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Change to ability to claim damages for smoking?

hosting
#1

Hi, recently had a guest in my vacation rental who was sent all the usual documentation and house rules regarding an 11am checkout and non-smoking unit and was still present in the unit at 3pm smoking cigarettes and weed. My cleaners had to leave the house, and then come back later to do a special cleaning to remove the smell of smoke from carpet and furniture, I was charged a fee for both of these activities amounting to $100. I then filed the photos of ashes on tables, mess in the house, invoice from cleaning staff, and door activity logs indicating late checkout to the claims center in AirBNB. The guest refused the charges, and AirBNB told me that their policy around late checkout, smoking, or claims to deposit for non-damage related issues is now the following:

  1. You have to catch them DURING their stay and notify AirBNB
  2. AirBNB will reach out to guest to tell them to stop
  3. You then document them continuing to do so after you’ve reached out
  4. Then AirBNB will allow charges

Is this crazy? I got it in writing by email conversation, and a phone call to their “Superhost Support” which escalated to a supervisor with no recourse. My house is a “To yourself” lakehouse in Tahoe, – I’m not “Checking in” on my guests during their stay, and charge a $500 deposit. If I can’t actually get access to this deposit for expenses that the guests incur on my behalf, then I’m not sure I should keep it up.

Am I being overzealous about smoking? It’s very clear in my house rules, and I’ve had guests give lower reviews in the past for “Smoke smell” that my cleaners didn’t catch. Should I keep the rules, and the deposit, just not actually bother with fining guests (Taking it out on their reviews?)

What do you do?

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#2

:roll_eyes: Why I won’t ever be a remote host…

You may need some smoke sensors that are not alarms, but be part of a security system that will notify you of low level smoke, entries/exits. And then disclose in your listing and in the no smoking or vaping rules that you have a state of the art detection system that will notify you of low level smoke.

Do you have outside video cameras?

It sounds like you might need to hire a “maintenance” person to drop by and check in during stays?

1 Like

#3

They don’t work unless you really have a true VESDA system. We have them all over in a boutique hotel I host at and you smell cigarette smoke all the time walking down the halls. I find ashes on the bathroom sink counters etc. A VESDA system picks it up right away. Even the mere smoke lingering on your clothes is detected. You most likely couldn’t do any normal residential activities with a VESDA in the house though. If you applied cosmetics, cooked, or sprayed perfume the alarm would go off immediately.

That does seem a bit unreasonable. Its notoriously difficult to prove smoking happened though. It sounds like Airbnb lawyers are taking the same route that police take for pursuit policies which is kind of over the top…

Can you post the email with the policy from Airbnb? I’d like to see the policy for myself but I can;t find it on the Airbnb site.

If what you’re saying is the exact literal policy, I suppose you’d have to have some technology to monitor the guests in every room pretty much. Finding ashes and butts isn’t enough as you experienced.

No.

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#4

Part of the issue is the third hand account. ABB & the guest could claim that they did not smoke in the home and that it was the cleaners who did. Anyone who steps into the home who is not host or co-host after a guest departs is under suspicion which making a claim much more difficult. Are you being overzealous about smoking…absolutely not! There is nothing more irritating then walking into your non smoking home and finding the smell of smoke or evidence of smoking in the home Again, because there was no correspondence or phone calls to Airbnb immediately upon finding the guest still there you have no proof that they didn’t check out on time.

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#5

Next time, tell your cleaners to take pictures of the guests smoking, and to send it to you immediately so YOU can contact the guest over the app to tell them “you are 4 hours beyond check-out time and smoking in my home” I can’t guarantee this will work, but I’m guessing the chances are higher.

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#6

IThis makes me want to install cameras inside the guest areas! Ugh. Of course since they couldn’t be in bedrooms or bathrooms rhatbis where guests would smoke. I wonder if something could be placed in the locked owner’s closets to detect it as it is happening and provide record and notification so that we can comply with this new ludicrous policy that hasn’t been published publicly yet! Ugh!

Seriously, ashes and cigarette butts found on counters and floors documented upon entry is not good enough? I always do photo documenting before and after. And can provide the smart lock time stamps (along with camera footage now, when someone doesn’t stand in front of it intentionally blocking their misdeeds) to show who enters and exits and when. I guess I’d need to do a video version instead?

I’m still going to proceed with my usual fines.

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#7

Why bother going hat in hand to ABB? Put teeth in your agreement that allows you to go after them in local court. Make it $1000 smoking fee. Extra judicial process, etc. They agree that discovering butts, ashes or smell of smoke by owner/cleaners is sufficient grounds for smoking fee and deep cleaning, loss of arriving guests, etc

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#8

@BadPirate - if you’re determined to use Airbnb then you need to be a lot more organised. Whether their policies are fair or not is not an issue - they provide a service and we can choose whether we want to use it. If we do, then we agree to their policies when we join.

If you’re hosting remotely then it is possible to do so without a co-host if you have a lot of experience in the hospitality industry and know exactly what you’re doing. Otherwise, you’ll need a co-host who is fully conversant with Airbnb, customer service and the hospitality industry.

Your co-host will ensure that careless hosting - such as allowing guests to stay after check out time - won’t happen. I’m afraid that ashes and the word of the cleaner that there was a smell of smoke just won’t cut it. Think about it, if you were a guest and the cleaner said that you’d done something, you wouldn’t accept that, would you? Airbnb has to monitor for careless hosts as well as careless guests.

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#9

What is also interesting is that “badpirate” also mentions that they has been marked down for smoke smell before. Hmm… smells like a fishy situation with the cleaners.

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#10

Well spotted :slight_smile:

Yes, I’d be a little concerned about those cleaners too. After all, they are getting paid extra for removing something that can’t be proved in any way. A few ashes scattered around proves nothing and you can’t photograph or video a smell.

I also wonder just how common it is. I know that there have been hosts here in the past who have mentioned that their guests have smoked so there’s no way I’m saying that it doesn’t happen but I can honestly say that it’s never happened to me (not in this century anyway :slight_smile: )

I’ve had plenty of guests who’ve smoked - outside. I’ve found cigarette packets in the rentals, but I’ve never had the smoke smell so I believe that guests have always smoked out of doors. And although ‘no smoking’ is one of my very few rules, that’s the only mention in the listings.

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#11

This could happen to me and I do not consider myself a remote host, I live a block away and my business office is part of the property. But I do not enter the cabin when guests are here. How in the hell does Air expect you to catch them in the act?

RR

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#12

We had our first one after 3 years just a week or so ago but they totally disregarded every rule we had and I suspect they are the same ones who broke back into the home and made away with a few items. But since I can’t prove it I eat the cost as “part of the business” and continue on.

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#13

Would smoke alarms go off if guests were smoking?

I think that Airbnb, like many people these days, think that smoking is a thing of the past, maybe. It certainly isn’t - I get quite a lot of guests who smoke.

We’re lucky being in a warm climate because we have no carpets (tile throughout), no curtains (wooden blinds) and no upholstered furniture (leather only). I do get unpleasant smells from time to time but opening windows sorts that out quickly enough. I don’t quite understand what the OP’s cleaners did to remove the smell from carpets and furniture in time for the next guest.

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#14

Can you say a little “fabreeze”? When it happened to me it was hours and had to block off the next day to finishing cleaning and let everything dry plus wiping everything down. I will gander to bet it was a good 12-15 hours of work between the cleaning and laundry. The home has absolutely no storage and everything is out in the open which meant every towel, sets of sheets, blinds, comforters, shower curtain had to be washed. Thinking back I should’ve just bundled everything up and taken to the laundry mat but I was ticked and just started cleaning and washing.

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#15

My wife and son have asthma and are allergic to a lot of things including cigarette smoke.
I recently had guests who smoked. The house rules clearly state no smoking. We compromised by smoking outside–but people who smoke outside still bring the effects into the house and smell it up. Even those who vape, my wife claims that might even be worse than cigarettes.
After the problem guest I posted the second photo in my listing showing my SMARTlock with a NO SMOKING sign right beside the lock.
Now whenever I receive a request for a reservation I send a message to the applicant saying, thanks, before approving your reservation I would like to make sure you do not smoke …
Several of the people who received that question replied,
“Not only do we not smoke, we requested the reservation because you have a smoke-free property.”
If someone who came did smoke there is a 99 percent chance our son would have to use his EppyPen, 911 called, ending up in a hospital visit, a bill for the ambulance to the hospital and a bill for that–usually more than $6,000 when it happens–so very important for us to make sure.
We also put similar signs in the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. My wife wanted to put a signpost in the yard by the entry door but I told her I the four signs she already have should be plenty.

1 Like

#16

Thanks for all the replies! The take-away I see here on the forums is that nobody here has experienced better responses from AirBNB recently regarding smoking in units, and that I shouldn’t count on this to be a part of their service :frowning: Thanks to those who understand and support here, and sorry for those who have harder situations also shared. To those of you who come into these forums to assume the worst of posters and to piss on them from your keyboard, go suck eggs.

A few select responses from common themes:

Install more sensitive smoke detectors

Sounds like this is a no go as it doesn’t play nice with being near kitchens, cooking, or steamy showers. But if someone wants to recommend a specific product I’d be interested in reviews.

Cameras, “checking in on” or having random inspections

Na. Not how I roll. Guests deserve their privacy.

This is not something AirBNB should be dealing with, it’s a your word vs theirs, and so full proof is required

Not really. This isn’t the court of law, this is business. I’m not trying to get them arrested, hotels don’t have to provide video footage for courts when they add fee’s to a guest bill and neither should I. My cleaners have no motivation to lie, their fee’s have been reasonable and backed up by purchases of cleaning products and receipts. The guests in question checked out late and I do have door logs to verify that’s the case. Most hotels, car rentals, etc hold a deposit and have a nice disclaimer regarding that deposit for a reason, bad guests aren’t the norm but when you do 100’s of bookings, you’re going to have a few rotten eggs. I want to assume the best of people, and hold those accountable who violate that trust. It just seems that AirBNB isn’t setup for that. And it is THEIR responsibility. They’ve taken over the process of payment, deposit, contract, booking, etc, and have not made it possible, and in cases prevent from adding additional individual contract provisions, setup dynamic billing for specific smoking deposits to cover the gap.

What is the difference between this, and a guest putting a hole in my wall… both boil down to my word vs the guests, and in both cases I’m not going to catch them in the act. It’s a little bit unsettling. I’m a super host who did 100k in Revenue with 1 property through AirBNB last year, a 4.9 average stay rating and over 100 stays. When I call in these days and try to pit my word, photos, logs, and documentation against a guest with no previous rental histories denial, I’m ushered into the call center and treated with the kind of disdain that is reserved for customers of major telco or cable companies.

As it is, I don’t see much choice in the market for competitors, AirBNB’s size and reach advantage provides a significantly better RevPAR than any option I’ve tried (VRBO, Self Listing, Flipkey, etc), and as such it seems they’ve got us ass up and hands tied.

Enough whining, I’ll keep taking it like a champ because it’s the best of a set of bad options. New strategy will be never charging guests extra fee’s and just treating the extra money I have to spend to make up for asshat guests as an extra expense, and filling in the difference with low star reviews (next time they’ll just get their spouse to book). However if something better comes around they’ll see how far my loyalty doesn’t go.

2 Likes

#17

Sounds like a party I went to once…

Lol

RR

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#18

Can we see screenshot from Airbnb that they actually wrote you that you need to caught them in the act?

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#19

Of note, despite trying I could t get the idea across that the “fee” for smoking wasn’t punitive but recuperative. The language here is almost stronger, making it sound like charging for smoking damages isn’t something that is policy at all, and the best you can do is a during stay no refund cancellation for breaking house rules.

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#20

Also, I’ve often gotten different “official” positions depending on day/representative/star alignment, so take that for what you will. What really grinds my gears is this is not clear at all and in fact the opposite is implied in multiple places on Airbnb’s site. From other threads I’ve read it sounds like the “deposit” is not something that AirBNB will collect from unless the guest accepts the fee. In other words it’s not really a deposit and can’t actually be used to recuperate damages caused by guest, unless they agree to pay anyway, which works without a deposit.


When it’s really obvious it seems AirBNB will pay the host from their own pocket rather than going after guests. Which doesn’t seem at all in alignment with the description of security deposit on their site:

Basically the “security deposit” is fake and has no effect on your ability to protect against having to pay deductible etc, either the guest agrees and you get the money or the guest doesn’t and airbnb “gets involved”. I’m still trying to decide if I should have a deposit shown or not, as its presence may scare away the wrong type of guests.

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