Wildfire as a regular season occurrence in the western u.s.

in
Garden Valley, CA
Level 2
141 Views

Wildfire as a regular season occurrence in the western u.s.

 

Wildfires are a regular occurrence in Northern California where our property is located, and the skies can be smoky from July through October.  This is completely normal for our area and happens every year.  We state the following in our policies regarding cancellations (and people agree to these policies when they book): 

 

CANCELLATIONS AND CHANGES:

  • You must cancel your reservation by 3pm 14 days prior to your scheduled arrival to receive a full refund, less a 10% processing fee. 
  • Reservations cancelled between 14 days and 7 days prior to your scheduled arrival are subject to a 50% cancellation fee. 
  • All reservations become non-refundable and non-changeable after the cancellation window closes (by 3pm seven days prior to arrival).  
  • There will be no adjustments, guarantees, refunds or rebates for problems or failures beyond our control such as weather, fire, smoke, road conditions, power outages, or any other unavoidable occurrences.
  • We apply these policies consistently to all reservations in order to treat everyone equally. 
  • We suggest you consider travel insurance if you will need to recoup your reservation fees in the event of a last-minute change after our cancellation windows close. Squaremouth is a travel insurance marketplace where you can easily compare policies that can help protect your trip.

 

This morning, a guest who was supposed to check in tomorrow was able to cancel directly with Airbnb because she claimed Extenuating Circumstances due to air quality.  Airbnb unilaterally agreed to cancel her reservation without contacting us first. When I complained, the Airbnb support person told me that Airbnb “policymakers” had set our geographic area as an Extenuating Circumstance area and that anyone would be allowed to cancel.  When I asked him if there was some sort of time limit on this designation, he told me it was from August 18 – 22 (today is August 19).  When I asked if I could speak with one of these “policymakers” to dispute this designation, he told me that wasn’t possible.  No one from Airbnb had communicated this policy to us when it was set.  I find this extremely disrespectful.  Airbnb’s own policy about Extenuating Circumstances states that “Extenuating Circumstances do not include weather or natural conditions that are common enough to be foreseeable in that location—for example, hurricanes occurring during hurricane season in Florida.”  Wildfire season in California is the same as hurricane season in Florida.  It happens every year in the summer/fall months.  Furthermore, we alert people to it in the policies when they book so guests have no excuse for not knowing about wildfire season.  Currently there is a wildfire to the south of us, and one to the north of us, but we are not in any danger and are not under any evacuation orders. It is smoky here, but it has been smoky throughout Northern California since mid-July so the guest had ample time to cancel her reservation without waiting until the day before check-in. 

 

Has this happened to anyone else?  Is there any way I can dispute what Airbnb has decided about our area re: Extenuating Circumstances?  The Airbnb support person would not help me and could not offer any other way to dispute this.  I am about at my wit’s end dealing with Airbnb during fire season and I am considering de-listing our property after this season. We have four units that are very popular and fully booked all the time. But I do not feel that Airbnb is showing basic respect for me as a host if they make a decision for our area and do not bother to communicate it to us. 

3 Replies

Re: Wildfire as a regular season occurrence in the western u.s.

in
Arkansas, United States
Level 10

@Tamara-And-Ramon0 

 

No one should ever be held responsible for anything.

 

Except you. 


I’m not entirely sure that Airbnb has the right to cancel your booking in violation of their own policies, but without parsing their long and boring contract I can’t say.

 

Maybe if you complain long enough and bitterly enough they will be more careful next time.

Re: Wildfire as a regular season occurrence in the western u.s.

in
Garden Valley, CA
Level 2

Yes, I am realizing that our only real recourse is to move away from airbnb.  We already do direct bookings through our website, and since the air quality got worse in the last few days, I offered for our direct booking guests to either reschedule or get a 50% refund on cancellation. For airbnb guests I offered that they could reschedule.  But the point is that I should be the one who makes this determination, not airbnb.  So in order to do that I will clearly have to stop using airbnb.  I imagine I am not the only host that is moving in this direction.  

Re: Wildfire as a regular season occurrence in the western u.s.

in
Garden Valley, CA
Level 2

Just happened again, we had a guest who didn't want to come due to smoke (even though our air quality is 87 but people want what they want). We offered for her to reschedule but she said she couldn't do so because of her work schedule. So we offered a 50% refund.  Yet airbnb support unilaterally decided to give her a full refund, saying it was for Extenuating Circumstances. We have yet to receive any communication from airbnb to let us know that apparently any guest can cancel at any time. This is really the final straw for us. We have other airbnb bookings (along with out own direct bookings) until we close for the season on October 24, but we will no longer be on the platform after that.  It's a shame that airbnb cares so little about their host community that they cannot even communicate with us.  

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