Airbnb question - what if the host is incommunicado for check-in?

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Apr 30, 2018
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#1
I had booked a 4-day stay in Valencia, Spain, for myself and 3 friends in January 2018. When I booked the apartment back in September 2017, the host asked for our flight information (we were flying in from Bilbao), which I provided. The day before checking into the apartment, I messaged the host to confirm but received no response. The morning of the day we were to check-in, I learned our flight was delayed for several hours (departure time kept changing) so I contacted the host again to let him know, but again, received no response whatsoever. I'd messaged him via Airbnb, texted the cell number provided back in September, and both called and texted the cell number on the Airbnb listing. I finally contacted Airbnb, who apparently also couldn't reach the host and ended up setting a 4-hour deadline for him to get back to me.

Please note that during this trip, we had booked four other Airbnbs and didn't have any problems with getting in touch with any of the hosts.

We arrived in Valencia and the only message I had was from Airbnb indicating that my 'inquiry' has been forwarded to another "member on the team who can better assist [me]". As it was dark and we were in a new city, my friends and I camped out in a cafe hoping to hear from the host and also to find a hotel we could stay at. We didn't feel it was necessary to continue to try contacting the host as Airbnb has specifically "set a 4-hour deadline for him to respond to [me]".

Two hours later (after we landed in Valencia, close to the 4-hour deadline Airbnb had set), we were in the lobby of a hotel having just checked in - at literally the 4-hour deadline - when I received a call saying they'd been waiting at the apartment (I told them we had just checked into a hotel because we hadn't heard from them, to which they replied that they'd been waiting for us for hours). Airbnb and I exchanged more messages the next day, whereby I was told the host was still able to accommodate our reservation. My friends and I had serious doubts about staying with the host at this point, who said they waited at the apartment for hours (unbeknownst to us) and texted me this next day as if nothing had happened (actual text exchange on the day after we arrived: "Are you landed yet? You take a taxi or the metro? I have to know, thank you, see you"). As I pointed out to Airbnb, either they lied and were 90 minutes late (assuming they were operating on the same timeline as our original flight time), or they received my messages and simply couldn't be bothered to acknowledge any of them. And what was up with this text exchange on day two? At this point, we didn't feel comfortable staying with this host (who'd offered screenshots of our "correspondence", which even our Airbnb rep indicated could have been doctored) because who knows what else could happen?

My main point in this message is - what are a renter's rights when the Airbnb host has disappeared? Was I supposed to quietly wait until I'd heard back? By the time Airbnb told me (on day two) that we could check into the apartment, my friends and I were already committed to a second night at the hotel. Could I reasonably ask for a 50% refund on the apartment? I did contact the execs listed on elliott.org website and was refunded the Airbnb service and cleaning fees, but none of the 4 nights stay.

Mainly, though, I want to know what I should do in the future if this were to happen again? At this point, I don't plan to use Airbnb ever again due to this very negative experience. My friends and I were out roughly $600, and I had to contact Airbnb execs to get the service and cleaning fees refunded - why would I be on the hook for cleaning fees when I didn't even stay there?

I tried working this out with the host but to no avail - he kept insisting that I was a no-show. My favorite part was that several days AFTER we were supposed to have checked into his apartment, he replied to my text message with "Hello! Who are you please?"

Thank you in advance for any advice, suggestions, etc.
 
Last edited:
Sep 19, 2015
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#2
I think the problem was that none of you made a good faith effort to check in. No one went to the apartment, correct? Had one person gone and the Air BnB person was not there, there would be more credibility to the claim of being stood up.

I have rented small houses and stayed at small pensiones that did not have 24 hour staff -- but not Air BnB but I think the issues are the same. One has to make the effort to show up to show good faith and show up to check in-- once the other person does not show up then one refuses to pay and has proof. Staying in a cafe waiting to be called is not enough.

I have noticed sometimes when I am roaming with my US mobiles (two on two different carriers) there can be a lag in receiving texts from European cell phones. I ran into someone I was supposed to meet who said I just sent you a text and 40 minutes later the text showed up as we were strolling along.

So I think the mistake was not showing up to check in and not waiting for the Air BnB deadline.
 
Apr 30, 2018
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#4
Yes, we could have gone to the apartment but I respectfully disagree that simply because this is a place without 24-hour staff, I should have shown up in case someone was waiting. I have also stayed in places without 24-hour reception - except they'd tell me beforehand and provide the emergency number to call if, for some reason, I needed to reach someone. In this case, the only numbers I had for this apartment got me nowhere. Even Airbnb told me they couldn’t reach the host.

Ultimately, our real frustration was that our host was not responding, and therefore, we saw no reason to believe he would be at the apartment waiting for us, especially if he couldn’t bother replying to either Airbnb or us during the 4-hour deadline, and if he couldn’t bother replying to our messages, why should we trek to the apartment to ring the doorbell to an empty apartment (at least, in our minds, empty)?

I do understand what you guys saying. And this is why I will stick to hostels/hotels/etc. instead of Airbnb from now on.

Thanks a ton for both your input!
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#5
What a shame. Two issues: you did not show up at the property, to check in ... and you didn't wait for the 4-hour deadline before checking into a hotel. There are all kinds of issues with "electronic communication" and this is a terrible example of what can go wrong. The dog can eat your phone, your service provider might have issues, your toddler changed your password so you have no access, emails disappear into the ether ... you just can't rely on anything but person to person communication. I'm so sorry this happened. You attempted to communicate twice before arrival, with no response ... always a cause for concern. Dealing with something like AirB&B is particularly fraught with danger because there's no "staff" to take care of things. If the host has communication problems, nobody else steps in to handle it.
 
Apr 30, 2018
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#6
@jsn55 Correct, we never bothered showing up to the property (I know, I know) and we were at the 4-hour deadline when the host called (we gave up and checked in less than 10 minutes before the deadline because at that point, we thought, 'come on, who would wait until 3h55m of 4h to call???').

But I did try to communicate many times - I texted the cell phone number given to me when I booked (no response), I messaged him via Airbnb (no response), and I both called and texted via the number on Airbnb (no response). This is the most concerning part and why my friends and I are so frustrated! But I get it, we should have gone to the apartment....
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#7
Read this story for how our boss likes Airbnb - after having a problem. That's how folks usually STOP using Airbnb - after an experience like yours:

http://www.elliott.org/destinations/tell-the-truth-about-your-last-vacation/

The problem you are having is because you needed to let Airbnb try to resolve this for you before you booked the hotel. Because you didn't - no refund. The way to avoid it? Book real hotels from now on.
 
Apr 30, 2018
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#8
Read this story for how our boss likes Airbnb - after having a problem. That's how folks usually STOP using Airbnb - after an experience like yours:

http://www.elliott.org/destinations/tell-the-truth-about-your-last-vacation/

The problem you are having is because you needed to let Airbnb try to resolve this for you before you booked the hotel. Because you didn't - no refund. The way to avoid it? Book real hotels from now on.
***

Wow, Neil, thanks for the link. I hadn't seen it...even though Mr. Elliott didn't provide details I'll stick to my gut instinct and stay only in real hostels/hotels from now on. I was a huge fan of "industry disrupters" but have come to realize that they aren't necessarily what they claim to be (e.g. Uber).

Safe travels, everyone! :)
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#9
Some people, either through personality or culture, may not be the most responsive. They can be more lax, and certainly that can cause distress and concern.

I went to a small b and B in Southern Italy, at airport I sent a text, no response, but I still headed out there. I waited outside 10 minutes, and was going to call again, and the guy showed up -- totally lovely person, just a little more relaxed about things.

Cell phones misbehave; technology may not always work -- but the issue is one has to uphold their end of the bargain which is showing up to check in. Only then can one claim to be declined accommodations and seek reimbursement or cancel the charge.

I had one last task for a work project and that involved seeing someone in Italy. We had an appointment. I called to confirm, no answer; email, no response. I went to the apartment and took photos of my hand ringing the buzzer several times over the span of 90 minutes. I could then prove that I made the good faith effort. The person had forgotten. Did I like having to do that, when I could have been doing other things? No. But I had to show that I upheld my end, despite the lack of communication. I had already been paid, so this was just a formality.

With airbnb as the intermediary you had to allow them the 4 hours to correct the issue. So no alternatives should have been made until 1 minute past the deadline.

Since you did not show up you cannot prove that the host was not there, and that is what gives Airbnb and the host the chance to refuse to reimburse.

You asked what to do in the future, and this is my advice. I am offering advice on how to protect your self. I would not have been happy either in your situation.
 
Likes: Warren

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#10
My sister (my only sister, hence my favorite sister) goes around the world renting through VRBO. She has had very few issues. I accompanied her to a rental in Victoria BC recently. The directions on how to actually enter this condo were numerous. I would have given up in 5 minutes and checked into the Hilton. But she just calmly persevered and we spent the weekend in a lovely flat at a fraction of what a hotel would have cost. I admire people who can rent from AirBB, but many of us are just not psychologically suited for it. I hope this experience has not soured you on AirBB and that you go on to have many adventures.
 
Likes: Warren