Homesharing websites have made travelling so much easier for those wanting to see the world on a budget. However, the internet isn't always as reliable as we expect it to be.
Global accommodation platforms like Airbnb do a tremendous job connecting travellers and homeowners all over the world. So much so, that when things go wrong, we often don't know what to do.
Here's how to deal with, and avoid, unexpected Airbnb disasters.
If your Airbnb host cancels your reservation:
Airbnb tells us if a host or guest needs to cancel a reservation, it’s their responsibility to cancel as soon as possible. If Airbnb determines that a host’s (or guest’s) reason for cancellation falls within Airbnb’s Extenuating Circumstances policy, Airbnb may waive the host cancellation penalties, otherwise it’s expected that both hosts and guests stick to the cancellation policy that has been put in place.
If your reservation is cancelled by your host, you have two options.
"You can transfer your payment to a new Airbnb reservation, where the money you paid towards your initial reservation is immediately available to use towards a new reservation.," says Sam McDonagh, Airbnb Australia Country Manager. "Alternatively, you can get a full refund."
Rest assured, however, Airbnb makes it difficult for hosts to cancel, and doing so will incur penalties such as fining the host $50 to $100 off their next booking.
If the host cancels the day before a booking, an automated review is left on their profile for other guests to see. If it's the day of the reservation, the guest will be allowed to leave a review on the host's page. If they cancel more than three listings in a year, they may lose their account entirely.
If the listing was inaccurate or deceptive:
Sam's first tip before booking is to read the ratings and reviews.
"Look through feedback from past guests to help find the right fit for you," Sam says. "You’ll see ratings on several quality dimensions, like cleanliness and accuracy, and detailed reviews with authentic feedback."
Guests can only leave a review after they’ve stayed with that specific host, so you know the feedback you’re seeing is based on actual experiences.
But if, for instance, you arrive at Airbnb to discover there is no WiFi as promised on the listing, your first move should always be to contact your host and ask. This is the quickest and easiest way to resolve the problem at hand while giving the host the benefit of the doubt.
However, if the issue doesn't get resolved, gather supporting information (like photos and messages) and contact Airbnb to see whether you may be eligible for a refund. Airbnb may also try to find you other accommodation for the remainder of your trip.
The same process applies if you have an issue getting into the property, or if you find the property isn't clean.
If you've been scammed:
Airbnb scam listings are few and far between, but the most common scam is asking guests to pay for accommodation off the Airbnb platform. In these cases, the hosts might say they're having trouble processing payments and suggest a private transfer instead. If this happens - don't do it! Contact Airbnb, who should be able to identify and smooth over any real issues with payment processing.
"You should never be asked to wire money, provide credit card information or otherwise pay a host directly," says Sam. "If you are, please report it to Airbnb immediately to investigate."
If you follow the rules and pay via the Airbnb website, you shouldn't have any trouble getting a refund should something go wrong.
If you need to cancel:
Cancelling your reservation is simple, but you first need to accept you may not get your money back. Refunds and partial refunds are regulated under the host's cancellation policy, and also depend on how soon you're scheduled to check-in.
If you needed to cancel your trip due to unavoidable circumstances, like a death, injury or natural disaster, check Airbnb's Extenuating Circumstances Policy, gather your relevant supporting documents and submit your claim no later than 14 days after you were due to check in.