I've brought this up before, but will (gently) bring it up again.
We just had a guest, who we sympathize with completely, get a 100% day-after-checkin refund from AirBnB because of (completely legitimate) extenuating circumstances. (Massive weather system in the midwest resulted in widespread flight delays and cancellations). We're even the ones who suggested to the distraught guest that they contact AirBnB and use the "extenuating circumstances" reason to ask for a full refund. Because, as I said, we fully understand the guest's unavoidable situation.
That said, we, as the host, end up with $0 for a now-unbookable, lost reservation.
When these situations arise, there are TWO victims -- the guest, who shouldn't be on the hook for the entire original charge, and the host, who likewise shouldn't suffer the loss of the entire original booking (unless they're able to quickly rebook all/most of the lost dates, which is almost always impossible).
What I suggest is that AirBnB come up with some simple formula (for the guest refund) that kicks in a day or two AFTER the original start date. If the host has been able to fill some/all of the original dates, then the guest refund could be based on that. If the host is completely unable to refill the dates, then the guest refund basis would reflect that.
Yeah, there are some complexities here, but some simple rules or guidelines could be worked out. For example, using our latest cancellation (a 3-night booking, which we were completely unable to refill), perhaps the guest might've been charged for 1 night out of 3. Or a flat fee, perhaps some percentage of the entire booking or of the first night. Something like that. Basically, something better than exactly $0.
My larger point is that even when truly "extenuating circumstances" occur, there are two parties affected, two "victims" -- the guests and the hosts. Neither should bear the entire burden or reap the entire benefit. That seems so simple and so obvious.
Travellers sometimes carry insurance against things like weather preventing them from reaching a destination. This is really where the money should come from. Hosts do not have this insurance. Some credit card holder policies (VISA if I remember correctly) will cover this without needing to take on an extra policy.
For weather that affects the traveler (flight delays, driving conditions), the traveler should bear the burden either by purchasing travel insurance or by taking the risk of losing their monies paid. If the weather impacts the suitability of the house (road closures, power outage, damage), then the host should bear the burden and absorb the cost, because that's the cost of doing business with that particular property.
For personal circumstances, it should always be the traveler's risk to accept by not having traveler insurance. The host is in no position to qualify claims of hardship.
That said, I have almost always given a refund or a date change when presented with a last minute illness or death because I err on the side of compassion, but I wish I didn't have to be placed in that situation. I am not a travelers insurance company and lose out on income that I rely upon. It's equivalent to asking a stranger you've only had a few email exchanges with to give you $1000.
Airbnb should consider offering traveler's coverange as an add on. It's really a small charge in comparison to the fees they already charge the guest. Or better yet they should take this on as an expense to expand their traveler base by building confidence.
Larisa has the perfectly and obviously correct approach to this I think. I would be so bold as to call her style "Personal Responsibility." If you as the host cannot provide the home, then you should refund. If the guest cannot get to the home for any reason that is not the host's fault, then there should be no refund at all. Trip insurance should be offered as an add-on through a third party vendor. I ask not my brother's keeper, and I cannot be financially responsible for other people's bad planning.
@Dede: Some things, especially weather is obviously out of everyones control. In 3.5 years of hosting we have not run into anything where weather played a part in a booking cancellation. We are in SW Florida and last year when Hurricane Irma came through we luckily did not have anyone booked during that week and it came through and proceeded to knock our power out for 4 days. There was a mandatory evacuation so we would have refunded them fully in this particular situation. We made this for our description page (feel free to steal):
Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. No refunds will be given unless The National Weather Service or Government Agency orders mandatory evacuations. Dates of rentals are guaranteed (exception: Act of God, e.g. fire, mandatory evacuation due to hurricane) when deposit has been received. In the event of loss of power and/or internet, or any other "out of our control" event due to storms we will not grant refunds. Florida weather in the summer can be unpredictable. We recommend travel insurance whenever possible during these months. Check with your local insurance provider for details on your options.
I don't know why Airbnb doesn't do this. It can remind guests the policy and then ask if they want to add insurance. Simple. Use a third party base if you want to. Having us scramble to refill a spot at a lower price and issue refunds is having us do more work for less pay, so I'm not feeling that.
I'm dealing with this scenerio right now. Guest cancelled due to wx but now wants to stay again.
There is a lovely family owned hotel that I have booked in the past in the Outer Banks of North Carolina (USA). Unfortunately, the east coast of the US is prone to hurricanes from June-November. This particular hotels has a policy where both guest and hotel "share the risk" so if the island must be evacuated, the guest receives a 50% refund for the days they couldn't stay.
I think AirBNB should adopt something similar for weather related emergencies. Guests can purchase travel insurance which will reimburse them for their half and we as hosts still receive something for our troubles.
Hey AirBNB are you listening?
Frankly travelling in this day and age without travel insurance is madness. If the guest doesn’t want to take it out it should be all on them. Airbnb could of course offer insurance through a provider.
Not a host. But I love the host perspective. It helps me be a better guest (still waiting for a super guest designation Airbnb! It would help some hosts relax a tad! ). As an FYI being a new traveler I discovered my American Air credit card considers Airbnb a travel agency (double points). Delta Amex the same and they have an airbnb link for points btw. I wonder if that means airbnb reservations are covered by the Travel benefits of delays and cancelations. I'm going to shot over to the points guy and see if Airbnb pops up on search. The folks on that site are obsessed with card benefits like this.
While I think insurance is a great idea and also the thought that Airbnb do something about this is a great idea, there are other work around. You, as a host, can offer a partial refund for days not used. You can do this either by modifying the reservation or just posting a refund. I would come to an agreement with the guest as to what would be fair and refund that part. I have refunded before and it was remarkably easy to do. Or change the reservation, say from four days to two, so host and guest equally share the burden.
@Rebecca, I've also made partial refunds to certain guests. But that's not what I was writing about here. I'm *specifically* and *only* writing about cases where a guest qualifies for the as-defined "extenuating circumstance" refund, requests that refund from AirBnB, and is granted that refund by AirBnB. Making any attempt by the host to be gracious and offer a partial refund completely moot.
When a guest truly qualifies, I sympathize with them and I even agree that they should request the refund from AirBnB, and that AirBnB should grant the refund. My beef isn't with the guest; they're just playing by the rules. What I'm saying is that the rules need to change to some degree. The "bad luck" (flight cancellation, serious illness, whatever) doesn't only affect the guest (and their pocketbook) but also the host and their pocketbook.
As far as others' mentions of trip insurance, that's all well and good, but a) no one can force a guest to take it out, and b) AirBnB's current rules about extenuating circumstances make trip insurance something that no guest need bother to purchase. Until AirBnB alters their refund practices, few people are likely to waste money on trip insurance.
My homes are in Galveston and NOT HIT by Harvey yet I lost over $3000 in planned rental. I understand some was due to the closing of the airports but some were where people just didnt want to go vaca after the Houston Harvey flooding. I tried to negotiate with my renters BUT they called AirBnB and got out of the rental 100%. I cannot take it as a business loss either. Yes travelers insurance would be good BUT it is hard to get them to actually pay.
I AM WONDERING what would be the cost of insurance to the host so I dont have to worry about cancellations. I pay the insurance and no matter when they cancel I still get paid. Of course if I get rebooked I would not get double pay.