Airbnb Not As Advertised? How to Get a Refund

Picture this.

You just got off an indirect 22 hours flight from London to Tokyo.

You are dead inside.

Finally you get to your place and… Surprise, surprise, the Airbnb not as advertised.

What do you do next? 

Fear not, my friend, Mr. B is here to pat you in the back and tell you that we can fix that.

Yes, you can get a full refund from Airbnb after you checked-in.

This article will explain step-by-step what to do.

But the key thing here is to act quickly. If you want to solve this problem in the best possible way then you need to act upon it under 24 hours from the check-in!

This is not to say that you cannot get a refund any time during your stay if you find an issue. You CAN do that. Nonetheless, as I just said, the best time to complain is within 24h hours of the check-in if you want to maximize your chances.

Regardless, no matter what your situation is, (i.e. complain within 24 hours of check-in or not) you can follow the steps below to get a refund from Airbnb.

1.1 Evaluate

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. [1]

1.2 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 [2]. 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.

1.3 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.

1.4 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.

  1. 1
    Again, 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.
  2. 2
    Tell him that you do not want to stay in the property anymore, because of such problems. 
  3. 3
    Tell 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.
  4. 4
    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. 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:

Positive

  • 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.

Negative

  • 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.

1.5 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.

1.6 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.

2. What if Airbnb denies your refund even Though your Airbnb not as advertised

airbnb not as advertised

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:

  1. Leave the property and lose the money
  2. Call your credit card company and initiate a dispute
  3. 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.

[1] I learned this the hard way in Argentina.

[2] Believe me, that happened to me in China once.

Leave a Comment