The Life of a Host:
It was 4 o’clock in the morning, and instead of sleeping or coming home from a party (Hey, I’m young and single. I can live in the illusion that I can be up partying until 4am), I was dealing with a guest checking out.
I knew she was leaving early, so I had left the lockbox open for her. But another one of my guests had locked it back up.
She didn’t remember the lockbox code, and instead of looking for it she decided to call me…to tell me, “the lockbox is locked. I don’t know what to do with the keys.” I wanted to say, “Yeah, and…look for the code woman. It’s 4 in the morning.”
But instead, I said, “I’ll be right there. I’ll take the keys.” And as hospitable as I could be at 4am, I wished her a safe trip and locked the door behind her.
Ah, the life of a live-in host.
The Guest's Message:
Now I’m sort of awake and noticed a message on my phone from my upcoming guest, who was due to arrive the following day.
As you all know, my self-care policy is to have my cell phone on “do not disturb” through the night. This means Airbnb’s texts don’t ding in the middle of the night and wake me up. Yes, I like to sleep and I figure messages can wait until the morning.
Unless it’s an emergency, like my dear 4am phone call. Even that I really didn’t consider an emergency. Interrupting my sleep. That’s an emergency. Me waking up with a migraine. That’s also an emergency. Self-care, my dear hosts. Self-care.
But I’m human, so I checked the message. The message was, “I’m having visa issues, and I can’t get into the United States, I want to alter my 8-day reservation.”
Instead of 8 days, the new reservation will become a 5-day reservation, which means I will not be paid for the upcoming next several days. Oh yeah, I will be losing money. You know that woke me right up.
What to do, what to do… Well, that is what this episode is all about: “Cancellations, Refunds, Last Minute Guests Requests.”
What Do You Think I Did?
I thought I will deal with this in the morning when I’m wide awake, but of course, my shoulders kept creeping up to my ears and I could feel the tension rising. I knew I wasn’t going to be sleeping at all until I dealt with this issue. Why did I have to go and check my phone? I didn’t want to wake up with a migraine. Argh, guests. Love them, and Love to see Them Go…Like Episode 44.
I sent a quick email to the guest. “I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. I need to contact Airbnb about it because you’re altering a reservation less than 48 hours before arrival.“
I wanted to show compassion and empathy but also that I wasn’t accepting their request. Remember, just because a guest is offering something doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Let me tell you a bit more about this reservation. The guest was coming for work and not a vacation, so her job was paying for it. Hmmm, she wasn’t the one losing the money. Why did she have visa problems now, less than 48 hours before arrival? Very strange.
Airbnb Got Involved…
I contacted Airbnb, and as you know from episode 46 Being an Airbnb Superhost is it worth it? as a Superhost, I get a special number. I do love it when they say, “Hello, Superhost.” The lovely customer service person heard my side of the story. Airbnb contacted the guest directly and told her about extenuating circumstances and my cancellation policy and gave my guest the following options:
- Cancel the entire booking, stick to your cancellation policy, and we can only refund her in full if she's able to rebook your dates. You will still get your payout 24 hours from the scheduled check-in date.
- Keep the booking as it is, but she will check-in on the 7th, we will only refund her the service fee of $107 USD, which is out of our pocket.
Yes, Airbnb refunded the guest out of their own pocket. Wow. This time everything was in my favor, which is very important.
The guest decided to cancel, and not even 10 minutes later someone else booked for some of her original days. I’ll refund the original guest for the days re-booked. The original guest will only lose a couple of days that I wasn’t able to rebook.
Is the guest happy with the outcome? I have no clue since I haven’t heard from them. I know I’m satisfied since I didn’t lose any money and I got the house empty for a couple of days.
Nothing like a guest-free house and getting paid for it!
In this case, Airbnb worked in my favor, but I know of many other instances when Airbnb could have gone with the guest: Let me tell you how I knew I was in the right:
Do you have the correct cancellation policy? A host will be able to see the number of reservations a guest has canceled over the previous 12 months when the guest submits a request to book. I didn’t know this, and actually, I don’t remember seeing this in the past. Have you?
Of course, when a host cancels a guest’s reservation there is that automatic message posted as a review “ this host canceled a reservation.” Which future guests can view and decide if they want to gamble and stay with that host.
The following applies to all the cancellation policies:
- Cleaning fee will always be refunded if a guest hasn’t checked-in. Yes, you cleaned the space, and maybe pay your cleaning person, but if the reservation was canceled before check-in that cleaning fee is refunded. Always, sorry.
- The Airbnb service fee is refundable up to 3 times per year within 48 hours of booking. Separately, if a guest cancels a reservation that overlaps with any part of an existing reservation, Airbnb won’t refund the Airbnb service fee if they decide to cancel.
- If there is a complaint from either party, notice must be given to Airbnb within 24 hours of check-in.
- Airbnb will mediate when necessary and has the final say in all disputes. I know this is something that hosts hate, especially owners who come from other platforms and are used to holding onto security deposits. But this is the way Airbnb plays their game. Their game their rules.
- A reservation is officially canceled when the guest clicks the cancellation button on the cancellation confirmation page, which they can find by going to Dashboard > Your Trips > Change or Cancel.
- Cancellation policies may be superseded by the Guest Refund Policy, extenuating circumstances, or cancellations by Airbnb for any other reason permitted under the Terms of Service. Please review these exceptions.
Full refund within a limited period.
- Accommodation fees (the total nightly rate you’re charged) are refundable in certain circumstances as outlined below.
- For a full refund of accommodation fees, cancellation must be made a full 24 hours prior to listing’s local check in time (or 3p if not specified) on the day of check-in. For example, if check-in is on Friday cancel on Thursday of that week before check-in time. Yes, dear hosts. The guest will be refunded all their money if they cancel 24 hours before they arrive. Just say bye, bye, bye to that money.
- If the guest cancels less than 24 hours before check-in, the first night is non-refundable. The host loses everything else. Sigh…
- If the guests arrive and decide to leave early, the accommodation fees for the nights not spent 24 hours after the official cancellation are fully refunded.
- Again, if the reservation had a week left over you lose that money. Hmm, is flexible a good policy. I don’t know. But I do know they push it for business travel policy.
Full refund within a limited period
- For a full refund of accommodation fees, cancellation must be made Five days prior to listing’s local check in time (or 3p if not specified) on the day of check-in. For example, if check-in is on Friday cancel by the previous Sunday of that week before check-in time. Now you have a week to find a new guest.
- If the guests cancel less than 5 days in advance the first night is non-refundable but 50% of the accommodation fees for remaining nights will be refunded.
- If the guests arrive and decide to leave early 50% of the accommodation fees for the nights not spent 24 hours after the official cancellation are fully refunded. Is that fair?
- You can also have this policy for business travel eligibility.
This is the cancellation policy I have.
- For a full refund of accommodation fees, cancellation must be made within 48 hours of booking and at least 14 full days prior to listing’s local check-in time (or 3pm if not specified) on the day of check-in
- For a 50% refund of accommodation fees, cancellation must be made 7 full days prior to listing’s local check in time (or 3p if not specified) on the day of check-in otherwise no refund. For example, if check-in is on Friday cancel by the previous Friday of that week before check-in time.
- If the guests cancel less than 7 days in advance or decide to leave early after check-in. The nights not spent are not refunded. Oh yeah. That’s it. The money is mine.
Super Strict 30 Days:
50% refund up until 30 days prior to check-in. Note: The Super Strict cancellation policy applies to special circumstances and is by invitation only.
- For a 50% refund of accommodation fees, cancellation must be made 30 full days prior to listing’s local check in time (or 3pm if not specified) on the day of check-in. 30 days. Wow!
- If the guests cancel less than 30 days in advance, the nights not spent are not refunded. Double wow.
- If a guest arrives and decides to leave early, the nights not spent are not refunded. You saw that coming, right?
Super Strict 60 Days:
50% refund up until 60 days prior to check in. Note: The Super Strict cancellation policy applies to special circumstances and is by invitation only.
- For a 50% refund of accommodation fees, cancellation must be made 60 full days prior to listing’s local check in time (or 3p if not specified) on the day of check-in. 60 days.. Who has this cancellation policy?
- If the guests cancel less than 60 days in advance, the nights not spent are not refunded. Who books this place?
- If a guest arrives and decides to leave early, the nights not spent are not refunded. I mean really???
The first month not refundable, 30-day notice for cancellation. Note: The Long-term cancellation policy applies to all reservations of 28 nights or more.
- If the guest books a long-term reservation and decided to cancel the reservation before the start date, the first month of the reservation is paid to the host in full and not refunded to the guest.
- If the guest books a reservation and decides to cancel the reservation during their stay the gust must use the online alteration tool in order to agree to a new check out date. The guest is required to pay the host for the 30 days following the cancellation date or up to the end date of the guest’s original reservation if the remaining reservation if a portion of the original reservation is less than 30 days. Basically, you’re getting paid for your month.
Keep all communications on the platform. Yes, I ask for my guest’s personal email for my records, but whenever I have any potential problems like I did with my guest with the visa issue I make sure that I keep all of the communications on the Airbnb platform. This way, Airbnb is aware of everything I’m communicating with a guest. There is no he said, she said. Even if there is a phone call, I’ll go into the platform and reiterate it with a followup email.
I had the right cancellation policy, which is strict. This meant that I was going to be paid for my reservation, BUT if this guest had an extenuating circumstance there was a chance that my payment could go up in smoke. Ohhh yeah.
Like I mentioned in Episode 46, “Being an Airbnb Superhost is it Worth It?” a guest can cancel and actually be refunded due to extenuating circumstances. Just in case you haven’t listened to the episode. The horror.
What is an extenuating circumstance? It’s something unexpected that’s beyond your control. Your guest broke a leg, there was a death in their family, or they got jury duty. Oh yeah, even jury duty, but they will need a note.
These are some extenuating circumstances that require documentation:
- Death – of guest or immediate family, and they’ll be asked to provide either a death certificate, obituary, or news article naming the deceased.
- Serious Illness – Yes, they’ll need a doctor’s note, and it must be dated after the reservation was booked.
- Government Mandated Obligation, including jury duty, travel restrictions, military deployment.
- Airport and road closure, which makes it impossible to travel to your destinations. This includes closures caused by natural disasters like earthquakes, fires, and storms.
If it’s impossible to get to your home, your guest can cancel and get refunded. It makes sense. There are other circumstances that require special review from Airbnb:
- Severe security advisory… think political or civil unrest.
- Changes to visa or passport requirement that make it impossible to travel. This doesn’t include lost or expired travel documents, which is why I was saved. Ahhh.
- Endemic disease or illness that suddenly affects a region
Airbnb Guest Refund Policy:
Airbnb has a guest refund policy and as hosts, we need to be aware of it since it supersedes our cancellation policy. Oh yeah. If a guest suffers a travel issue, they will be refunded.
The list below are considered Travel Issues:
- The hosts cancel a booking.
- Hosts fail to provide the ability to access the accommodation (for example, you don’t provide the keys or security code).
- The listing description is inaccurate with respect to:
- Size of the accommodation (number and size of the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, or other rooms)
- If it’s an entire home, private room, or shared room and who is staying there. Be clear on your description!
- Special amenities are not provided or do not function such as pools, hot tubs, bathrooms, kitchens, heating, air conditioning.
- The physical location of the Accommodation (proximity).
- The accommodation is not clean, contains safety or health hazards, doesn’t contain clean bedding and bathroom towels. Has vermin or contains pets not disclosed in the listing.
Airbnb can refund the guests up to the entire amount. Like I said in the past, always be clear and transparent in your description.
Have I refunded guests?
Yes, of course. Guests have contacted me, letting me know that they’re ill or someone in their family is ill. What I normally say is… If I get my dates rebooked, I’ll refund you. Or if the booking is way ahead, I’ll refund without an issue.
Also, if it’s an issue with my home. For example, last summer I was getting electricity from a lamppost and a truck snagged the connection in the middle of the night. Of course, it happened while I was away. And of course, it happened during a heat wave in NY. And of course, it happened while the house was full of guests.
I gave the money back to the guests, and this was before I knew about the Guest Refund Policy. You would, too, right? I try to be understanding, empathetic. I try. Some days it’s harder than others. We’re humans, having a human experience. Especially if I’m woken up at 4 o’clock in the morning.
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