In this episode B and Jack discuss how to get a refund from Airbnb if the housing isn’t as advertised. They go over a simple 6-step process to do so. Furthermore, they discuss what are your options if Airbnb denies to give you the refund.
Table of Contents
1.1. This topic within the context of the broader Digital Nomad Life System [3:54]
The Digital Nomad Life System is a 6-step meta-system created by us at Nomad Tactics that aims to explain how someone can go from living a non-nomadic normal life to living an optimized digital nomad life.
The forth step of the system is called the “Arriving Process”. This can be understood as the things the digital nomad needs to do once you arrive in your new base (the city you will stay in) to make sure you will be properly settled there in order to make the most out of the stay. Deciding if you will ask for a refund or not to Airbnb is one of the first things you need to do once you get to the new base, that is why we place this topic in this step of the system.
To have a general overview of the Digital Nomad Life System you should listen to this episode.
1.2. How to get a refund from an Airbnb Not as advertised [6:35]
Is the Airbnb not as advertised (a.k.a. bad) or am I just tired?
I am serious.
Sometimes after a long trip, you might be seeing everything through a negative lens.
You will need substantial reasons for your complaint, so you better figure out if such reasons exist in the first place or not.
Also, keep in mind that if you decide to progress and make the complaint, there is no turning back.
The damage will be done.
Once you complain to the host, you will possibly enter into a conflict dynamic with him.
And, in the end, if you do not leave the place, it might be dangerous for you to leave your things there since the host might be vengeful. 
B. Establish the type of problems you dealing with
Identify the problems and assess if these are fixable or not.
For example, if the Airbnb has no house heating, then this problem seems to be fixable. The host can simply provide you with a portable heater. That is it, problem fixed.
On the other hand, if the toilet has no door and you are sharing the flat with others, then there seem to be no obvious solutions . This problem is unfixable.
It is important to establish if the problems you are dealing with are fixable or not because this will change your approach in the next steps of this process.
C. Document all the faults
Take a photo or video of all the problems on the property.
Also, check the Airbnb listing to see if the host mentions any of those things there. In other words, check if REALLY the Airbnb not as advertised.
If the host did not say anything in the listing, then you have solid grounds for the complaint.
Otherwise, you may want to avoid the complaint, since you are unlikely to win the battle.
Pro tip: It would be advisable to take print screens of the listing just in case the host changes it after you start complaining.
D. Contacting the host
The next thing I would do is to contact the host directly.
Keep in mind that, at this point, you should have already established if the problems are fixable or not.
I will now tell you what you should do in each case.
Fixable problem: Following basic persuasion principles, you should always first appeal to a soft strategy (i.e. cooperative and friendly approach) before you try a hard strategy (i.e. being more confrontational). Be nice to the host and explain to him the issues with the property. You should sound as friendly as possible and kindly ask him to fix the problem. Show him the photos you took if necessary and point to the fact that his Airbnb listing did not mention any of those problems.
Unfixable problem: This situation is a bit more complicated so I separated what to do into steps.
- 1Again, start the conversation being nice but, at the same time, a bit more firm with the host. Tell him you find some aspects of the property unacceptable. You can send photos to him showing the problems.
- 2Tell him that you do not want to stay in the property anymore, because of such problems.
- 3Tell the host you would be ok striking a deal with him rather than contacting Airbnb straightaway. By doing so he can avoid any backlash from Airbnb related to having problems in his property.
- 4Ask the host to pay you back the full amount either in cash or through the Airbnb platform. In return, you will be the one canceling the stay on the Airbnb platform. Since you will be the one canceling the stay, the host will not be penalized and he will be able to rent to someone else during that period.
The host can respond to your complaint in two ways:
- Fixable problem: Basically the host says he can fix the problem. So you just need to arrange with him how and when to fix the problem and then enjoy the rest of the stay.
- Unfixable problem: Basically the host accepts to give you back the full amount you paid. Get the money and look for a hotel or another Airbnb.
- Fixable problem and unfixable problem: The host says that he cannot fix the problem or that he will not give you a refund. In the following paragraphs, I will give you a detailed explanation of what to do.
Pro tip: If the host does not give you any response to your complaints within 12 hours from the check-in assume the negative and move on the next step. As I said before, the easiest time to get a full refund through Airbnb is within 24h of check-in since in this period Airbnb still holds the money.
E. Getting written records
If you were talking until now with the host by voice or face-to-face and he refused to solve the problem, even though you showed him the Airbnb is not as advertised, then what I would do next is to send him a message on the Airbnb platform stating the following:
“I am not satisfied with the outcome of our conversation today. Are you sure you will not try to solve my problem concerning X (i.e. whatever problem you got)? If so I will be forced to contact Airbnb”.
The reason why you should use the Airbnb platform to send this message is that Airbnb’s customer support will then later be able to verify that you already tried to negotiate with the host, but you were unsuccessful. Do not worry if the host responds to your message or not. You just need the written record that proves you already contacted him before you contacted Airbnb’s customer service.
F. Contacting Airbnb customer service
Contact the Airbnb customer service using the Airbnb platform through their website or app.
Say your Airbnb property has serious problems, like having a hidden camera, and therefore you would like to ask for a full refund.
Explain the problem to them and show photo evidence.
Also, point out that the problem was never made explicit in the Airbnb listing when you were booking.
According to Airbnb, you are entitled to a refund within 24 hours from check-in if you fit the following criteria:
- The host fails to provide reasonable access to the booked listing.
- The listing booked is misrepresented (ex: number of bedrooms, location, lacks promised amenities).
- The listing isn’t generally clean, is unsafe or there’s an animal in the listing that wasn’t disclosed prior to booking.
Probably the problem you have with the property will fit one (usually the second item) or more items of the criteria .
Once again this is not to say you cannot get a refund after 24 hours from the check in, but is certainly easier if you are within this time window.
Airbnb will then ask you to contact the host.
You will tell them that you already did so and the host was not helpful. Airbnb might check your messages to make sure that is the case. That is why it is so important for you to have had previously sent that message to the host using the Airbnb platform. It saves you time.
Airbnb will then make a decision. Usually, the odds are in your favor.
Which means that Airbnb will probably give you a full refund and/or help you find a similar property in the city. If the new property is more expensive than the original one, sometimes Airbnb will cover the difference.
Now just sit back, drink a Budweiser, and relax. You just escaped living hell.
1.3. What if Airbnb denies your refund even Though your Airbnb not as advertised [18:32]
How it feels like
The following scenario, though unlikely, can happen sometimes…
Your Airbnb not as advertised. You are pissed. You complain to Airbnb’s customer service… But they do not want to refund your money…
Now you have three options:
- Leave the property and lose the money
- Call your credit card company and initiate a dispute
- Accept the loss and stay in the property (this might include some minutes of crying in the shower on a fetal position as a side effect)
None of these outcomes are good.
All of these outcomes will bring about some sort of stress. You will need to make a personal call to what you think is less bad in that specific situation.
Pro tip: If you choose option 3 always take your valuables when you leave the property and/or hide your things when you go out. Some hosts might get pissed off because you complain to Airbnb and might be vengeful. Also, you need to consider the fact that, if you decide to stay in the property, then it is likely you will receive a bad review from the host in the end. Click here to read an article that I explain how to prevent getting a bad review from the host no matter what.
 I learned this the hard way in Argentina.
 Believe me, that happened to me in China once.
Mr. B: Hey guys just before going into the actual episode a quick announcement so this episode is part of a small series that me and Mister Jack decided to do about Airbnb which is the most widely used platform by digital nomads to book their accommodation.
Mr. B: I hope you find this series useful.
Mr. B: Hey hello welcome to the Nomad Tactics podcast here we provide life optimizing tips and systems for digital nomads I'm your host B. and I'm joined by the co host Jack.
Mr. B: Today we're gonna talk about what should you do if you get your Airbnb you realize there is a big problem with it and you want to ask for a refund.
Mr. B: I will start with a quick summary of the episode.
Mr. B: First me and Jack gonna talk about which type of problem we are trying to tackle in this episode.
Mr. B: After that we gonna try to place this topic within our broader digital nomad life system.
Mr. B: Then we gonna make some general considerations about the topic.
Mr. B: Following that we gonna present step by step what should you do to get a refund from an Airbnb that has a big problem.
Mr. B: And finally we gonna talk about what should you do if Airbnb denies your refund request.
Mr. B: I hope you enjoy the episode.
Jack: So hello Mr. B.
Mr. B: Hello Jack.
Jack: So the topic we're gonna talk about today is what if you go to your Airbnb and you find out there's a problem and you want the refund.
Mr. B: Yes.
Jack: So I think to star this episode be best for me to talk about the scenario what happened to me when I was traveling to Japan so I flew from London to Japan I believe the flight was around twenty two hours.
Mr. B: Okay.
Jack: Because I was such a cheap ass.
Mr. B: Anything did you stop over some other places.
Jack: I think it's Kzakhstan.
Jack: Still there for like a few hours it was a tough place because I couldn't sleep well and the been to Japan I was extremely tired.
Mr. B: When they arrive.
Jack: Yeah yeah I was gonna figure out all the transportation and all those words I just can't understand but finally luckily I get to my Airbnb And I was checking with the host.
Jack: So I found there's a problem within my Airbnb is that there's no AC I mean you might think that's not a big problem. But if you actually go to Japan summer you realize the weather is unstandable.
Mr. B: Use everybody thinks maybe that Japan has kind of a mild weather but in summer is really really hot I can totally understand your concern about not having an AC for a month.
Jack: Then again the check the listing on Airbnb and I found out he says he has AC but actually doesn't have.
Mr. B: So what did you do.
Jack: But I thought it pay the money I may as well just stay there I don't want find places so in the end I just stay there for like a month.
Mr. B: I see so you sweat for a month yeah I think that's the perfect example for the kind of problem we gonna try to tackle today which is as you said there is a big problem in the Airbnb property and you want to refund to find a new place.
Jack: All right Mr B so I think as usual we should put this topic within our digital nomad life system and for people who don't know what is the system it is a six step system by aims to help people go from a stable nine to five life to a fully optimized digital normal life so Mr B where would you put this topic into which step of the system?
Mr. B: So I think this topic would fit the a fourth step of our system which is called the arriving process which can be understood as the actions a digital nomad should do once he gets to his new base in order to guarantee a good stay in this new city which he will be living for a while.
Mr. B: Since of course the quality of your accommodation is one of the crucial things you need to get right in order to have a good stay in a place.
Mr. B: Avoiding big problems with your accommodation and asking for refund if that's the case totally makes sense to be placed in this step of our system.
Jack: So yeah before we go into the main topics of today Mr B you said you want to make two quick general observation of this topic right?
Mr. B: Yeah that's right so the first thing I would like to point out is that if you want to successfully ask for refund you should do the whole process in which we will describe next within twenty four hours of your check in.
Mr. B: And the reason for that is because in the first twenty four hours, Airbnb still haven't paid the host therefore the whole process is simplified in the case you ask for a refund.
Mr. B: The second point I would like to make is that as we said today we gonna be talking about asking for a refund to Airbnb.
Mr. B: But we are not advocating here that you should ask for a refund if you simply don't like a property in which you just checked in that's not the problem we are trying to tackle rather we are saying that you should ask refund only in the case that there is a big problem with your Airbnb that you cannot stand whatsoever and it's unreasonable for you to leave in such conditions or if there is a mismatch between what the listing said the property would be and what the property actually is.
Jack: So let's go into the main topic of today the the six stages that you have to go through to get a refund from Airbnb.
Jack: So the first one is to evaluate the situation.
Mr. B: So the first thing you got to do is to evaluate if the Airbnb is truly not as advertised or he truly has a big problem or you just tired.
Mr. B: And I'm being serious here it might sound a little bit funny but.
Mr. B: If you just finished a very long trip such as in the example you gave in the beginning of the episode.
Mr. B: You might be seeing everything through a very negative lens and as we will see afterwards you will need some sort of substantial reason for complain and to ask for a refund therefore it's very important for you to figure out if such reasons exist in the first place or not.
Jack: Yeah and keep in mind that once you initiate the conflict dynamic with the host i.e. you start to saying there's a problem with the house you can't really go back being friendly with the host anymore.
Mr. B: Yeah that's true so there will be instantiated some sort of conflict dynamics with him and as you said it might be a bit weird to like just keep living there and.
Jack: Yeah so the second stages is establish the type of problems you're dealing with.
Mr. B: Yeah that's true.
Mr. B: What do you need to do now is softer you evaluated you so if there is a problem or not let's say there is a problem you got established if the problem is fixable or not okay so for instance let's say that house has no heating system.
Mr. B: In that case I would say that this problem can be considered a fixable problem because the host can simply provide you a portable heater and once that is done the problem is fixed and you can still stay in the house.
Mr. B: On the other hand there's certain problems that just seem to be unfixable for example something that happened to me a couple of years back I rented an Airbnb with a couple of friends and the bathroom had no door.
Mr. B: People I was going to share the flat with were simply not okay with that so we had to complain to Airbnb and eventually ask for a refund so it's very important in the second step for you to establish if the problem you're dealing with is fixable or not.
Jack: So the third stage of the processes is document all the faults.
Mr. B: Yes so basically what you gonna do here is to take a photo or make a video of all the problems you've spotted on the property also check the Airbnb listing to see if they host did mention any of those things over there.
Mr. B: If the host did not say anything the listing then it seems like you have solid grounds for a complaint.
Mr. B: Otherwise if the host did mention something in the listing about the problem.
Mr. B: Then perhaps you should avoid to complain all together since it's unlikely you will get the refund.
Jack: I will also advise people to take a screenshot of the listing in case the host changes it after you start complaining.
Jack: So the fourth stage of this process is to contact the host directly.
Mr. B: Yeah that's right so as you said you gonna contact the host directly not Airbnb yet and at this point you should have already established if the problem you're dealing with it's fixable or not.
Mr. B: And depending on the nature of the problem fixable or not you gonna approach the hosts in two slightly different ways so let's first think about the scenario where the problem is fixable so I mean the you should start in of course a very friendly manner start with a soft approach first before you go more confrontational so what I would do is to simply explained to the host okay I have this problem in the property you can even send him some photos and say that you think the problem is fixable and perhaps even provide him the solution.
Mr. B: On the other hand if the problem is unfixable then it's a bit more complicated soul let me break it down the first thing I would do is once again start talking to the host by message in a friendly manner.
Mr. B: And tell him that there are some aspects of the property that are unacceptable again you can send him some photos to show the problem tell him that because of such problems you don't want to stay in the property anymore.
Mr. B: Also tells the hosts that you would be okay striking a deal with him rather than contacting Airbnb straight away by doing so he can avoid any backlash from Airbnb related to having problems with his property.
Mr. B: So what you can do is to ask the host to pay you back the full amount either in cash or through the Airbnb platform in return you will be the one canceling the stay on the Airbnb platform.
Mr. B: And since you will be the one canceling rather than him as the host the host will not be penalized and he will be able to rent to someone else during that same period in which you cancel.
Jack: Yes so here the host can respond your complaint in two ways one is positive and one is negative obviously so for positive if the problem is fixable
Jack: Then you just gonna arrange with the host and you guys going to fix the problem hopefully in the rest of the stay but if the problem is unfixable so basically the host is going to give you back the amounts you pay.
Jack: And you can use the money to get another Airbnb or look for a hotel.
Jack: And let's say the hosts respond you in the negative way he said you cannot fix the problem or he will not give you back your money.
Jack: Then we gonna digitally describe how to do with it in the following stages of this process.
Jack: And just a quick tip if the host does not give you any respond to your complaint within twelve hours from check in assume the negative and move on to the next step.
Jack: As we talked before the easiest time to get a refund from Airbnb is within twenty four hours since the check in and then moving on to the next stage of this process is getting the written records.
Mr. B: So just to reiterate what Jack just said step number five and six are only applicable if the host gave you a negative response in terms of the request about the problem in the property so basically in this fifth step.
Mr. B: What you gonna do is the following if you are talking now with the host either by voice or face to face and he refused to solve the problem even though you showed him the Airbnb listing and you prove to him that it's not as advertised or that the problem is too unreasonable for you to accept then what I would do next is to send him a message on the Airbnb platform stating more or less the following: I would say I'm not satisfied with the outcome of our conversation today are you sure you will not try to solve my problem concerning X meaning whatever problem you have if so I will be forced to contact Airbnb directly.
Mr. B: The reason why you should use the Airbnb platform to send this message that I just outlined is because once you contact Airbnb customer service day will you be able to verify that you already tried to negotiate with the host but you were unsuccessful.
Mr. B: Also do not worry if the host does not respond to your message because why do you just need after all is a written record that proves that you already tried to contact him before.
Jack: So the next stage which is also the last stage of this process is to contact Airbnb customer service.
Mr. B: So yeah what you gonna do here is to contact Airbnb customer service using the Airbnb platform through their website or their app you will tell Airbnb customer service that you have a serious problem with that property and therefore you would like a full refund.
Mr. B: You will explain the problem and you should also show some photo evidence based on the photos that we told you you should have taken in the previous steps of this process.
Mr. B: Also you will point out that the problem was never made explicit in the Airbnb listing when you're booking.
Mr. B: And according to Airbnb you are entitled to a refund within twenty four hours from check in if you fit certain criteria I believe you have the criteria over there Mr Jack.
Jack: Yes so we have three items in this criteria the first one is if the host fails to provide reasonable access to the listing and the second one is the listing booked is misrepresented.
Jack: Let's say the number of the bedrooms location where the lax promise amenities.
Jack: So the last one is the listing isn't general clean it's unsafe for there's an animal in the listing that wasn't disclosed prior to booking.
Mr. B: Yes based on this criteria I think most people would be able to fit there complain within the second item of their criteria for refunds which basically is the listing both is misrepresented.
Mr. B: What Airbnb will do next is to ask you to contact the host.
Mr. B: What you're gonna say is that you already did so and the host was not helpful Airbnb will probably at this point check your messages through the Airbnb platform to make sure you are ready in fact tried to contact the host and they will see that you did so that's why you try to get the written records in the previous stage of this process.
Mr. B: Airbnb will then make a decision and usually I would say that if the complaint is fair odds are in your favor which means that Airbnb will probably give you a full refund.
Mr. B: Or help you find a similar property in the city also within the platform.
Mr. B: If the new property is more expensive than the original one that you gonna live sometimes the Airbnb will even cover the difference.
Mr. B: So now is basically you got to wait and see what Airbnb gonna tell you.
Jack: Yes so if Airbnb gives you back your money here that would be the best scenario but what if the Airbnb denies your refund request so it seems to me that there are three options here and the first one is to leave the property and lose money the second one is to call that your credit card company and initiated dispute.
Mr. B: Of course this is assuming you booked with a credit card in the first place and this dispute going to be something kind of unrelated to the Airbnb platform it's going to be you telling your credit card look a paid for service and they didn't get it and your credit card company going a started the dispute with Airbnb itself this is kind of an extreme measure but perhaps in an extreme case is something you would be willing to do.
Jack: Yeah so the last one is simply accepted your lost and stay in the property.
Mr. B: So yeah if you were to choose this option number three you just say that perhaps you should always take your valuables and you leave the property or at the very least hide around the house.
Mr. B: Because through this whole process you might have you know created some sort of conflict with the host and if his revengeful person maybe he might do something with your things I don't think that's the case for most Airbnb hosts but you know just to be safe why not take things with you or hide them.
Mr. B: Anyway I know that none of this is possible options are the best and they all going to bring about some sort of stress.
Mr. B: But it's your personal call to think what is the least bad option and act accordingly.
Jack: So yeah this is the end of episode if you enjoyed this episode please make sure to leave a review on your list on the platform I'm Jack and thanks for listening.
Mr. B: Thank you very much.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.