When Mary Gaetz-Scholtz planned a trip to Las Vegas, she was not anticipating that her biggest gamble would be on her booking with Airbnb. Unfortunately, this thoroughly unsatisfactory rental was anything but a winner, and now Scholtz wants a complete refund. Can we help?
Question: I rented a house in Las Vegas and paid $1,464 to Airbnb for a three-day weekend. Upon arrival, I found the property filthy and totally unacceptable. Furniture was heavily stained and beyond normal wear and tear. There was a strong odor of animal urine in the house.
The host indicated that the key to the property had been lost and she was unable to get a new key made so there was no key.
I learned that the owner was in violation of Las Vegas short-term rental codes and had been ordered to cease renting.
I immediately canceled the reservation by a telephone call to the host and leaving a message and by going online and filling out the cancellation form. For some reason, Airbnb has only refunded $1,087. Can you help me get the rest of my money, please? — Mary Gaetz-Scholtz, Davenport, Iowa
Answer: Yes, Mary, I think we can!
You had every right to expect that the home that you rented through Airbnb would be a legally approved, clean rental that would bear some resemblance to the home you viewed on the Airbnb site.
But the residence that you were confronted with was a far cry from the Airbnb photographic representation. Sporting torn upholstery, dirty tables, piles of the owner’s personal belongings and scratches and crayon marks all over the walls and doors, it left you wondering how quickly you could hightail it out of there.
To add to the disagreeable situation, the smell of the home was equally intolerable.
The fact that the host did not even provide you a key or other means to secure the home during your stay was just an additional absurd aspect of this botched vacation rental.
However, the most compelling reason for your immediate rejection of this “rental” was found taped to the garage door. It was an official cease and desist letter from the City of Las Vegas. This notice indicated that the property was not permitted to be used as a rental.
This should have immediately nullified your contract with the host and Airbnb and qualified you for a full refund.
But for some reason, it didn’t. And that’s when you contacted us.
I was surprised by the paper trail that you provided because it seemed that the Airbnb representative was not fully grasping the situation. You had (awful) pictures that showed the condition of the home and a letter from an officer of the City of Las Vegas stating that this property was not a legal rental.
So what happened?
The initial Airbnb representative was focused on the wrong part of your story. He pointed out that you had not followed the Guest Refunds Policy Terms exactly as is laid out in the Airbnb contract.
Why? Because in the section of this policy called “Conditions to Claim a Travel Issue” it is stated that you must make an effort to let the host remedy the situation before your reject the property.
The representative pointed out that you did not give the host a chance to correct any issues with the home. Clearly the facts of this case show that was not possible. There is no way that the host could have corrected the lack of approval from the City of Las Vegas to rent her property.
This Airbnb representative put you off for several weeks, telling you that he was attempting to get the other side of the story from the host, who was not answering his inquiries.
Meanwhile, when the host refused your calls as well, you began to seek out further information about her. You discovered that she appeared to be having financial difficulties. You found her GoFundMe page where she was asking for donations to keep her business — a restaurant — afloat.
You suggested to Airbnb that the host was ignoring all attempts to reach her because she did not want to be reached — and did not want to refund the money.
This seemed like a logical conclusion. But the Airbnb representative persisted with his stance that he needed to speak to the host before your money could be refunded.
In light of the letter from Officer McCoy of the City of Las Vegas we wondered why it was necessary to have any input from this host. That letter is quite clear:
This property has a Notice and Order from the City of Las Vegas to cease all short term rental activity.
You may inform Airbnb they may contact me directly as to the status of this property, if further explanation is needed. In the City of Las Vegas, a business license is required for this type of activity.
This should have been all you needed to prove your case. But still unconvinced, the Airbnb representative sent you one last email closing your case. He reiterated that this was the final decision and that he hoped you would continue to use Airbnb in the future.
If that was the end of this story, I highly doubt that you would ever reuse a company that sent you to an illegal rental and then charged you $400 for your trouble.
But that isn’t the end of the story.
I contacted Airbnb on your behalf, and they corrected your situation almost immediately. The executive to whom I spoke reviewed the case and noted that the representative who had been handling your case made an error. Because you discovered upon arrival that there was no legal way for you to stay at the property, even if you had wanted to, you were owed a complete refund.
Airbnb has now refunded all your payments and offered you a $50 voucher for a future rental. You are satisfied with this outcome, and so are we.
In the future, if you are faced with a company representative who seems unable to understand your situation completely, ask to speak to a supervisor. Your story is an example of how useful a fresh set of eyes can be in resolving conflicts.
As a result of this case, this illegitimate listing has been removed from Airbnb. So we can be sure that no other unsuspecting traveler will be lured in by this “host” — and that’s a good thing.