Kerli Kundla desperately wants a refund for her canceled Airbnb reservation. But even though her host was willing to issue her a partial refund, Airbnb was not.
Last April Kundla and her partner booked a 28-night stay at an Airbnb rental in Florida for this January. A few days later they wanted to cancel their stay, having found a location they liked better.
They contacted their host, canceling their reservation and requesting a refund. Their host promised them a refund of 50 percent of their deposit and a credit of the remaining 50 percent for a future stay. Kundla asked for a full refund, but the host declined:
Airbnb has asked us to live up to our cancellation policy. We need to honor our policy or we might as well not even have one. We understand your trip is eight months away but we lost other renters when you fulfilled your booking. We cannot guarantee we will refill those dates. Nor do we have an option down the road to give you funds if we do re-rent. Please accept our credit offer under these circumstances.
The host also indicated to Kundla that he had another guest book and cancel a stay at his home after her cancellation, and that he uses only Airbnb’s payment system to receive and refund payments. But Kundla repeatedly refused to accept the host’s explanation or a credit, demanding a full refund:
But how big was your losses? You have [a] strict [cancellation] policy. If somebody canceled, then you still got 50 percent of their cancellation, right? … [This] means you got just about 3-4 nights [of] losses. I don’t understand…why then we have to pay for this double? I really understand, if we made our cancellation [one] week before check-in date, or [a] month…but eight months?! This seems like stealing — not a business…
Kundla appealed her case to Airbnb, but received a refund only of the cleaning fee. Its agent told her that because her booking falls under Airbnb’s long-term cancellation policy which applies to all stays of 28 days or longer, the payment for the first month of the stay was nonrefundable. Only the cleaning fee was eligible for a refund.
In addition, both Kundla and the host agreed to Airbnb’s arbitration policy when they made and accepted the booking, which requires that host and guest agree to arbitration of disputes and waive any rights to litigation.
Kundla might have used our contacts for Airbnb to escalate her complaint. Instead, she contacted our advocates, asking for help in securing a full refund from Airbnb for the rental. Unfortunately for Kundla, we can’t help her.
Our advocates reached out to Airbnb to hear its side of the story. We learned that although Airbnb will take “special circumstances” underlying cancellations into account when issuing refunds as one-time exceptions to its cancellation policies, it won’t entertain Kundla’s decision to cancel her reservation to book alternative lodgings as “special circumstances.” Airbnb’s agent also informed us that Kundla has been “harassing” the host in trying to get a full refund or a future stay at his home, and that Airbnb is “standing firm” behind its long-term cancellation policy.