Airbnb & Turnkey Vacation Rentals Ask Family to Lie (or lose over $1800)

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Jun 1, 2021
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My family paid for a short get-away over the winter break that turned into a nightmare! In early November (11/9), I booked (and paid for) a nice place in Oxnard, CA through Airbnb where our family of five could celebrate the holidays. In early December, I received an email from Turnkey Vacation Rental (the host management company) indicating that due to new COVID lodging restrictions in Southern California, we would have to sign an updated agreement indicating that we were part of the "critical infrastructure support system" OR cancel our reservation and the "standard cancellation policy" would apply. As a family, we felt strongly that we were disqualified from staying at the property, since "travel for leisure was not permitted at that time". We felt ethically bound to not go against public health guidance about traveling to an area experiencing a terrible surge at the time.

In effect, we were being asked to lie about our status OR lose the money we had paid out. I immediately began communicating with both Airbnb and Turnkey to request a refund, credit, or change in reservation dates. To my dismay, both companies pointed me to the other for any type of remedy. TurnKey stated that Airbnb "will ask for our approval, but we will not say "approve" or "decline" the refund." And, Airbnb kept sending me back to TurnKey stating that they would have to provide any refund/credit. After speaking to a supervisor at TurnKey, she indicated they had not received any funds from Airbnb because we had not yet checked-in. I went back to Airbnb at that point, but was told that they had paid TurnKey on 12/24 at 7pm EST (our rental was to start on 12/23). After many phone calls and texts to both companies over a 2-week span and basically being run around in circles, I ended up "cancelling" the reservation, so that we could at least collect the $500 cleaning deposit. All told, we lost over $1800.00. This was a terrible experience that makes me very distrustful of ever working with either company again.
 

Dwayne Coward

Administrator
Staff Member
Forum Director
Apr 13, 2016
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St. Louis
If you booked this after the pandemic was a known event, then Airbnb's extenuating circumstances policy doesn't provide coverage for bookings affected by government restrictions due to COVID. They have provided warnings on the booking page about this since the pandemic started.

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Airbnb is a platform for advertising properties and allows consumers to book with some guarantees against fraud or not being provided the property as booked, they don't actually own or operate the properties.

If the host didn't cancel the booking, your options would be the cancel the booking yourself under the terms of the cancellation policy or show up at the property to check-in. If the host would not allow you to check-in or provide the property as contracted, you could then file a claim under their refund guarantee. Unfortunately, as you canceled the booking instead, Airbnb is only going to provide you and the host what your contract provides for.

You can use our company contacts and the following guidelines to write Airbnb a polite and concise email about your experience and asking for some consideration as a goodwill gesture. They may provide a refund of their service fee, but it is unlikely they will refund what has already been paid to the host.


Usually, where the government placed travel restrictions, it is best to try to work with the host beforehand to ask for consideration such as a credit towards a future stay. Depending on how your interaction with them has been up to this point, you may still want to try this strategy.

In the future, you should carefully consider the cost associated with non-refundable bookings, and consider travel insurance to provide some protection for those costs. Likely, travel insurance would not have covered this specific event since it has to do with the pandemic.
 
Jun 1, 2021
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Honestly, I would be happy to receive a partial refund or credit. To lose the entire $1850.00 seems excessive.

I did try to work with both the host management company, TurnKey, and Airbnb prior to cancelling, but as I stated, in order to recoup the cleaning fee, I needed to "cancel". Also, "showing up at the property" was not appropriate given the lodging restrictions, as stated earlier.
 

Dwayne Coward

Administrator
Staff Member
Forum Director
Apr 13, 2016
1,065
2,304
St. Louis
Honestly, I would be happy to receive a partial refund or credit. To lose the entire $1850.00 seems excessive.

I did try to work with both the host management company, TurnKey, and Airbnb prior to cancelling, but as I stated, in order to recoup the cleaning fee, I needed to "cancel". Also, "showing up at the property" was not appropriate given the lodging restrictions, as stated earlier.
It would have forced a refund if they would not provide what you contracted as you would have upheld your part by showing up. Of course, if you couldn't go because of the travel restrictions, this was something that was outside the contract and as noted in the booking process would not be covered.

I'm afraid you are going to have to rely on any goodwill from either the host or Airbnb. Your other option would be to consult with an attorney to see if you have any legal options, or you can try small claims court, but there is no guarantee that you would prevail.
 
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Jun 1, 2021
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So, by TurnKey asking us to sign a "new agreement" or cancel the reservation, they obviously didn't want to provide "goodwill". Nor did Airbnb. TurnKey was fine with us not abiding by the lodging restrictions, as long as we lied on their new agreement. Terrible ethics.
 
Jun 24, 2019
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I would follow Dwayne’s advice in post 3 and write to AirBNB asking for a refund and/or a credit. It is not at all clear from this situation whether they will do anything, but make a paper trail first.

Generally, where are you located? I understand it’s tough to load five people in any form of transportation, but if you were driving to Oxnard from Burbank, it is easier to suggest you should have called their bluff than if you are flying in from London.

If you post your draft letter here, without personally identifiable information, some of the folks here will comment and help you craft what we hope is a successful approach.
 

Dwayne Coward

Administrator
Staff Member
Forum Director
Apr 13, 2016
1,065
2,304
St. Louis
So, by TurnKey asking us to sign a "new agreement" or cancel the reservation, they obviously didn't want to provide "goodwill". Nor did Airbnb. TurnKey was fine with us not abiding by the lodging restrictions, as long as we lied on their new agreement. Terrible ethics.
It actually sounds like they were requiring a statement so that they would be in compliance with the government restrictions if you were to stay at the property. The decent thing the host could have done or do is to refund you if you couldn't comply with the government restrictions, but unfortunately, due to the contract terms of booking, I don't see anything outside of legal circles to force them to provide it.
 
Jun 24, 2019
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I think this whole transaction became impossible; the government imposed a restriction on the landlord, and the renter could not qualify. The problem is the landlord has the money and is not offering a compromise; our OP appears willing to compromise.
 

jmv

Mar 6, 2019
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From what you stated in the original post, it's not clear they asked you to lie. You were given two options and the one that applied to you was to cancel. Nonetheless, I agree that they should give you at least a partial refund or credit for a future stay, but they may not be legally required to do so.
 
Jun 24, 2019
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Two parties enter into an agreement where the owner agrees to let the renter stay in a place in Oxnard for Christmas week. Thereafter, something happens that is not the fault of either; the government intervenes and limits hotel stays to essential workers, and our OP is not an essential worker. Who bears the risk of loss? Should our OP bundle five people into a car and drive/fly/train to Oxnard only to be turned away?

Keep in mind that the holiday our OP seeks to celebrate is concerned, in part, with what happens when an innkeeper can’t provide accommodation for some weary travelers.

Frankly, I think the owner is totally out of luck. Had OP shown up, and all of our folks are law-abiding, the owner would have said, I can no longer legally rent to you, and AirB&B would say, we can’t find you alternate accommodations until you cross the Arizona boarder. Instead, the owner here pockets the full fee, all $1800, for a service he cannot legally provide.

I suppose either or both could have insured against risk, but I‘ve never even been motivated to insure against the risk that a hotel won’t be able to honor my reservation. And I‘ve actually had that experience, and it still would not occur to me that I have to insure that the house in Oxnard I’m renting will actually be available. I’ve been on two trips recently, and it never occurred to me that I needed insurance lest there be no room at the inn.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
11,039
13,213
San Francisco
Ugh, while not a 'nightmare', this is certainly annoying. If you take a step back, what if you were forced to cancel the booking the morning of arrival? Would you expect a refund? The management company was unethical by trying to persuade you to sign something that wasn't true and correct. But they may see it as trying to do you a favor by allowing you to use the place as agreed. They should not have to lose revenue because you cancelled, just as you should not lose your money when you felt that you had to cancel.

Regardless, the cancellation policy that was in effect when you booked governs how things are handled. And you're not due a refund. I would take another step back and politely request a credit towards a future stay. Assuming that you have not burned your bridges. Everyone and their brother is negatively affected by this virus disaster. Good luck and please let us know the outcome.
 
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