Has anyone ever had a guest steal something?

I just went through a scare where I thought a guest who checked out took my wineglasses - only to discover a current guest had taken it to his room. Has anyone actually found anything stolen from their home, and if they do, what was their experience with AirBnB to get reimbursed for it? And how do you do it if you have no proof…do people actually take photos of their homes’ items?

I totally agree about the occasional missing glass, towel, utensil. It happens and I chalk it up to the cost of doing business. I don’t consider these missing incidental items “theft” – who would want my cheap glasses?

Others have nice stuff in their homes, however, and I have heard theft can be an issue.

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Is it pointless to require a security deposit then?

I have a $500 security deposit that I would make a claim for if a guest ever caused exceptional damage – say, dropped the flatscreen TV, put a hole in the drywall, broke a window, or lost a key forcing me to change the locks, etc.


Kind of CS. Because as everyone says if it’s just bits and pieces that aren’t major (although I hardly see this as stealing, maybe mistakes mostly) that you don’t intend to charge for, then there’s no point taking out small deposits on those. For the things that really matter though - and ChicagoHost is right, some people have more than just the fiesta ware to worry about - you can’t take a deposit big enough to cover those things. So it always needs to go to a resolution, and if expensive enough requires a police report by airbnb to get reimbursed. Which is where it gets tricky for a lot of people. Many of us don’t want the entire neighborhood and the police knowing we are hosting guests in our home. But we aren’t given a choice.

We had a very precious antique stolen. It was a gift given to my husband when he was a young teen by his mother soon before she passed away. An Ivory and Sandlewood chess set. It was devastating. We couldn’t find anything comparable to it online. We did happen to have pictures of it set up on our coffee table in our original airbnb photos, so luckily we had proof we owned it to begin with. Inevitably we were paid an amount that was somewhere between a range of similar ones we could find online, but now I believe they make you go to the Police. It didn’t soften the blow much, as we’d have far preferred to have the heirloom. It was a painful loss.

Billy Bob, just so others aren’t confused about the simple airbnb system: hosts never handle deposits on airbnb. Airbnb takes the deposit for hold, but if you don’t make a claim in the first 48 hours, it is returned immediately.

Regarding all the charming stories about what an obsequious host you are, and how adorable all your guests, I’m not sure how it’s the relevant to the topic.

CH, I charge a deposit for $100 for single rooms, and $1000 for whole property bookings. It’s not a problem for anyone. If someone doesn’t have that much extra cash on hand, then they are far too hand to mouth to be planning a getaway IMO.


I charge a $185 deposit. I’ve only had to collect three times and only once where the guest didn’t agree and it had to go to resolution. I don’t worry about a wine glass breaking, although not everyone reports the damage. I do inventory my snorkel gear, as it is expensive and not replaceable a la carte. I point it out to the guest when they check in and nicely remind them that that snorkel equipment is inventoried and if they lose one piece they will owe for all of it. Quite common to lose one piece and I have been burned by guests “forgetting” to tell me they lost one piece.

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My thinking is the opposite of Billy Bob – I charge $500 security because I want guests who are totally comfortable with that because they know they will not do any damage.

Also, AirBNB doesn’t actually charge the guest for deposit unless a claim is made – hence there is no “return” of the deposit as it was never formally charged in anyway. This is different from VRBO or Homeaway where I’ve been returned a deposit check, etc. after I check out. AirBNB only stores the info – I guess this means that person may not actually have $500 but I figure AirBNB is good for it.


Thanks CH. I wasn’t quite sure of that, but knew we didn’t have to handle or return it.

I absolutely agree with your idea that the deposit keeps the guests accountable. Knowing that money could come out of their account is a great way to do it. It would be wonderful if the trust system worked as well as we hoped. Unfortunately ours, and most other people who have been doing this for long enough agree, that extra incentive to ‘do the right thing’ is a great help - although not fool proof either.

I must add, going through the process of claiming on the deposit is UNCOMFORTABLE to say the least. They make you write to the guest and say what has been damaged or missing. You then have to upload receipts and photos to bolster your case. You tell them, it’s $xx amount. They then have the chance to counter offer. This is what happened with my guests who lit a mosquito coil inside my room. The damage was unprovable, (because it was smoke) but they DID agree to pay $100, countering my claim of $150 to steam clean and buy new linens. I might add, the exchange was nasty. The guest acted like a total jerk so I was surprised he even agreed to fork over the $100 at all. The money is paid out in the same way as the reservation…through Paypal within 24 hours. In the case of the guest who broke my table, she just denied it. Because the damage was in excess of her deposit, I escalated the claim and Air paid it. I was never able to actually replace the table and still have a broken leaf on that table. I am in Hawaii where it’s not easy or cheap to buy furniture. I might add while all this is going on, the review period is open so it’s possible for a**hat guests to also ding you with a bad review.


Chicago… also as I understand it, the $500 is an imprint on their card, also called a shadow charge. So YES, they actually must be ready to put up the money. If the damage exceeds the deposit, as I outlined above, then the case gets escalated to host guarantee. All has to be done within a short time–48 hours–so that means if you have damage, you must get estimates, etc., for repairs or replacement very quickly. A headache I can assure you.

Yes, KCC. My experience as well. I find it awful that the guest can claim they didn’t do the damage, as if the fairies came in and did it. It’s particularly offensive when you’ve been hosting some time (are a superhost, or at least a good host), and have never done anything dishonest - yet despite your track record and history with airbnb, they will let a new member that has damaged your house say whether or not they did it (and quite possibly lie), and whether or not they agree to pay. It’s nerve wracking, stressful, and somehow you end up feeling like the bad guy, just because you want the things a guest broke or damaged in your home repaired or replaced.

In effect, they make you prove and almost beg to have your items replaced or paid for. This has caused me to ask for far less than I should have, each time I have been put in the position, because it is embarrassing being confrontational, especially if you know they were awful to deal with anyway, and it’s going to be like getting blood out of a stone.

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No, It isn’t pointless. Someone broke a closet door. They told me about it. And I used the security deposit. A broken glass, stained towels or sheets - business. A door that’s not.


I think you missed the point Evelyn, or didn’t read the full post. For many, in their particular area it is totally unusual to charge a deposit that could cover the cost of a closet door on a room in a home, fearing that the large deposit (more than the cost of the room in many cases) would turn away bookings. Furthermore, whether you have a deposit or not, you are forced to go through the same resolution process apparently that you go through without the deposit. So in that case it seems utterly pointless.

It’s wonderful that your guests were so forthcoming about the damage they did. My experiences with guests breaking things have been very different. Every single time, the damage has been hidden from us. Sometimes we even know it’s happened by how quickly/early the guests up and leave in the morning, because most of our guests really enjoy the latest checkout possible (almost always an hour past our specified time). Each time I have had to go through a resolution. Twice guests have paid for damage, twice airbnb, and once when an item was stolen, and we couldn’t pin it on a particular guest (although e pretty sure), airbnb once again paid.

So is the deposit system working as well as it should? If you could take from it for damages without having to bargain with the guest (who may lie or deny) sure it would be. It’d just be like having a credit card on file like a hotel does. But unfortunately it doesn’t work like that at all.

If someone has a different experience, please correct me. My experiences have been claiming without the deposit.

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@ Sandy - I was answering to the question is the security deposit pointless and my experiences.

I been hosting for 5 years and my experiences have varied. Yes, I did have a guest who damaged a brand new BBQ. They turn on a flame without lifting the cover and the cover was damaged but the BBQ worked. The guest didn’t reply to my messages and it was a pain to ask Airbnb. This was before I had security deposit in my listing. I didn’t do anything else because it was hard even finding a replacement cover.

I had a guest rip a very thick towel, they left me a note but no money. I decided it was the cost of doing business. Some guests have broken glasses and they replace them or ask me and I say forget.

Steal - no. As far as I know no one has stolen anything. I do have a security deposit and will continue to have it.

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I decided to keep the security deposit on. I find I am still getting bookings even with it up, anyway. Thanks for all your feedback on the matter.


I got into this forum just today to see if any hosts had this problem. I just encountered such a problem.
I have put aside most valuables. And all of my equipments are built-in. The only thing of value was a black kitchen (worth 550 euros) which I placed behind the sofa. Frankly, I didn’t worry about this since it was so heavy.

Well, my cleaner-concierge prepared the apartment for the arrival of guests. Since we put the line dryer (tent) in the same spot as the kitchen aid, we noticed that the kitchen aid was gone after these guests. I have had hundreds of guests for this flat by the way and nothing was stolen until now.

I contacted airbnb at the same time, I contacted previous guests just to ask them if they had seen it. They all said that they have seen it except for the last guests. So basically and naturally, the last guests said that they never saw it. Funny thing is that they didn’t ask me to describe it. They actually told me that they never saw it but that they have one exactly just like that at home. I really suspect them because when I spoke them, they made up stories of having listings in airbnb and when I contacted airbnb, they told me that these people never listed anything in airbnb. The guest also told me that airbnb would pay for the loss, which I didn’t even know until this incident.

This experience really destablized me as I realized that people can actually steal something and then just deny it which leaves one feeling lost! It is not a good experience thats for sure.

Which makes me wonder is there a way to flag or tag these kind of people? This has made me feel so not secure…

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Please publish these guests real names so we can all be on the lookout not to book to them!

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Thanks for sharing that odd bit.

There has got to be a way to have a suspicious list in an intelligent way. Let me think about this and I will also ask airbnb to comment.