Last minute cancellation; death in the family?

A guest recently cancelled one day into our strict cancellation period. She said that her father in law died and they had to go to CA for the funeral (we’re in upstate NY).

She asked if I would be kind enough to give her a full refund.
She sounds real, but how do I know? Is it bad form to ask for proof (death certificate)?

She cancelled the reservation on her end and Air paid us 50% as is the strict policy. So now it’s up to us to refund her… or not.

Would it also be bad form to suggest that’s what travel insurance is for?

this was our last busy weekend of leaf peeping season in the Catskills and it is very likely that we would have re-booked if we had been able to open the calendar in time.

(now it will slow down until Thanksgiving and then pick up again in mid to late December for the ski season. So every rental last weekend was important!)

Feedback? Feelings? Opinions on how it could/should be handled?

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I would say sorry for your loss, when she gets a chance ask her to send details to airbnb and let them handle it, if they are happy, that’s its genuine, I would issue a full refund.


If the story is true, then it falls under extenuating circumstances so your guest should contact Airbnb and try to negotiate a refund with them. She doesn’t have to prove it to you, but to them. If they decide she has a valid claim, let them refund her. I wouldn’t enter any kind of negotiations with the guest and would advise her to contact Airbnb. This is none of your business. I had a similar situation this summer, in the end the guest decided not to file the claim because she most probably made the whole story up.


As someone who had to use the extenuating circumstance ‘excuse’ to cancel a booking due to a very sick MIL over sees, let me add my 2 cents. First, ABB will vet her story and ask for supporting documents etc. Second, if you really believe her then just refund, because ABB will if she shows proof.

I was in a interesting scenario, it was my
MIL in Sweden and the Drs refused to release her medical records because of privacy. I sent Air my last minute plane tickets, hotels, and everything I could. The host decided to just refund instead of waiting for ABB. We did end up submitting the admittance records, in Swedish, after the refund.

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Let me add getting a refund was not my first priority in this very chaotic time. We exclected to get on a plane and find out she didn’t make it when we landed, so providing proof was the last thing on our minds. Of course there are scammers, but be aware that when people are really going through a loss they are so far removed from ‘reality’. It took me 5+ days to even respond to the ABB rep asking for documentation.


I don’t think you should refund voluntarily unless they can provide proof, and it really should go through Airbnb.


I agree. If guests book with a host who has a strict cancellation policy and then can get a refund without going through Airbnb’s process, they will expect the same of other hosts.

I saw a post on reddit where the poster said to scan the obituaries of a local newspaper and provide one to get a refund.

The best scenario would be for guests to buy travel insurance. The even better than best scenario would be for Airbnb to offer travel insurance. If they did, they would not be so eager to let guests cancel.


Yes!!, Great idea! make it an add on product so Host s don’t have to eat the loss!


I just sent my condolences and suggested they check if their credit card had trip cancellation policy. I’m not offering to cover for people not insuring their travel. My Visa card gives me all sorts of travel insurance, I looked for this product and have had great comfort in Knowing my travel is insured.

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I think you also will need to have paid for the travel with the card that has insurance. I know that is True with rental coverage.


Yes, that’s why I use the card for all travel bookings.

@azreala -
First and most importantly, I do hope your MIL recovered (if not, I send my condolences).

But I have to confess that I was somewhat startled to hear another host used the extenuating circumstances to get a refund. Almost to a person, we all want our guests to insure themselves and not make us provide the insurance policy for them.


Generally speaking, it’s the guest’s responsibility to request the cancellation, and to take it up with AirBnB if they want more of a refund.

I’ve had a few guests check out early due to a variety of circumstances, and I send them all this message:

“I am sorry to hear about XXX. Unfortunately, I am not able to cancel a reservation on behalf of a guest, and the refund amount is determined by AirBnB’s policies and calculated by the website. I would suggest contacting them directly when you get a moment, either through the website, or by calling XXX.

I hope you have a safe trip home, please let me know if you have any other questions.”


Startled I used a guarented provided by the company I made the booking through? I would have just as willingly used a guarantee provided by an airline. Just because I’m host doesn’t mean I don’t expect the same guest benefits as guest only travelers. I agree the policy sucks for hosts, but we all know this and continue to host.

We lost multiple reservations due to the Barcelona terror attacks, some weeks after, which I think is BS, but that’s the policy.


I have personal experience of this, as a guest, before I was a host. My father was killed in a car accident, obviously sudden, obviously horrific. I had booked my son an Airbnb in Paris (before I knew 3rd party not allowed) due to checkin day of funeral. We are a 25 hr flight from Paris. I informed the host who I had stayed with before, purely out of courtesy he may not arrive for his 7 day stay or may be late and why. This was a $1500 booking. I difnt seek a refund from the host, knowing they had likely missed another booking and always considered I would bear the cost if not covered by insurance.

I personally would not have sought a refund from the host and TBH this would have been the least of my concerns. So as a host, I would hope for the same courtesy from a guest. This is what insurance is for. The guests likely will need to make a claim anyway for last minute flights etc

Personally I would respond empatheticly but advise they need to lodge a claim through Airbnb and if they left me a bad review ask Airbnb to consider if this is really appropriate to do so. Tricky situation.


That’s why I pay $200 annual fee on my credit card for international and domestic travel and always bought a separate policy before I had this card. It’s called responsible travel. It’d be great if Airbnb had a warning when people book, like airlines do, to get insurance. Airlines are multinational companies usually and never give free flights or refunds unless you buy a super expensive ticket so why should hosts?



About travel insurance, I see the value and one of my credit cards supplies it on trips booked using it.

My travel insurance pays the vacation costs if a trip is cancelled due to almost same extenuating circumstances as the Airbnb policy offers refund.

We as hosts or guests agree to abide by the Airbnb host/guest policies when we accept/book a stay including extenuating circumstances policy.

I don’t think many guests would see the value in protecting the host’s interests if they must purchase a separate policy.

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I think some of you are missing a very important point… when you cancel guest or host, ABB makes you tick a box for a ‘reason’ one of this reasons is something along the lines of ‘extenuating circumstances’. When you tick this box (we have done it on bothe sides) ABB immediately follows up. You don’t have to call them or report anything, they follow up with you. As a guest they follow up asking for documentation and supporting proof, etc.

Like I said in my previous post ABB will give the guest a refund if there is enough proof, so it may be easier to just DIY if the claim is legit.

Also, I really don’t care if any of you think I’m a bad host for using a policy that was put in place to protect Guests in a very specfici circumstance. If you as a host don’t like, go to another platform.


Very interesting! I thought you had to request it! You were within your rights to cancel and you totally had a legitimate reason!


This summer I canceled a booking due to extenuating circumstances (the ferry couldn’t sail to the island we were intending to visit for almost a week, we ended up moving the reservation in agreement with the host but to no avail, we simply had to give up, the weather was horrible). The host was willing to refund us but was unable to do so in the full amount as our booking already technically started. I contacted Airbnb regarding this and they were very responsive, telling me to submit a confirmation from the ferry company that there were disturbances in normal traffic. After about 10 min the rep called me telling me that she went through my conversation with the host in which both of us were clearly indicating that it was impossible to reach the island and that it is not our fault, so we don’t have to obtain any kind of additional documentation! I was really suprised by how flexible they were. As for the host, we will most definitely go there next summer and stay with her, if the weather does not mess up with our plans again. She was really nice and helpful.