circumstances of the travel problem with the host.

Soon the owner sent a $1,000 refund which he determined was a fair resolution and Airbnb closed Shaw’s case.

And she reopened it with the Elliott Advocacy team.

Asking the Elliott Advocacy team to help retrieve a refund from this Airbnb host

When Shaw’s request for help landed on my desk, I had just finished writing an article about another consumer’s struggle with Airbnb. Laura Ward’s plea for help to Airbnb had similarly been met with a “case-closed” pronouncement.

After Ward contacted our team, Airbnb reopened and reconsidered her dilemma. And after a 6-month battle, her case ended with an entirely positive resolution. Shaw had read Ward’s story and hoped that our team could do the same for her.

Initially, when I read through Shaw’s paper trail, she had omitted the photos of this “horrible vacation rental.” And I noted that she had never used Airbnb before. So I wondered if her expectations had been set too high.

After all, we’ve received many complaints from consumers who don’t fully understand the nature of Airbnb:

Airbnb, unlike VRBO, allows shared rentals. The company began as a shared-property rental site. And many of the listings you see on Airbnb are still shared properties. You may only be getting a room in someone’s home — the owner may be staying with you, too. Or you might just see the remnants of the owner’s life during your stay. Many hosts simply vacate their homes when they can rent the property.

What Shaw was describing sounded like she hadn’t expected to see any evidence of the host in her vacation rental.

So I asked to see her photos. And those photos left no doubt in my mind that this host should refund any money Shaw paid him to stay in his dirty apartment.

Asking the Airbnb executive resolution team to reconsider this refund

I sent a short summary of Shaw’s ongoing battle to our executive contact on the Airbnb resolution team. I included the worst of Shaw’s photos, which showed a filthy bed with stains, cabinets stuffed full of food and piles of old, dirty shoes. This vacation rental looked nothing like the cute Parisian apartment depicted in the Airbnb listing.

A horrible vacation rental
Scenes from this horrible vacation rental

No, you don’t have to pay for this horrible vacation rental

And within a few hours, Shaw received the good news. Still in Paris, she checked her email and Airbnb alerted her of a full refund. The executive team agreed that this property wasn’t inhabitable in its current state.

Shaw says this is a satisfactory resolution to her complaint, and she hopes no other travelers fall prey to this “Bel appartement.”

How to get a refund when your Airbnb vacation rental is not as described

Airbnb has specific requirements that you must follow to be eligible for a refund should you hate your vacation rental so much that you want to leave. Remember your rental is a binding contract, so you can’t unilaterally decide that the property is unacceptable. Here are the steps you must take if you want to receive a refund.

  • The first step is to contact the host to report the problem and ask for help.
  • You must also contact Airbnb within 24 hours of identifying a problem. Stay off the phone. Make your complaint through the Airbnb Resolution Center in your Airbnb account. This creates a perfect paper trail to document your efforts.
  • Make sure to document the evidence of the problem via photos and/or video. This is a critical step. Visual evidence is much more compelling than just your narrative, which can often simply turn into a he said/she said situation.
  • If your host is unresponsive or unable to correct the problem, allow the Airbnb resolution team to assist you in finding an alternative accommodation. Your payment can be applied to the new rental. And in many cases, we’ve seen Airbnb cover any difference in rental costs for the new property IF you’ve followed the steps to a resolution as outlined on the Airbnb site.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend