Help with Airbnb dispute
May 31, 2022 7:25 AM   Subscribe

I stayed with my partner at an Airbnb last week on vacation. On the day we left the host messaged me claiming someone on their property had seen an "unauthorised third person" leaving on the day we checked out, and is now attempting to charge us an extra fee for this person via Airbnb's dispute service. There was no third person, but I can't prove that. Looking for advice on how to proceed.

I wrote back to the host's original message through the Airbnb messaging platform as soon as I saw it (90mins or so after checking out) stating that only myself and my partner were on site during our stay and that we did not see any other people on their property apart from members of the host family. The host wrote back to say that myself, a gentleman with no hair (my partner) and a gentleman with curly hair (???) were seen getting into my car and leaving the property.

I missed this message and the host's subsequent charge request for £100 (£25/night for the "unauthorised person") because we went on to another city for the final leg of our vacation over the weekend and I didn't check my emails. The host has since escalated the issue to the Airbnb dispute team, meaning I can neither accept nor decline their request for extra money. I called Airbnb customer service and was told that since the issue is now with their dispute team, I can't do anything proactively and have to wait for the team to assess the host's story, plus any evidence she may have, and then they'll get in touch with me to hear my side of the story.

As we were leaving the property, my partner and I had a conversation with the host. There were also two people present in the driveway area who I hadn't seen before, an older guy and a younger woman, who I assumed were associated with cleaning the property. I'm nonbinary/transmasculine and have a short/curly masculine haircut and exclusively wear men's clothing, though I continue to use my feminine given name legally and for things like Airbnb bookings; my suspicion is that one of these other people saw me getting into the car and thought I was an extra person who didn't form part of the one man/one woman couple they were expecting to see.

My main questions are: while I'm waiting for the Airbnb dispute service to get in touch, is there any point messaging the host and trying to explain this, or should I wait for the official process to play out?

And, while I'm not sure the host has any proof of a third person (no obvious CCTV on the property etc.), I'm also super aware that I don't have any proof we didn't have a third person either - the only thing I can think of is a day trip we took where parking is charged by person rather than by vehicle, where we paid for two people. We didn't make any restaurant reservations (cooked at the house), and mostly spent our time either relaxing at the place or on fairly secluded hikes. The Airbnb customer service rep reassured me that Airbnb can't charge me this extra fee without my consent, but if this comes down to she said/they said (i.e. neither side has any proof), what is the likely outcome from an Airbnb dispute resolution perspective?

Any anecdotal stories about Airbnb's dispute resolution process would also be welcome. All of this happened within the UK, where I also live. I was really looking forward to leaving this host a glowing review, as everything else about our stay was perfect, but this final weirdness has really soured me on the whole experience, and I can't help but potentially read a modicum of transphobia into the interaction if our prevailing theory (that I was mistaken for the third, non-existent "curly-haired gentleman") is correct, which also doesn't feel great.
posted by terretu to Travel & Transportation around Scotland (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would not talk directly to the host anymore and let all communication go through this dispute team. I don't have personal experience with their policies, though.

As we were leaving the property, my partner and I had a conversation with the host.
To be clear, was this an in person conversation? I would write down as much about this conversation as you remember including the two other people (where they were standing in relation to the three of you talking, if they stared or ignored you) and have your partner do the same. Then wait for the team to get your side of the story and explain you have short curly hair and the host saw you both get into the car, if that is true.

You don't need to provide proof of something that did not happen. You may want to provide them with a recent photo - the dispute team that is and not the hosts. I would talk with the team with the attitude that obviously the host is mistaken, confused, and a bit rude. After this transphobic reaction, that would negate any good feelings and cause my review to be as neutral as possible. I believe you rate the host and property separately, right?
posted by soelo at 7:41 AM on May 31, 2022 [2 favorites]

I may be back later for more detailed response, but quickly I will say Airbnb is very likely to take your side as a guest. It sounds like your side is right anyway, but generally Airbnb will err on the side of the guest. Just wait it out for now.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 8:09 AM on May 31, 2022 [6 favorites]

Agree with Press Butt.on to Check. I was an AirBnB host for a bit, just renting out my apartment when I wasn't using it. I had a couple stay here who somehow didn't read my listing well enough to realize that I had a platform bed. This didn't work for them and they checked in and then checked right back out again. AirBnB refunded their money but also took the hit and paid me. This is very likely going to be resolved in your favor and I also agree with soelo, "Hey I'm the person with the short curly hair" is really all you'd need to say if it comes to that. Sorry you're dealing with this.
posted by jessamyn at 8:36 AM on May 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

Personally, let it play out. It's quite obvious that they mistook you and your partner for a cis-hetero couple. Unless AirBNB sends photos of the guests checking in what evidence do they have? Absolutely NOTHING.
posted by kschang at 8:38 AM on May 31, 2022

From other people's posts, sounds like you'll be good if you wait it out, but I guess if needed you could send a photograph of the two of you, and say your partner has no hair, you have curly hair, that the hosts will have seen the pair of you getting into the car after talking to you, but you have no idea what other person they could have seen and it was certainly not anybody with you.

Sounds like there's a fair chance that the hosts would recognise you as their curly-haired person and (you'd hope) be slightly mortified and STFU at that point.

Obviously you shouldn't have to and hopefully you won't, but might be one option for putting them straight if it were needed.
posted by penguin pie at 9:49 AM on May 31, 2022

We had a similar situation when we stayed at an Airbnb in San Francisco. We had a newborn and so my husband and I slept in different bedroomss so we could each get a couple of gloriously uninterrupted hours of sleep. The host saw that two rooms had been used and accused us of having an additional guest. However, when I explained the situation pretty forcefully-- I was very annoyed-- she backed down. She had not yet brought the matter to Airbnb's attention, but in my situation at least, reaching out did resolve the problem. Good luck. What a bummer!
posted by jeszac at 10:15 AM on May 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

I've had great experiences with AirBNB customer support, when a host pulled a switcheroo & tried to put us in a smaller space, then deleted their listing, etc sketchy stuff. +1 to only interacting with customer support; I can't imagine them unilaterally charging you based on this non-evidence.
posted by jeffjon at 10:34 AM on May 31, 2022

I'll add to the chorus. My experience with AirBnB customer service has been that they are very customer-centric. I suspect this will end in your favor.
posted by COD at 2:30 PM on May 31, 2022

Response by poster: As suspected, the host was unable to provide any documentation or evidence that we'd secretly hosted a third person on the property, and Airbnb considered the matter closed after hearing my side of the story.

Before the dispute was resolved, the host left me a review (which I couldn't see until I posted my own review of her, as per Airbnb's review policy) which turned out to be a continuation of her accusations and encouraged other hosts not to rent properties to me. Airbnb requires me to report this as a separate dispute (I asked them if they could sort this out as part of the original dispute, but they claimed they couldn't), so this thing is going to drag on for at least another few days. And in the meantime my whole household came down with covid. It's been a fun week.

If anyone is thinking of renting an Airbnb in rural Perthshire, Scotland, message me first and I'll tell you who to avoid...
posted by terretu at 5:31 AM on June 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Airbnb refused to take down the host's false review because it didn't violate their review policy. I questioned this from a discrimination perspective (based on the host's assumptions that led to the review), and the issue was looked into by the Airbnb non-discrimination team, who concluded that the review was not discriminatory and allowed it to stand.

The whole process was totally stressful and depressing, at no point did I feel particularly well understood or supported by their customer support team, and in the end I chose to deactivate my Airbnb account. I will use other vacation rental services in future.
posted by terretu at 11:58 AM on June 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

Wonder if it's worth making a complaint under the Equality Act 2010, as discrimination by AirBNB host?
posted by kschang at 1:06 AM on June 8, 2022

I just had this come up in my news and I knew I’d read your story! I’m so sorry this happened and I hope the extra coverage shames airb and b for letting that review stay up! Shame on them!
posted by catspajammies at 1:05 PM on June 28, 2022

FWIW the news made its way to the Mirror.
posted by kschang at 1:43 PM on June 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

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