Airbnb's Extenuating Circumstance Policy Overrides my Cancellation Policy

Several of you have made a very good point about travel insurance. When you buy an airline ticket these days, at least on most sites, it offers you the chance to buy travel insurance from a 3rd party. And when you bid for hotel rooms on Priceline (which are not cancellable) they offer you trip protection insurance for $5 per night. Wonder why Airbnb doesn’t offer the customer a chance to buy insurance when they make the booking? Perhaps because they are using us as the insurance policy?

Obviously what happened to us in this situation could happen to anyone. I don’t want to belabor this point but it could be useful or applicable for you folks to know what Airbnb has told me so far. What they’ve said, in a nutshell, is that the guest was able to provide a doctor’s note advising against travel. I have tried to tell them the same things about pink eye many of you have written above. And I have drawn their attention to the fact that they disclosed the aunt’s serious medical condition in their original email to me. They seem not to care about these points. They just keep coming back to the doctor’s note and saying, “We cannot overrule a traveler’s doctor and the medical advice they got.”

But I feel like doctors are so afraid of lawsuits these days, they’ll give you a note saying whatever you want. It’s no skin off their back right?

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I have had guests not check in, once because the guest’s flight was delayed and once because one of the guests was too sick to travel. The cleaning fee was not refunded in either case. The second time I got double paid because someone new booked.

If all a guest needs is a doctor’s note advising against travel to cancel; there is no strict cancellation policy. All most of us would need to do is to tell our doctor that we feel nervous about traveling with X condition to get such a note.

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My Visa card provides travel insurance for any travel paid on card. Check out what your card provides. I paid $100 a year but it’s been rebated the last two years.

I’m pleased to report some good news! I got a call from Airbnb today. They said they reviewed my phone calls with their representative (finally!) and agree that I should receive the full payout for this reservation. Needless to say, I am very pleased.

But I think the only reason I’m getting the money back is because they agree that I wasn’t given the correct information over the phone, not because they now realize that this guest had a bogus excuse. So I guess there are two takeaways for our community: a) we all need to be aware that guests who can produce a doctor’s note can circumvent our cancellation polices, and b) if you feel like you’ve been shafted, it may be worth your time to plead your case.


you are lucky. They did not care about listening to the committments made by CS in my phone call.

VRBO holds to the host’s cancellation policy. Protection for guests is offered by way of an insurance policy guests have the option of purchasing at the time they make their reservation (approximately 5% of the booking). In no way is the host responsible for cancellations. Payouts - under all circumstances are honored once the time frame for refunded cancellation has passed. VRBO gives the host the option of refunding under circumstances when insurance isn’t purchased and something unexpected arises. However, the host in under no obligation to provide a refund. It is my feeling that Airbnb policy should be changed and traveler’s insurance should be offered. It puts undue strain on hosts. Imagine a last minute cancellation that has no chance of being filled. Even if there is an alteration to the reservation, the same situation could potentially occur again. That would mean two payouts lost. It is reason enough for me to reconsider my hosting thru Airbnb. Even though it is rare, it doesn’t make it any easier when it happens. Customer service reps we’ve dealt with have been rude and disrespectful. VRBO on the otherhand, has incredible customer serice and very short wait times!

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Whom did you call to complain about the extenuating circumstance cancellation/payout issue? Our Case Manager also misinformed us and we spoke to her supervisor and it has led nowhere. Thinking I should escalate but I’m unsure about what number to call. Would i contact the resolution center in my area (U.S.)? Thanks!

Hi @Bend_Host,

See the lengthy thread Last minute 10 day (possible) cancellation, considering switching cancellation policies on exactly this topic (Airbnb’s Extenuating Circumstances Policy). I don’t think it’s particularly relevant or useful to your experiences, but the bottom line is that Airbnb’s Extenuating Circumstances policy is a truly objectionable thing. I think there’s a concensus here about that. The good news is that no other site, that I’m aware of, has anything like this.

It’s worth noting that not all guests will invoke the Extenuating Circumstances policy. And the guest who is the topic of this thread is clearly a flake. But when Airbnb’s idiot policies come into contact with a flaky guest, it’s like when the chemists mix together two things that shouldn’t be mixed together. Fire, explosions, people running and screaming, police cars. Like the end of a Hollywood thriller.

I haven’t switched cancellation policies yet, though.


Yes, that is one of the big problems with AirBnB. The host turns up for everything.

Lesson for the future:
Block all busy dates like Thanksgiving, New Years Eve and others, and only book them directly.
You can set your own conditions for these dates, I also hate having cancelations for the most profitable days of the year. That is why these dates are already blocked in my calender for 2017.

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That’s interesting. How do you steer inquiries to your own site?

My first thought on this whole thing was the whole “Pre existing” clause that most insurance policies seem to have. The “terminal” being the pre existing.

I have read this entire thread. Very informative. And agree with previous comments on how thorough your OP is.
Good to see that your persistence has paid off and they refunded you the $700 after realizing the bogus claim factor. Ridiculous that it took so much of your time though.

Also, thank you for bringing this issue up. I signed in today to ask a question about a potential guest and her questions and inquiry about Cancellation Policy. Will do that on another thread.

Hi Jenneeden. I called 415-800-5959. But as I said above, I don’t think I ended up getting the payout because they agree with me that the guest is a con artist. They said they were paying because they listened to the tape of my phone call, and the rep clearly gave me the incorrect information. (This is my interpretation obviously not a direct quote.)

This might just be a coincidence but since this incident, however, I notice that our placement is now awful. As a superhost, I would normally see our ad in the first few pages for a search in our city, but now you have to click through 8-9 pages worth of ads to see mine. I thought superhosts were supposed to get better placement but there are a lot of non-superhost listings before us. We also don’t have instant book turned on, which I know hurts our placement, but some of the adds before ours don’t have instant book, aren’t super hosts and have weaker reviews than we do. I don’t get it.

Maybe they are now also giving better placement if you have a flexible cancellation policy? (Mine is strict.) Another topic I guess.

Airbnb does not place Superhosts higher in searches. However, guests can search with a filter for Superhosts.

Here is the Airbnb page detailing the advantages of Superhost status.

Here is the Airbnb page explaining search ranking.

Thanks, Ellen. That’s interesting because an Airbnb rep once told me that Superhosts should generally get better ranking/placement than non-superhosts. In our case, I can’t think of any reason why our ranking/placement has suffered. We haven’t cancelled on anyone, have nothing but 5star reviews, we have not changed our photos or ad and we respond to inquiries immediately.

I’m also not sure if Airbnb is going to be 100% transparent in detailing how their rankings work. If they admitted that they give people who have instant book and a flexible cancellation policy better placement they would piss a lot of us off and they’d probably be fielding more calls and complaints than they care to handle.

I just started a new thread on search ranking inspired by your query

Day before yesterday, in a moment of irritation about a pending IB reservation that had no photo (actually it did–was a pic of a cat), I turned off IB. I was immediately taken through a set of questions and warnings before the change went through. I was told my ranking/exposure would suffer and that I had 24 hours to change my mind before I got penalized.

Later in the day I mulled my decision over and turned on the darned IB again. The pending reservation never came through anyway.

So my point is, they don’t hide the fact that you will be demoted if you turn IB off. However, among my listing, which is always the first or second or third one to appear, I see a few others that are not IB nor Super Ho :slight_smile: And some don’t have 5 solid stars. Maybe because there just aren’t that many around my area?

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That’s interesting! I do have a feeling IB helps your placement but who knows. If you don’t have much competition, it’s a moot point. Where I live, there are hundreds of choices so the difference between being on page 1 or 2 or page 9 or 10 is massive.

I really don’t want to turn on IB for that same reason-- this is my house and I’d like some control.

I’m guessing I don’t have that much competition because I offer a bed in my living room for just one guest. Although it says at the bottom 300+ listings available.

My big fear with IB being on is that I might not be able to intercept someone trying to bring a baby, a dog or their girlfriend. Or a third party sending someone. All of the above could happen anyway I suppose.

I ask people a bunch of questions before I accept their reservations. I used to be more relaxed about this, but after a couple of bad experiences I do it all the time. I’ve had a couple of people who cancelled a booking request in the middle, so I guess not everyone likes it. Or it could be a coincidence, I suppose. Anyway, I couldn’t do that if I had IB turned on.

This includes asking them to confirm that they have read the listing carefully and accept the house rules. Which in theory should be redundant.

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