Help! I’m locked out of my Airbnb account after I spilled food on my host’s sofa

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By Christopher Elliott

When River Roberts accidentally spills food on his host’s sofa, he’s locked out of his Airbnb account. Will he ever be able to book another rental on Airbnb?


I stayed at an Airbnb in the United States recently. While I was there, I spilled food on the sofa. I talked to the host and he said he would file a claim through Airbnb’s insurance.

I heard back from Airbnb and it said that after a review of the available information on my Airbnb account and reservation, it had determined that my account should be removed from the Airbnb platform. The reason? “You haven’t followed our ground rules for guests,” it said.

I have 10 years of positive reviews.  I am also an Airbnb host, so this affects my ability to earn money.

Can you help me get Airbnb to reverse its ban? — River Roberts, Lisbon, Portugal


Locking you out of your Airbnb account for an accidental spill on a host’s sofa seems like an overreaction.

So what’s going on? I reviewed the correspondence between you and Airbnb, and it looks like your communications with the host were cordial. You’d spilled food on a sofa and it needed to be professionally cleaned. It looks like your host had never filed a claim with Airbnb before your mishap and didn’t fully understand how seriously a claim would be taken by the platform. 

I didn’t know, either. But filing a claim against your insurance (part of the company’s AirCover for Hosts program) apparently is taken quite seriously. One of the possible outcomes, as you now know, is that you can get removed from the platform.

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What are Airbnb’s rules for guests?

Did you violate Airbnb’s ground rules for guests? Technically, yes.

Airbnb requires you to keep a rental clean, litter-free and undamaged. “Guests should not leave the listing in a state that requires excessive or deep cleaning (moldy dishes, soiled carpets, stains from pets, etc.),” it says. 

But you did follow Airbnb’s guidance when it comes to damage. Airbnb requires that if there’s damage to the home, you inform the host as soon as possible and work to find “a reasonable solution.” Based on the correspondence between you and the host, it looks like you were agreeable to paying for the damage. (Related: I’ve been banned by Airbnb, but no one will tell me why.)

So what happened? I suspect Airbnb used some kind of artificial intelligence to review the complaint and decide how to handle it. Because a person would have never banned you from the platform. The correspondence between you and the host shows that you were cooperative.

What can get you locked out of your Airbnb account for real?

There are plenty of other ways you can get permanently locked out of your Airbnb account. They include:

Failing a background check

You may have heard that Airbnb conducts background checks on guests. But what you might not know is that even being associated with someone who has a criminal record is enough to get you banned.

Doing something bad

Conviction of a violent crime or human traffic can get you banned. Also, having an address in Russia. I’m not kidding.

Having a party

Airbnb has a permanent party ban. Violate it and you could be blacklisted. Our team hasn’t had a case involving someone who was banned for partying too hard, but I’m sure it will happen soon enough.

Violating its terms

Airbnb’s rules require you to treat your home respectfully and keep it clean. If you don’t, you could be off the platform. (Here’s our guide to renting a vacation home.)

It’s best to review Airbnb’s terms before you make a reservation. If you have any questions, ask your host before you arrive. You don’t want to get broadsided by a ban.

How to get Airbnb to unlock your account

An appeal to one of the executives at Airbnb might have made a difference. I publish their names and numbers on this site. But this case would take more than an appeal to get resolved.

You reached out to the host and had a conversation with him, host to host. You explained that after your host filed a claim, Airbnb had banned you and disabled your hosting account, so you are completely off the platform. The host was surprised and agreed with you that banning you was an overreaction. He decided to write to Airbnb on your behalf, asking for you to be reinstated.

You reached out to my advocacy team for help. I contacted Airbnb separately. I was genuinely worried that the same thing could happen to me if I had an accidental spill on a sofa while staying at an Airbnb.

The company reviewed your request and sent you some good news: “After careful review of all documentation and related communication provided by both parties, we’ve decided not to charge you for the damage that occurred during your stay. I have also reactivated your Airbnb account, you should have access to it immediately,” a representative wrote. (This time, it definitely came from a real person.)

I hope if the tables are ever turned and someone spills something on a sofa in your Airbnb rental, that you will remember this incident and try to work it out without getting AirCover involved. Otherwise, I will have another case on my hands. 

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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.

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