Airbnb refused to refund my elderly mother who had to cancel due to safety issue with unit

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Jan 10, 2018
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#1
We rented a local Airbnb unit for my mother, who was visiting for Christmas. We rented it the day before check-in for a two week period. On the first night there, my mother discovered that their was no cell phone signal. As she is an 80 year old cancer survivor, she felt unsafe without a means to call anyone in case of emergency. When I called the host the next day, she said “Call AT&T, it’s their problem.” We notified Airbnb of the problem and cancelled the reservation within 24 hours of check-in. But we were only refunded 50% of reservation because the cancellation was within five days of stay(however as noted above, we made the reservation the day before, so it’s not as if Airbnb host lost potential customers due to our pre-existing reservation). My mother has paid $885 for a one night stay!

When I contacted Airbnb, they said the cell signal was not within the host’s control, so she didn’t have to refund the money. True, but most reasonable people expect to have a phone connection—either cell or land line—unless they are “off the grid.” This rental is in Bay Area of Northern California, an urban area. And most reasonable, ethical people would understand that an elderly woman needs to have a means to contact someone in case of medical emergency and refund the money. In my opinion, the host’s behavior very unscrupulous and the Airbnb response very automatic and doesn’t take extenuating factors into consideration. I have tried to escalate this with Airbnb via both email and phone, but customer service reps keep saying “the case manager’s decision is final.” I cannot get to a supervisor level—in fact I have been told that they don’t have supervisors, which makes me incredulous.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#2
It isn’t the hosts fault that your moms cell phone didn’t work. There is no guarantee anywhere when you book that you will get cell service, my cell phone doesn’t work in my house.

You rushed and left without thinking this through.

This host lost the money for the time you rented. The fact she refunded you 50% is amazing. She lost 50% of her income - she was more than fair so it’s only fair to split the loss with her.

There were other things you could have done to finish the term of the rental - like lend your Mom your cell phone while she was by herself.
 
Jan 10, 2018
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#3
My cell phone did not have a signal either, so that wasn’t an option. Airbnb has a moderate cancellation which calls for 50% refund if cancelled within 5days of rental, so that was nothing the host voluntarily agreed to. As we booked the reservation the day before the check-in date, the host did not lose any money from other potential guests. It’s not as if we booked n advance and other customers were blocked. Her unit was wide open for the next month as I stated in m initial post.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
11,991
12,233
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#4
You don’t now what happened after you booked it. But you received the refund that was due under the rules then.

This is the risk you take booking through Airbnb instead of using a hotel. The standards are not the same. Many people no longer have landlines in their homes so you can’t assume one is there. You probably should have booked Mom in a hotel.

It’s not Airbnb’s fault nor is it the owners fault. If the listing didn’t say their was a landline then the place was advertised properly- you can’t assume anything.

We have company contacts for Airbnb. You can try escalating this up the executive chain and see if they will refund out of their own pocket. It’s not likely but I see things here all the time I think will never be refunded happen.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#6
Given that there are several mobile providers, TMobile, ATT, Sprint and Verizon it would be very hard for someone to know what works and what does not in a residence. I have no idea if ATT has a good signal in my apartment because no one I know has ever tried it. If there was free wifi one could use that depending on the phone, same with apps that call over wifi.
 
#10
It's a shame that your mother's cell carrier had no service at your otherwise satisfactory rental property. However, if she had internet access with a laptop or a tablet she could very easily have sent text messages through her email service. This would have solved the problem of providing instant contact with you or anyone else capable of receiving texts.

Check out all the alternatives on Google and keep this in mind whenever cellular voice service is nonexistent.
 
Dec 7, 2017
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#11
I will add my 2 cents in as comprehensive and kind way as possible for future travelers who may read this.

It is not up to the host of a property to ensure that your cell company gets a signal at their unit. While it would be appreciated that hosts provide as much information as possible - all of this information is readily available before you book.

Moreover, if cell voice or data is important to you, then before spending any money reserving in unknown locations you should access the AT&T coverage map located here - every cell company has a similar map. https://www.att.com/maps/wireless-coverage.html

You should note that the coverage map is only for OUTSIDE coverage - many types of buildings attenuate or block cell coverage.

Next, you could have also easily set up a Google Voice phone number which would have easily worked [for free] using wifi. It would have taken less than 10 minutes. Then she would have had instant access to voice the same as using her cell phone.

These presume she was using a smart phone - many seniors seem to prefer the charge per minute jurassiac [classic flip] phones for some reason. Obviously this would not work when you need an app. Texting would also be a challenge when using a flip phone.

Moreover, doesn't AT&T also have an app whereby you can direct your calls to your phone using wifi in areas that lack cell service? Again, requires a smart phone.

Finally - and this is the most sensitive part- everyone 'feels' differently about every situation - how someone feels about the lack of voice cell service is really not the responsibility of the property owner. Do you believe any of this is your responsibility for not accessing the information ahead of time or asking the proper questions?

Also - was there a landline in the unit? Many AirBnb's I have been in have landlines that ar available for use by clients for local calls only - certainly if this was in the US then she had 911 access which would have covered any true emergency. I just don't see how this can be the fault of the person renting the property unless they represented that all carriers are received there.
 
Feb 9, 2016
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#12
I empathize with the fact that your mother didn't have the connectivity she needed in order to make herself feel safe during this rental however, this seems to be a lesson learned on some levels....

next time you decide to stay anywhere, determine your needs/what's important and vet the needs list with the property owner before you make a reservation.
 

John Galbraith

Staff Member
Director
Jan 22, 2017
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#13
As we booked the reservation the day before the check-in date, the host did not lose any money from other potential guests. It’s not as if we booked n advance and other customers were blocked. Her unit was wide open for the next month as I stated in m initial post.
Hi Helen - If you do chose to write to Airbnb I would not include this point. Putting aside the fact that it is not relevant under the terms of the cancellation policy, you don't know what would have had happened had you not made your booking.

What I mean is that once you made the booking the property was no longer available for that two week period. What you don't know is whether once your booking was made was whether another customer wanted to book the property but could not do so because you had booked it.

The other customer could have been looking the day your mother checked in and wanted to check in the next day. After all you made your booking at the last minute so another customer may have wanted to do the same.

You and the host don't know what would have happened had your booking not been made and therefore don't know whether the host lost out or not. Hence why I say don't include that to Airbnb.
 
Jan 22, 2018
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#17
Thanks for your reply. I am on an iPhone and followed your instructions but don’t see any new post link. Would Simone be willing to start s new thread titled Air Bnb Review Policy?
 

John Galbraith

Staff Member
Director
Jan 22, 2017
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525
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Poole
#19
Thanks for your reply. I am on an iPhone and followed your instructions but don’t see any new post link. Would Simone be willing to start s new thread titled Air Bnb Review Policy?
Hi Nicole - I'm not sure how but you have managed to post it as a private conversation with me. It means no one else can see it.
 
Jan 22, 2018
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#20
Hi John, I wanted the post to go to you because you are an attorney but I am open to others seeing it. I just posted the same thread in forum. Apologies I am new at this and not great yet navigating the site