This traveler accidentally booked an illegal Airbnb

What happens if you book an illegal Airbnb?

What if you traveled half-way around the world only to find the Airbnb rental you booked is likely illegal? That’s the situation that recently confronted Alex Tarce when he tried to check into his Tokyo rental. The host asked him to sneak in behind the doorman’s back and he refused.  

Now Tarce wants a refund. Can we help?


When I arrived at our Airbnb rental in Tokyo, the security staff stopped us from entering the property and showed us a posted notification that short-stay rentals are prohibited. This is an illegal Airbnb rental.

We took photos of the signage and property as proof. We immediately contacted the Airbnb host. The host suggested that we “trespass” or sneak into the building after the security staff leaves at 5 p.m. We informed them that we will not conduct a criminal act of trespassing just so we can get into this accommodation.

After several hours of waiting for the Airbnb host or Airbnb customer service to provide us some direction, it was getting dark and cold out on the streets. So we opted to book a hotel property, Intercontinental, that would accept three persons in a room. We ended having to pay hotel rack rates of $672 for the two nights. We had limited Wi-Fi access in Japan, so we informed the Airbnb case manager(s) that we will call them as soon as we get back to Los Angeles.

Ever since we returned to the U.S., we’ve been passed on to several Airbnb case managers. We have received no fair resolution except a refund of the original booking of $188 for this illegal rental. This is unacceptable to us.

We are seeking a fair resolution by asking Airbnb to pay for the unexpected hotel expense of $672. This expense was caused by Airbnb offering an illegal Tokyo rental property that they did not inspect or vet out before renting to unsuspecting guests. Can you get Airbnb to take a closer look at my complaint? — Alex Tarce, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.


It goes without saying that you should never be asked to sneak into a rental property. And you were correct to reject the host’s recommendation to circumvent the security guard.

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The suggestion that you could surreptitiously access the unit was a bit preposterous. Even if you could successfully get into the apartment, you would then have no ability to come and go as you please.

Refusing to sneak into this forbidden Airbnb rental

Who wants to be a squatter on their paid-for vacation? Not you.

Unfortunately, you aren’t the first traveler to contact Elliott Advocacy after finding themselves in this type of unpleasant situation.

In your case, the host was incorrect to ask you to try to dodge the security guard,  but Airbnb didn’t do much better. You needed a place to stay — ASAP. But as the sun went down, you were left shivering on the streets of Tokyo.

Perhaps because of the time zone differential, there was a long lag between when you first let Airbnb know of your predicament and when a representative began to try to find you an alternative place to stay.

It’s no wonder you finally gave up and went to a local InterContinental. However, the rate that you were offered as a walkup was almost four times what you had intended to spend on accommodations in Tokyo.

Understandably, you wanted Airbnb to cover the difference between the two rates.

I reviewed your paper trail and could see that the host had indeed told you that you should try to covertly enter the property during the security guards’ shift change at 5 p.m.

You weren’t interested in participating in such shenanigans and told the host so. He apologized and immediately approved a refund within the Airbnb resolution center.

You appreciated the quick return of your funds, but it was not an acceptable resolution to the problem that this host had created.

What you wanted was a refund of the $672 that you would not have been forced to pay, if not for this host’s illegitimate listing.

Was the host aware that this was an illegal Airbnb rental? 

There is little chance that this host was unaware of the prohibition on short-term rentals in that building. The signs, evidenced by the photographs that you forwarded to Airbnb and to our advocacy team, show the property management’s firm stance against “foreigners” using the property as a hotel. The signs, posted in multiple locations and in multiple languages, read:

The use of the building as a similar accommodation is forbidden. ATTENTION: This apartment is prohibited to use as a hotel for the short stay foreigner. Union Organization banned

The notice on the wall of this Airbnb rental shows that it is forbidden.
These notices make it clear that this is an illegal Airbnb rental

A fabulous resolution for your birthday

I contacted the resolution team at Airbnb and described your ordeal in Tokyo. The team quickly offered you a resolution that went above and beyond your expectations (and mine).

Not only is Airbnb covering the full cost of the InterContinental, but it is also providing you with a $200 future stay voucher and you get to keep the refund from the host to boot. Lastly, you received an apology and an assurance that this illegal Airbnb property will be removed from the Airbnb site.

So why were you gifted with such a fabulous outcome? Our Airbnb executive contact told me that his team had discovered that this trip was meant to celebrate your birthday and they felt that Airbnb had really let you down on your special day.

This resolution has taken the sting out of your unpleasant experience in Tokyo. Happy Birthday!

What to do if you find yourself with Airbnb problems

  • Contact the Airbnb resolution Center immediately: It’s imperative that you promptly involve the Airbnb resolution center as soon as you’ve detected a problem with your rental. This protocol is part of your contract with Airbnb. Downloading the Airbnb app to your phone will make this step simple.
  • Take photos of any irregularity: Remember, a picture speaks a thousand words. Photograph any problems with your rental before you leave the property.
  • Keep all receipts: Should it be necessary to find alternative accommodations, make sure to keep your itemized receipts. You’ll need that detailed invoice to support your case later.

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