Why can’t I get a refund for my Airbnb rental?


John Hassett cancels his Airbnb rental half a year before he’s scheduled to check in. Why can’t he get a refund?

Question: Late last year, my wife and I rented an apartment in Paris for us for next September through Airbnb. The total cost for this rental was $3,692 and was charged to my credit card, which I paid. It included a cleaning fee of $41 and an Airbnb service fee of $209.

In March, we had to cancel this rental because of family health problems. Prior to doing so, we read what we believed to be Airbnb’s cancellation policy, which stated that for a full refund, cancellation must be made a full 24 hours prior to the listing’s local check-in time (or 3 p.m. if not specified) on the day of check-in.

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Weeks went by, and I checked my credit card account to see if our money had been refunded. I discovered that a total of $41 had been returned, the equivalent of the apartment’s cleaning fee. I immediately contacted Airbnb to find out why so little of our money had been refunded, since we had canceled almost six months prior to checking in.

I was told that the apartment was a “long term” rental, and as such, the first 30 days of the reservation are not refunded. We also were told that we should have been aware of this.

Needless to say, we’re left dumbfounded and angry. We are not wealthy people, and we simply cannot afford to lose $3,651. Airbnb finally told us that it would depend on the willingness of the apartment’s owner to refund some or all of our money.

After numerous emails to both Airbnb and the owner, we have been told that “rules are rules,” and we failed to adhere to them. We have asked the owner to apply what we have paid to a one-month rental in May of 2015, but there has been no reply. Airbnb has washed its hands of the entire matter.

We realize that our decision to cancel may have caused some inconvenience to the apartment’s owner, and we would understand a partial refund, but outright rejecting any refund whatsoever seems incredibly unfair and unprofessional. Thank you for any advice or help you may be able to give us. — John Hassett, Philadelphia

Answer: Airbnb actually has five cancellation policies, ranging from “flexible” to “long term.” They’re outlined on its website.

You should have been advised of the exact cancellation policy for your rental at the time of your reservation. It appears that your rental fell under the “long term” policy, which stipulates that the first month of your reservation is completely nonrefundable. It looks like Airbnb did you a favor, though; under its policy, its service fee would have been nonrefundable, but it reversed the charge anyway.

Is it possible that you clicked on the wrong tab when you were researching your cancellation policy? Yes. It’s also possible that you read the fine print: “Cancellation policies may be superseded by the Guest Refund Policy, safety cancellations, or extenuating circumstances.” That’s a lot of wiggle room.

I reviewed the correspondence between you and the property owner, and that convinced me more than anything to take your case. The owner not only refused to refund a penny of your rental, even though you were canceling half a year in advance, but also was denying you the opportunity to rebook at a later date. It was a cringe-worthy exchange that exposed the risks of renting from someone who is not a professional.

At the same time, I think you could have taken a more constructive tone with the property owner. Too quickly, the exchange devolved into threats. The owner wasn’t your last option; you could have applied pressure to Airbnb or your credit card company to get a refund. Showing your bank the terms of your rental might have been enough to secure a full refund, if you had tried to dispute the purchase.

I also was unhappy with the way Airbnb handled this case. I mean, here’s a company with a $10 billion valuation that has gotten big and successful at least in part by promising that you’ll have a better lodging experience than if you were to take a chance on a Craigslist rental. I can see how you’d expect Airbnb to go to bat for you on this one.

I contacted Airbnb on your behalf. A representative responded directly to you, saying that the company does, indeed, try to accommodate guests with “extenuating circumstances” if they can provide documentation of their situation.

Airbnb refunded the remaining $3,651 to your credit card and also sent you a $300 travel voucher by way of an apology.

Are Airbnb's refund rules too complicated?

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150 thoughts on “Why can’t I get a refund for my Airbnb rental?

  1. I feel angry for these people as I can imagine myself in their position quite easily. I hate how many companies have such little sympathy for their customers. They’ve got your money and that’s all they care about. They don’t care about the ethics of the situation but simply believe “Tough shit, you knew what you were signing up for.” They need to give themselves some wiggle room when it comes to things like this as it seems they’re afraid to even break their own rules.

    This isn’t a problem that only AirBnB has but a lot of companies. Banks and airlines especially!

    1. To be fair, AirBnB probably doesn’t have their money. The intractable owner is the one who had the power to fix this and chose not to. I’m sure that the owner will re-rent the apartment for the same period of time and is gloating about their windfall.

      1. You’re correct but my point isn’t so much about the money but rather the attitude toward the consumer. It’s worth pointing out that AirBnB are the people that control the system being used so any faults in that system fall down to them to fix.

        By being dismissive of their customer instead of using their own common sense to solve the problem they’ve simply ended up alienating two users.

        By not admitting to there being some form of problem with their system they just ensure that this problem happens again and again.

        1. It’s the poor attitude towards the consumer that I find so amazing (in a bad way). Don’t these companies realize how short-sighted it is to handle customers this way? How much revenue is never realized on the the loss of a repeat customer? Also, the negative word-of-mouth won’t help.

      2. Actually, I’m pretty sure that AirBnB does have their money. That’s the beauty of AirBnb. You pay AirBnB, and then — something like 24 hours after you’ve arrived at your destination — AirBnB pays the property owner. That 24 hours gives you the ability to contact AirBnB and get your money back if there is something dreadfully wrong (i.e., owner doesn’t show up, or place doesn’t exist, or a complete misrepresentation of the accomodations, etc.). It’s a much safer system than sending money directly to some guy you found on craigslist or vrbo and crossing your fingers.

        But that doesn’t mean AirBnB can let you off the hook if the property owner did everything by the book. In this case, the OP didn’t read the rules (which are spelled out very clearly on the AirBnB site), so there was no reasonable way that AirBnB could have refused to pass the money onto the property owner at the appropriate time.

      1. I think the point is that with such a huge cancellation lead time, the landlord is in the real position of possibly double dipping. Sympathy for the landlord does not extend to him/her keeping a windfall. If he doesn’t rent the property during that period then I have no problem with him keeping the money. If he rents the property, I have a huge problem with double dipping.

        1. But what if I abandon my Paris flat because I am relying on this guy to be there during the time I’m gone? I bought tickets to Tahiti and also rented an expensive place. Do you mean I have to find another tenant, a long term one required under Paris laws?
          Why don’t you be the one to find someone who can replace you and allow me to vet him?

          1. Read carefully

            If he doesn’t rent the property during that period then I have no problem with him keeping the money.

            If this were in the US, the law would require the landlord to make a diligent and reasonable (under the circumstances) effort to mitigate his losses and attempt to re-rent the property.

            If he’s in Tahiti and for some reason cannot rent the property, he keeps the 1 month deposit.

            For example, if you have a one year residential lease,

            1/1/2014: One year lease
            5/1/2014: Break the lease
            5/16/2014: LL re-rents the apartment for the same rent

            The landlord cannot double dip. He is entitled to 2 weeks rent for May, additional costs associated with your breaking the lease, e.g. advertising.

            US Law generally disfavors penalties. The recipient of a penalty payment bears the burden to show that the penalty is reasonable in light of the circumstances.

          2. I agree with you on the double dipping. I think that is unfair and immoral. But what if he could not double dip and the flat goes empty?
            How come he is owed nothing? That’s not fair, too.
            Remember he does not get to use the money from Airbnb until the customer arrives (date of arrival).

          3. If he cannot double dip, then the one month retention changes characteristic from a penalty to liquidated damages. I am happy for the owner to get the one month in that case.

          4. Since it is very hard to know if the landlord has actually rented it out, I think a sliding scale up to one month is better.
            With a sliding scale it can be a very small portion as penalty if they cancel way in advance.
            The important thing for airbnb is to create something that is both practical and fair for everyones good.

          5. Actually, I think that is perfectly fair. A penalty for administration costs is reasonable, but not covering an entire one month of rental when there’s six months of lead time. You shouldn’t count your chickens so far in advance, so I’d have no sympathy.

          1. I don’t see how that’s relevant. The owner will still get to keep 1 months rent and he might still be able to re-rent the unit during that time frame, thus double dipping.

      2. I don’t have too much sympathy for the landlord in this situation because I believe the customer cancelled a reasonable amount of time before so that he would have expected a full refund.

        Obviously if he cancelled the night before it would have been stupid for him to expect his money back. Every situation is different and in this situation I would have expected my money back.

    2. Ethics? They entered into a business agreement and they’re backing out of their end of the contract. Contract rules state the first 28 days of the long term rental are NOT refundable. What’s not ethical is agreeing to a contract and when things don’t go as planned they expect the other party to accept changes in the terms because it suits them. That’s unethical.

        1. I don’t see any of those three applied here. It’s slanted in the landlord’s favor but that hardly deems it “unconscionable.” The cancelation policy is clearly spelled out in simple english. There is zero ambiguity.

          1. The penalty portion might not be completely kosher. Too many needed details to give a considered opinion.

          2. The policy is clearly stated on their website. I doubt, seriously, a company of Airbnb’s standing would have an illegal rental clause as part of it’s terms. Any reasonable person should assume that.

          3. They’re listing in San Francisco, where residential rentals of less than 30 days are illegal by city ordinance. So yeah they don’t seem to care if the terms are illegal.

          4. Yes, they are not making sure the rentals they list meet the laws of the county, village, city, town where the unit is located.

          5. True there are city ordinances. And, true Airbnb does not vet whether the rental has licenses, etc. But Airbnb cleverly limits the scope of its service to people wanting to “share” (rent) their room, apt, etc.
            There is no law that requires a listing service to inspect the landlords licenses before they can list. Airbnb does not warrant that the landlord has a license either. So for as long as the seller and buyer meet eye to eye and make a deal, then bingo.
            Airbnb has begun to collect some taxes though is I’m not mistaken.
            You don’t have to like anything in the sharing economy.
            However, even if you don’t like it, many sharing services like airbnb and uber are the way of the future. Their awesome valuations kinda points that out.

          6. They should be required to know if the rental has a permit. It will be coming down the pike.

          7. No, that’s completely untrue. Companies routinely have illegal clauses in their contracts. Its a calculated gamble. That’s why we have class action lawsuits.

          8. In absence of information that contradicts the legality of the rental clause there’s no reason we should assume it isn’t anything but legal. Open ended statements of “it MIGHT be illegal” isn’t a valid argument.

          9. Untrue. Any penalty is presumed invalid. Thus, the onus is on Airbnb to prove that its valid. The onus is not on the OP to show its invalidity. If I were litigating this case, I’d be hammering on the penalty clause and forcing airbnb to show that it doesn’t give a windfall to the owner.

          10. Yet hotels do this every day with non cancelable reservations. Don’t think that would be a very long argument. Or are you suggesting every hotel in the world that does non cancelable reservations is breaking the law and it just hasn’t been proven yet?

          11. No. The distinction is that hotels tend to be short term rentals and generally have multiple units. Short term rentals make hotels part of innkeeper laws, not landlord/tenants laws, which as several commentators have pointed out have different rules.

            Additionally, a nonrefundable room rate is not necessarily a penalty. Consider the following: Hotel has 100 room available. It has reservations for 60 rooms per night for a week. It sells you a nonrefundable room for a week. You cancel, the hotel can keep the money because it is not double dipping. Thus nonrefundable rates are no penalty rates.

            By contrast, is the hotel were to sell out each night, AND keep your money, then it would be double dipping. But that’s hardly the norm.

            In this case, the one month’s forfeiture appears to be a penalty given that presumably the owner only has one unit in Paris. Hmmm. How hard is it to resell with six months lead time? Thus is is likely that the owner will double dip.

          12. >Thus is is likely that the owner will double dip.

            SO? You don’t think hotels double dip when you cancel a reservation and they keep your money? Go back to my original comment, this is about what a REASONABLE person would assume when booking having read the VERY clearly written rules. The practice of non refundable stays is common in the industry and the verbiage is clearly written. This person had no reason to expect a reimbursement based on the clearly written refund (or in this case non-refund) policy. Any statements otherwise is conjecture and useless hypotheticals.

          13. That’s your way of responding to every poster. Useless, non responsive etc. You work for this company. Go back and tell your management to repspond to customer complaints.

          14. Of course I don’t work for Airbnb, I happen to use their service a lot and have been extremely satisfied with every place I’ve stayed. Doubt me? Check my posting history, I post on this blog frequently. But something tells me you’ve done zero research before making any of your statements.

            Please show me how Airbnb has not replied to it’s customers. IN FACT, in most of these incidents Airbnb has gone above and beyond in making things right where it can. The woman in Southern CA with the squatter, Airbnb is paying them for every night the people occupy the residency. The woman who’s house was trashed by a guest, airbnb is paying for the refurbs. The list goes on and on, so perhaps the person who’s “sleazy” is the one who comes here and makes unfounded and unsupported comments.

            I’m guessing you work for VRBO since you hate airbnb so much. Why don’t you go back to your corporate and tell them to improve their product. (See that was sarcasm, probably lost on you, but it shows how silly you sound when you make moronic, unfounded accusations).

          15. “I doubt, seriously, a company of Airbnb’s standing would have an illegal rental clause as part of it’s terms.”

            Are you kidding? Airbnb does NOT care about legality. Co-op boards have asked them to EXCLUDE units in their apartments put up by people breaking the law. The company responds by claiming they are merely serving as a listing source like craigslist. Their media strategy is to complain that laws are outdated for the digital economy. I agree with that part, but have ZERO sympathy for this company.

          16. Disagree. If it’s “slanted” then it’s unethical, by definition. End of.

          17. So, every airline, hotel, cellular phone, software etc etc etc contract is unethical? Right.

          18. Really, please explain how Airbnb, who is nothing more than a site that connects people with short term rentals with people looking for short term rentals is “sleazy”. I don’t think you understand the meaning of the word.

          19. A site that connects people engaging in activities prohibited is sleazy. For example if you started a site that connected buyers and sellers of paid medication and cut out the middleman (AKA doctors), that would be sleazy. Airbnb does not care if someone violated a coop rule prohibiting sublets. And if someone from the coop contact them they parrot your email, which leads me to suspect you are a corporate troll.

      1. Ethics and laws / rules / contracts aren’t completely connected. Ethics are based on decency.

        Rather than looking at the contract, as I’ve said, AirBnB and everybody involved needs to use their common sense and decency. They need to realise that they can make their own decisions rather than just looking at the piece of paper and following it.

        Here’s a question for you. If a person rented out an AirBnB apartment for July 2020 at the price of $20,000, then realised a day later they didn’t want that apartment, you’re of the belief they shouldn’t get their money back? Despite the fact that it’s not going to happen for another 6 years? Tough shit, it’s the rule.

        1. Yep it’s completely legal and faire because they agreed to it when they rented. Nobody forced them to rent this apartment under those terms. They went into the contract knowing (or SHOULD have known because the terms are clearly available for review) that any cancelation would result in forfeiture of the first month’s rent. Just because the dollar amount is higher and time longer, doesn’t change the situation. Hotels have been doing this for years, if you make a pre-paid reservation and you cancel your money is gone. Also, if this was such a financial burden on them they should have had some travel insurance to cover in the event of a loss.

          1. it’s completely legal and faire because they agreed to it when they rented.

            Both statements are wholly false.

            The fact that you agreed to a contract has no bearing on whether its legal. You and I agreeing to buy/sell cocaine is not legal.

            As far as being fair, that’s the purpose of consumer protection laws. Companies were making contracts there were unfair to customers. A favorite were loans that only an accountant could figure out the 400% interest rate. Think Payday loans.

          2. A contract doesn’t have to be equitable to be legal or fair, but that’s not the point. The bottom line is any conjecture on the legality of the contract is not for us to decide and distracts from the point, and you’ve certainly failed to produce any evidence it is in fact illegal. So, contrary to any evidence stating otherwise and the fact that non refundable deposits are pretty standard in the lodging industry had this person actually read the terms of the cancelation provided they would have and should have not expected a deposit. Period.

          3. This is why people hire attorneys instead of using their own flawed understanding. Your analysis is simply wrong. There is no other way to put it.

            The legality of a contract does not necessarily require facts nor evidence except to the extent that they are necessary to understand its meaning; its framework. That is not the situation here. The meaning of the contract is not in dispute, merely its enforceability. The contract will be analyzed based upon the law and the language of the contract; no additional facts required in a matter such as this.

            Any contract which is contrary to law is illegal, regardless of industry practices. Period. For example an employment non-complete agreement is void as against California public policy. California won’t even enforce a non-compete entered into in another state. There is one minor exception, but its not relevant here.

            In the specific matter, there are two things which is likely to make the contract illegal (had it been in the US).

            1. The size of the forfeiture appears to be a penalty. If a court were to rule that it is a penalty as opposed to liquidated damages, it becomes unenforceable.

            2. A one month’s forfeiture means by definition that the rental is for one month or longer. Thus, a court would apply the law of tenancy, which strictly forbids forfeitures. The law of tenancy are unrelated to the laws by which the hospitality industry fall under (traditionally known as innkeeper laws). The two laws are very different.

            Incidentally, point 2 is a near home run for the LW.

            Of course as this is Paris none of this matters. The analysis is based on a hypothetical US rental situation.

          4. >Of course as this is Paris none of this matters. The analysis is based on a hypothetical US rental situation.

            Right, so once again, this is useless conjecture. The court is where these decisions should be decided not in the meanderings of a travel website comment section. Here we should stick to the facts that are known. They agreed to the terms when they booked their rental. Anything beyond that should be handled by the courts and not Chris.

          5. Airbnb wants to avoid court battles because a lot of their listings violate local regulations.

  2. Are Airbnb’s refund rules too complicated?

    yes, but they are ment to be, becuse they are a total scam.
    i see you compare them to craigslist.

    “promising that you’ll have a better lodging experience than if you were to take a chance on a Craigslist rental”

    and yes, that is fair. if given the choice of a site where you contact the owner directly vs a site where you have a “go between”, yes airbnb seems like a more logical option.

    BUT, they need to be compared to hotels.com or even priceline (where you cannot even pick your location)- i think those sites offer more protection then airbnb.

    in my state of CA renters staying over 30 days need to be legally evicted, so now there is a airbnb tenent who is now a squatter , because he/she knows they cannot be kicked out.


    “AirBNB says that they’re compensating the homeowner while the squatter stays, and after the San Francisco Chronicle got involved, the company has also offered to help with her legal fees. “I don’t think they’re equipped to deal with this type of situation,” she told the Chronicle.”

    nice that they are trying to do right, but airbnb needs better regulation and fast.

    1. That case is ever uglier because the “tenet” got a refund on most of their first month’s rent already.

      Oh and if ever a case screams for tort reform its this one. The owner is going to spend thousands of dollars to evict the person, thousands in bills while the person is there and recover almost nothing. That’s just plain unfair…

      1. Ummm, no. Neither this case nor the larger tenant/squatters rights issues have anything to do with tort reform, which is primarily concerned with pecuniary loss occasioned by an injury, i.e. medical malpractice limits, attorney fees, etc.

        1. @carverclarkfarrow:disqus I was referring more to the issue of expense that our local news has raised as part of the discussion. Seems silly to me that someone can’t recover their legal expenses in a suit except in very rare cases. Extortion suits (cases where the cost to defend or even get a dismissal exceed the offer) are getting more and more popular here.

          1. Then ignoring the knee-jerk tort reform rant, you raise a valid point. An civil litigation attorney is substantially out of the range of most people. Substantially so. What do you propose?

          2. @carverclarkfarrow:disqus While not politically feasible, I like the European system where the loser in any suit is responsible for both parties legal bills. I think a more feasible solution is that if a case is dismissed prior to trial by a judge’s order (ie a pretrial motion) that the petitioning party is liable for all legal bills.

            Honestly… with the huge number of “you don’t pay us until we win” practices that are out there, I don’t see either proposal making much headway.

          3. The European has a certain challenge with it. Specifically, it protects large corporations. Are you really willing to sue a large corporation knowing that if you lose, you are basically bankrupt? It serves as a huge deterrent to a meritorious lawsuit by an individual plaintiff. I took over a case years later where my client had lost a lawsuit and was required to pay 800k in legal fees to the other side. With interest it exceed $1,000,000.00

            As far as dismissing on judge’s order, there are already numerous means in which a frivolous plaintiff can be made to pay the prevailing defendant’s legal fees. I personally have availed myself of those vehicles myself.

            As far as the “you don’t pay us until we win”, that’s a mixed bag. Its good in that poor litigants would never, ever be able to afford an attorney otherwise. Its bad in that it gives rise to a group of ambulance chasers.

    2. Squatter’s “Rights” need to be addressed by our lawmakers but they’re too busy sniffing each other’s butts…

      That said, I’d be taking matters into my own hands. Like…hello, police? Yes, I just a man unloading a large thing of cash and a bunch of guns into this house….

      Considering the electric bills have quadrupled (according to the owner) I bet it’s a grow house.

      1. I had a squatter once. I rented a room to a guy who was referred by a friend and needed a place to stay for a few days. A few days turned into a few weeks, he still hadn’t paid, his room started to reak, and he started randomly leaving the front door unlocked and breaking stuff, he always appeared to be tripping on something. He kept refusing to leave, so I called the cops and found out taht I can’t just kick him out, I have to go through the eviction process even though he hadn’t paid. I finally got them to send a cop to talk to me, the cop ran the guys record and found out he had a conviction for grand theft and another for stalking. He also had a case pending for stalking. The cop mentioned that while he can’t make him leave, he can sure as heck try to scare him out. The cop pounded on his door and yelled, the guy came out freaked and ran back in. The cop told him he knows what he is doing in there and he will be back in 24 hours looking for him The guy moved out that night. I no longer talk to the friend who refereed him. Also, the cop let me know the horrible smell coming from his room was crack.

        1. Had you known the smell was crack you could have applied for a restraining order. That’s the way to do an end-run around the eviction laws. That only works if you were physically residing on the premises as well.

          1. I wish I had known. Yeah, I was my condo, and I let the guy use a room for a few nights. I did think about a restraining order, but he hadn’t threatened me and I was worried they would make me leave then. I am glad the cop scared him off.

          2. I’m curious. Was the agreement that he pay you or was it just a friend of a friend crashing?

          3. The agreement was that he could stay for a few nights for $20 bucks a night, noting was in writing. My friend vouched for him, which is why we are no longer friends. We were never good friends anyway.

          4. Alas, the exchange of money screwed you. Otherwise, as a guest you could have kicked him out without further problems.

          5. We hadn’t actually exchanged any money yet. He never had the money. The cops said in Denver if they stayed for 1 night they can’t be kicked out without going to court.

          6. The agreement is sufficient. Exchanging money is not sufficient. If he was your guest in the true sense of the work, no tenancy would have been created and you could pretty much do anything.

        2. If you want to read a true horror story about a renter/squatter Google “Sarah the Soulbonder” and “The Final Fantasy 7 House.” And yes, both involved the same crazy people.

          A friend showed me that years ago and I couldn’t stop reading. It was like a trainwreck

    3. I think you are making contradictory statements.
      You say hotels dotcom give more protection to the guest then in the next breath you mention California protects a long term renter of airbnb.

      1. Once a renter is in a place more than 30 days, residential rental laws kick in. Even without payment, the renter is allowed to stay and have access until such time he voluntarily leaves or a sheriffs deputy comes to evict. The eviction process can take months, and the owner can’t accept rent because it implies the continuation of the tenancy.

        There’s a notorious case in Palm Springs right now.

        1. Exactly! That’s why I have no idea what Airbnb has anything to do with that law (in the context that they are a total scam assertion).

    4. Hey Chris Elliott, why do you allow a commenter to call airbnb a total scam without requiring them to provide an iota of evidence to substantiate their claim.
      I wonder who is the real scam?

      1. Nothing with that comment technically violated the comments policy. If you feel something does though please flag the comment so it is sent to us for review.

        1. I think we should be a little careful about using the word scam.
          It is a scam if the LW’s money was stolen because there was a fake listing. There are a lot of scammy OTAs, too. But a dispute about cancellation does not constitute a scam.
          Airbnb KEEPS THE MONEY until the day of arrival so it’s a lot more scam proof compared to VRBO and others.

          One of our functions should be to direct readers to providers that are not scams. So wholesale use of that word makes it harder for us to do our mission. Just my 2 cents.

    5. “total scam”

      I don’t think you understand what those words mean.

      So one/two bad user experience = “total scam”? Gotcha

      I’ve used Airbnb with great success many times, it’s policies are much more balanced in favor of the rental customers and not property owners. It provides secure payments and reviews many of the listings personally (see photos marked with Airbnb Verified). Airbnb is anything but a scam.

  3. I’ve used AirBnB on several occasions for trips of 4 to 6 weeks. I’ve had excellent experiences each time. It’s a great way to “live like a local”, instead of just holing up in the middle of the tourist areas.

    I found the AirBnB website to be 100% crystal clear about the various levels of cancellation. The “homepage” for each listing has a big box with all of the details, including the cancellation policy, in nice big letters. Click on the link, and you get to a page with everything spelled out in plain English, with diagrams and examples and complete details. It really couldn’t be any more clear. If you don’t like the cancellation policy for that specific property, there are usually dozens and dozens of other properties to choose from at a cancellation level that you are comfortable with.

    So while I sympathize with the OP, I don’t see how this is the responsibility of AirBnB. Yes, it would have been nice if the individual property owner had been more accommodating. But that’s not AirBnBs fault.

  4. AirBNB and other such sites really just don’t have much control over the property owners. This is a site and business thats making their money not on providing a direct product or service but simply on bringing people together. To me (and this is just my view) its like renting an apartment with a property owner through facebook, and then when something goes wrong going to facebook to make it right.

    1. Actually Airbnb has control. But they have to be fair to both sides.
      If you read the site, you will find the policies quite reasonable.

    2. Wrong, Facebook does not act as an agent to bring property owners and willing short term tenants together. Facebook does not set up rules and regulations for both parties in a transaction. Facebook offers no guarantees for transactions made through its site. And, most importantly, Facebook does not charge fees for rental transactions.

  5. AirBnB not now not ever
    International trip without trip insurance not now, not ever.

    Combine the two in one case… ugly situation with equal blame…

  6. Well, at least this one wasn’t a scam like VRBO…but I still wouldn’t use this service.

    …especially after the CNN article about the squatters in CA yesterday.

  7. I followed the link to Airbnb’s cancellation policies. Each of the five tabs representing different cancellation scenarios were clearly explained. Since there can be many different types of rentals and agreements, then different cancellation rules are also required.
    Airbnb also provide assistance if the guest is cancelling due to extenuating circumstances. airbnb dot com/help/article/332

    Extenuating Circumstances

    Sometimes extenuating circumstances arise that affect travel plans. In extreme cases, Airbnb may override the host’s cancellation policy (flexible, moderate, strict) and make refund decisions. Such cases will be contingent on proper documentation, where valid, and include:
    Death in the guest’s family
    Serious illness of the guest or a guest’s family member
    Natural disaster in the destination country
    Political unrest in the destination country
    Jury duty or other similar civil obligations

    Just saying you have family health issues is rather vague.
    I suspect you need some certificate from a doctor.

    You may disagree with the policies set by the landlord or by Airbnb, but you also need to understand you entered into a contract.
    I suppose if you have no clue what your health is gonna be for Sept 2014, you should be buying some kind of insurance or adding a special change clause to your rental agreement.
    To expect the landlord to agree to your changes is quite foolish.

    While you are lucky to have gotten Elliott on your side to pressure Airbnb to give you your money back plus some, I think you owe the landlord something.
    And that leaves an unpleasant taste to reading the resolution of your case.

  8. To see for myself, I went to the AirBnB website and tried to book a long-term rental. It was quite clear which cancellation policy applied, as a direct link to the proper policy (from their selection of policies) was right there on the “Request To Book” page. I thought the policy itself was crystal-clear too: “If the guest books a long term stay and decides to cancel the long term agreement before the start date, the first payment is paid to the host in full.”

    There’s no opportunity to “click on the wrong tab” since they send you directly to the correct one.

    1. They know they are wrong. That’s why they used an advocate.
      Again and again, the wrong message is sent to travelers.
      Instead of teaching them to plan and book more intelligently and to reduce the risk by finding the right insurance or negotiating a better out clause upfront, why not just use an advocate to pressure the intermediary with the deepest pocket. That’s why we see so many whiners and over-entitled complainers here. I’d rather be hacking (eh fishing) than entertaining these jokers.

      1. I don’t think its Chris’ job to “send” messages as if the traveling public were children. His job is to help the specific person(s).

        1. It’s the whiners here who are acting like children.
          Oh, and when you publish a book about How to be the World’s Smartest Travel, then that suggests you are teaching something.
          You brought up children to make an intelligent discussion look unworthy. Keep your lawyer tricks away.

          1. Nope. It was direct, and appropriate, response to you comment about sending messages. Trust me, If I were using attorney tricks, I’d do something a bit more sophisticated.

            But to reiterate, Chris isn’t sending messages, that neither his job nor his passion. Chris educations which includes writing books and helping people. Part of that education is to show what not to do.

        1. But why do they agree with these kinds of contracts in the first place.
          There are other listings in airbnb that may have better terms for people who cannot tolerate such high penalty fees.
          While I do not believe landlords are entitled to windfall profits, I don’t think it is also right to change the terms of a contract after both parties have agreed.
          Your LW came out like a bandit, He got ALL his money back plus some freebies. Why should society reward people like him?

        2. Thanks for reviewing this case. It’s highlighted the lack of customer care from Airbnb. We as consumers should definitely be aware of rules, but we also count on consumer advocates to call out unreasonable treatment. Such actions often end up reminding companies that if you make a good faith effort to work things out with your customer, sites like these will be obsolete. I won’t my breath.

  9. We rent a Paris apartment for 3 months each year and have a great landlord and a similar rental agreement. But we have never canceled so not faced a problem.

  10. AirBNB is a Silicon Valley company, yet it claims to have been unaware that in California, a renter who signs up for 30 days or more at one stretchcan not only back out of paying rent but can just keep your house if he wants to. A Palm Springs homeowner has been in the news after being trapped by this one.

    1. Yeah, when I was long-term in CA for three months like eight years ago, the “extended stay” I was in made me settle the bill at 29 days–effectively checking out and checking back in.

      1. Oh wow, my extended stay place let me stay over 30 days, and after 30 days, refunded the taxes from days 1-29 because it was now a lease and not subject to tax.

    2. Futhermore, the original SFGate article mentioned this …

      Tschogl, who works as a rehabilitation therapist for blind and low-vision people, was priced out of the San Francisco housing market, so she bought a one-bedroom condo in a gated Palm Springs community 18 months ago. She visits it often and her father lives nearby.
      She’s rented it occasionally through Airbnb and Flipkey for about a year. The income from guests who paid around $450 a week helped meet her expenses for the mortgage, taxes and insurance.

      So she lives and works in No. Cal but she owns and rents out an apartment condo in So. Cal. That makes her some kind of landlord, right?

      1. I know a lot of landlords who do that. Also vacation home owners. I rented out a condo in Kona. What’s so unusual about it?

  11. Anytime I use homeaway, air b&b, vrbo or sites like these I pay a small deposit with paypal, then when I get to the location pay the balance after I see the place and get the key. I’ve never had any trouble doing it this way. I think it’s way too risky trusting anybody with 100% of the payment before arrival. That’s just silly. When I learned about laws in high school the one statement that always sucks with me is, “buyer beware”

  12. I rented with AirBNB several years ago. It was an awkward situation to say the least, the home owner like hung around and kept coming in and out to “get something she forgot”. It didn’t even occur to me to call AirBNB. My husband and I just chalked it up to, “here’s what we get for renting someones place on Venice Beach directly from the owner” and figured we need to ask alot more questions next time. Next time hasn’t happened yet.

  13. “We are not wealthy people, and we simply cannot afford to lose $3,651.”

    Can’t afford to lose $ 3,651 then 1) purchase travel insurance; 2) book with a hotel chain such as Marriott, SPG; Hilton, etc. where they are more reasonable to deal with (they probably don’t want a hotel room or suite in this case); 3) rent a house from someone that you know (which is very unlikely in this case or in most cases).

    I am sure that there are several people that have rented homes or apartments from these various companies without problems. Personally, we won’t rent a home especially renting an oversea property from a company that probably doesn’t have local representation, different cultures and etc.

    1. You should probably do your research on Airbnb then because they do have people that visit many (not all) of the properties personally and take photos and verify location. Photos taken by Airbnb representatives are clearly marked as “Airbnb Verified.” They also have employees all over the world (doubt me? Look at their jobs tab and select locations).

      1. I am not talking about visiting the site to verify the property…I am talking about maintenance issues.

        There is a difference of visiting a property to verify the location and reporting a maintenance problem (i.e. the plumbing is clogged; the AC isn’t working). For us, it is easy to go to the front desk of the hotel (or call the front desk) and say “the water in the tub isn’t going down” or “the AC isn’t working” and the on-site maintenance employee fixes the problem or moved to another room.

        It could be hard to reach an European owner during the summer IF they are on holiday which is common for a lot of Europeans.

        1. I think your scenario is silly and improbable. If the owner is on holiday, how exactly did you get the keys for your rental? There has to be someone there, or in the area, to assist when you check in and when you check out. In my experience the same person would be there in case there was a problem, also. Every rental I’ve had on Airbnb, the owner was in the area or had a property manager who was there for us every step of the way. One property manager went as far as arranging a cooking class and a tour of the city with a local.
          It’s alright, some people can’t handle minor inconveniences and it’s not for everyone.

          For me, renting a house or apartment is far preferred over a sterile hotel room and having 24 hour room service. I prefer the feeling of community I get from living in a neighborhood, meeting neighbors and locals and not being cocooned in the safety of a hotel.

          1. A lot of communities in our area are cracking down on vacation rentals. Is that something you ask about if the place can be rented legally?

          2. Illegal rentals in SFO and NYC has been a mainstay since you know what. There must be tens of thousands of sublets and illegal room or basement rentals in NYC. That is the NORM here. They city is simply blind or a hypocrite. How many people in NYC (especially a young person) can afford to rent a whole flat by him/herself? My son pays $1500 a month for a room in Brooklyn. You think he is the real tenant?

          3. I don’t live in NYC. We do care out here that zoning rules be enforced. It affects home values and neighborhood tranquility.

          4. My friend in Los Angeles was mailed a key to a vacation rental in Paris. The owner was never seen.

          5. Right, and how common is that? Not very. I’ve stayed at dozens of rental places and they’ve all had someone on site in case something happens. Shelter yourself in a hotel, or stay at home if you don’t want any risk. Travel is about experiencing new things and getting out of your comfort zone. If that isn’t for you stick to cruising.

          6. Doesn’t matter.

            It’s sufficient to show that your statement to Arizona that

            I think your scenario is silly and improbable. If the owner is on holiday, how exactly did you get the keys for your rental?

            is demonstrably false. Both Arizona and I have shown scenarios that answer your question.

            The remainder of that statement is personal to you and has no bearing on anyone else’s travel paradigm.

          7. Her statement was she will never use Airbnb because what happens when something goes wrong and there’s nobody to resolve it. I provided evidence that that was untrue, AWW could simply ask that question of an owner but chooses to write off the entire site because of a misconception. Like I said, some people can’t handle being uncomfortable so perhaps vacation rentals aren’t there thing

          8. “I think your scenario is silly and improbable.”

            The property owner could have a “maintenance man”, a friend or etc. to give you your keys.
            During the past 10 years, I have read articles on this blog about travelers renting a house and the owner was absent and the “maintenance guy” or the “property manager” was not authorized to spend the money to fix the maintenance problem while the OP was staying at the property.

            In Arizona, a property manager needs to have a real estate license as well as other requirements if managing more than one non-owner property; therefore, it is very likely that the property owner of a property rented under Airbnb will have a property manager. I don’t know the property management laws for the other 49 states.
            Under the AZ law, a property manager as well as the tenant is only authorized to spend $300 or an amount equal to one-half of the monthly rent (whichever is greater) to fix a problem without the approval of the property owner IF the property owner doesn’t fix the problem in 10 days after receiving a WRITTEN notice of the problem.

            In the case of essential services such as running water, gas, electric service or air conditioning, the property owner has five (5) days to repair the problems after receiving a WRITTEN notice of the problem.

            Therefore, it is very likely that a repair to a property rented in AZ under Airbnb not to be fixed during a renter’s stay if it is under 10 days.

  14. Anyone who says their policy is “confusing” has never used or looked at the airbnb site. Here is the cancelation page:


    These are written in clear english, with freaking CHARTS in case you have problems with the words. They have, in fact, some of the most easily readable cancelation policies around.

    I suggest those who voted YES to educate themselves.

  15. I use airbnb a lot. I always read each individual listings cancellation policy. They can be very different I’ve noticed. Are you saying that after 30 days that individual listings policy isn’t valid anymore?

    Secondly why in the world did this guy not have travelers cancellation insurance?! It is SO cheap!!!! For any money I paid on travel I can’t afford to lose, this kind of insurance is a no brainer. Just read the fine print as there are different levels of conditions.

    1. Why did he not have travel insurance? When he can whine to Chris and get bailed out, why bother? I really hate this business of leaning on companies to cave in and make settlements they shouldn’t have to make. Buy insurance or take your lumps.

  16. I am a fortunate user of airbnb. I bought an AMTRAK rail pass and traveled to Houston, New Orleans, Wash., DC, NYC/NJ, Boston, and Niagara Falls. with no, zero, nada problems with my airbnb reservations in those cities. I got tired of sleeping sitting up on AMTRAK and cancelled the remainder of my trip to Chicago, Denver, SLC and Reno. I got refunded on all except Chicago(less than 24 hours).

  17. I am reading more and more issues with Airbnb, from fraudulent rentals to one where the renter refuses to leave the owners property.

    Why would someone use Airbnb when there are legitimate companies that do apartment rentals that you at least have the backing of the USTOA on?

    A travel agent can find these for you -we are seeing more and more access to things like this.

    1. There are many issues with Airbnb and we are dealing with one in our neighborhood. For one, we are not zoned for a business, which renting by the night is. Second, taxes are not being collected. Third, added noise and traffic can be an issue.

      1. OTOH there are also positives.
        It helps people pay their mortgage and other expenses.
        It adds “hotel” rooms to crowded tourist areas increasing supply and lowering overall travel expenses for tourists.
        People are able to rent places with kitchens, laundry rooms, etc. They can go to market and cook.
        Overall the benefits from Airbnb greatly outweigh the negatives, imo.
        I think they are a positive contributor to society.

        1. Our county requires a permit as there have been many problems with vacation rentals. One a year or two ago, had the deck collapse as the renter had a party when only one person was suppose to be in the unit. Too many people on the deck that wasn’t built with a permit. We are in a drought and renting these places means more people than own the house, so with wells, it takes from the ground water. Then there are the septic issues. Weekend renters often let their hair down and are noisy late into the night. We don’t have noise ordinances in the county but in the city they do. Homeowner associations don’t allow for these type of rentals. I could go on with the negatives, which IMHO are more than the positives. Oh and don’t get me on visitors who bring their dogs and let them loose to ‘experience’ freedom of running.

          1. Try contacting Airbnb and telling them not to list the house in question. They’ll tell you they’re just a meeting place for renters/owners.

        2. AS long as you find a legit rental it is. But the scammers are learning more and more how to play this system. If you can’t make your payment with a credit card to have some form of protection, don’t rent.

  18. ALL contracts are not understandable. They are written by attorneys and even attorneys and judges don’t understand them – that’s why we have a court system. IF you can even go to court because most have arbitration rules in them. And, even if you have the “law” on your side, its a crapshoot when you go to court. And, win or lose, you STILL pay attorneys fees. Only ones who win – the attorneys!

    1. Agreed. That’s why I caution my clients to be very certain that they want to litigate. I often explain to them that the attorneys will be the only certain winners.

    2. Okay. Let’s settle down a bit. Here a customer has a problem because he didn’t understand a contract and asks an attorney for help. A business may be challenged by a customer and may ask an attorney to defend it against a claim. And somehow the attorneys are at fault? I know it’s convenient to blame all attorneys, but I fail to understand how they have any fault here….

  19. I think all travellers can imagine themselves in this position. It’s deplorable; “businesses” take your money and couldn’t care less, as Daniel describes. This happened to me the first time years ago when I bought an HP laptop. HP took my money and said “too bad if you have questions, we don’t care”. I usually tell that story with different language, but this is a family forum. So that’s the way it is these days, and the consumer HAS to get with it. If you’re going to fork over several thousand dollars, for gonnessake READ the information given you. If it’s too complicated or you don’t understand it, don’t give them your money. Three cheers for Chris!!

  20. r u stupid ? what part of ……

    No refund means no refund

    don’t you understand ?

    You should have taken out travel insurance.

    Getting really sick of these bleeding heart stories.

    Yes all these companies should set up a ….



  21. Since I don’t consider myself on vacation if I have to cook a meal or make a bed, these types of rentals don’t appeal to me. But a friend and her husband have used AirBnB many times with no problems. Considering the horror stories I’ve seen here and on other travel blogs, I think she’s been incredibly lucky!

  22. The terms of Airbnb are pretty clear. Customer should have purchased travel insurance. Which is also suggested by the site.

  23. How can you afford a trip to Paris and a $3,600 a month apartment, but “simply can’t afford to lose $3,600”? Also, as an AirBnB user, both host and guest, the cancellation policies couldn’t be clearer. However, I do wish AirBnB had a policy between “moderate” and “strict.” My rental is set at strict (b/c I think a full refund up until 5 days before the reservation places is too much of a risk), but I also think it’s a bit too harsh and find myself often refunding guests well beyond the requirements of the policy and know I am being a lot nicer than many hosts. If there was a policy that suited my needs/risk profile, then I could just stick by it.

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