What to do if you find roaches in your Airbnb rental

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By Christopher Elliott

Dustin Baltis thought he knew what to do when he found a roach in his Airbnb rental in Austin. He called the owner and contacted Airbnb — and finally vacated the property.

But now Baltis is stuck with a charge for his rental — plus a hotel bill — and no one will help him. And he’s wondering: Does Airbnb cover guests when they find insects in their vacation rental? And if so, how can he get Airbnb to help him?

Baltis’ case, which left our advocacy team with a case of the creepy-crawlies, raised a few interesting questions:

  • What should you do if you find a cockroach in your Airbnb rental?
  • Will Airbnb refund me for cockroaches?
  • Will Airbnb cover my expenses if I have to leave a rental?

First, let’s see some insects!

(Insects are not actual size.)

“We found two roaches”

Baltis had booked an 11-day stay at a rental in Austin.

“On my second day, I discovered roaches,” he says. Actually, his wife discovered them — one dead, one alive. And she has a little bit of an insect phobia.

Here’s the text message he sent to the owner.

Allianz Travel Insurance has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

The owner was responsive and apologetic.

That morning, Bobby showed up to spray the property. 

“But that afternoon, a roach ran across the table while I was sitting there,” says Baltis. Actually, he told his host that the roach ran over his hand, which is a little unsettling.

Baltis, who is from Texas and knows that there can be bugs in a place like Austin, says he could handle an occasional insect. But his wife would have none of it. (Related: It was the “biggest roach I’ve seen in my life” Should Airbnb refund her stay?)

“That was the end of the line,” he says.

Will Airbnb refund this rental?

Baltis, who has been an Airbnb customer for a decade, immediately reached out to the rental platform. He also contacted the owner to let him know he had left.

The owner’s response seemed professional and accommodating at first glance.

But reading in context, it’s clear that the intent behind the message is less than accommodating. Bobby was not pleased that his guest had gone over his head to Airbnb. And he’d be sticking to his cancellation policy, which meant he would not be giving Bobby a refund.

Baltis didn’t have any more luck with Airbnb. A representative told him that Airbnb’s AirCover didn’t apply to a situation like this. The best it could offer was a 10 percent refund of his first night’s visit, which came to just $7.

Now Baltis was on the hook for the cost of the rental and a new hotel. Not a good place to be. (Related: No air conditioning in my rental. Does Airbnb’s refund policy apply?)

“This is unacceptable,” he said. “My wife is stressed, I keep getting the runaround. I want a full refund. Can you help me?”

What should you do if you find a cockroach in your Airbnb rental?

If you find a roach or another insect in your Airbnb, contact your host immediately. Chances are, the owner will have a contingency plan in place to deal with an insect problem. The host can call an exterminator or stop by the home and treat it themselves.

Note: Insects are quite common in parts of the United States, so finding a roach or ants in your Airbnb doesn’t necessarily mean your host is negligent. However, you also have a right to an insect-free home, and your host should be sensitive to your needs.

There’s considerable debate among guests and hosts about the correct response to an insect sighting. If you’re in a place where insects are very common, like Florida or the Caribbean, it may not be entirely realistic to expect an insect-free stay. And there are degrees of infestation. For example, a kitchen overrun with ants is a clear sign that the owner has failed to treat the kitchen. A lone ladybug, on the other hand, may be nothing to get excited about.

Does Airbnb’s AirCover cover cockroaches?

Airbnb’s AirCover guarantee may cover cockroach infestations.

AirCover is a product warranty that applies to serious issues with your booking. For example, if your host cancels your reservation within a month of your scheduled check in, or the home is not as advertised. It would not apply to a minor inconvenience, like a broken microwave oven.

Airbnb specifically mentions safety in its AirCover guarantee. It says if you ever feel unsafe, it promises to get you “priority access” to specially trained safety agents who will assist you with your safety issues or directly connect you to local emergency authorities.

But as with all warranties, AirCover is vague and subject to interpretation. You could show a photo of a dead cockroach to an Airbnb agent via chat, and they could turn you down. Which is what happened to Baltis. 

Our team has dealt with several types of insect and rodent infestations (most recently, a mouse problem and a chipmunk infestation.) As far as we can tell, vacation rental platforms like Vrbo and Airbnb will not allow you to invoke their guarantees until you have solid evidence of a widespread problem with pests. One bug won’t do it.

Among hosts, this is a fiercely debated topic. The best hosts agree with the one-bug (or one-mouse) rule. But others say they have no control over pests and that they should not have to refund a penny. You can follow the entire debate on the Airbnb forums.

How do you report a problem with roaches in your Airbnb rental?

Your first point of contact is your host — not Airbnb. If you find insects in your rental, contact the owner or manager right away. You can message your host directly from your inbox on the Airbnb site.

If that doesn’t work, you have to escalate your case through the Airbnb system. You’ll want to contact Airbnb by tapping on your messages and clicking “I need help from Airbnb.” 

(This screenshot is from my recent Airbnb stay in Santiago, Chile. Fortunately, I didn’t have to use it.)

And if Airbnb can’t help? Well, I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the Airbnb executives on this site. Send them a brief, polite email and enclose screenshots of your correspondence with Airbnb’s support.

If that doesn’t do the trick, you can always reach out to my advocacy team. We’re here for you 24/7 and as you can probably guess, we don’t take too kindly to our readers being ignored.

NOTE: Make sure you have plenty of compelling evidence of the problem. Take photos, videos, and notes. If you have expenses, hold on to your receipts. You will need these if you are to build a convincing case. 

Will Airbnb cover my expenses if I have to leave a rental because of cockroaches?

If you have a valid claim under AirCover, Airbnb will pay your expenses. But it may not pay for everything.

Airbnb’s guarantee is vague. It only promises to “review” your AirCover case. “If we find it’s an issue that’s supported by AirCover for guests and you’d like to leave the place, we’ll help you find a similar place to stay, depending on availability at comparable pricing. If a similar place isn’t available or you’d prefer not to rebook, we’ll give you a full or partial refund.”

Well, the lawyers sure had fun writing that one!

As a practical matter, our team has seen Airbnb refund an entire stay. It has also covered the cost of a new rental or of a hotel, depending on availability. (Here’s our guide to renting a home.)

I personally invoked the AirCover guarantee when my host in Bali decided to sell his home two weeks before my arrival. All of the comparable homes were out of my price range. Airbnb offered me a voucher to cover the price difference. It was a very generous voucher that allowed me to afford a terrific place near the beach.

The most important takeaway when it comes to AirCover is that it’s not a guarantee; it’s a negotiation. 

AirCover means “We’ve got your back.” If you can make a strong case that Airbnb should do more, I’ve found the agents are pretty receptive. But you have to get on the same page, which, for Baltis, was showing the Airbnb agents compelling evidence of an infestation.

Will Airbnb help this guest with a roach problem?

We’ve already established that Airbnb’s AirCover guarantee should cover a cockroach infestation, but probably not a single sighting. We’ve also seen how Airbnb can cover all your expenses if you have an airtight case and don’t mind negotiating a little.

So how about Baltis’ buggy vacation rental?

This was a borderline case. 

Baltis saw one dead roach and one still moving. After the treatment, he encountered another one. Is that an infestation? I think that’s debatable. 

But the host’s reaction was less than ideal, too. Instead of offering to treat the home again or apologizing and offering to make it right, it looks like he told Baltis to stick it. 

I contacted Airbnb on Baltis’ behalf. Separately, I urged Baltis to contact the Airbnb executives, and he did.

A few days later, I got an update from him.

“All has been resolved,” he said. “They refunded me the days that I wasn’t at the place and have covered my hotel for one night. I couldn’t be happier, and I also hope I don’t have to go through this again. I truly appreciate your help and your work and information on your website.”

When should Airbnb's AirCover guarantee apply?

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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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