Host emergency cancellation: Host has only 7 days to provide documents to ABB or will pay fine

This month after unusually heavy rains I cancelled 3 reservations because of a water leak. The place sustained some damage–rug ruined, ceiling lights must be replaced, water stains need to be repaired and repainted. We’re still trying to find the cause of the leak, but we think we’ll have it figured out by the end of the week.

However, I learned from AirBnB that I only have 7 calendar days to provide documents proving that the cancellation was unavoidable or I will pay fines of several hundred dollars per cancelled booking.

I was able to document the first two cancellations to their satisfaction, but for the third, it turns out I maybe didn’t really have to cancel those guests. I just didn’t want to cancel them at the last minute, I wanted to give them time to rebook somewhere.

I will work on this and see if I can get the $450 penalty waived. But I just want to let hosts know—in an emergency take photos like crazy, submit screen shots of email correspondence with repair persons, and consider cancelling guests only at the last minute.


Just a thought – now that we know (thanks to your warning) how Airbnb deals with this – how about writing to the upcoming guests and tell them you are doing repairs from recent water damage (send a photo) and while you hope to have it repaired before they are scheduled to arrive, there is a possibility that the place will not be ready, and you would be forced to cancel at the last minute… and then say something like this:

If you want to protect yourself from the risk of a last-minute cancellation I am regretfully suggesting that you cancel your reservation with me and replace it with another Airbnb property – one that is not undergoing repairs, and not facing the possibility of being an active construction site on [insert arrival date]. If you do this I will, of course, make sure that you are not assessed any cancellation penalties or fees for accommodation. Please let me know what you would like to do in response to this unexpected risk that I will not be able to accommodate you as planned.

If you convince the guest to cancel (and do so without a penalty to them) then there is no basis for Airbnb to levy a cancellation fine on THE HOST, because it’s not the hoist doing the cancelling.


???. Hosts have no way of affecting Airbnb not returning the service fee charged to guests. A guest cancellation, if not made within the free cancellation period, means the guest will forfeit the service fee, regardless of whether the host authorizes a host refund.


I did not realize that.

The note should be modified to say that the host will waive any accommodation penalty, but make it clear host has no control over refunds of Airbnb service fees.

Although I wouldn’t complicate things by saying this in the note, if this ever happened to me and Airbnb tried to assess cancellation fees even though the guest immediately booked an alternate host I would personally go to bat for the guest, arguing with Airbnb that the guest didn’t cancel their stay with Airbnb, they just – in effect – switched it to another host.

That’s a nice idea, but you as a host going to bat for a guest when it comes to Airbnb returning their service fees would have no effect on what Airbnb does at all.




@Spark Thank you for the great suggestion, this is exactly what I should of done. I just did not think of it. Also love the awesome photo!! I hope that’s you in costume. Or, hey, what you normally wear :slight_smile:

To answer @muddy 's concern, I would also tell the guest that I will refund any service fees AirBnB does not refund to them.

Why? Because I’m still better off paying their service fee rather than paying a $450 fine. (I should mention the fine varies with the expense of the booking, and the booking I canceled was a week at a high rate.)

Just learned today that the leak is a drainage issue, the roof itself is fine. This is progress but not the best news, because winter is setting in. We can drape pond liner weighed down with bricks to protect the building from water (guests won’t be able to see the pond liner). Then get a real repair done in spring.

One last thing…I have decided that in my market, maximum flexibility on guest cancellation is fine because I always get re-booked. (I realize this is not true everywhere.) So now all my bookings have the most flexible guest cancellation policy possible, and the possibility of me having to cancel is another reason to do that.


You cannot ask a guest to cancel on your behalf and lose the large Airbnb guest fee because you can’t host them. That’s a terrible idea @Spark

And you are asking the guest to trust the host to voluntarily refund the guest. I wouldn’t as a guest. And it takes Airbnb up to 10 days to refund the guest so they would have to payout for new accommodation before they get a refund.

If a host meets the EC criteria and demonstrates this through say estimates and reports from suppliers they will be able to cancel penalty free.

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You can certainly advise the guest that you cannot guarantee that repairs currently underway may not be be finished and that they may wish to cancel and re-book at another property that does not have this kind of uncertainty hanging over the reservation.

You can also point out to the guest that your commitment to releasing them from any accommodations-related penalties is being made on the Airbnb app, and that the Airbnb server has a written record of this commitment if you (the host) attempted to renege.

As to whether guests would be skeptical about a host’s commitment to voluntarily waive or refund fees, I have several times told guests who cancelled from their end and faced “no refund” – my standing policy is always “If I get a replacement guest with replacement revenue, I will voluntarily refund replacement revenue to the original guest as a goodwill measure.”

As I am making this offer to the guest I also point out that I am making it in writing on the Airbnb communications app, and that Airbnb has a copy of this promise if it ever came to a dispute. With that reassurance, I’ve never had one guest doubt the sincerity of my offer. I realize this is a different circumstance from the one described in this discussion thread, but in both cases, the host’s promise is on the record on the Airbnb server, and in my experience that was always enough for the guest to trust that promise.

In any case, Sleeping Coyote said that she would also cover the Airbnb fee (from the guest cancelling) because it’s cheaper than paying the Airbnb fine (from host cancelling), and that doing so it makes the guest whole.

Given that choice I would do the same, but would only do so after going after Airbnb to waive the unrefunded service fee because the company is still collecting that fee from this same guest for these same nights – just at a different Airbnb property – and, therefore Airbnb has not suffered a loss as a result of the change, and collecting two service fees for the same guest for the same nights is double-dipping and that is unfair and a bad look for the brand.

No guarantee I would prevail, but I’ve won a couple of battles with Airbnb after being told in this forum “they never do that” or “they never fix that” – sometimes you just luck out and get a customer service agent with the right combination of smarts, confidence and an ability to see the big picture (but rarely on the first try :slightly_frowning_face: ) .


That’s only true if the host can provide documentation acceptable to AIrBnB within 7 calendar days of the cancellation for Extenuating Circumstances.

I am going to miss the deadline for cancellation no. 3 but I will plead my case and see what happens. Our electrician is concerned about the wiring having gotten wet but can’t get here until Friday.

AirBnB is a little fussy about documents. They wouldn’t accept my video of flooding water, but they did accept a frame (still) of water dripping. They accepted screen shots of email correspondence with a roofer, but not simply copying the correspondence and pasting it in.

Where I live Monday was a widely observed holiday so I lost 3 days out of 7 by my poor timing.

Of course I agree with @Spark that if the guest who cancels is made whole there is no issue.

As a guest, I have cancelled a reservation at the host’s request.

When a guest cancels AIrBnB asks why, and one of the reasons offered is because the host requested that the guest cancel. So AirBnB is keeping track, don’t worry.

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[quote=“Spark, post:11, topic:54976”] As
I am making this offer to the guest I also point out that I am making it in writing on the Airbnb communications app, and that Airbnb has a copy of this promise if it ever came to a dispute.

I can’t tell you how many posts from guests I have read over the years where the host promised a refund if the guest cancelled, and then reneged on it. The guests had the promise to refund in writing on an Airbnb message, but Airbnb didn’t care. They told the guest that the host had no obligation to refund regardless of any promises.

So you are fortunate that past guests trusted you. Like Helsi, I wouldn’t trust a host I didn’t personally know to refund if I cancelled for something that should be a host cancellation, no matter how sincere they sounded.


Wow! I had no idea.
When I put this in writing I just assumed that if it ever came to a dispute Airbnb would hold me to it if it was ever being adjudicated by the Dispute Desk (or whatever it is called).

That is lame… what is the point of having a dispute mechanism if it allows hosts to break a written contract (and, in law, a contract is simply “offer made, offer accepted”).

I’m still at “Yikes!”

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Well, an offer made in an Airbnb message isn’t a binding contract, anymore than some text message anyone might send promising something - it isn’t signed by either party.

I do feel sorry for guests who have had this happen to them by unscupulous hosts who are simply tricking guests into cancelling so the host doesn’t get penalized- they give all hosts and Airbnb a bad name.

It IS a contract… the definition of a contract in common law is “offer made, offer accepted” and Airbnb certainly has the power to make a TOS rule that “if a host makes a contract with a guest it is a violation of how we do business to renege, and we will enforce the contract by refunding the guest and taking that refund out of your next payment.”

Whether or not a contract is “binding” depends on jurisdiction and enforcement mechanism – the jurisdiction here is the Airbnb business system and the enforcement mechanism is that Airbnb controls the money flow. As long as Airbnb bakes this in to their Terms of Service with hosts (and they could, but haven’t), and we, as hosts, sign up for their TOS, then they could enforce this.

I just always assumed that if Airbnb Dispute Resolution was adjudicating between a host and a guest that the host would be required to keep any unequivocal promises made in writing to the guest – if for no other reason than it is bad for the brand (or any brand) to allow your front line associates to break clearly-made promises.

Silly me, I guess.


I’m not arguing that Airbnb couldn’t consider these refund offers to be binding, I hate it that they let hosts get away with lying to guests like that.

But lying doesn’t seem to be of concern to them, as evidenced by them suspending hosts’ listings based on some often false claim by a guest, or lying in reviews.

If we take this much further, I’m going to need to take a shower when we’re finished! I’m going to sign off before I start saying really rude things about the Hand That Feeds Us.

Our listing is Host-only service fee. So If I tell ABB to fully refund our guests, they get every penny back. ABB of course will take the fee out of our future earnings, but that’s a lot less than the apparent $450 penalty and damage to the cancellation rate.

EDIT to add: Also, since we have Flexible cancellation policy, any cancellation the guest makes prior to the last 24 hours before check-in is fully refundable anyway.

I’m not worried @SleepingCoyote

If a guest ticks the option that it’s a host cancellation - the host will then be charged a cancellation fee, lose SH status, dates blocked etc. just as if the host cancels themselves .

As a guest I would never cancel on behalf of a host as the airbnb communities are littered with stories about hosts who said the would refund guests in writing on the platform and then don’t and Airbnb does nothing to enforce the hosts commitment to refund.

Guests are therefore rightly cynical that hosts will lie to avoid cancellation penalties.

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Laws vary and your country may be different, but in every state of the USA that I know, oral contracts are binding in a wide variety of circumstances.

In other words a contract does not have to be signed to be enforceable. A contract does have to have “consideration,” which is something of value involved. Consideration does not have to be money but often it is. A oral agreement with someone to walk your dog in exchange for a nice box of chocolates could definitely be enforceable.

Special exceptions to this occur in real estate, where for example leases for 1 year or more must be in writing (signed) to be enforceable in court. Property transfers must also be in writing.

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Well, we’re not really talking about deceit.

After wildfires occurred at a place we were planning to vacation, wiping out hundreds of homes, the host wrote to me and asked me to please cancel our reservation so they could use the house as a long-term rental for a local family that was suddenly homeless.

Of course we agreed.

So in such a situation I doubt the host experienced any AIrBnB penalty.

In my situation, my electrician has informed me that wiring may need to be replaced to avoid a safety (fire) hazard. It will take weeks to get them here to get this accomplished.

So, if the need arises, I am going to follow @Spark 's advice and see how it goes,.

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