We rented an apartment through Airbnb for 28 nights during a trip to Croatia. After leaving the apartment, the host contacted us requesting payment for damaged property. We could not work out a solution together and were forced to go through the Airbnb Resolution Center (ARC). Below we’ll share our experience in a very detailed format. Keep in mind that the information provided is intended to help guide both parties (the host and guest). Through our experience, you’ll learn the necessary steps to take in order for you to win your dispute through the ARC.
The Complaint – A Damaged Couch
The stay, for the most part, was pleasant. Like many of our previous Airbnb experiences, there were a few inconveniences. When you travel as much as we do, you learn to adapt quickly to the various living standards and lifestyles that locals are accustomed to. The issue began when we arrived in our next unit in Montenegro. We received a message (through Airbnb) from the previous apartment host (from Croatia) that stated:
Correspondence #1 – Host
I’m really sorry you didn’t tell me that sofa was broken. It could have happened to anyone but you should have told me since you know new guests are to be in the unit today. I am sincere and open person and I really appreciate when my guests are the same. The fixing of sofa is going to cost me $70. I’d really appreciate if you can meet my expenses.
Audrey looked at me and said, “We did not break that couch.” After staying in nearly 50 Airbnb rentals we never incurred any type of accusation like this one. Although we’ve dealt with numerous appliances breaking during our stay, we’ve never been accused of damaging anything. We always treat the units we stay in as if they were our own. In fact, we’re what many would consider clean freaks. We take great pride in the fact that we are often commended by hosts that their apartments are actually cleaner after our departure! Our track record and reviews were glowingly positive and this helped show that we are trustworthy and responsible guests.
The absolute #1 lesson – Make sure all communication is documented throughout the entire stay.
You never know what evidence/ammunition you may need to prove your case later on. It’s highly recommended that you use the Airbnb message application on their site/app to communicate because it allows Airbnb employees quick access to the email trail/evidence.
The two big mistakes the host made with this initial email was that they stated:
- It could have happened to anyone.
- The amount of how much the couch was going to cost to fix.
The first statement indicates that it was a simple mistake. In regards to the second statement in question, in which we received the same day of departure, the host stated a specific number ($70) on how much it would cost to fix the couch. The quote was obviously a fictitious amount made up by the host in order to provide some sort of emotional and financial pacification to the damage.
One day later, the host requested $220 through the Airbnb Resolution Center!
To quote two different amounts in such a short amount of time delegitimizes the host’s claim and provides ammunition for an ulterior motive.
When receiving an accusation of damage, take it very seriously. Do not simply quickly respond with a blanket denial.
You will need to begin to layout a case/argument to why this damage is not your fault.
From a defensive perspective, remember, you never have to prove anything. Of course, if you can prove it wasn’t your fault, do so! If you aren’t able to prove it though, remember, just like any defense case you will need to create and display inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and irresponsibility’s on the part of the owner. In other words, you’ll need to illustrate (to Airbnb) why the owner’s word is questionable.
Correspondence #1 – Guest
Audrey is telling me that the couch was initially wobbly and over the month it may have gotten worse. That couch has got to be close to 20 years old. We’re quiet people and by no means did we engage in any kind of activity that would have damaged the couch so instantaneously. We only sat on it. This must have been from regular wear and tear. If you’re getting quoted $70 to fix it, that sounds exorbitant. We do feel somewhat obligated because it did seem to get worse under “our watch.” We can give you $10 to cover parts, if that helps.
In all fairness, you never told us proactively about:
1) how loud the street noise is (when we were specifically looking to rent somewhere quiet).
2) the toilet seat was broken are entire stay, even though you knew it was broken before we agreed to rent (you even told us after our first day in the unit that you were going to get it fixed).
3) how the flooring was improperly installed and bubbled up during our stay (which could have caused a serious personal injury).
4) the smell of sewage coming from the drain in the bathroom, which was obviously trying to be cover-up with the placement of the rug and plugin air fresheners (which also can cause severe health issues and and/or an explosion/fire).
- If you can’t completely prove that you’re not 100% responsible, try to create the notion that you’re not fully or only partially responsible.
- Try to create the notion that the item that was damaged was extremely old. Explain how you used the item that broke in a normal manner, use the term “wear and tear” to illustrate that the damage was not done ALL by you.
- Provide a counter offer in an amount you feel comfortable with (to make this all go away). You’re giving the perception that you’re trying to meet the host half way.
- Provide other items that were dirty, broke, old, or not working properly during your stay. This will create the perception that the unit is not well maintained. Always stick with facts. Never get personal.
Correspondence #2 – Host
I’m very sorry for having this conversation but I must say that you are not telling the truth. You completely destroyed the couch like you were using ax or something, from both sides, you dismanteled it by breaking the parts and wood where the sides are holding together. This could not happen just while sitting on it . The couch is 4 years old. I need a new one now and you caused me a problem. (a plate is missing too). I didn’t want to come and search you at the main bus station not to embarrass you. As for your compesation of $10, I really don’t know how people who travel the world can even make such an offer. The things you mentioned above are things I tried to resolve as soon as you told me. You never told me anything about the noise and about the flooring. I did not have time to fix the toilet seat as I was on a buissiness trip during most of your stay in Croatia. The advise is to be honest first with yourself and then with others.
- Never apologize.
- Never accuse the other party of lying. This is an emotional response and can be very hard to prove. It will further delegitimize your claim.
- From the first correspondence to the second correspondence the host went from stating that the damage was essentially a simple mistake to “completely destroyed the couch like you were using ax or something.” This statement creates a huge inconsistency.
- The host stated how old the couch in question was. This quickly brings depreciation into question. Never bring the age of an item into play. Only discuss what the item cost you.
- Never admit that something (other than the damaged item in question) was broken, and that the renter notified you, and you still didn’t fix it because you were too busy.
- Most importantly, again, stick with the facts do not get personal.
Correspondence #2 – Guest
I’m confused and I’m beginning to think you have selective memory. You initially said that it can be repaired for $70 and now you’re stating that you need a whole new couch? And then you have the audacity to tell me that I’m the one not telling the truth. Also, what does me traveling the world have anything to do with this? It sounds like you’re trying to extort money from me. Where did the $70 quote come from? Is this your personal quote? Did a reputable furniture repair company make it?
As far as the damage. We’re only aware of the loose armrest nearest the window. The couch was bought used, correct? That does not look anything like a 4 year old couch.
Your axe comment seems excessive. My point is,
You never told us about the noise and the flooring. – You conveniently decided not to tell us.
1.Prior to us booking the unit you knew the toilet seat was broke AND you knew there was a sewage leakage problem because you knew exactly where the smell was coming from. – it was trying to be covered up by a rug and air freshener
2.In terms of the toilet seat, I even offered to fix it for you. I just asked for parts reimbursement. Your solution/excuse to the problem is for me to sit on a broken toilet seat for 30 days because you’re on a business trip?
We occasionally have issues with hosts on Airbnb that try to take advantage of us. We are paying for a service and expect to receive a certain level of comfort and quality. 95%+ of our reviews are extremely positive. As of now I feel like you’re trying to threaten me AND extort money from me.
I would have been more than happy to partially reimburse you for a portion of the expense (which I previously stated) but you’re:
1.Going about this very unprofessionally
2.Sending me mixed messages about the damage. Initially you said it was $70 worth of damage and now in the latest message you’re telling me you need a brand new couch.
3.Using your knowledge of me as a world traveler against me as a way to extort funds from me.
4.Trying to get me to pay for damage to a couch that you purchased over 4 years ago and which has most likely fully depreciated AND was probably bought used.
- Try to create inconsistencies on how much the damaged item would cost to fix or replace.
- Use the term, “extort” or “extortion” if you feel the host is increasing the damages due amount or the amount doesn’t seem practical.
- Address any personal attacks the other party made and illustrate the irrelevance.
- Attempt to get more information on the age of the item in question. The older the item, the less value it has due to depreciation and age.
- Explain the inconsistencies the owner is providing.
- Describe any other maintenance issues in the unit, (e.g., mold, electricity issues (flickering of lights/blowing fuses), plumbing odors/issues, etc. It shows an overall lack of maintenance, care, and engagement.
Need more information? Check out Part 2
Airbnb Resolution Center (ARC)
At this point in the dialogue it was fairly evident that neither party was going to come to an agreement. Whether you’re the host or guest, as soon as you believe there will be no resolution it’s important that you file a dispute as soon as possible with the ARC. This gives the impression that you’re the one who suffered the loss and provides slightly more clout. At the bare minimum contact Airbnb and bring them up to speed on the circumstances, ask for advice, and plead your case.
Airbnb will review the message chain and any other documentation provided. The message chain will act as a deposition transcription to determine facts and fallacies between the two parties. It’s important to communicate any issues big or small during the stay so that they appear in the message history. Airbnb will review the information provided by the host or guest, before making a final decision.
Hosts – How to Win
- Attempt to negotiate with guests without getting Airbnb involved.
- Contact Airbnb within 24 hours of guest departure.
- Provide specific details to what was damaged. Include photos and/or video along with receipts, invoices, written estimates, or links to comparable items denoting actual cash value for repair or replacement. Do not make up a replacement/repair amount yourself. A third party (or receipt) should be included in order to provide this amount. Provide the amount and do not change it going forward.
- Join the Airbnb Host Protection Insurance program beforehand (make sure to read the fine print so you understand what’s covered). There are some limitations to the program and the host should fully understand what’s covered before signing up. The program protects against liability claims up to $1 million that occur in a listing, or on an Airbnb property, during a stay.
- Add or increase the security deposit amount (beforehand) on the listing.
- Show and display a high level of engagement with the guests and the property. We find that the most engaged hosts offer the best stays with the least amount of negative issues.
Guests – How to Win
- Attempt to negotiate with host without getting Airbnb resolved.
- Have a good track record. Take great pride in your reviews.
- Create a logical explanation as to why the damage was not created by you or is not your responsibility. Use the lessons above to make the greatest impact.
- Provide Airbnb with inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and irresponsibility’s on part of the host.
Guests – What to include in your support to Airbnb?
We typed up a formal letter to Airbnb that was two pages, single-spaced. It was quite a lengthy document. Below is an outline of the content that we provided (to Airbnb) with subject headers and some key talking points of the components below.
- CHECK-IN PROCEDURES
- Were they rushed?
- Did anyone walk you through the unit?
- Discuss any issues with the unit that the host informed you about upfront.
- Safety concerns you observed or noticed, e.g., bars over windows, no smoke detectors, etc.
- INITIAL IMPRESSIONS OF THE UNIT
- Cleanliness or lack of within the unit.
- Noises, e.g., construction, noisy neighbors.
- Smells, strategically placed air fresheners.
- INVENTORY CHECKLIST OF THE UNIT
- Any essentials that were not provided.
- Cleaning supplies not included, e.g., dish soap, mop, broom, etc.
- PROBLEMS INCURRED DURING THE STAY
- Describe ALL issues you had during the stay that were NOT perfect.
- Highlight any issues that you notified the host about and were never corrected/fixed.
- CHECKOUT PROCESS
- If the host picked up the keys and was physically in the apartment, explain here.
- Describe any discrepancies in placement of damaged item. Perhaps the owner moved the item and caused the damage?
- Did the host quote more than one replacement price?
- Did the host refer to your financial capabilities?
- Question the overall safety of the unit.
- Provide a final argument summary.
- Bring to attention the good reviews you received in the past.
What is the Airbnb Resolution Center?
The Resolution Center lets you request or send money for things related to your Airbnb trip. To open a refund or payment request, go to www.airbnb.com/resolutions. If you’re unable to reach an agreement, you can ask Airbnb to make the final decision 72 hours after the request was opened. When you involve Airbnb, the Airbnb team will be notified and a team member will be assigned to your case. They’ll review the information provided by you and your host or guest, before making a final decision. In some cases, Airbnb may need to contact you to gather additional information, before they can make a decision.