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Aug 28, 2015
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This is another long term cancellation policy moment for AirBnB, during which they enabled their "host" to keep our "$5368" dollars, when we cancelled literally over 5 MONTHS IN ADVANCE.

My wife and I were headed out to California for the summer, as she was going to take Spanish to finish up her degree at USC and I would be writing and working on music. We found a place, but soon realize that it was a "guest house" which was buried deep in the listing, and only after a friend of ours stopped by to check it out, did we get this information. My wife cancelled the listing, as I said over 5 months in advance, and of course the host kept the first month's payment. She then of course made our like a bandit this summer, after stealing our money, she rented the home our to some other folks, and doubled down.
We did not realize for a few months, as we were super busy with family things, and work, that this shady business had occurred. We were besides of ourselves when re finally did, and have since opened a case with AirBnB. They have of course left all responsibility up to the host to return the money, which is like asking the bag man for the money back. It's of course not happening.

Below is the letter we sent AirBnB for more clarity, and of course their less than adequate response. The next stop will be to escalate, but I thought I'd give this forum a shot, as I've seen some folks with similar problems, and I've seen some success in retrieving their money. AirBnB is valued at $20 billion. This is completely unacceptable and they need to make right immediately.

LAST EMAIL TO AirBnb we Sent

Hi Tara,

I am writing to express my frustration and disappointment with our experience with the resolution of https://www.airbnb.com/reservation/receipt?code=DARK Despite several, time consuming attempts to communicate and reason with the homeowner, Pepita, we’ve made virtually no progress in securing a reasonable refund. Given that no goods or service were provided to us and she was able to rebook her guesthouse with no difficulty over the course of 6 months, we look at her refusal to provide us with our $5283 as an act of theft. Similarly, we view AirBnB’s inability to provide meaningful recourse as an extension of this act of theft and a material breach in their stated commitment to customer service and care.


For the sake of our email record, I would like to restate the facts of our situation. I booked Pepita's home on November 13th, 2014. My husband and I planned to stay there from June 18th until August 18th, 2015. In February of 2015 a friend was in the area of the home and he called us to let us know that the house was a "guesthouse" located in the backyard of Pepita's primary residence and not in fact a standalone home as advertised and described in her listing. This in no way was indicated in any photographs nor was the property described as being adjacent to another home. As my husband and I prefer the privacy of our own space, I reviewed AirBnB's refund policy, believed that we would lose no money by canceling nearly half a year in advance, and pressed a single button to cancel the reservation before booking another AirBnB property for the duration of our stay. Due to a difficult time in my family (as well as a firm belief that no reasonable company would penalize us for over $5000 given the extensive advance notice provided), I did not notice that our account had indeed been debited $5283 until July 2015 at which point we started the "Resolution Center" process and Pepita proved unmoving in her retention of our money.


Unfortunately, AirBnB has allowed Pepita to take thousands of dollars from us as well as protected her against any reasonable financial responsibility. She attributed her refusal to return our money to her practices as a business owner, however, I cannot think of a single business in which such practice would not be subject to scathing, disapproving judicial review.


At present, we believe AirBnB is financially responsible in this case as it has empowered Pepita with the ability to retain thousands of dollars from us. Your value proposition, in part, is focused on providing individuals, like ourselves, comfort, security, protection and representation as it relates to all aspects of the rental transaction, including scenarios where owners abuse cancellation policies to profit unreasonably. We ask you to make good on that promise and remain committed to your founding values.


We believe that no amount short of $4500 would be an acceptable compensation.

Despite this challenging experience, we have been loyal AirBnB users as well as highly reviewed guests during stays in Milan, Portland and Santa Monica. We hope, with your cooperation, to remain satisfied consumers of your services. I am afraid without proper compensation we will be forced to escalate our case and seek legal council to achieve fair, just resolution of this case.


I look forward to hearing back and achieving resolution promptly.



Regards,

Kevin and Marlena Calaba
 

Neil Maley

Staff Member
Forum Moderator
Dec 27, 2014
26,133
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www.promalvacations.com
It's too bad our server crashed because we had an excellent article on how to protect yourself when doing a vacation rental.

Unfortunately, AirBnB and every other vacation rental like this bear no responsibility for what happens because they are not privy to the contract you sign with the owner.

Did you check reviews of the property before you

What was the cancellation policy in the listing? Do you have a link to the listing you can point us to?

If your contract says that the payment is non refundable, you are stuck. Yes she can rent it our but you signed a contract and have to adhere to what you signed.

Your only option with these rentals is if the contract stated your payment is refundable and then you would likely have to take her to small claims court.

Did you take out any insurance AirBnB offered? Did you buy insurance at all? If you have a medical issue and your doctor says you cannot travel, insurance may refund you.
 
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Aug 28, 2015
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It's interesting and strange that AirBnB is worth $20 billion dollars, and isn't "privy" to the contracts they're using between their clients. I actually find that impossible to believe. Also, we simply clicked a button, never having singed a thing. It's just to easy to lose money in the set up they have, far, far too easy. Also, no one should be entitled to keep anyone's money five months in advance. There are ZERO grounds for that.
 
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Neil Maley

Staff Member
Forum Moderator
Dec 27, 2014
26,133
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www.promalvacations.com
I don't necessary disagree with you but we have had a lot of similar complaints and when you click to book you are agreeing to the terms of the renter.

Can you point us to the listing? I want to see if it states it is fully nonrefundable
 
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Aug 28, 2015
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The Long Term Cancellation policy, which is what this rental was under, states that if you cancel you lose the first month, no matter what. That happened to us, with one click of a button, 23 weeks in advance. Even though they are covered by their legalese, it's predatory and borders on illicit.
 
Mar 17, 2015
705
1,076
@ Kevin - you technically "signed" the agreement when you booked the room. You agreed to the terms of losing the first months rent when purchasing the rental. If you did not like the terms, you do not purchase the rental. Simple as that.

Now, if the rental you purchased was not as advertised, that is the avenue you need to pursue. If the listing stated that it was a stand alone home with its own address, etc., then no, I would not expect it to be a guest house behind another home. If it is listed as a guest house, well, then, I am not sure you have as much of a reason to ask for a refund. So, your letter to AirBnB needs to state that the property owner had the listing as a stand alone home and it was not fully disclosed that it was a guest house. You would not have agreed to the price for a guest house vs. a stand alone home. AirBnB will still point you towards the homeowner, as they like to claim that they are simply an avenue for advertising.

It is your choice as a consumer whether or not to do business with an entity that treats their customers this way. I don't think it is right. I think that AirBnB will almost always try to get out of doing anything and pointing you towards the rental agreement you agreed to at the time of purchase.
 

Neil Maley

Staff Member
Forum Moderator
Dec 27, 2014
26,133
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New York
www.promalvacations.com
If that was stated in the listing, those are the terms you are legally bound to.

From AirBnb terms:

PLEASE NOTE THAT, AS STATED ABOVE, THE SITE, APPLICATION AND SERVICES ARE INTENDED TO BE USED TO FACILITATE HOSTS AND GUESTS CONNECTING AND BOOKING ACCOMMODATIONS DIRECTLY WITH EACH OTHER. AIRBNB CANNOT AND DOES NOT CONTROL THE CONTENT CONTAINED IN ANY LISTINGS AND THE CONDITION, LEGALITY OR SUITABILITY OF ANY ACCOMMODATIONS. AIRBNB IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR AND DISCLAIMS ANY AND ALL LIABILITY RELATED TO ANY AND ALL LISTINGS AND ACCOMMODATIONS. ACCORDINGLY, ANY BOOKINGS WILL BE MADE OR ACCEPTED AT THE MEMBER'S OWN RISK.


These vacation rentals site are not like booking a hotel room where you can cancel up to a certain date if you book a refundable rate. People use these sites to try to save rhrmselves money and it usually works if you don't have to cancel. It doesn't matter that you canceled 5 months out, this is very similar to booking a plane ticket 5 months out and not buying insurance to cover you in case you have to cancel due to a coveted reason.

It isn't predatory- it is up to the consumer to read what they are booking before you click to purchase. When you choose to book your own travel, you are solely responsible for reading terms and conditions before you click submit.
 
R

Realitoes

Guest
Kevin,

I'm assuming that the first month's fee was $5368. Unfortunately, if you agreed to that when you booked the property, you can't really use that as an excuse or reason to get your money back.

Now if the property was described in a manner to be deceptive, then you may tried to receive a refund on those grounds. As Promo said, it is probably going to require you to take the owner to small claims court. The question you have to answer: is do you feel that the description of the property was deceptive enough to win a judgement?
 
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Neil Maley

Staff Member
Forum Moderator
Dec 27, 2014
26,133
29,491
New York
www.promalvacations.com
But you cannot prove the property was not as stated without going to the property. Heresay from someone who "checked it out" doesn't make it nit as described.

Again, if you show us the listing we may fund something we can help with. Not sure why you don't want us to see it.
 
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Aug 28, 2015
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First, if you read everything on Airbnb, the long term cancel policy is stated in a few places.
Howver, I have duplicated your process of pretending to rent a place for 30 nights, in order to see what you saw.
On the listing site that I looked at, the policy was listed as "strict". So this is wrong for a rental that is 28+ nights.
I want you to know....I agree with you that the cancellation policy of a long term rental is not totally clear on the airbnb site. On step 2 of a booking, if the cancel policy shows as "strict" with a diagram, it would indicate you could get a refund.
However, if you read the words above, the words say that the long term rental cancel policy applies instead. This is a serious flaw in the airbnb website.....at the 2nd click through, the airbnb site should have over-ridden the standard "strict cancellation" photo and instead showed you the "long term cancel Photo". Otherwise, you must leave the "strict policy" diagram and be smart enough to change to the "long term rental" cancel policy diagram.
I dont know how to insert screen shot of my findings.
I think this is a case to be sent to Chris to view and advocate for you.
Airbnb needs to fix the site.
 
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Once before I created a consumer guide to renting a short term property. For future readers, here is a recreation of my recommendations :

Rent only well established properties. Determine how long the property has been a short term rental.

- An owner-managed property should have at least 10 diverse reviews establishing the authenticity and history of the rental or at least a 2 year history on other owned rentals.

- A property rental management company should demonstrate positive reviews through a minimum of 2 years of positive history within it's rental portfolio of all it's managed properties.

- The bottom of the listing should show the first listing date.


Read every review

- Reviews will have additional details about the property.

- Pay attention to owner or manager responses to guest feedback and input. You want to know how criticism is handled.


Pay only by Credit Card.

- Never wire money.


Call the owner and/or property manager before making a decision from VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey, or other major sites. Discuss if the property is a good fit. Use only established listing sites.

- Nothing substitutes for a real phone conversation.

- Do not rent or send money without a phone call.***(Note: airbnb does not allow phone calls prior to renting.)

- Never rent from Craigslist.


Require a Written Contract

- Read and understand all contract terms. Adhere to all terms on pets, # of guests, parties, and all other details.

- Understand the cancellation policy.

- Meet all payment requirements.

- You may be agreeing to an online contract by placing a payment. Pay attention. Slow down and read the terms prior to proceeding.


Obtain the actual property address and Google it.

- Check to see if the property is currently listed for sale. Avoid for sale properties.

- Reconfirm the owner name. Make sure it matches your information.


Purchase insurance coverage if you feel you need it.


Make sure that you understand the type of Rental you are considering. Read the listing details thoroughly. The rental could be one of many kinds:

· Shared Space

· Private room in a house

· Guest house on property / Casita

· Condominium

· Townhouse

· Free Standing Home


Read the terms of the listing site, before committing money or a credit card.

- Every site has distinct rules and regulations.
 
Last edited:
Aug 28, 2015
712
728
It's too bad our server crashed because we had an excellent article on how to protect yourself when doing a vacation rental.

Unfortunately, AirBnB and every other vacation rental like this bear no responsibility for what happens because they are not privy to the contract you sign with the owner.

Did you check reviews of the property before you

What was the cancellation policy in the listing? Do you have a link to the listing you can point us to?

If your contract says that the payment is non refundable, you are stuck. Yes she can rent it our but you signed a contract and have to adhere to what you signed.

Your only option with these rentals is if the contract stated your payment is refundable and then you would likely have to take her to small claims court.

Did you take out any insurance AirBnB offered? Did you buy insurance at all? If you have a medical issue and your doctor says you cannot travel, insurance may refund you.
.............
AirBnb does not offer insurance add-ons.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
11,163
13,516
San Francisco
Once before I created a consumer guide to renting a short term property. For future readers, here is a recreation of my recommendations :

Rent only well established properties. Determine how long the property has been a short term rental.

- An owner-managed property should have at least 10 diverse reviews establishing the authenticity and history of the rental or at least a 2 year history on other owned rentals.

- A property rental management company should demonstrate positive reviews through a minimum of 2 years of positive history within it's rental portfolio of all it's managed properties.

- The bottom of the listing should show the first listing date.


Read every review

- Reviews will have additional details about the property.

- Pay attention to owner or manager responses to guest feedback and input. You want to know how criticism is handled.


Pay only by Credit Card.

- Never wire money.


Call the owner and/or property manager before making a decision from VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey, or other major sites. Discuss if the property is a good fit. Use only established listing sites.

- Nothing substitutes for a real phone conversation.

- Do not rent or send money without a phone call.***(Note: airbnb does not allow phone calls prior to renting.)

- Never rent from Craigslist.


Require a Written Contract

- Read and understand all contract terms. Adhere to all terms on pets, # of guests, parties, and all other details.

- Understand the cancellation policy.

- Meet all payment requirements.

- You may be agreeing to an online contract by placing a payment. Pay attention. Slow down and read the terms prior to proceeding.


Obtain the actual property address and Google it.

- Check to see if the property is currently listed for sale. Avoid for sale properties.

- Reconfirm the owner name. Make sure it matches your information.


Purchase insurance coverage if you feel you need it.


Make sure that you understand the type of Rental you are considering. Read the listing details thoroughly. The rental could be one of many kinds:

· Shared Space

· Private room in a house

· Guest house on property / Casita

· Condominium

· Townhouse

· Free Standing Home


Read the terms of the listing site, before committing money or a credit card.

- Every site has distinct rules and regulations.
Laurie, it's wonderful that you have posted this information again. Can you hang on to this and get it re-posted in the proper forum once we get things straightened out? @MrsB also provided excellent information on vacation rentals, and I would hope she is able to post again in the proper forum. @GrantRitchie may have to set it all up again maybe?
 
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jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
11,163
13,516
San Francisco
Kevin, this is really an awful situation. I agree with you, the policy is not right. Nobody should be able to keep the rent from two different renters. But unethical people are everywhere and you cannot know who you're dealing with on the internet. I would expect AirBB to attempt to straighten this out, but apparently they don't need to by their own rules.

Your post is a little sketchy on the facts. Was the monthly rent $5Kplus? If the rules state that your entire first month's rent is forfeited with a cancellation, there's little you can do. There's so much information now on this thread that I cannot tell if you were subject to penalty and if so, what that penalty is. I would advise you to gather up all your documentation in case Chris feels that his intervention might help.

ADVOCATE ADVICE:
  • Regard transactions on the internet in the worst possible light.
  • Assume there will be problems.
  • Know what your recourse is when a problem crops up.
  • Follow all our advice and do thorough research before you make a commitment.
  • Read EVERYTHING three times!
 
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Aug 28, 2015
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Kevin, this is really an awful situation. I agree with you, the policy is not right. Nobody should be able to keep the rent from two different renters. But unethical people are everywhere and you cannot know who you're dealing with on the internet. I would expect AirBB to attempt to straighten this out, but apparently they don't need to by their own rules.

Your post is a little sketchy on the facts. Was the monthly rent $5Kplus? If the rules state that your entire first month's rent is forfeited with a cancellation, there's little you can do. There's so much information now on this thread that I cannot tell if you were subject to penalty and if so, what that penalty is. I would advise you to gather up all your documentation in case Chris feels that his intervention might help.

ADVOCATE ADVICE:
  • Regard transactions on the internet in the worst possible light.
  • Assume there will be problems.
  • Know what your recourse is when a problem crops up.
  • Follow all our advice and do thorough research before you make a commitment.
  • Read EVERYTHING three times!
.................
Judy: this is an airbnb issue, and not the owner issue. The airbnb policy for long term rentals is that the first month is non-refundable. This is clearly posted in many places on airbnb. The owner contract with airbnb is to be paid one month for a cancel of a long term res.
However, the screen shots do show me that when completing a long term rental transaction on airbnb, the long term cancel policy screen does not come up to override the "regular" cancel policy, making it very easy for a consumer to miss the real cancel policy.
I have recreated "the glitch" with screen shots, but am not knowledgaeble on how to post a screen shot here.
I think Chris should step in and advocate this refund, and airbnb should have their programmers fix the check out process for long term rentals to make the policy very upfront.
 

Neil Maley

Staff Member
Forum Moderator
Dec 27, 2014
26,133
29,491
New York
www.promalvacations.com
Judy, Laurie is Mrs.B. She had to re-join because of the crash so now we know her real identity, lol.

Kevin, Laurie is our expert on Vacation Rentals as she is also an owner who rents and she knows the vacation rental story from both sides.

In view of her opinion and what she found trying to recreate the booking, you might want to use her information and file a complaint with the Attorney General in California, where AirBnb has offices.

I would try writing to Airbnb one more time, stating what Laurie detaile and the fact that there appears to be a problem with the way the website works and that it resulted in your confusion. They may not even know the website has an issue but it might be enough to get them to re-consider giving you a refund vs. possibly being sued for having a faulty website.

If they till insist on not taking any respinsibility, then file a complaint with the Attorney Generals office.

I would also try to recreate the booking and taking screen shots to save showing the discrepancies. If there is truly a website issue you might win a small claims court case and get your money back.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
11,163
13,516
San Francisco
Judy, Laurie is Mrs.B. She had to re-join because of the crash so now we know her real identity, lol.

Kevin, Laurie is our expert on Vacation Rentals as she is also an owner who rents and she knows the vacation rental story from both sides.

In view of her opinion and what she found trying to recreate the booking, you might want to use her information and file a complaint with the Attorney General in California, where AirBnb has offices.

I would try writing to Airbnb one more time, stating what Laurie detaile and the fact that there appears to be a problem with the way the website works and that it resulted in your confusion. They may not even know the website has an issue but it might be enough to get them to re-consider giving you a refund vs. possibly being sued for having a faulty website.

If they till insist on not taking any respinsibility, then file a complaint with the Attorney Generals office.

I would also try to recreate the booking and taking screen shots to save showing the discrepancies. If there is truly a website issue you might win a small claims court case and get your money back.
Now how did YOU know the real ID of Laurie!?! I like Laurie, creates a young, knowledgeable professional image. MrsB, now, I see knitting needles.
 
Aug 28, 2015
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Judy: I used to be a travel agent so Promol and I have some mutual contacts. The skills and hospitality that I was exposed to as a travel agent while experiencing 5 star properties around the world, helped me to create the kind of Short Term Vacation Rental that I would want to walk into. My standards are high, and I support the excellence and honesty of the Short Term Rental Industry.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
11,163
13,516
San Francisco
Judy: I used to be a travel agent so Promol and I have some mutual contacts. The skills and hospitality that I was exposed to as a travel agent while experiencing 5 star properties around the world, helped me to create the kind of Short Term Vacation Rental that I would want to walk into. My standards are high, and I support the excellence and honesty of the Short Term Rental Industry.
I love having your expertise on the forum, Laurie. It will be a long time before I back down from my stance that the 'renting agencies' need to step up and take better care of their customers. Bottom line, if I have a problem with a VR in Tokyo, what am I supposed to do to solve it when I get back home? I think the agencies need to be just a touch more proactive instead of just denying any responsibility. Maybe it's impossible, but I think they should give it a try. Personally, I have had fabulous experiences and only a couple of marginal properties which were still alot better than a hotel!