Eek! There’s a mouse in my Airbnb. Can I get a refund?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Kristal Bird finds a mouse in her Airbnb, she asks the host for a refund. But is that allowed?

Question

I rented an Airbnb in Houston for a summer internship. About halfway through our 10-week stay, my husband and I saw a mouse. Then we discovered the mouse holes in sealed food bags in the pantry. 

We left the rental and contacted the host. We requested that he lay some mouse traps and disinfect the unit. We told him we would stay out of the unit for four days for him to do this. 

He responded that no one else had reported any issues. I again requested him to lay mouse traps, and he said the place was under a Terminix contract and they would spray. 

I escalated the issue to Airbnb. A representative said the host informed them he took care of the issue. He told me he did a walkthrough and everything was as it was before. 

Airbnb told me that based on my evidence — I didn’t have any pictures of the mouse — they couldn’t refund me any amount. If I canceled, I would receive no refund. 

I asked if they wanted me to return to the Airbnb to take better pictures and lay mouse traps. They said if I wanted support that is what I would need to do. 

So I did. I caught two mice on the first night of laying the glue traps. We also had bait boxes, so I imagine more mice ate that bait and will die in the vents. 

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

I sent photos to Airbnb. It didn’t respond. I called Airbnb. A representative promised a return call, but no one called back. I expect much more from Airbnb. Can you help me get a refund?  — Kristal Bird, Austin, Texas

Answer

Airbnb rentals should be free of mice and other pests. And both your host and Airbnb should have taken your complaint seriously. Telling you the place was under contract by a pest control company isn’t the same thing as actually doing something about it.

According to Airbnb’s terms, a rental is “not habitable” if it contains pests. Airbnb’s policy is to delist the home until the host can prove it has been treated by a professional pest control company. (Here’s a dispute: A reader insists a Terminix technician never visited her home, but Terminix’s records tell a different story.)

At the same time, Airbnb was correct to require proof of the rodent infestation. You had presented it with photos of mouse droppings and bags that the mice had chewed through, but that wasn’t enough. You needed mice — and to your credit, you furnished Airbnb with two of them. (Related: Who’s really responsible for this crazy Airbnb theft?)

Airbnb should have found you alternate accommodations and paid for them while the home was being treated. I think you might have also made a strong argument for moving to a different rental for the duration of your stay. I have more tips on how to deal with a rodent infestation in my story about how to deal with mice in an Airbnb or Vrbo rental.

I would have suggested escalating this case to an Airbnb executive. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Airbnb’s managers on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

My advocacy team and I contacted Airbnb on your behalf. It apologized and refunded your remaining nights.

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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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