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Guest wants a partial refund for smoke detector dead battery alarm - WWYD?

Need advice ASAP. Smoke alarm battery died during guest’s one night stay and they contacted me at midnight to ask where it was located since it was keeping them up. It is way up on ceiling and can only be fixed with a ladder. I am out of town but offered that they could use the ladder on the property or my neighbor could go and turn it off right away. They said no, it would be too disruptive at this point to the other people already asleep in the house. I also told them where they could find earplugs in the house. They said they wanted to speak to me tomorrow about a partial refund. They are staying in my house during the busiest time of year at top rate - $500/night for 8 people in 3 br house. But a smoke detector battery going out is something that is completely out of my control and I offered several solutions to address it. What do you think is the right thing to do here?

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When was the last time you changed the battery and when’s the last time you checked your smoke alarm?

I’d give them something off as a gesture of goodwill. The rationale for this is because your smoke alarm should be in good order. It isn’t. They trust that the smoke detector works, but if the battery is dying then that (to me) seems that it hasn’t had normal maintenance.

Even if you offered several solutions, the problem should never have occurred.


I agree. First, the smoke detector battery probably should be changed on a schedule. Second, when the battery goes dead, the chirping sound the detector starts making is maddening. The issue had a noticeably negative impact on the quality of their stay, and they deserve a discount.

At least, that’s what I would do in your situation. And mind you, it will probably be only thanks to your thread that I may not be in it. I have been hosting for only a few months, and had not thought about smoke detector maintenance. I usually change the batteries when they go dead. However, I will put this on my list of things to do!


The easy way to do this is to have the same kind of detector in your home as in the rental. When you change the one in your home, change the one in the rental a week or two later. When yours starts to chirrup, you know that the one in the rental will soon.


The thing that is maddening is that it is the kind that is wired into the ceiling, so I don’t even know why it is chirping at all!


How much of a refund would you offer?

I would also offer a refund, as I agree, that the sound these make when they have a low battery is very annoying. Really I can’t stand to be in a house with that sound for more than a minute or so!

I would first ask the guest what sort of refund they had in mind, because there is no point in offering more of a refund than the guest actually wanted. I might offer up to a 33% or even 50% refund of one night. But no more than a refund for one night, since you offered them a solution to solve the problem the next day. I would make sure that they do resolve it, and don’t just leave it to beep and then tell you that they had to move out and expect you to pay their hotel bill. Call your neighbor and have your neighbor go over and make sure it’s quit beeping.

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Really? It’s totally within your control. When you allow a battery to drain so low, this is what happens. Common knowledge…

Ummm. wired detectors have a battery back up.

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Smoke alarm batteries should be changed twice a year on a schedule to make sure this problem ever happens and your guests are always safe. I would offer a sincere apology and a $100 discount off one night on a $500 per night rental if I were in your shoes. It is not the 50% they would like, but $100 is a significant amount.

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I think these guests are being ridiculous. It was around midnight when they contacted you because the noise was keeping them up. Then they say that they don’t want your neighbor to come over immediately to get up on the ladder - because it will disrupt everyone else who is already asleep?? Say what???

If those other people are already sleeping through an obnoxious smoke detector, I hardly think the neighbor on a ladder is going to disturb them. The story is not making sense. Most “normal” people are going to agree to have someone come over now in order to stop that noise - and then everyone can sleep peacefully.

I have to wonder if the house was a wreck or something, and they didn’t want the neighbor there. I would have been so grateful if I knew a neighbor would come over at midnight to stop the noise. And sending over a couple bottles of wine with a thank you note would have been sufficient to thank the guest for their understanding and any inconvenience.

While you likely could have prevented this - (I don’t know - don’t batteries go out early sometimes?) - but the guests also chose to refuse an immediate solution.


Isn’t it better to have a smoke detector that doesn’t rely on a battery?

@faheem They all have a battery. The ones that are wired have a back up battery in case the power goes off and there is a fire. And then there are the battery only units. We actually have a routine set up as a recurring event in our calendar to remind us to change the batteries, replace the CO2 filters, and the water filters. When we lived down south, we also had to wash the filters in the A/C. They each needed a different schedule and the only way we could remember was to create a home maintenance calendar.


Yes, they should be given a hefty discount… Safety is a key aspect of providing accommodation. Your bad for not planning proper maintenance. You will be lucky if they don’t mention this in review or complain to Airnb.

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When my neighborhood suffered a lot of foreclosures, we used to call this the foreclosure chirp. You could hear these things going off loudly well outside the houses and they would lead you right to the offending and empty house. They would chirp for months, as these places weren’t being looked after.

I can totally understand the annoyance of the guest and I would feel the same. But only for one night. If you offered a solution to have it fixed by the next day you should only discount part of the first night. I too have a wired one that needs a ladder, but usually it gives you a “warning” chirp first before breaking out into full obnoxiousness.

This is one of the problems with not being right on site to handle these issues. You might want to have a handyman back up to call on who lives in your neighborhood.

Doesn’t Air require you to have a working smoking detector at all times? They will even send you one.


I like that…the ‘foreclosure chirp’. (Hate it when ours go off ~ drives me bonkers.)

Air sent me a complimentary smoke/CO2 detector a few months ago. That was nice. Freebies always welcome here. It was the last thing needed to qualify for the ‘business traveler’ suitcase icon. (woop-woop!)

Thing is, haven’t seen a ‘suit’ yet.


I’m in the refund camp. I agree that it’s your responsibility to change the batteries regularly.

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Keep in mind - no matter what amount you decide to refund, the guests still might leave you a negative review. So refund what you think is fair. There are plenty of people who will go to a restaurant and management will comp their entire meal/drinks, everything. And the guest runs home to report a one star review.

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And do those backup batteries go bad too, even when they’re not used?

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Yes. All batteries will die eventually.

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That was a stupid question, sorry.

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