Guest requiring full refund based on likely unsubstantiated claims

Dear fellow forum members,

we have been an airBNB host for two months, with a house in CR while we are Living in the UK. We are using a local property manager who has been great so far, being responsible for check-in, check-out, cleaning and resolving issues swiftly. So far we had only full 5* reviews.

We had a couple from the US staying, who had raised a mixture of unsubstantiated issues post their stay. They never contacted us while staying, even though we checked in on them at the beginning, middle and end of stay. Several days after the stay I got the following from the guest asking for a 100% refund.

Hi, First let me begin with the problems at check-in. After arriving in a new country, we reached out with our arrival time. Your manager notified us that he was going to the beach that day. As nightfall approached, we reached out as we drove closer to Hatillo from SJO. We were then told that we could not be able to check in when we arrived, instead we should grab a beer at a nearby bar. This was not what we were expecting from an Airbnb booking. Normally check-ins are prompt and courteous; however, we were made to feel like an inconvenience. Eventually, we were met at the bar by someone who spoke no English. After some difficult dialogue, we were able to make it up to the house. After entering the property, we immediately noticed the kitchen counters, stove, floors and shower were dirty. It was clear no one even wiped the surface. Ants were prevalent in the home. Again, this is not what we expect from a booking. We’ve never experienced a pest issue or an issue with a dirty home. Next, we quickly realized that there were no box springs or mattresses on either bed. Just a bed topper on wooden planks. Sleeping was infrequent and uncomfortable. We’ve never experienced such rough bedding. Getting up and being attacked by ants in the middle of the night was especially fun. Tell your gardener thank you for staying in the backyard to take cellphone photos of the sunset 30 min after watering it. ZERO HOT WATER. This is perhaps the biggest issue out of everything.

I then went to verify the claims:

  • The property manager indeed didn’t come himself - which is unacceptable
  • The house was cleaned before the guests arrived
  • The gardener always comes, puts the sprinklers out, lets them run for 30 minutes, takes them away and takes pictures of what has been watered to send to us

Claims simply untrue

  • We arrived the next day, as we had a scheduled trip to CR: no issues with hot water
  • The mattress and bed are well above standard: there is clearly a high-end mattress and bedding in the property

Things I cant verify

  • Cleanliness after cleaning
  • Ants and insects: the house is in the jungle, so if windows are left open during the day, some insects will come in

My property manager didn’t respond to my questions (and has not responded since), indicating that he had something to hide. By sending someone else, he had already breached the contract with us. Due to the seriousness of the guests claims I temporarily removed the manager from our listing.

So I apologised, stated what I could verify and asked for any evidence for the other items, such as screenshots of conversation with property manager, such that I can follow up with the staff. I offered 25% off the price based on the check-in experience and more once I get more evidence.

The guest had good ratings, but never appears to have left the US.

Then I get back the following mail:

Unfortunately, that is not going to work.

I must have imagined getting attacked by ants in the middle of the night. You either think we are crazy or just stupid. We didn’t imagine freezing cold showers or ants pouring from holes in the walls and floors. We didn’t imagine your staff treating us like crap or loitering on the property we booked to take personal photos.

I’ve used Airbnb for years and have never had to raise an issue. You realize you are basically accusing me and my girlfriend of lying or making up reasons why we didn’t enjoy our stay. How dare you. Your lack of accommodations completely ruined our trip. Being unable to sleep or shower is simply unacceptable.

I’ve reached out before leaving a detailed and scathing review, with photos, in good faith. If you are too greedy to accept your own lack of professionalism, then I will contact my attorney to go directly to Airbnb to resolve this matter and will leave a review warning others to avoid your listing.

In any case, the tone of the 2nd mail triggered all my warning signs. I responded stating that I would give a full refund, if he provided any evidence for his experience, explaining that I needed the info to raise with the property manager. No reply

I am not sure what to do next

  • I do not fully know what was done wrong during his stay. I was able to confirm some claims, but not others.
  • Clearly there were some issues, whereas others seem to be made up and/or exaggerated. The second mail covers this clearly: the house is a brand new luxury home with no holes; even if the hot water wasn’t working it would still be at 35C (see comment “freezing cold showers or ants pouring from holes”)
  • The guest did not contact AirBNB or me within 24h of the issue - we could have easily resolved any of the issues raised
  • The guest still has not provided any evidence: if he had sent some, I would have given him the benefit of the doubt and given a full refund. But the last mail indicates that we are actually being scammed

Any advice on how to approach such a situation?


Bingo. Threatening you with a review is against Airbnb’s TOS. Hopefully this is on the platform message thread. It’s also Air’s policy that guests have to contact you during the trip, at check in or within 24 hours. Also he pulls the lawyer bullsh*t.

Take a deep breath, remain calm. DO NOT GIVE IN TO HIS BULLYING. Now call Airbnb or email them and get your side of the story into their records. Also, quit communicating with him now.

And come back here to get help writing the review for him when it’s all settled.


Ditto what she said. That was fortunate that they mentioned the “detailed and scathing review”.


Yes it is. What you said is what I thought. Thank you for the offer helping to write a review. I contacted AirBNB using the platform, but maybe a call is better.

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Excellent. These guests really screwed themselves by threatening you. I kind of wish you hadn’t already offered 25% off but you probably can’t rescind that. A non English speaking person coming to greet them at a bar isn’t acceptable but 25% off the entire stay is more than generous. I was in CR two years ago in a multi-million dollar home and yes there are bugs in the jungle. We also had no power one night and one of the two kitchen sinks had a leak from under the cabinet. I wouldn’t have dreamed of asking for money back.


I kind of wish you hadn’t already offered 25% off but you probably can’t rescind that.

I offered it verbally only. Let’s see what happens next. What is the best way of contacting AirBNB. I am assuming he will leave a bad rating: how can I deal with this? Or will AirBNB, just unpublish it as he breached the TOS

I’d go ahead and call. You will almost certainly get the low level agent who can’t help you. They will refer you to a case manager who will call you back.

Now you say you offered 25% off verbally so I don’t know what is on the platform and what is off the platform. If it were me, because he was threatening I’d not offer anything until I see what the agent says. I also wouldn’t admit any guilt or wrongdoing to the agent other than what is already visible to the agent on the message thread.


When you contacted them before, in the middle of, etc their stay- was it via platform? Did they respond to those messages? Are they using your private email or is it going through the air system? All of this can act as evidence against them if necessary. I would cease communicating with them and just speak with Air from this point forward. The others are absolutely correct- reviews and money threats are against ToS.


Just poking my nose in to leave this for you.

You’ll want to point out to any agent you work with that the guest didn’t make you aware of any travel issue until after their stay, despite your messages checking in with them. He has no leg to stand on per their own policy. I’d refund the 25% because their stay wasn’t up to your own standards (arrival/check-in). The review extortion is pretty cut and dry - it was nice of him to make it so clear! Call Airbnb to get ahead of things.

I always go back to the restaurant analogy. If they ordered a steak and don’t like how its cooked, they need to inform the waiter so the issue can be dealt with.
You either eat and pay, or complain and re-negotiate.
What you don’t get to do is eat the whole steak and then refuse to pay for it.


If he leaves a bad rating, don’t worry about it. Air may remove it but if they do, they will also remove yours of him so it’s a double edged sword. You get to leave him a review as well as respond to his review of you.

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Do call, rather than message. I had to call three times over the last weekend and they were really helpful.

The numbers are under top of the forum headline.

Good luck. I find that a) being politely nice to CS b) thanking them for their help c) somehow making them laugh towards the end and feel that they are your friend is useful in achieving positive outcomes.


@edelweiss Lars, the fact that your own property manager didn’t respond to your questions is more than concerning. You mentioned that you were in contact with the guests throughout their stay – were those contacts via the Airbnb platform and did the guest actually respond indicating his satisfaction with the accommodations, etc? If that’s the case, then I don’t see how the guest could prevail in his claims…

Your guests were clearly not ready to travel outside their country :sweat_smile:, but I also think there were some genuine issues (check in, hot water, cleanliness). A 25% discount sounds correct, maybe even generous.

Most importantly, you should consider what you can learn and improve from this:

  • Making check in a better experience. It’s all about first impressions. (My MIL has taken to giving guests a big hug on arrival, I hate the idea :sweat_smile:, but some guests seem to love it! I don’t recommend anyone doing this however.)
  • Is your mattress too hard? At least make it clear in your listing what kind of beds guests can be expecting.
  • Does your cleaning lady do her job as she is supposed to do? If there’s a lot of dust where you are she should clean your place on the day guests arrive. Maybe she cleaned after the last guests and just left it like that for a few days. You should know that people like to cut corners when the big boss isn’t around.
  • Guests should be better informed about the gardener. Maybe you can put a photo out of him (or them) with some explanation (who? when? why? where? what?)
  • About hot water: Inform people in your listing that electricity and therefor (hot) water isn’t always guaranteed in Central America, and therefor is no ground to ask for refunds.
  • About insects: The same. It’s part of the deal, so make it clear to people that they have to expect insects in your place.
  • …
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Indeed there seem to be issues with my property manager and I have to find another one. There were tell-tales such as him charging us for services not delivered, using the house when not occupied without asking, etc. His behaviour with regards to the last guest was unacceptable, but with all other guests before it was impeccable. He manages several properties in the area and it is possible that he was out to damage us, when he realised that he got caught cheating us too frequently to give other properties he manages an edge. But that is just speculation.

Luckily we are out here for 10 weeks to improve the house, do landscaping around it, …

We contacted them through the platform the day they arrived, half way through and at the end to see whether everything was OK. Then: no reply. The reply appeared 3 days after the stay as a request for a full refund. We then contacted him via the platform to ask for clarification and evidence. And then the above exchange occurred.

I think I’ve found your listing and if so I think I spot another issue. You are new, only having 4 reviews and when mr scam booked you might not have had any. Anecdotal evidence tells me that scammers look for new hosts as their target. They expect new hosts to be cowed by their threats. They expect new hosts to be scared of being removed from the platform, lacking experience dealing with problems, etc. Luckily you stumbled onto this forum, instead of merely stumbling. As I said, check in was not ideal and you’ve confirmed that. Many hosts would refund nothing for that, they would offer a bottle of wine or a comped dinner at a nearby restaurant.


Indeed, that is right. 4 reviews. And no reviews when he booked.

However, if he is indeed a “professional” scammer, how does he end up with a dozen positive reviews going back to 2014? That would be disconcerting.

The quality of the scam is what makes him a professional. And having good reviews for a few years is an element of the scam.


How do you define professional? A professional thief doesn’t always steal everything. How would he scam everyone and still be able to book. Of course there is a chance that he had ants and no hot water but if he is a professional Airbnb scammer he would know how it works and he would know not to try to extort you. If your investigation reveals that in fact, hordes of ants are attacking in the middle of the night, then you can offer some compensation. But for now I’d assume he is, as you said in the OP “likely unsubstantiated.” If you are going to give 25% off for meeting the property manager in a local bar and speaking spanish, let me book now. And why is a couple booking a two bedroom place? Aren’t there cheaper one bedroom places with the same amenities?

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I guess we wont be making that mistake again. We had a few couples staying in the house alone. As I said before, it is one of the nicest properties in the area.

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There was a couple here once posting and we had quite a go with them here. They travel the world staying at Airbnbs and other places and then blogging about it. In their blog they advise people what to do to get a free stay. And they definitely leverage it to the hilt. No greeting at the door at the agreed time? Free stay! No hot water for two out of 5 days? Completely free stay. I’m sure that most of time they are nice people who mean well and pay their way. But their advice on how to get stuff free rubbed us all kinds of the wrong way. One only needs to follow their facebook or blog to get a few ideas about how to scam now and again, not all the time.