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Sacramento Bee Article - Refund for rental in a ‘bad’ district?

Q: I rented a house through Airbnb for two months for a summer internship. The house was in a bad neighborhood, and both my roommate’s and my roommate’s boyfriend’s cars were broken into. When a neighbor’s car was also broken into, and we saw the culprits flee the scene to a nearby housing project, my roommate and I decided to leave. That weekend, we canceled our reservation and found a new apartment. We’ve been trying to get a refund from Airbnb since then. I have sent the company photographs and police reports. An Airbnb representative finally agreed to refund me $2,004. Airbnb argued that this was because the situation was not completely the owner’s fault. I understand that, but as a multimillion-dollar company, Airbnb should protect its customers from bad experiences. My roommate and I spent a total of $5,438 to rent this house. We’re asking for $2,719, the second month’s rent. I have attempted to call Airbnb to negotiate further, but I am repeatedly put on hold or hung up on. I don’t know where to go from here.

MADELINE GAFFNEY, AUSTIN, TEXAS

A: Airbnb shouldn’t have rented a home in an unsafe neighborhood. Period. Of course, there’s no way of guaranteeing that your rental will be crime-free, so you need to vet your rental before you push the “buy” button.

How do you do that? User reviews and online crime maps can help you figure out whether a rental is potentially unsafe. For example, the city of New York publishes a crime map (maps.nyc.gov/crime). It suggests that my old neighborhood in Staten Island is a safe place to live.

Even if you do your homework, you can’t know everything. For example, my old neighborhood in Annapolis, Md., is in a relatively safe area. But every now and then, people who lived in the housing projects a few blocks away would break into our cars and steal electronics. Taught me to keep my electronics in the safety of my rental home.

Airbnb also offers some safety tips for would-be guests on its site. They’re worth checking out before your next rental: airbnb.com/help/article/241/i-m-a-guest_what-are-some-safety-tips-i-can-follow.

As far as I can tell, Airbnb doesn’t explicitly guarantee the safety of its rentals. I don’t think it could. But there’s an implicit warranty that the rentals will be habitable – safely habitable. In light of that, I think your request for the second month’s refund was not unreasonable.

You could have escalated this to someone higher up at Airbnb. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Airbnb’s executives on my consumer-advocacy website: http://elliott.org/company-contacts/airbnb.

I contacted Airbnb on your behalf. A representative said the company had made a “mistake” and refunded the $2,719 you’d originally asked for.

Email Christopher Elliott at chris@elliott.org.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/entertainment/living/travel/travel-troubleshooter/article104900356.html#storylink=cpy

1 Like

AirBnb has NO moral or ethical reason to pay you one thin dime. THEY did not “rent” you anything. YOU entered into a contract with a private individual to stay at that person’s home. That person can’t do anything about where s/he lives either. All AirBnb does is facilitate the meeting of hosts and potential guests.

If you aren’t capable of determining, through research and asking questions, whether a neighborhood is “bad”, that’s YOUR problem. What does "bad? mean anyway. I’ve seen neighborhoods where “only” three car break-ins in a week was a “good” neighborhood.

Why are you pursuing this anyway? It was your roommate’s and rm’s boyfriend’s cars that got broken into. Why did any of you stay after that? Why did you just watch culprits flee another break-in when you could have done something about it personally?

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I agree. You chose which neighbourhood to stay in. Search engines give you every opportunity to research an area before you book. Crime happens everywhere. Airbnb makes no claims that it researches every single neighbourhood - that is the responsibility of the guest.

I agree with you both. And yes, the travel helper columnist got Air to refund the money to the lady who wrote in complaining. I find that astounding.

Well AirBnB is operating in a self created grey area, where they decide what they are, based on what suits them best.

The extenuated circumstances policy for example, is when they do not behave like a facilitator, then they are acting as if they actually rented the place to you.

I think a guest is completely entitled to change their mind about a property for a whole range of reasons and request that the 2nd month of rent be refunded (I’m assuming they are canceling after staying a few weeks).

1 Like

I agree. And I also disagree with those who say that Airbnb did not rent the house to these people so they are not responsible. But they are responsible because Airbnb is the rental agent–the legal entity that handles the business end of all the transactions we make as hosts.

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