[Updated Jan 2021] Updates about our extenuating circumstances policy in the latest Host Update

[Updated Jan 2021] Updates about our extenuating circumstances policy in the latest Host Update



Last Updated: Jan, 2021




The policy update outlined below is now in effect. 


You can find out how cancellations will work under our updated extenuating circumstances policy, effective for reservations starting on or after January 20, 2021, here.


Thank you.





Catherine Powell is back with a new Host Update, sharing how Airbnb is working to make our extenuating circumstances policy more transparent and fair for hosts. The changes—effective for reservations of stays and Airbnb Experiences with a check-in or start date on or after January 20, 2021*—will give hosts discretion over whether to refund guests who can’t travel due to unexpected personal circumstances. The policy will continue to cover natural disasters and similar large-scale events.



Get all the details about the upcoming changes to our policy here in this Help Center article. Please let us know what you’d like covered in future Host Updates with Catherine. As always, thank you for sharing the topics that matter to you.


*This policy doesn’t apply to Luxe reservations, which are subject to a separate Luxe guest refund policy.


175 Replies 175
Level 10
Carlsbad, CA

I just had to cancel a 5-week reservation for Jan/Feb 2021 – for very legit medical reasons (unexpected surgery to remove a tumor, and ongoing treatment requiring me to take 6-months off from doing any work, even hosting Airbnb guests).


The process was awful. As a host, there was nowhere for me to select an option that didn't incur penalties and losing my superhost status. I didn't want to leave the guest hanging while I waited what could be a week or more to reach somebody at Airbnb for help. So I went ahead and canceled, then started the process of trying to get help with removing the penalties.


I tried to call but Airbnb has now removed the ability to reach a human being – it's a circus... press 1, then press 2, then press lord-knows-what and end up back at square one... and repeat. Very frustrating. Despite the recent announcement that superhosts will get priority once again – we don't – we actually can't even talk to anyone at all.


So I reached out via messages – the first line responder had to bump it to somebody else, who replied maybe a day later. Fortunately I got a "good one" – I sent a screenshot of my surgery bill as proof,  he understood right away that this was indeed an extenuating circumstance, and removed all the penalties.


But... why was I made to jump through all of these hoops? Why isn't there an option for a host to choose "medical" as a reason,  upload my proof, and the penalties be waived after review?

Global Head of Hosting
Global Head of Hosting
Malibu, CA

Hi @Katie---Sean0,


First, I'm so sorry to learn of the medical issues you are dealing with right now. Your health is top priority so getting this approved should not have been a struggle for you. Second, I am glad to hear that your cancellation fee was waived. This is exactly the kind of situation that the updated EC policy is designed to cover, but it should not have been this complicated.


I appreciate your feedback on the process. We need to work on making this easier to submit, and the time between now and when the policy goes live will be spent facilitating this.


Thanks, Catherine

Level 2
Jacksonville Beach, FL

Because many people with illegitimate cancel reasons would choose it.


Just as insurance companies send out adjusters, Airbnb and many hosts dont always deserve or need a penalty free cancellation. Without such process’ in place, the continuity of all the software becomes inconsistent, unpredictable and therefore not a credible source as a service provider.

Level 3
Los Angeles, CA

I dispute this and respectfully suggest this is not a helpful comment for hosts.


If you have to upload proof of medical procedure then people with illegitimate cancel reasons would not be able to use it.



Level 9
Budapest, Hungary

Hi Kent,


The question is how bureaucratic do you want the process to be? The legal system is intended to be fair and hence it is complicated and slow.


As an owner, I have given up a huge autonomy to use AirBnB as a sales channel. In fact, AirBnB is the boss, not me. If I decide to use AirBnB, they make the most important decisions. 


So I welcome regaining some power over my business particularly given how much income I lost due to the extenuating circumstances policy.


Guests are not always right. In fact, most of them want a full refund for Covid. They think a full refund is fair when it means that I am losing 90% of my annual income. I don't think that is fair or equitable.

Gets worse:

Airbnb is so underhanded and pretend to listen to hosts but you do not! I see under all the smoke and mirrors you just now extended your full refund policy out to Nov 15 ! Even though Hawaii is now opening up to travelers Oct 15th. You folks really have your head somewhere not pleasant. Your policy should not be blanket but needs to be specific to each state and their shut down/opening plans.

Level 1
San Jose, CA

I had exactly this happen to me. A guests forged a flight cancellation document (pretty easy to do) and got a full refund. Even after I proved that the document was a forgery to AirBnB (the flight travelled on time) they a) didn’t give me my money back and b) allowed the dishonest guest to continue using their platform. This is why the vast majority of my bookings are now thru VRBO, where I am also a super host. And note that they have live people answering the phone in under a minute for such hosts. 

Level 2

Sorry to hear about your tumor. Hope it all works out!

I couldn't agree more. I've had similar situations and had to contact my guest, explain my circumstance and ask them to cancel, and that I would wave cancellation fees, so that I wouldn't lose my super host status.  Super awkward but it was the only way I could figure out a work around.




I have same problem and they deduct from me the cancellation penalty and now i do not know how i can contact someone from airbnb to solve this problem.


Can you please advise me  



I faced a problem at May,2020 i closed the availability on airbnb because our destination elgouna prevent to host any guest due to Covid-19.


I received booking on 28th of May 2020 for 01 night from 30th till 31st of May 202 although i checked that there was no availability and on my setting the minimum  stay is 03 nights.


I contacted the guest and told here that we can not process the booking and the payment has been refund but airbnb sent me that there is a penalty with 100$.


I deactivated my account to not face any problem and activated it once again at March-21.

I received booking with total amount 1164$ then airbnb deduct 100$.


I have an official email from my destination that it was not allowed to host any guest.


I need an urgent support please.  

Level 10
Sayulita, Mexico

@Samy85  Whenever a host cancels a booking, you receive penalties. All you can do is contact customer support, send them official documentation showing you were legally not allowed to host and someone was able to book even though you had blocked the dates, and ask that the penalties be removed.

@Airbnb @Catherine-Powell


Well at first glance, this all sounds like a slight improvement in terms of the loathed Extenuating Circumstances policy, but the big question remains - if the purpose of these changes truly is to further prevent hosts from having to act as guests' personal travel insurers by being routinely forced to fully refund those who can't travel due to 'unexpected personal circumstances' (as we are now).. why not just eliminate EC altogether, and require guests to take responsibility for their own travel mishaps by offering them the option of purchasing travel insurance before completing their booking, as hosts have been suggesting (begging) for years? And providing a link to a bunch of random brokers after booking has been completed - as you're already doing anyway - doesn't really constitute "helping guests find travel insurance"


Given Airbnb’s track record for punishing hosts for every little thing that might possibly displease or inconvenience guests in any way, one would have to wonder what penalties will apply to those rebel hosts who do choose to hold the guests to the terms of their cancellation policies? Threatening emails? Pushed down to the depths of the search rankings? Ghosting? Suspension if we  opt to uphold our cancellation policies more than twice or three times a year? It's hard to believe there won't be a 'behaviour modification' catch somewhere. There always is. 


You once again claim that guests "will not be able to cancel under the Covid-19 EC policy unless the host or guests are sick with covid and are able to provide the correct documentation" - but the written policy still contains the "attest to the facts" verbiage, meaning no evidence or documentation required. Why might that be?


Also, hosts have already been deprived of more than enough desperately needed income this year alone as a result of both the COVID and regular EC policies, so why not instigate these changes with immediate effect, rather than make us suffer another four full months of being robbed blind by a policy Airbnb clearly now accepts is abusive/unfair (otherwise they wouldn't be amending it, would they?) Why wait until Jan 20, 2020? Could it possibly be that this is just a strategic ploy to keep hosts pacified and placated long enough to get the IPO out of the way, before they discover that these new changes are not all they're cracked up to be, and start kicking off again?


And as for your statement that "We, Airbnb and hosts, must work together to earn and retain the trust and loyalty of our guests" - the fact is, the vast majority of hosts have been going above and beyond to earn and retain the trust and loyalty of our guests (your customers) from the day we started hosting. It's first and foremost Airbnb's behaviour, incompetence and duplicity that has done so much damage to guests' perception of the platform, and caused serious decline in host/guest relationships, particularly in the past 7-8 months. Don't insult our integrity and our hard work by tarring us with the same brush. And make no mistake, it's Airbnb who must work to earn and retain the trust and loyalty of both hosts and guests. If it's not already too late. 

Level 10
Carlsbad, CA

@Super47  spot on with all of this, especially the observation about a lot of the recent announced changes being shiny lip-gloss before the IPO.

@Catherine-Powell THIS.

I feel like over and over as a superhost I'm asked to do everything and anything I can to make a guest comfortable (being asked to give a full refund when a guest's girlfriend broke up with him before the planned trip, for example; getting a 3-star review because I don't offer parking on premises even though that's clearly noted in the listing), but when a guest is verbally abusive to me, smokes in my home despite clear rules against that, stains my sheets, etc. it takes 30 days (!) to hear back from Airbnb host services and the response is consistently: "there's nothing we can do about it." 

The host experience on this platform is AWFUL. And during the pandemic and CA fires (when I was offering my place for free to those evacuated) was even worse, despite being told there would be direct, 24/7 support. 

Also, please stop reaching out to hosts to ask us to make an exception to our cancellation policies. I get 3-5 requests like this a week, and it makes me wonder why I have the policy in the first place!

Level 10
Saskatchewan, Canada

@Super47 in regards to your statement:

Don't insult our integrity and our hard work by tarring us with the same brush. And make no mistake, it's Airbnb who must work to earn and retain the trust and loyalty of both hosts and guests. If it's not already too late. 


Please don’t assume to speak for all hosts when you say, ”Don't insult our integrity and our hard work by tarring us with the same brush”. I prefer not to be tarred by your paint brush. 


Level 10
Kraków, Poland



Your comment reminds me of a Host who always had a very sanguine view of Airbnb, his approach was that of a pragmatist which I must confess irritated me no end.


The up shot of it all was, that he was removed from the platform for reasons unknown to the rest of us.

Level 10
Saskatchewan, Canada

@Cormac0 Thanks, I’ll take it as a compliment, irritating or not. What an interesting plot twist of the reminiscent host, hopefully it is not foreshadowing my own story. 


You're absolutely correct, of course @Katrina79 - I shouldn't presume  to speak for all hosts, particularly those fortunate enough to not yet have been disrespected, subjugated, ripped off, lied to, cheated, mistreated or exploited by the company, and who have so far managed to remain insulated, immune and apparently oblivious to the serious wrongs and injustices to which countless thousands of their fellow hosts - for whom I do speak - have been subjected. Very  thoughtless of me. It's wonderful to hear though, that there are actually still some hosts left who haven't been tarred by Airbnb's abusive brush. 


I do apologise. I'll endeavour not to make that mistake again. 


Right on Super47!!

Airbnb has consistently showed complete disregard for hosts and forced us to bear the costs of unfair FULL REFUNDS which many times are given in the form of a future credit to the traveler which preserves

Airbnb's income but totally stabs the hosts in the back as there is no way the host will likely see that person book again. Airbnb has thoroughly discriminated against the hosts in nearly every way.  We even had a guest check in last year and stay 4.5 days on a 7 day stay and Airbnb gave a full refund because the guest feared a approaching storm (which was not bad at all) and decided to go home!!  They even gave back the cleaning fee! They do the same thing when a guest causes damage, we had one destroy things and when we tried to put in a claim Airbnb said "the guest said he did not do it" even though we had plenty of proof!! Airbnb does not respect, listen to or treat fairly the hosts. I believe after this Covid19 there will be thousands of lawsuits against Airbnb.


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