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First "Death in the Family" -- What should I expect from Airbnb?

Continuing the discussion from Escort Services! Don't Let Them Fool You!:

Continuing the discussion from Late cancellations, death in family:

Okay so it’s Christmas Day and a family from France says they aren’t coming due to a death in the family. I really doubt the story–my guess is that they are already in the country and enjoying themselves at another location and just don’t want to uproot for the two days they’ve booked here. I don’t have a crystal ball, of course, but this is just a feeling…there was no photo of the guest and about two days ago, I had to send him the info about my place. He did not contact me for anything–I have always had to contact him.

What will Airbnb do here?

I sent them the following message: "I’m so sorry to hear this. Unfortunately, I will require proof–in the form of a death certificate–if you request a refund. Cancellations due to “a death in the family” occur with improbable frequency and so I hope you will understand.

My father died at Christmas, which of course made celebrating difficult for several years, so you have my condolences."

What is your cancellation policy and are they supposed to check in today?

I would not have responded with your reply. Then they think it is up to you. It is not - you can say “I am sorry to hear there is a death in your family. Did you happen to purchase trip cancellation insurance for your trip? If not, your credit card may provide it. Unfortunately, I have blocked my calendar since you booked and I refused others who were interested in reserving.”

I would not even mention the “extenuating circumstances” policy that Air has where death in the family can be used. I would let the guest discover this on their own. Air will probably ask you to refund but I would say no. These guests need to understand that you could have rented to someone else - why should you take the financial loss?


Good call, cabin - I would even cut off the ending, starting with "unfortunately’. We need to stop being apologetic for such things. Business is business.

I like how you shared your own personal loss, Reeny, a nice caring touch - but so sorry you had a loss at this time of year. While our family is celebrating there’s a part of my heart missing our loved ones who have passed, and thinking of friends who are in tragic circumstances, or also grieving loved ones. I would have loved to have been able to call my mother-in-law to talk to her about the guacamole we were making this morning - something she taught me to do.


good point. Yeah…I prob. wouldn’t use the word unfortunately - just spewing something off.

I think a better way to word it would be “I’m sure you understand that I have turned away other guests to book the dates you had reserved” - or something like that.

Actually, yeah, you weren’t apologizing, just explaining. This is my ‘over 50ness’ talking, lol!!

I have a strict cancellation policy, so with a check-in on boxing day, I think he’s out of luck.

My purpose in wording things this way as to put him on notice that while I’m sympathetic, I’m not going to refund him without a bit of a fight. Other hosts in my city have told me about their arms being twisted to provide refunds, even with strict cancellation policies. I did this as a heads-up.

Cabin, what you say makes sense, but in the event that there really was a death, I would find those words a tad cold. My father died on Dec. 23rd and I remember what that was like. So just in case this is true, and there really was a death, I wouldn’t be comfortable being completely business-like. Some people use Airbnb for the human touch, and I want to be conscious of that.

I was aiming for two things: empathy and the message that I was still entitled to be paid. Besides, if he contacts Airbnb, he’ll find out about the possibility of getting off the hook anyway.

Btw, he contacted me and said that “of course” he would not be asking for a refund. I’m taking a wait and see attitude, but so far, so good.

Yes, definitely reword so it is empathetic. I am only writing a rough draft and what is coming to my mind right away. If I was actually writing the guest about a death in the family I would take a lot of time to write my response.

Reeny, I was about to say I liked your initial response but then I read Cabin’s which is also awesome! I would use something to that effect the next time I get a guest with a death. And as you say, they do seem to occur with improbable frequency.

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