Guest wants a refund because of the stairs

A guest booked and paid without any questions other than ‘Is the apartment available on these dates?’ It was, and he booked and paid.
After he made his booking, he asked if there were stairs and a lift at the apartment as he said he and his wife were elderly. I told him there were stairs and that there was no lift.
He asked if I could cancel his booking. I explained that there were penalties for hosts for cancelling a booking, but that he could cancel the booking himself if he wished.
However because it was less than a week until his arrival, he realised he would lose 50% of his payment under the cancellation policy. He said he didn’t want to lose money would go ahead with the booking and would just have to manage the stairs.
On his arrival and before checking in, he found that his wife could not manage the stairs. He asked the manager at my building (my apartment is in a resort) to transfer him to a ground floor apartment in the building. He booked and paid for another apartment.
He then began to send me messages saying that my listing had misrepresented the apartment, and that he would report me to Airbnb for a misleading listing. He wanted a full refund for his booking and felt that he had been misled and treated badly.
It is obvious in my listing that the apartment is not on the ground floor (there are photos of the view from the balcony) and I had already informed him that there were stairs and no lift before he arrived? What would other hosts do in this situation? Refund him, or not?

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contact air bnb

No refund


Thanks sylvainbg I will.

To be honest, as soon as I knew they would have an issue with the stairs and that they were elderly, I would have called BNB and asked them in the circumstances if they could have found the couple an alternative property more suitable to their needs and not penalise them for moving properties.

You knew that they would have difficulties with the stairs, but insisted they go ahead with the booking or lose their money.

Although I appreciate BNB is a business, sometimes we need to be flexible and considerate of other people’s circumstances.

In your situation I would refund them.

Also going forward, if you don’t do so already on your listing, state which floor the apartment is on and that it is likely to be unsuitable for those who find it difficult to manage stairs.


So it is the hosts task to babysit the guests through the whole booking process?
The guests should have asked before booking, not after.
Normaly it should be “old and wise”, not “old and stupid”. Elderly people think they can get away with anything, what is next? Elderly people crying racism because we do not have an elevator?

I would refund the guest (minus a small admin fee), but the guest would have to call AirBnB and do all the work. I would not put any of my time and energy in these guest.

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It seems like @BlackCat only knew that the guest questioned the stairs. The guest was fully aware before arrival and could have been content with the 50% refund; it was on them to make the decision.

A good lesson for the guest - they will remember next time to ask in advance. I’m allergic to down. I still forget to ask when booking a place - i surely do not ask for a refund if there are down pillows - I suck it up because it was my responsibility.

Not the same thing as stairs, true, but the principal is the same.


We obviously have a different perspective @Chris

I never said it was a hosts job to babysit. However, I do think it is the hosts job to be empathetic. Some older people are not that familiar with using technology or online booking systems.

We also don’t know yet whether @BlackCat made it clear on his/her listing that that the apartment was unsuitable for older people/those who are less mobile as it was on XXX floor and there is no lift just stairs.

What we do know is that before they arrived they tried to cancel because they were concerned about the stairs, but the host indicated they weren’t able to do this without financial penality so they felt forced to go ahead with a booking that wasn’t suitable for their needs.


I completely agree with @Helsi


I would have refunded them when they realized there were stairs right after booking. It would be different if they had booked many months in advance and then inquired about canceling right before traveling, but this sounds like they made a booking mistake and quickly tried to fix it.


Also, a related story is that we have a garden path that goes down a hill. The steps are not completely level, and they do not have a standard rise over run. There is no handrail. We have a photo of the steps in our listing, and a warning in the photo caption. We also have a warning in the text description. Nevertheless, we recently had a gentleman book who was handicapped. He’d had multiple surgeries on his ankles and feet. When I saw that he walked with a cane, I warned him about the stairs. Sure enough, while going down the path, he fell down and landed flat out on his back! Fortunately, he was not hurt, and he was a good sport about it. However, it could have been tragic. I would have much preferred to have granted a refund rather than risk an injured guest (and maybe even an attempted lawsuit)!


I agree. It is up to the guest to select a property that suits them. If they realise that they have made a mistake, then they should be the one to rectify it. This being said, I would have called Airbnb in this instance since the booking was only a few days away. This would have been the quickest way to resolve the issue. I certainly wouldn’t want to host guests who weren’t happy with the place.


I have to say, if the only indication in your listing that there are stairs is a picture of a staircase, I am sympathetic to your guest. I adamantly believe that it is our responsibility to adequately indicate any barriers to happiness in our own spaces. It is also hard in this narrative to understand how much time had passed after booking before this guest asked about the stairs. 24 hrs, let the guy cancel without issue. Seven weeks and not so much.

I have added this to my listing to ensure that people know about our “elevation” issues.

• This home is located at the top of a hill above Union Square and the rooms are on the third floor of a 1903 house with high ceilings. (This is a big enough hill that the “rebels” were able to keep the English from reaching their gunpowder for six months.) Though three of the five local bus lines do not require walking up or down the hill, this might not be the perfect spot for anyone with mobility issues.

It is important to me that my guests feel that the expectations that they have are realistic.

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Upon re-reading, there isn’t even a picture of the staircase, just the view from the balcony. I think this guest has a point.

I would get on the phone with Airbnb and point out the photos that show a view from the balcony. Do this before he gets to a rep. first and claims your listing is misleading. And also confirm with Airbnb that he will not be allowed to leave a review since he didn’t stay. Don’t let Air “trick” you into canceling the reservation. Allow them to do it.

Air can refund the guest out of their own pocket. You should feel no obligation to do so. I don’t know how far in advance the guest booked, but in my area if someone books within 2 weeks, holds my calendar for a day or two…it doesn’t mean that I can necessarily rebook. So it’s not fair to you to lose out on the income.

I had one couple show up at my rental and said they couldn’t do stairs. This a whole house rental. They did not ask me about stairs, and they never mentioned it prior to arrival. Only till after my partner was giving the tour did I discover they wouldn’t be able to access anything stored in the upstairs closet, nor anything stored down in the basement. So my partner went back and got anything they would need, and brought it to the main floor. It was no big deal for us, and they were fine. But I was surprised they didn’t at least mention it so I could have arranged to bring certain items to the main floor.

Anyway, if the guest is so unhappy Airbnb can give a refund to them. And Air can still pay you out at the same time. Air is the one getting paid all these service fees. Let them dip into that fund.

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I mention in my listing that there are stairs - and that my property is not appropriate for those who have difficulty with stairs or mobility issues. I want this to be clear - (and I do not want anyone to fall from a liability standpoint). I also mention that I have low contemporary furniture.


Do you explicitly state in the listing that there are stairs to walk up to get to your place? A view from a balcony only shows how high it is, not how you get there.


If I were you I’d refund everything but the first night, as there’s no way you could have rebooked that. Really I think you should have refunded them immediately after they mentioned the stairs, assuming that was immediately after booking.
They should have asked first, and you should probably have mentioned the stairs in your listing. But what’s done is done now

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It’s likely your guest has now discovered the “guest refund policy.” If so, and this is assuming that your balcony photo clearly represents this the view from your balcony, then start gathering any evidence in your listing that would indicate the apartment was not on the main floor. He is going to try to gather evidence against you that indicates he had zero idea that it wasn’t on the main floor.

The whole thing is silly really. If he booked a place in a high rise apartment building, he likely assumed there was an elevator. Then he decided to ask and the answer was “no lift.” So now he is seeing if he can qualify for anything under the guest refund policy:

Eligible travel issues

"Situations that may be eligible for a refund under this policy generally fall into one of three categories:

The host fails to provide reasonable access to the booked listing.

The listing booked is misrepresented (ex: number of bedrooms, location, lacks promised amenities).

The listing isn’t generally clean, is unsafe, or there’s an animal in the listing that wasn’t disclosed prior to booking.

Airbnb will either provide you with a refund or use reasonable efforts to find and book you at another comparable accommodation for any unused nights left in your reservation. The amount of any refund will depend on the nature of the travel Issue suffered."

I tend to agree with the ‘No Refund’ camp BUT you should have called ABB immediately after the guest told you about their concern. This way ABB could have cancelled or given you a better option.

There are options under ‘Amenities’ to check elevator or wheelchair accessible, my thought is if the guests NEEDED an elevator they should have inquired before hand or looked at the offered amenities.


I do think that the timing is important. If they booked, and then 20 minutes later remembered to ask about the stairs, well, that feels different than waiting a week before asking, or even worse, months.