Late cancellations, death in family

Cancellations and refunds. I have moderate refund policies. No refund five days prior to check in. Sound fair enough, but this year a new tactic has emerged. I wonder have any of you met this new and very useful guest refund tactic.
A guest books months in advance, during a very popular time for bookings. Then 2-3 days before arrival, a message arrives saying they must cancel and would I please refund in full for them because it was due to a death in the family. I just got my third one of the year today. They are due in 2 days, and want a full refund, seems the man father died. They really hope I can be helpful in this time of sorrow. Earlier, two other guest had the same excuse. One young couple had the girl friend’s grandfather die. The next couple had a beloved cousin pass unexpectedly.
Now you all know that when people book, they block all others from booking that date. So you will lose all your expected revenue.
Am I getting a cold heart? I have refunded the first two cases this year, but now the third is making me angry. Can my little one room guest room really have three deaths in one season?
All three play hard for sympathy, making me a goon if I ask for my rights to be paid for the weekends they booked and blocked others from having.
Is this death in family story common out there?

That sounds very strange. I have not encountered this before but my thoughts are you should let them handle this through airbnb.

Sorry for this trouble!!

It might be that it is true. My friend just had to cancell her trip because her brother sunddenlypassed away and she was refunded. Airbnb still kept service fees.
Ifit happened to you so many times ask them for death certificate. Airline companies doit all the time.


That’s not a bad idea yana. I would be sympathetic but stick to my policy. I’ve offered to give another stay at a discount if they travel my way again. Haven’t had anyone take me up on it.

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I’ve had a few suspect death stories too. I’ve been played as a fool too many times. You can ask for proof such as a death certificate.

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I was afraid this might happen and guests would possible abuse Air’s extenuating circumstances cancellation policy. I have always thought that Air should eat the reservation cost since like you said, the calendar has been blocked off. Here it is:

Extenuating Circumstances for Guest Cancellations
In the rare instance where extenuating circumstances arise, a guest may need to cancel a confirmed reservation. In this instance, Airbnb may override the host’s cancellation policy (flexible, moderate, strict) and make refund decisions. Such cases will be contingent on proper documentation, where valid, and include:

There’s a death in the guest’s family
The guest has a serious illness or there’s a serious illness in their family
There’s a natural disaster in the destination country
There’s political unrest in the destination country
The guest has jury duty or other similar civil obligations

I would ask Air how you should respond to the guest if you want them to go through Air to cancel. That way they at least have to provide some sort of proof. This is a business and I don’t know how many businesses out there just eat the cost when something happens in someone’s family.

You can let the guest know that you are not allowed to cancel and you don’t get paid until after check-in; therefore, you don’t even have the means to refund. I would even mention to them the extenuating circumstances. Just tell them how sorry you are and it is out of your control. Please update us.

Thank you, I was not really aware of this policy, and it sounds very good and fair. I went ahead and refunded my third death in the family case this year. They cost me $155 dollars of lost income.
Now that I am aware of this Air BnB policy, I will refer all death in the family cases to the Air BnB.
I admit to being really angry when I take bookings in good faith. When people book and then try and cancel, they are taking real money out of my income. My place is popular, I do not have any trouble booking guests.
From now on, I will refer these cases right back to the guest seeking refund and tell them to go through the “Extenuating Circumstances for Guest Cancellations”
I feel the five day cancel plan gives guest a lot of power. They can lock up my place for months, then walk less than a week before arrival. Many have done this in the past year or two. I think this is increasing with more less responsible people getting into Air BnB use. Three years ago the guests were really very responsible. Now three year later, I notice a real increase in problem people.

I am so sorry jamescole. I meant to say in my earlier correspondence that I would NOT mention the extenuating circumstances policy. My computer is slow and sometimes I am too lazy to go back and edit after typing. It can’t keep up so misses words.

I don’t think the policy is fair and Airbnb should eat the cost if they are going to offer it. I feel so bad now for you taking my advice that I didn’t mean to be. But I think guests are starting to look at cancellation policies and see this is their only option to get everything back. Cancellations have been on the rise with all listing sites. People don’t read before booking. I am now going to re-state my cancellation policy to everyone and not even direct them to the place where they can read about extenuating cirumstances.

Guests will be as irresponsible as we let them to be. I would deffinitely ask for a proof. It’s not that complicated: they justvneedto send a copy of death certificate. Now with technology they make picture with their phone and send it to you. If they can’t do it then you know they are not telling the truth.


BTW - It sounds you like you are set up with the “moderate” cancellation policy - full refund if cancelled 5 days out?

Did you know there is a “strict” policy - that’s what I have:

Strict: 50% refund up until 1 week prior to arrival, except fees

At least you get 50% if guest cancels 7 days out.

BTW - Is Air cancelling all these death reservations? I mean you are not cancelling and getting docked are you?

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I have a strict policy and I do get some cancellations for sickness and death in families. It happens 2-3 times a year. I figure if they want to lie about it they’re desperate. I fully refund them and let it go. Remember if a guest cancels your listing will go up on the search engine and will most likely get re-booked.

You could also offer a full refund if you get re-booked.

Anyone know where we can leave feedback to Airbnb from hosts??

I think we all really need to write and complain. And suggest Airbnb offer the guest travel insurance and remove this extenuating circumstances thing. Maybe if they hear from a lot of hosts they will change something. Obviously they changed the instant book policy to allow three cancellations (without penalty) because enough hosts gave feedback of why they don’t use it.

We are not hotels with 100 rooms. Many of us have one single room/property - just imagine a guest booking for 2 weeks and then losing a half of a month’s income.

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Like I said before, I am just finishing up my third full year as an Air BnB host. This third year I have seen a trend begin that I do not like. People book months and months ahead of time for our very hot tourist season May-Oct. Once a person books, they have locked in the dates and hold them down. This year cancellations have grown to be a real nuisance. People hold down the dates and then cancel, usually a week or two before arrival. I have the moderate 5 day policy. The death excuse is now also coming into play for those who try and cancel within 5 days.
This does anger me. Too many people lock down my room and cancel out leaving me without income. I believe I will go to strict because guest abuse the hell out of moderate policies.
Indeed, we are not hotels, but more and more guests are treating us like hotels. Book a place even if it is just a whim and they may not even be certain they plan to come, knowing they can cancel cost free at any time.
So yes, I am going to adopt strict cancellation. I was reluctant to do that, as I have such a good reputation with guest, I am a kind of guy who gives them anything they want, and that gets me good guests, but is now attracting the deadbeat crowd. As Air BnB becomes more known, the deadbeats are coming out of the woodwork as it were!

It might be annoying for you and I can completely understand this, however I can tell you I lost 3 people this year and had to cancel one trip because of this.
I usually book my travels months in advance because I need to plan work and plane/ferry tickets are usually much cheaper if you buy them in advance. Also, I know I don’t leave things until last minute.
You can always ask for proof for a full refund, as I said, I’ve been in this situation and I was happy to give evidence to my hotel, which originally was non refundable. They gave me a 70% refund and I was happy about it as at least I didn’t lose all the money.
Asking for proof is the way to go, because otherwise genuine people would get stuck with bookings too. And again, there are some people out there (all the people I know) who plan most their trips months ahead.


James, Can’t believe as an experienced host you are on moderate. It just promotes the idea that you are okay with cancellations. Set it on Strict. Your volume of bookings won’t change.



But a hotel is completely different than a private host. Imagine a hotel refunding the 70% off one hotel room. They may have 30 rooms or hundreds of rooms. So the “loss” to them is nothing compared to a host who has one single property/room. If they refund then they lose ALL their income. Imagine if I was trying to be “nice” and refund a guest over a three day New Year’s holiday booking.

That would cost me out of pocket at least $750. And that could be my only booking for the slow month of January. Renters need to purchase trip cancellation insurance and not expect someone else to eat the cost. It isn’t right that the dates could have been booked by someone else. But Air isn’t being supportive to hosts. Air should eat the cost if they want to do this extenuating circumstance policy.

69james - you will not lose any business from moving to a strict policy. I have decided I am going to send all my guests a link to where they can purchase travel insurance right after booking. I am going to reiterate the “strict” policy before accepting the reservation…get acknowledgement that they understand it. And then send the trip cancellation insurance link afterwards. That way if a “real” emergency happens then they know they chose not to cover themselves.

Current guests wanted to cancel two days before arrival due to flooding from hurricane in their area. I told them I could try to resell the dates last minute and send them any money I receive…but no guarantee. They ended up coming but I would have been out $1,000 if I allowed them to cancel.


Thanks konacoconutz, I am doing that this very day! Honestly, I thought being moderate would be a good selling point, showing guests I trust them and have their best interests always at heart. Yes, 3 years are over and I am starting year 4 with strict. I didn’t know experienced hosts were mostly using strict. But I do now. After all, I have no problem at all getting bookings. I book solid from 1 May to 30 Oct. I have been losing a lot of income though, due to the cancel policy. Yes, 5 days out and they can cancel and screw me out of hundreds of dollars. Sometimes, they cancel and my room books again within hours! But I shouldn’t have to hope for that replacement guest, that happens, but not often enough.

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Oh, I should end my story. Okay, the couple messaged about wanting to cancel and get full refund 3 days before arrival due to the death in their family. They wanted ME to cancel for them. I said I can’t do that. You must cancel first, then I can refund. So they did cancel. I refunded. Sent them a message. “Sorry for your loss. I have gone ahead and refunded you in full. I hope you can visit again sometime under better circumstances”.
I try hard to keep a top reputation with guests, so you notice the “ass kiss” I gave them.
Did they message back and confirm the refund, and thank me? Of course not! Not a word after they got their money. I know their names, if they attempt to book again, I will refuse. And I will tell them why. “Sorry, I can’t take your booking as I have no assurance you will come.”


YES, That really is the kind of excuse we can get, and never know how true it is. The young couple who asked fro full refund 2-3 days before arrival due to an uncle of his girl friend passing away. I knew they were taking me for an expensive ride.
We have a local Marathon once a year. It is impossible to book within 50 miles of the race less than 6 months ahead of time. I had someone book my room, then cancel last minute. Sweet, no rooms withing a hundred miles, and mine sat empty. That was my first summer, only my second guest. So I was willing to give him his money. But never again would I allow such a trick.

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