It was the “biggest roach I’ve seen in my life” Should Airbnb refund her stay?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Maulah Halley finds an enormous roach in her Airbnb rental, she checks out and asks for a refund. Airbnb offers to refund her cleaning fees. Can she get her $614 back?

Question

I reserved an Airbnb rental in Tallahassee, Fla., recently. A few hours after I arrived, I was in the kitchen and saw the biggest roach I’ve ever seen in my life.

There was no bug spray, and my boyfriend couldn’t kill it. It ran under the island. I didn’t feel safe and was afraid the roaches would get into my things.

The host offered me a different rental, but I didn’t hear from her for four hours. We left the rental and checked into a hotel.

I contacted Airbnb, which offered to refund the cleaning fee. I’ve requested to speak with a supervisor and sent a complaint to the BBB. A supervisor contacted me four days ago to set up a time to talk, and I replied with my availability. No one has contacted me. It seems almost impossible to speak to someone to resolve this issue. I’d like to get a refund of the $614 I spent on the rental. Can you help? — Maulah Halley, Brooklyn Park, Minn.

Answer

Do you deserve a full refund for discovering a roach in your Florida rental? I’m not sure. But I’m concerned you were having trouble connecting with someone at Airbnb. And I also wanted to know how big the roach was. So I decided to take your case.

You sent me a picture. It was very big.

I remember encountering one of those bugs when I stayed at a hostel in New Orleans during the 1980s. I smacked it hard with a shoe, and it just scurried away, unfazed. Scary. (Related: What to do if you find roaches in your Airbnb rental.)

Southwest Airlines is dedicated to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to providing our employees with a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

But as your host noted in the email correspondence with you, cockroaches — or palmetto bugs — are common in northern Florida. It doesn’t necessarily mean the entire rental is infested or that you’ll ever see one again. (Here’s what you need to know before renting your next vacation home.) 

You did the right thing by contacting the host and Airbnb immediately. You might have given the host an opportunity to treat the living areas with insecticide. But Airbnb’s refund policy specifically covers accommodations that contain safety or health hazards or pests. You might have argued that a cockroach — sorry, palmetto bug — was both a health hazard and a pest. (Related: Can I get my Airbnb cleaning fees refunded for this dirty rental?)

The key to fixing this was to find Airbnb’s refund policy and hold the company to it. Airbnb would then find you alternate accommodations. Airbnb just bounced you back to the host instead of allowing you to invoke its refund policy. I think a brief, polite email to one of the Airbnb executive contacts I list on my consumer advocacy site Elliott.org might have helped move things along. 

I contacted Airbnb on your behalf. A representative called you and offered half your money back. You said no. Airbnb then offered a full refund, which you accepted.

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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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