Welcome to Sisters In Law, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn advise about what to do about a disaster Airbnb stay.
I stayed in an Airbnb over the Christmas break that we had to pay a small fortune for as it was peak time – $3000 for one week to be exact. It was meant to be a family treat but it turned into a disaster.
The Airbnb host had been economical with the truth and the home wasn’t as described. The pictures showed a light and airy space when it was in fact really dark and unloved; the description said 10 minutes to the beach when it was 30; and the grass in the garden was so high we couldn’t go for fear of snakes.
I complained to the owner while we were there and they didn’t even respond. I’m really not happy about how much we paid – what are my options in trying to get some of the money back? – Jen, WA
It’s disappointing that the property you stayed in wasn’t as described, particularly when you had paid the peak surcharge prices.
We are hearing of growing numbers of people now booking more traditional accommodation options (such as hotels and motels) due to bad experiences with Airbnb.
Airbnb isn’t regulated in the same way as traditional accommodation providers with rules and regulations enforced by councils and governments.
Instead, Airbnb is self-regulating in that hosts and guests rate each other, so consistently bad reviews will mean no return business.
You’ve done the right thing by contacting the host. Hopefully you also took photos. Keep a record of these photos and your attempts to contact the host.
Usually we’d recommend contacting Airbnb directly if the host didn’t respond within 24 hours.
As you’ve already left the accommodation, you should give it one last try to resolve the situation with the host by requesting a partial refund and pointing out the issues with the property.
If there is no response, or you’re not satisfied with the host’s response, then you should contact Airbnb via their Resolution Centre. You only have 60 days after your reservations checkout date to lodge a request via the Resolution Centre.
Airbnb’s “guest refund policy” covers things like the accommodation not being safe (which can include anything from pool gates not closing properly to poisonous insects) or not being clean (such as dirty linen).
This policy also applies if there are critical features offered in the listing description that are not available (such as the wrong number of beds), key amenities are missing (such as the airconditioning not working in summer) or the physical location of the accommodation is not what was described.
The policy gives Airbnb discretion to decide whether you should be re-booked (which isn’t possible now in your situation as your stay has ended) or you will receive a part or full refund, so the more information you can provide them about the issue, the better.
Generally, Airbnb will only accept reports of travel issues such as incorrect location within 72 hours of checking in, unless you are able to show it was not feasible to do so within that time frame.
Finally, if you aren’t able to resolve the issue with Airbnb then you could lodge a ‘chargeback’ request with your bank if you used a credit or debit card for the booking. Your bank will investigate and run the dispute for you.
To protect yourself next time you use Airbnb you should:
1. Carefully read previous guests’ reviews on the Airbnb platform, and make sure the reviews you rely on are recent.
2. Consider how old the property is and whether the photos are current.
3. Ensure the property has child-friendly facilities if you have kids.
4. Check there is emergency access and the property meets fire safety requirements – these features could prevent serious injury or even save your life.
5. Confirm the host has permission to lease their property to you. If the host is breaching their lease agreement or their body corporate’s by-laws, you could find yourself out on the street.
6. Ask the host what insurance they have if things were to go wrong.
After arriving at the property, if it looks nothing like the photos or what was described, immediately contact the host via the Airbnb platform, take photos and detail in writing what the issue is and how it needs to be resolved.
If it’s not resolved, then contact Airbnb within 72 hours of checking in.
This legal information is general in nature and should not be regarded as specific legal advice or relied upon. Persons requiring particular legal advice should consult a solicitor.
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