Airbnb promised to pay for his hotel. So why didn’t it?

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By Christopher Elliott

When David Tuttle’s Airbnb host moves him to a different rental, Airbnb offers to cover his hotel expenses. Where’s the money?

Question

I booked an Airbnb in Las Vegas recently. Just before I checked in, the host did a bait-and-switch, sending me to a different address from the one on the property listing. 

The new location was not clean and not comparable to the original listing. I also felt unsafe. 

I called Airbnb customer service that night and sent them some pictures and video of the location.

Then I spoke with a customer service representative, who told me to book a hotel and assured me that Airbnb would reimburse me in full. She did this both by phone and in writing in an email through the Airbnb platform.

I have sent the receipt for my hotel stay and parking, but Airbnb has not reimbursed me yet. It’s been almost a month since my trip. I think they should also compensate me for my stress and time at this point. Can you help me get a refund from Airbnb? — David Tuttle, Grants Pass, Ore.

Answer

You should have received the rental you booked, not a replacement, and definitely not a lesser rental that made you feel unsafe. It looks like Airbnb agreed with you and offered to cover your hotel expenses. 

Airbnb addresses this under its AirCover guarantee, which says that if your listing is “significantly different” than advertised and your host can’t resolve the issue, then Airbnb will help you find a similar place. “If a similar place isn’t available or you’d prefer not to rebook, we’ll give you a full or partial refund,” it adds. (Related: No air conditioning in my rental. Does Airbnb’s refund policy apply?)

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I reviewed the correspondence between you and Airbnb. I’m concerned that Airbnb appears to offer to cover your hotel but later changes its tune and offers you a coupon for a future stay. An Airbnb credit was a generous offer, but only if combined with Airbnb’s original offer to cover your hotel expenses.

How to get Airbnb to pay for your hotel

Let’s be honest: Airbnb would rather not pay for your hotel. So it’s going to make it as difficult as possible to cover your hotel stay when something goes wrong with your vacation rental. But it is possible to get Airbnb to pay for your hotel. (Here’s our guide to renting a car.)

Take pictures and videos

Airbnb won’t pay for your hotel without hard evidence. So take photos and videos of the condition of your rental. They will ask for it. Pro tip: Get as close to the problem (safely) when you’re taking a picture. Zoom into the mold, the rusty hinge, the broken faucet.

Contact the host and Airbnb

Immediately contact your host through the Airbnb platform. Describe the problems, send the evidence, and request a solution. You’ll want to simultaneously reach out to Airbnb to let it know there’s a problem. Keep a record of all communication.

Be patient, but not too patient

Give your host a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem, but don’t put yourself in harm’s way. For most problems, Airbnb gives hosts a day to fix the issues, in our experience.

Ask to move

If the issues are serious and pose a safety risk, you can invoke Airbnb’s AirCover guarantee. It covers inaccurate listings and promises to either move you to a different location or refund your stay. Airbnb may also offer to cover your hotel at its discretion. You may have to ask for that option — as I noted before, it doesn’t want to pay for your hotel.

You handled this one by the book

You did an excellent job of keeping records. When you checked in, you took photos and videos that documented the condition of the condo. You also recorded your interactions on the Airbnb platform and took notes on your phone calls. When things start to go sideways with a travel company, you really need to get in touch with your inner accountant. Take notes, collect invoices and receipts, and document everything. If you don’t, you may not have enough evidence to make your case.

You could have appealed this to one of the executive contacts at Airbnb that I list on this site. I should note that your case was really confusing. Airbnb opened multiple threads with you without closing them. I think that added to the complexity of this case and maybe delayed your resolution. (Related: Airbnb lost my reservation and then banned me.)

When a representative offers something like covering your hotel expenses, you have to make sure that you get it in writing (you did) and that it’s noted in your reservation. It looks like fixing this would have required someone from Airbnb to manually review all the threads and figure out who authorized the refund.

But you followed all these steps and Airbnb still wouldn’t pay. What gives?

Why didn’t Airbnb pay for your hotel?

A careful review of your case suggests Airbnb responded slowly because of how you framed your request. Specifically, you appeared to ask for additional money for pain and suffering. While that’s certainly understandable, it’s typically not something a company would do unless ordered by a court. I have seen requests like this delay a refund in previous cases. (Related: If the host promised me a refund why did Airbnb refuse?)

I checked with you, and you said you had not asked for extra compensation but were considering it.

You reached out to my advocacy team for help. I asked Airbnb about your money. Airbnb called you and after some negotiation, it offered you $1,674, which is the cost of the hotel stay, minus the parking fee. You accepted Airbnb’s offer.

You also reached out to Airbnb’s executives separately. A representative contacted you, reimbursed you for your parking expenses and gave you an Airbnb coupon that you can use within a year.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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