Josh Teater took a risk to play near his hometown in the PGA Tour Barbasol Championship. It’s paying off.Fletcher Page, Louisville Courier Journal
With all the good that comes with an Airbnb, there’s a downside many may overlook until trouble strikes — that is, we’re talking about people’s houses here.
And you know what happens at houses? You name it: Air conditioning goes out. Heat goes out. The boiler goes out. The roof leaks. The power goes out in a storm.
This has all happened to me as a host.
What else? Water lines freeze. The plumber has to come make a repair and the shower isn’t usable for 24 hours.
This has happened to me as a guest.
Houses are just one giant Pandora’s box of things waiting to break.
I’ve made the call and gotten the call about trouble at the Airbnb and neither is fun. So let’s talk about what happens on both sides of the equation.
Here’s what to do when trouble’s brewing and you’ve got guests:
1. Make sure you let anyone who will be affected by the issue know what’s up. Stat. And do it all in the Airbnb messaging system so the company has a record. Not everyone is going to be understanding, and you will need documentation of everything if you have to cancel any reservations.
When the boiler basically exploded at our Detroit Airbnb (after previous guests turned the radiators off because they didn’t “like the noise”) the house was without heat. In January. In Michigan. I had to cancel an incoming guest’s reservation, and he accused me of trying to defraud him and demanded restitution for ruining his vacation. Never mind I didn’t even have his payment — Airbnb holds it till after check-in — he thought somehow this was a scam. My four digit repair bill? And my efforts to find him another place to stay nearby that I could personally vet (there were two available). He didn’t care.
I kept everything documented in Airbnb’s messaging platform and thankfully Airbnb helped me out with him. (That, by the way, was when I decided to sell that house. Running an Airbnb from 400 miles away without a property manager was, well, we could say ill-advised, but we’ll go with difficult.)
2. Be sure you’re doing everything you can to make a current guest comfortable — and redouble your hospitality efforts. We made a Lowe’s run for space heaters when our Airbnb’s mini-split heating system went out last winter, wrote an apology card, and refunded the cost of their stay. This is no time to be chintzy.
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3. Be super proactive in letting incoming guests know there’s a situation, and help them find another option. Don’t cross your fingers and hope it will be fixed by the time they come. When our mini-split AC croaked this summer I knew it would be a while before it could be repaired so I let the next few people on the books know what was up. They all opted to stay elsewhere and other local hosts were a big help in offering accommodation.
4. Be very clear with Airbnb that this is an extenuating circumstance and provide the documentation they’ll need. If you get someone on the line that isn’t helpful — like the support staff who was going to penalize me — respectfully (but persistently) ask them to escalate your request until you get someone better acquainted with policy. And keep copies of invoices or repair bills to submit for proof. If you don’t prove this was a legit emergency, they’ll fine you, take away superhost status, block the dates on your calendar, and post a notice on your page that you canceled on a guest — pretty much the death knell.
Now for guests facing a house problem at their Airbnb:
1. Please have some understanding for your host. We know it’s a major disruption for your vacation and we’re so sorry for it, but it’s beyond our control. We can help you find another place, or opt to leave you to your own devices, and a little understanding goes a long way. Your host may ask you to cancel if it’s an upcoming reservation. This is not a scam, this is because we live in mortal dread of the penalties that come with canceling on a guest. You will be fully refunded less a service fee, but if you are agreeing to the cancellation you or your host can ask the service fee to be waived (it always has been for my guests).
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2. If your host isn’t documenting everything in Airbnb’s message platform, make them. If they’ve texted or called you, recap everything in a message so if you need to request a refund from the platform you’ve got your own (digital) paper trail.
3. If you have to move or find another place to stay, ask Airbnb to help you. Not only can they help find other accommodation they have the ability to give you a discount.
4. If the trouble happens during your stay and you’re the one to notice it, for the love of all that is holy, tell your host! If a guest hadn’t told me my radiators were leaking (actually more like spraying) a mishap could have turned into a calamity. You’re sort of a temporary steward of someone’s home, so in all aspects, treat it like your own.
Dana McMahan is a freelance food and travel writer and an Airbnb superhost and coach. Send her your burning Airbnb questions at email@example.com and follow her at instagram.com/vertigolouisville or soyouwannabeanairbnbsuperhost.com.