Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
Bend, OR
Level 2
9,941 Views

We had a booking request from a family who said they were visiting a very sick relative who was dying of stage IV lung cancer. This was for the Thanksgiving holiday-- Wed-Sunday. I have a "strict" cancellation policy and accepted their reservation a couple months prior to check-in. Three days prior to check-in, the guest emailed me to say that his daughter had contracted pink eye and they were afraid of exposing her to the sick relative whose immune system was compromised. He didn't say they definitely could not come but they were essentialy "fishing" for a refund. He did make a strange sort of threat saying that he would hate for them to infect our household with her pink eye. 

 

Our kids have had pink eye before and we know that once they get the drops in their eyes, it is only contagious for another 24 hours. This was three full days before they were due to travel. Anyhow, I apologized and said there was nothing I could do. I wanted to ask-- why did you book my home, knowing it had a strict cancellation policy, given your situation visiting someone who was terminal but I did not. 

 

I contacted Airbnb, and they said the guest could submit medical documentation to them if they wished to do so. I relayed that info to the guest. I asked the person on the phone from Airbnb what would happen if Airbnb accepted their excuse. She said we'd still get paid out minus the cleaning fee. Sure enough, we did get paid out (about $700) on the day they were supposed to check in. So I thought we were set even though we did not get a new reservation for Thanksgiving. (who plans a thanksgiving trip 2-3 days in advance?)

 

We are only occasional hosts--- we rent our place to fund our own trips-- so for us to get our house ready to rent it is a major project. It takes 3-4 days of work. So this week was our first time renting again and on the day new guests checked in, Airbnb deposited the money from them MINUS the $700 or so from the previous guest. I called to find out what was going on and they said the Thanksgiving guests were able to provide a doctors note recommending against travel and so they took the money they had paid out to us back! I was shocked. We are always full for thanksgiving and I dont' know why their poor planning/decision making-- booking a strict cancellation policy place and failing to get travel insurance-- are supposed to be my financial burden?

Do we have any recourse? Aside from the lost revenue, we also spent days getting the place ready for the reservation and got $0 for our effort.  Thank you. 

17 Replies

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
Ħal Għargħur, Malta
Level 2

I hate to read these types of postings! 'Extenuating Circumstances for guests' shares these two points

  • Unexpected death or serious illness of a host, guest or immediate family member.
  • Serious injury that directly restricts a guest's ability to travel or a host's ability to host.

While I would argue that Pink Eye is not a serious illness, the guests probably argued to airbnb that if they needed to go to the doctor that it was serious. Unfortunately, based also on what I have read, AirBNB typically sides with the guests. There was one where a woman staying in a woman's house left after two days because walking down 3 stairs was too hard on her even though there were clear pictures showing the 3 stairs. AirBNB refunded the money to the woman in the same way, by taking $2,100 out of her future revenue. 

 

Your only shot at reversing the decision in any way is to come up with receipts or documentation showing financial obligations you made to this booking before knowing of the cancellation. AirBNB most likely will work with you on something. I would shoot for $200 for the hours spent cleaning, laundering, emailing, etc...

 

Best of luck and keep up informed on what happens.

Colin

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
Bend, OR
Level 2

Thanks, Colin. I made a complaint to AirBnb more than two weeks ago and I'm still waiting for their reply. Now I know that Airbnb's cancellation policy can override mine but this has been news to me. One important complaint I have is that when this situation occured, the representative on the phone said that if the guest qualified for the extenuating circumstances policy, "we will issue a refund." Now perhaps by "we" she meant "me" but that was not how I interpreted it and when I asked her, if I would still get my money, she said, "yes, minus the cleaning fee." Sure enough, three days later we got our money and spent it on our own trip. Then a month later, they took it away from us the next time we rented. 

 

I know that Airbnb records phone calls, so I asked them to review what I was told on the phone. They promised to do so but thusfar have not. I'm guessing they hope I drop this matter but I don't plan to. I also think there is a real danger here with their ability to arbitrarily overrule a host's policy. We are not supposed to discriminate against a guest making a reservation request but the next time someone tells me they want to stay in my house to visit a very sick or dying person, I will have to think twice about whether I'm willing to accept the risk of a last second cancellation. I will let you know if I get any satisfication from Airbnb in this matter but I hope posting about my experience clues other hosts into the fact that you might think you have the power to set your own cancellation policy, but in reality you don't because Airbnb can veto you any time they want. 

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
Como, CO
Level 10

@David358

 

Well the Extenuating Policy has been discussed many times before, I have been bitten twice, one of which I was was a con, but when it comes down to it there is nothing much you can do.

 

To be fair the policy is stated so from that perspective the phone confusion is going to be very hard to argue. However it came across it does not really matter as you have no say in determing if the situation was extenuating, purely a call by the ABB rep.

 

I can see it is particularly annoying where it hits and you are an occasional host, if it is infrequent and in percentage terms minor much easier to build it into your rates.

David

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
Santa Monica, CA
Level 2

Hi all, I had a guest cancel a 1 month stay one day before arrival, stating issues with work visa in the US, I informed him of my strict cancellation policy and that at that moment I had no guest to cover his time, the payment came through the next day, I found out aprx 3 weeks later that airbnb completely refunded him! what happening to extenuating circumstances? which is fine, serious injury or illness, death, seems like guests could fabricate  a story and possibly false documentation to get a refund, not fair to the host and definitely not extenuating circumstances, I only got a guest for  a few days  of his month, 

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
New York, NY
Level 10

Hello. If anyone is doing a class action suit, I am very interested in joining.  I have an incredibly strong case.  I am a superhost as well. I am in New York and the business and Real Estate laws herer are firm.  A contractual obligtion is a real thing, whether online through a website app like Airbnb or even a handshake, it counts as a contract by NY standards.  You make a deal and break it, there are legal reprecutions.  In many cases it is not worth the legal expense, but in my case it is because the dollar mount is significant.  Airbnb broke the contract ("cancelled the reservation and reufnded the guest based on extenuating circumstnces" in Airbnb's not real world language).  This was only a few days before the tenant was to arrive.  This was for a month stay, and it was during high rent season, so it is a significant dollar amount. Airbnb never contacted me before cancelling. It is worth a lawsuit.  Here is the thing.  I have evidence that  fraud was perpetrated here.  I let Airbnb know and they still didn't investigate further. The wife is in the medical field, so right off the bat I thought it's very easy for her to get a doctor's note on letterhead (which Airbnb said was the documentation -- but of course they don't show us, even though WE are in this contract with them -- that seems illegal in itself). Keep in mind that this is someone from another country saying he could travel because his wife was injured.   Well, I just Googled a bit and found that he had posted an invitation to an event he was a part of in my New York area both on Twitter and Linkedin!  The event was on the day after he was supposed to arrive.  I contacted the event coordinator and found out this guy was still presenting at the NY event.  I have this in writing! This is evidence of fraud, among other crimes because of the money involved.  I gave Airbnb the information, and they have done nothing to rectify this.  So, I have to sue.  If other people have similar situations or have a lawsuit already in the works, I am happy to join forces.

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
Austin, TX
Level 2

It's brutal to hear about all these instances. I appreatie everyoen sharing. This is a problem. I've personally been affected by the full Guest refund "extinuaiting circustance" serval times. It would be painful to go back and count, but my guess would be ~15 times. I hope Airbnb works on this policy soon. This is what travel insurance is for. Basically Airbnb is acting as travel insurance agent, and the Hosts are the underwriters. However as underwriters, we get no say in the process and no opportunity to challange or due dilgience. Big problem. Seems to me, the easiest and most appropraite solution is that Airbnb refunds the applicable Guest and honors the payout to the Hosts (accoring to contracted cancelation policy) if they deem it as an extinuating circustance. If they are going to be the insurance agent and benefit from this Guest amentity, they need to be the underwriter. This is no way to treat Hosts.  In the end, my belief is that Airbnb will fix this and fix it soon, as they've done when major issues pop up. However, worth noting Airbnb is trending towards being their own Host - buying property and compaines that are already hosting. The extinuating circumstance policy could be an example of the demineshing responsibilty to the independent Hosts, with more focus on Guest acquisiiton. All the love for Airbnb, but this is something they need to change. Thanks for reading. Hope to keep this conversation going. It would be great to hear from an Airbnb rep on this thread.

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
Como, CO
Level 10

@Jason391

 

There is nothing new about the Extenuating circumstances policy.

 

What other major issues have they fixed?

David

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
New York, NY
Level 2

I am experiencing the same issue  in NYC  for the month of Feb . I had a guest 3 weeks of the month who cancelled 6 days before check in now I am stuck with rent in NYC in the coldest month of the year due to "extenuating circumstances". They said he has a doctors note but his wife is a doctor. That couldn't be hard to obtain. Anybody can write a doctor's note. Now I'm 3 days out of Feb with no guest for my apartment and AirBNB said "we are sure you will get rebooked" I'm glad they are sure because I'm not. 

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
Miami, FL
Level 2

you have no recourse I have had guests make up doctors notes as well and even if they are not making them up they should have to take trip insurance for these cases but that is not something airbnb even offers.  All they have to do is type something up on paper and put a doctors name to it that actually exists.  Airbnb due to Hippa laws cannot verify any of the information about it other than the doctor actually exists they cannot verify the patient actually saw the doctor or even that they are a patient.  So anyone can lie about this issue.  I have stopped 100% taking any reservations on airbnb that are not 4-5 days out so I only rent last minute on airbnb.  I rent on two other rental sites that do not allow special circumstances.  It is too bad that I have to do this but it is all because of the Airbnb horrible special circumstances.  If airbnb changes I will change as well but until I cannot afford to keep loosing thousands of dollars.

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
Kamloops, Canada
Level 3

Ive been considering switching over to another vacation rental platform as well. I’ve had a few issues with cancelations and also damaged property that was dealt with horribly, and most recently the “extenuating circumstances” cancelation at 3pm on the day of check in. 

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
San Diego, CA
Level 2

This happened to me today. The guest who was arriving in 4 days said her mother broke her leg so she is invoking the Extenuating Circumstances clause to get a full refund....and she got it! Airbnb needs to sell travel insurance or allow us to, and drop this Extenuating Circumstances rip-off that overrides our cancellation policy. This is what travel insurance is for! What about the Extenuating Circumstance that we have a mortgage to pay? 

Nancy

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
Anchorage, AK
Level 3

Hello Nancy,

I am in absolute agreement with you.  I rather doubt Airbnb forces the guest to prove anything either.  

Cherie

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
Austin, TX
Level 2

I could not agree more. This continues to be a huge problem. In my opinion, Airbnb is offering "Travel Insurance" to Guests at no cost/risk to Airbnb or the Guest. All the cost/risk falls on the Host. On top of that the Host does not see any of the evidence or get any say in the final decision. Airbnb either needs to 1) offer 3rd party travel insurance or 2) offer travel insurance through Airbnb. Either way, the Guest pays a reasonable premium and the Host is paid out if a qualified claim is made. The "Extenuating Circumstances" policy needs to be scrapped.

Re: Airbnb's "Extenuating Circumstances" Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

in
Zadar, Croatia
Level 1

Dear, the Airbnb did the same thing to me. There Extenuating Circumstances Policy can override our Strict Policy. And there Extenuating Circumstances Policy is really DISCRIMINATORY to hosts. Especially because guests can take a travel insurance and be covered. Almost every cancelation from now on will be because of some fake death or accident or illness.
The main question is What can we do as a hosts about that Airbnb discriminatory policy???? 

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