How to win AND lose a dispute with the Airbnb Resolution Center – Part 2

We rented an apartment through Airbnb for 7 nights during a trip to Bulgaria. After leaving the apartment, the host contacted us requesting payment for dirty walls and dirty linens. 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 – Dirty Walls and Linens


Correspondence #1 – Host


“The apartment was very dirty after the visit (the dirtiest they ever see). The managing company of the resort require extra money for cleaning. Even the walls require the washing or repainting. I already paid extra 15 Euro for cleaning. Partial repainting is evaluated 50 Euro.” – Host

After staying in over 55 Airbnb rentals, we never incurred any type of accusation like this one. After all, Audrey has OCD when it comes to cleaning.  In our past lives, when we had full time jobs, I would joke that I wore the same underwear every day. Audrey would wash clothes (everyday) and put them away in our dresser before I woke up the next day. Out of force of habit and with one eye open, the next morning, I would reach for the first pair of underwear in the drawer. Naturally, they’d be the same underwear I wore the prior day!


Remember, the concept of Airbnb is that guests have arrived to stay in a local friend’s home.


Back to the subject at at hand, 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.


Problems Arise During Our Stay


We had three major issues that we worked with Airbnb to resolve during our stay with this host.

  1. The host did not provide a wifi router even though he stated having wifi in the Airbnb listing.
  2. The sink was leaking extremely badly causing a puddle to form on the floor.
  3. The host left us with almost no “essentials”, even though he listed in the Airbnb listing as providing essentials. For example, he stated that we’d receive a welcome basket which we didn’t receive. Additionally, he provided one roll of toilet paper and 2 bars of half used soap (one of the bars had a hair on them! GROSS!).

Due to these issues, Airbnb refunded us $133. Approximately $90, came as refunds from the host. Without hesitation, as soon as we left the unit, the host opened up this resolution case in attempt to get back some of the funds that he lost.

Host Mistakes

The blatantly obvious mistakes the host made with this resolution request were:

  1. We had a list of issues that occurred during our stay that Airbnb was constantly notified about. The host was extremely slow to get issues addressed and resolved.
  2. The host attempted to give both us and Airbnb the “run-around” on the problems with the wifi. In our opinion, he lost all credibility by playing games. He was trying to save a few dollars, with the hope of not having to install a router. In the end, it cost him through refunds and even more substantially with a bad review (by us). For example, at one point he stated that he had a router, than he stated, maybe the house cleaners took the router, than he stated, just use the free wifi by the pool. Inconsistencies decrease your reputability.
  3. The amount of water leaking out of the sink shows an enormous amount of neglect by the host. Once again, this obliterates all credibility of the host.
  4. It was so painfully clear that the host opened up this dispute as retaliation for us complaining to Airbnb about the issues we incurred during our stay.
  5. The host was in Russia and was relying on extremely lazy staff members at the resort to resolve issues.

Host Lesson

Hosts need to ensure that they’re providing the services and amenities that they’re listing on the unit’s Airbnb profile page. Also, any issues that arise during the stay need to be documented and quickly resolved. Any problems that occur during the stay will delegitimize any claims you process through the Airbnb resolution center.

Hosts or a local contact need to be available to quickly resolve problems.  If host’s are solely looking for rental income, guests will quickly catch on. Part of being a good Airbnb host is the hospitality that goes into it. Remember, the concept of Airbnb is that guests have arrived to stay in a local friend’s home. Finally, NEVER create a Airbnb resolution dispute out of retaliation. It will only backfire.


The moment you have the first inkling that the host is untrustworthy or may attempt to open up a resolution with Airbnb, it’s important that you document any issues prior to your departure of the unit.


Guest Lesson

  1. The moment you have the first inkling that the host is untrustworthy or may attempt to open up a resolution with Airbnb, it’s important that you document any issues prior to your departure of the unit. We’d recommend that you take pictures and videos of the unit before departing. This will cover you in the event that the host opens up any claim against you.
  2. 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.

Below is the only information we formally provided Airbnb during the resolution process. Of course, Airbnb also acknowledged (to us) that they were aware of the earlier issues regarding the wifi, the sink leaking, and the lack of essentials.


Correspondence #1 – Guest


Dear Airbnb,

These fees are absolutely absurd. We always leave the units we visit in tiptop shape. This is obviously an attempt by the host to get back the funds that they were required to pay (to us) for their lack of services and the dilapidated state they left the unit it. Please review the extremely long Airbnb chat we had with Claire D. (from Airbnb), and the host.

We can 100% reassure you that we left the unit in as good of condition as we received it. Once again, this is obviously a way to try to extort money from us. We’re very disappointed in the host for attempting to do this. In my opinion, their account should be flagged (by Airbnb) so that they are not allowed to put future guests/customers through the same heartache/harassment that they put us through.

– Check in and check out procedures

When we arrived to the reception area there were four young employees standing around (mainly playing on their phones). They seemed very confused and untrained. They definitely didn’t seem like they were aware of our arrival. Per reception, the Airbnb host is in a private unit and therefore it is not part of their responsibility to troubleshoot matters or issues that may arise during our stay.

In terms of checkout the unit was listed on Airbnb as flexible. After the earlier issues with essentials, wifi, and the sink leaking we were given the silent treatment by the host. We never heard one thing from him again until he opened up a resolution case. We therefore went to the reception area to find out if they knew any information, they of course did not. We were left wondering whether someone was going to be knocking on our door early the next morning. 

The actual check out was relatively seamless. No one asked to visit the unit prior to us checking out. No one met us to complete the check out process. We booked a transfer through the hotel to the nearby bus station. We were going to pay with cash (with 20 LEV which is about $10 USD) but they didn’t have change. We told them we could pay with our credit card. They gladly accepted. They swiped my card about 3 times, inserted it into the POS terminal two more times before I had to step in and walk them through how to process the transaction using the credit card! Extremely poorly trained, to say the least.

– Location and utility of items in question

After translating the host’s (attachment) from Russian to English. We determined that the complaints are basically dirty towels and dirty walls. The towels were the typical “hotel” white towels. If they’re dirty, then do what thousands of other hotels do around the world and wash them in chlorine bleach. If they’re unable to clean these towels then it really puts into question their entire hotel management process. Once again, they’re white. Also, we’re somewhat of clean freaks so if the towels were as dirty as the host states, we wouldn’t have been using them up until the day of our departure.

In terms of the walls, we really don’t even understand what the complaint is. We don’t have enough information even to address this. There were minor wear and tear (markings) on the walls around high traffic areas, but that’s really all we noticed. Based on some of the artifacts left in the unit, there are young children staying in the unit. There were markers, crayons, coloring books, figurines, and board games. Are the walls dirty from children? Are the walls dirty from the sink leaking all over the place? Are the walls crumbling from poor construction from the builder? We really don’t know. We do know (generally) that interior walls in Europe are similar to concrete. They’re extremely hard and difficult to damage (if built properly).

In no way admitting fault or bearing blame, if the walls were damaged to the extent that the host is claiming, outside of the typical wear and tear of a family owned apartment, then this should be properly documented with pictures of the actual damage. Not stated by a friend at the resort through a text message. Keep in mind that we had four+ staff members visit the interior of the unit throughout our stay. None of them mentioned to us, nor the reception, nor the host about anything related to excessive dirt/damage in the unit. Please note that we had a hotel staff member in our unit during the afternoon prior to our departure working on the wifi issue.

Additionally, we had at least 2 additional people (we’re referring to them as people because we don’t know if they were staff of the hotel) come into the unit while we were NOT in it. They came unannounced and unplanned. As you know, we had a plumbing issue that was causing severe leakage in our kitchen (videos were sent to Airbnb), when we arrived back to the unit, it was repaired. When asked hotel staff if they were the ones that came in to repair it, they replied no. At this time, we still don’t know who came into our unit.

– Any communication via private email (or other means), that relates to this matter

We did not communicate with the host outside of the Airbnb system.

– Background and observations made of the hotel, grounds, and pool

The entire complex is in a rundown state. There’s absolutely no maintenance being done by the property management team to ensure longevity of grounds, buildings, or pools. Buildings are covered in a green mildew/mold.

The exterior of the building suffers from: mold/mildew, holes in the structure, rotting wood siding, cracks, rust, decay, sewage smells, wear and tear, loose tiles, missing tiles, poor wifi, and the entire wall surrounding the complex has mismatched paint in numerous areas in attempt to cover-up the decrepit state of the crumbling partition.

The interior of the building suffers from overall poor construction (for example, the bathroom tub has a huge gap in between it and the wall, it holds tons of water and generated mold/mildew), rust and loose tiles on the balcony, poor plumbing (leaving a leaking sink for guests), improperly leveled drainage in the bathroom, improperly installed fixtures (for example, the toilet paper holder fell off the wall), and improperly installed electrical outlets (for example the sockets would  fall off the wall when inserting/extracting the plug).

The pools are missing tiles, tiles at the bottom of the pool are covered in a green algae (from lack of maintenance), and the cascading filter system that surrounds the pool was covered in what appeared to be a black mold/mildew.

In terms of the grounds, the grass was nearly all dead and most of the bushes were not manicured, but instead growing wildly. There were signs for owners/guests not to have dogs and yet we saw dogs numerous times running around by the pool and around the general property. The sidewalks have grass growing up through them, are unlevel, missing tiles, and have damaged tiles.

In no way admitting fault or bearing blame, in terms, of cleaning the unit, the host left NO CLEANING products or materials in the unit at all. ZERO. How do they expect guests to do a proper cleaning?

In no way admitting fault or bearing blame, in terms, of maintaining the concrete walls of the unit, it’s hard NOT to imagine that the interior of the unit isn’t suffering from decay when 1) The overall level of attention maintained by the owner is nil (how could you not notice a sink leaking that bad?). 2) The overall maintenance of the property and buildings is in a state where they are literally falling apart. 3) The walls throughout the unit had previous damage/dirt on them before we arrived.

  • Conclusions

There were numerous issues related to our stay that can be considered extremely questionable in relation to proper hotel/host management. Below are specific examples.

Please note, that during our stay numerous management employees entered the unit throughout our stay (to fix the wifi and leaking sink) and never mentioned any damage/uncleanliness to myself, other property management staff, or to the host. In fact, the day prior to our departure, a property management team member came into our unit to fix the wifi. This team member never mentioned anything about the unit being kept in an uncleanly manner, nor mentioned anything about damage.

Please also note, during our stay several property management team members entered the unit WITHOUT our permission while we were NOT in the unit. How many people had access to the unit after our departure that may have caused the uncleanliness/damage you speak of?

Please also note, that in the attachment the host provided, his “source,” refers to us as “very annoying” in it. This is extremely disturbing and unprofessional on behalf of the host and his “staff.” A good Airbnb host does NOT consider problems with their units and guests as “annoying,” instead they eagerly pursue a solution to the problem. I’m once again advocating that this host be banned from Airbnb. Airbnb is not a place for hosts who try to swindle, bamboozle, and scam guests.

Please also note, that the attachment states the fees as 15 and 30 euros. NOT 15 and 50 euros. We’re assuming that this is just another example of “accidental” absentmindedness on behalf of the host and not yet another attempt to swindle, bamboozle, and scam us?

Please also note, that we’ve now spent countless hours dealing with the host. Our time is extremely valuable. This whole situation has eaten into so much of our holiday that now we need another holiday. Additionally, because we worked so closely with Claire D (from Airbnb) we concluded that this nightmare with this host was over. Given the previous in depth collaborating with Claire D., the text chat dialog, the inconsistencies of the host, the disreputable manner in which he’s handled this entire situation, the 55+ positive reviews we’ve received (on Airbnb alone), we hope that this can now be finalized.

Finally, we take great pride in the places that we rent/stay as guests. Many times we build great relationships with the hosts and even become friends. Hosts like this one give Airbnb a bad name and should be reconsidered from using the site.

Sincerely,

Audrey & Harry


Guest Lesson

  1. If you can’t completely prove that you’re not 100% responsible through statement, pictures, or videos, try to create the notion that you’re not fully or only partially responsible.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Use the term, “extort” or “extortion” if you feel the host is increasing the damages due amount or the amount doesn’t seem practical.
  5. Address any personal attacks the other party made and illustrate the irrelevance.
  6. 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.
  7. Explain the inconsistencies the owner is providing.
  8. 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.

Correspondence #2 – Host


“35 Euro mentioned in E-mail is standard cleaning (i do not ask you to pay) plus 15 euro is extra for heavy dirty apartment. 50 Euro is cost of partial wall repainting because as Mlechkova said became dirty after your visit. I just transferred what Mlechkova said and received invoices. Please see attached invoices for 15 and 50.”

Host Mistakes

This is the text message from the host’s source informing him of the alleged filthiness of the unit. The source referred to us as, “very annoying” in the message.

The host provided a screen shot (in Russian) displaying the name and message of his contact at the resort. The message indicated that we left the apartment dirty. At the bottom of the message, the host’s source states (about us) “and they were also very annoying.” This was a huge red flag to myself and Airbnb because it showed that his source was 1) making a personal attack, and 2) that there was a possible separation of duties issue occurring. In other words, an internal control was not in place to prevent fraud from occurring by the host and the staff member. They could simply submit false claims about every guest!

Host Lesson

  1. Never make a personal attack. This is an emotional response and can be very hard to prove. It will further delegitimize your claim.
  2. The host created the perception (through his lackadaisical text message) that his relationship with the resort was more of a friendship than a business relationship.
  3. The host provided no pictures of the damage.
  4. Most importantly, again, stick with the facts do not get personal.

Correspondence #2 – Guest


The attachment is obviously another one of your attempts to swindle, bamboozle, and scam your way into putting a few more pennies in your pocket. In the attachment that you provided, your “source,” mentions us as “very annoying” in it. This is extremely disturbing and unprofessional on behalf of you and your staff. A GOOD Airbnb host does NOT consider problems with their units and guests as “annoying,” instead they eagerly pursue a solution to the problem. I’m once again advocating that you be banned from Airbnb. Airbnb is not a place for hosts who try to swindle, bamboozle, and scam guests. – Audrey & Harry

This correspondence between ourselves and the host occurred in the “Keep Talking” section of the resolution center. Although this section is not formally submitted to Airbnb, it is reviewed by Airbnb in determining the outcome of a case. Take this section very seriously. Don’t get personal. Make sure to state facts.

Guest Lesson

Make sure to maintain the “Keep Talking” section in as professional manner as possible. Also, make sure to point out any contradictory remarks the host makes here. It will help delegitimize the host’s statements made against you. Remember this section will be reviewed by Airbnb in determining the outcome of the case.

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.
  • Document, Document, Document

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.
  • Document, Document, Document

Guests – What to include in your support to Airbnb?


We typed up a formal letter to Airbnb. 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. Much of the elements below are specifically requested by Airbnb. Don’t forget to include these.

  • 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?
  • EXTORTION
    • Did the host quote more than one replacement price?
    • Did the host refer to your financial capabilities?
  • CONCLUSION
    • 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.

 

 

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