The vast majority of Airbnb rentals go smoothly, but do you know what to do when they don’t? What happens if your host cancels your booking two days before you arrive, or the spacious bedroom shown in a listing turns out to be the size of a closet?
Airbnb problems like these don’t have to ruin your trip. Below we explain how to resolve seven common Airbnb issues, from lost keys to illegal listings.
An important note: These problems aren’t unique to Airbnb, which is one of countless vacation rental sites on the web. However, each site has its own unique policies, so we recommend reading the terms and conditions carefully if you encounter any of the following problems when booking a rental through a different company.
The place isn’t what I expected.
Maybe your host forgot to mention that she owned two cats, leaving you sneezing throughout your stay. Or he optimistically described his neighborhood as “up and coming” when it was actually half a block from a seedy red light district.
If you show up to your rental and find that it isn’t what was advertised, reach out to your host to see if it’s something that he or she can resolve. If it isn’t, and you don’t feel that you can continue your stay, you might be eligible for a refund from Airbnb as long as you contact the company within 24 hours of check-in. Take photos to support your claim and be sure to use Airbnb’s messaging function to notify the host of the issue (so the company has documentation that you and the host have discussed the problem).
Claims that are eligible for refunds generally fall into one of the following categories, according to the company’s Guest Refund Policy:
– The host fails to provide reasonable access to the booked listing.
– The listing booked is misrepresented (ex: number of bedrooms, location, lacks promised amenities).
– The listing isn’t generally clean, is unsafe, or there’s an animal in the listing that wasn’t disclosed prior to booking.
You’ll either receive a full refund or be placed into another Airbnb property comparable to the one you originally booked.
Something isn’t working during my stay.
If the dishwasher goes on the fritz or you can’t get the Wi-Fi to work, contact your host directly to get it fixed or arrange for a partial refund. If the host doesn’t respond or isn’t able to resolve the issue within 72 hours, you can ask Airbnb to step in and mediate.
Unhappy with the final resolution? Share your experience in a review after your stay. Will it help solve your problem? No, but it may help future guests avoid a similar headache.
I don’t like my host (or another guest).
This might not affect you if you’re renting an entire house and never see your host except to pick up your keys—but if you’re staying in someone’s spare room, the close quarters can magnify even small personality conflicts. (See Toilet Paper Tussle at the Airbnb: How I Survived a Homestay for an example of how things can go wrong.)
Some of these problems can be avoided with a little advance research and communication. Read reviews from previous guests to see what they say about the host. Then read the host’s profile thoroughly and reach out to him or her to ask questions about the listing before you book. Does the host respond quickly and in a friendly tone? You can’t tell everything about a person from a few messages, but you can at least watch out for red flags (such as rudeness or a lack of response altogether).
If conflicts come up during your stay that you can’t resolve, you can reach out to Airbnb for help mediating. Keep in mind, though, that there’s not much the company can do if the issue comes down to “I just don’t like this guy.” In these cases, your best recourse is to minimize contact (most hosts will respect a closed door) and to have a backup plan (such as an inexpensive nearby hotel where you can go if your Airbnb stay becomes unbearable).
I’m not sure if my rental is legal.
Airbnb has made headlines for legal challenges in cities like Paris, New York, and San Francisco. So how do you know if your rental falls afoul of the law?
It’s almost always okay to rent someone’s spare room if your host is present during your stay. What’s not legal in many cities is renting out an entire apartment on a short-term basis. (This is because cities are trying to preserve the availability of longer-term housing for local residents.)
As a guest, you’re unlikely to be penalized if you stay in an illegal rental. But while the host will take any legal heat, you could be turned out of your rental if the place is raided during your stay. Before you book, do a quick Google search to see what the local laws are in the destination where you’re considering renting. For more tips, see Airbnb and Beyond: Tips for Safe, Legal Vacation Rentals.
The host canceled my reservation at the last minute.
If your host’s plans change, you could be left scrambling for a place to stay just a few days before your trip. Once the host cancels your reservation, Airbnb will let you apply your payment to a new place to stay or give you a full refund. (According to the Airbnb site, you must log into your account from a computer, not a mobile device, to request a refund.)
The Hotel Tonight app can help you book last-minute hotels if you’re unable to find another Airbnb rental that you like.
I lost my key (or locked myself out).
Call or text your host as soon as you realize that you can’t access the property. Most experienced hosts will have a spare key readily available, though if they’re at work or otherwise occupied they might not be able to get it to you right away. Note that the cost of a new key and/or changing the locks may come out of your security deposit (if your host charges one).
The host wrote me a bad review.
Airbnb is unique in that it allows both guests and hosts to write reviews of each other after a stay. If you disagree with what the host says about you, you can share your side of the story in a response that will be posted publicly under the host’s review. Note that you have 30 days to respond to a review.
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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.