I’m freezing! Can you help me get out of this cold Airbnb?

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By Christopher Elliott

Heather Steele is stuck in a cold Airbnb, and her host refuses to help her. Can she move to a different rental?

Question

You have helped me before, and I am so grateful, but I need help again, unfortunately. I am currently in an Airbnb near Washington, D.C. I’m in the basement, and it’s 63 degrees.

I have no control over the temperature. The host controls it upstairs, and I am freezing. The host forbids me from opening any windows to let in the warm air, and I am so cold, I feel like it’s some sort of torture. So the host taped up some of the air conditioning ducts in the basement, which initially helped. But tonight, when I came back to the rental, the air conditioning was blasting again and even with multiple jackets and blankets, I am miserable.

I called Airbnb customer service tonight and the initial representative said he would escalate this and thought due to health/safety concerns I could be moved immediately to a hotel. But when he transferred me to another support representative via the app, they stopped responding. Can you help? — Heather Steele, Manchester, Conn.

Answer

I’m always happy to help you, Heather. This is a rare case because I handled it in real time and there wasn’t really an opportunity to create the customary paper trail.

The problem is simple: Your host wanted you to live in a freezing cold basement, and Airbnb — true to form — wanted you to work it out with the host. But when you’re sitting in a basement and freezing, you can only be so patient.

I think your host’s demand to leave the windows closed was unreasonable. It may have kept the upper floors cool, but you were cold and there was no way of regulating the temperature in your quarters.

Is there any way out of this cold Airbnb?

By the time you contacted me, you already had a record of your correspondence with Airbnb via its chat. And the news was not good.

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Airbnb’s representatives were apologetic, but they assured you that they had spoken to the host and that she had addressed your problem. 

“It seems you are still feeling cold,” the Airbnb representative said.

In the next message, Airbnb says it will try to help you tomorrow, which is completely unacceptable. 

Airbnb has a guarantee called AirCover which addresses problems like this. “AirCover protects you from many issues that might come up during your stay – such as the heating not working in winter,” the company says. That would presumably also cover air conditioning during the warmer months. (Related: A refund in process, but should we get involved?)

I’m sure Airbnb would have eventually found a way of making your stay comfortable. But when? By the time I got involved, it had already asked you to spend a night in a freezing basement. Then, to add insult to injury, Airbnb messaged you to say that your problem would not be covered by AirCover and that if you canceled, you would not get a refund. “This means any refund issued is solely up to the host,” a representative said.

Come on!

A brief, polite email to one of the Airbnb executives I list on this site might have helped. But you needed a solution now.

You contacted my advocacy team, and I reached out to Airbnb on your behalf. A representative contacted you to apologize for the problem. The company refunded the unused nights and offered to cover two nights in a hotel, which you accepted.

About this story

This is a highly unusual case because Airbnb resolved it in real time. Most of our problems take months — even years — to mediate. There are few things worse than being stuck in a freezing cold basement (OK, maybe rodents in the rental). I credit my team for quickly flagging this one and bringing it to Airbnb’s attention. This story was researched, written and fact-checked by Christopher Elliott, edited by Andy Smith and his team and illustrated by Dustin Elliott.

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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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