Beware: AirBnb's Extenuating Circumstances includes pets

Just wanted to share a recent “extenuating circumstances” situation that has left us exasperated and out of pocket. Sorry if it is a bit long winded I will try to keep the details and timeline relevant.

Wife and I just started renting our whole house on an occasional basis. We price it high enough to make it “worth it” for us to be inconvenienced while guests stay. We have a small RV and many friends in the area so not difficult for us to make arrangements to driveway camp, or we’ll head out to one of the local state parks if the rental is over a weekend. Cancellation policy is set to “strict” with AirBnb.

Last week (Wednesday afternoon) we got an inquiry for a rental checking in the next day – Thursday – for 4 nights. Decided to go for it despite the short turnaround and said yes. Quickly made arrangements for a. three-hour house cleaner at 8 am Thursday morning; b. pet boarding (we have a dog and a cat) from Thursday - Monday; and c. driveway camping with nearby friends so that we could go to work and school (we have fifth grader) Friday and Monday as usual.

Come home from work on Wednesday night and we’re full blast getting the house ready: laundry, cleaning, pool service, taking clutter to garage etc. to make it look like the house in the photos. :slight_smile: Get organized and packed and load up the van ready to leave the house Thursday morning not to return until Monday night. Send the guest an email with codes, instructions, rules, etc. (No response to the message.) Guest is driving here from out of state.

Thursday morning we roll out in the packed RV after letting the house cleaner in. Drop pets off at vet.

Late Thursday afternoon still had not heard from guest – this is past check-in – so wife sends them a message asking if they are settling in okay. In return gets a phone call at ~5pm saying that their service animal (which we had okayed staying at the house) had some sort of injury and they would not be making the trip after all and could they cancel. Wife tells them there will be a penalty and tells guest they will need to go through AirBnb to cancel.

Thursday night we hang out with our driveway friends past dinner but return to the house to sleep, worried that as no official cancellation has come through that they may decide to show up after all. They don’t, but we don’t unpack the RV that night and just sleep in our beds. Friday morning we still have not heard anything so we clean up and leave the house just as it was in case they arrive Friday during the day.

Payment clears Friday afternoon. Go home Friday – still no official cancellation – and find nobody there. Go pick up the dog and cat at the vet, unpack the RV, and move back in.

Saturday afternoon, finally, we get a message from the guest asking if we’d had any luck cancelling the reservation as he was not able to do so without losing his money. (Uh, yeah.) Again tell him that he needs to work through AirBnb on this, that we are not going to cancel it for him. He asks us for his money back and we (wife and I) discuss refunding some of it but decide to wait until AirBnb has processed the cancellation or if they offer us any guidance.

Yesterday (Monday) get an email from AirBnb Customer Experience saying that they have been contacted by the guest, that the guest had an issue with their service animal, and that they will cancel the reservation for us. Oh, and would we like to refund any or all of the guest’s money? They say they have asked the guest to provide documentation of the issue with the dog within 24 hours. We respond that we would like to wait and see what the documentation is before we decide if or what to refund to the guest.

So this morning we get another email from the Customer Experience rep, saying that the guest had provided “sufficient official documentation of his extenuating circumstance” and that “after further review and per our policy” they have refunded the guest in full and will be adjusting our account to reflect this.

Now I don’t want to seem mean or uncaring here, but huh?? What happened to the “strict” cancellation policy that we chose to prevent situations like this from happening? FWIW I don’t see pets mentioned in the AirBnb Extenuating Circumstances policy at all – the closest they come to this situation is “The guest has a serious illness or there’s a serious illness in their family”. A FULL refund? That seems more than a tad unfair to me, especially since we spend $145 on the cleaners and a little more than that on the pet boarding. Never mind the scramble to get the house ready in a few short hours and get organized to not be home for four days…

Sorry to ramble. Advice welcome. Going to discuss pulling our listing when we get home tonight – just doesn’t seem worth this sort of hassle.

Service animals are people too.

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I’m with you that you should have been paid. However, I just want to clarify that service animals aren’t considered pets. There is some confusion here because many people get their pets certified as emotional comfort animals and then incorrectly call them service animals. Actual service animals are raised and trained to serve specific at assisting in specific tasks, and usually wear an identifying vest instructing people not to pet them.

Regardless, service animals illness is not an extenuating circumstance.

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Yes, thanks. I understand the difference. I used “pets” in subject line to be a little provocative and also because looking at the guest’s profile photo (which includes the dog) it doesn’t look like any trained service animal I have ever encountered. I would be curious to see what they provided to Airbnb as documention not only of injury but also whether they had to show that it was a service - as opposed to a comfort - animal.

Horrendous and disheartening. Keep calling Air and try to get this reversed. Especially since you had OK’d the animal! These guests were totally rude and took you for a ride. Clearly they found someplace else to stay and just wanted their money back.

I had a guest cancel the day of his arrival because I had not disclosed there was “dengue” on the Big Island. Well, there was dengue, but not anywhere near me. And only 2 infectious cases on the entire island–which is the size of Connecticut. First guest asked me to refund or cancel. I didn’t. Then I got a call from Air asking could I refund part of the stay? NO. I lost money on this guy. It didn’t meet the extenuating circumstance and therefore, Air sided with me. But the more I hear these stories, the more it seems like Air is really taking to siding with the guest.

If it truly is a service animal then the person can’t function properly without their pet. In fact I think that it’s illegal to refuse someone with a certified service animal.

There are certain rules associated with this and if we’re operating with the public then we have to follow some rules, even though we’re providing private homes to the public.

Many cities are beginning to legislate this industry so we should keep our eyes open to the different rules that hotels, restaurants, cinemas and other industries have to follow.

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I would adjust my listing as refusing any dog, service or not due to son’s asthma and your allergy.

I had a guest Instant Book for a 4 day stay in August and then cancel within 24 hours. She wrote to me asked me to refund her money and she cited that there wasn’t enough sun at our location. Since the booking was so distant time wise and she changed her mind pretty quickly I decided to refund her $ knowing that I shall be booked it August. I did warn her that her booking fees would not be refunded. This is unusual for me since I have a strict cancellation policy. Apparently she called Airbnb and stated that my listing wasn’t clear that the apartment was in our home claiming “misreprentation” and then I get a nasty email from Airbnb telling me to fix my listing. Well I was Insensed - I quoted from my listing all the places I cite that the apartment is the first level of our home, etc. Then I write to my cancelled guest and tell her how upset I was that she misrepresented my home. Well my guest apologized and also told me she NEVER said it was misrepresented in my listing. Airbnb apologized stating they didn’t realize how clear it was in my listing! So here’s a case where Airbnb takes a guest word who is trying to recover booking fees without checking the facts!

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I’ve had them make mistakes like that too. On one cancellation that had not even paid out yet, Air wrote and said they were going to deduct that money from my next booking! I wrote in protest and they immediately corrected and apologized. But what if I didn’t check up on them?

Good or bad CSRs are the luck of the draw.

I am trying to figure this out… but I believe these CSRs work out of their homes all over the nation. I think it is a virtual call center of sorts and I also think that they are told to use their best judgment but that if the guest is furious, they should side with the guest. After all it’s the guest getting their wallets out… not the host!

Yes, Kona but without the Host the guest wouldn’t have a need to get their wallets out. I think air needs to remember that.


I would not mention refusing service animals on your listing. You may get away with privately declining, but it is illegal in most states to refuse service animals for any reason including allergies.

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@Xena Since these are ‘our homes’ and not necessarily commercial rentals there are some loop holes about having to accommodate Service Animals. However, it is 100% illegal to advertise that you discriminate against ADA/FHA protected class. I would agree that you should not publicly mention it in your listing.

Here is the link from Air:

Wow, that’s slippery. I have a staircase and cannot accommodate handicapped because of that. I said so in my listing but maybe I should remove it. Have never had anyone handicapped ask to stay.

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@konacoconutz I would just reword to say not ADA compliant, we have a staircase that would not be good for anyone with mobility issues, our staircase does not meet ADA regulations, etc… Something to beat around the bush that your house would not be good for someone with limited mobility. Also, I beleive there is a check box for ‘wheelchair accessable’ etc. We have it checked bc we have a lift and wide hallways.

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I’m so sorry to hear this painful story. I think the entire discussion about service animals here is immaterial. Regardless of the circumstances, I have only two words to say:

Trip insurance.

That is all.

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My staircase isn’t slippery but it did occur to me recently - what if someone didn’t understand that my rooms are on the lower level and accessible only by stairs? If they had mobility issues and showed up not knowing this it would be huge problem!

I’ll add some of this wording to my listing!

LOL sort of.

One protection we have is that we are not “open to the public”. We can reject anyone without giving a reason.

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