What Are my Options -- What Would You Do When The Prospective Guest Suddenly Tells You This?

So on 10/1 we had an instant book Airbnb reservation for three days, two guests (adults) 11/4-7. That IB stated no children under age 12.

Today they ask if we have high chairs and such; we say no and remind them that the listing also states it is not suitable for children under age 12.

Turns out we discover today they have an infant 14 months and a child 3.5 years [so reservation should have been 2 adults, one child].

They ask if ‘we prefer’ they cancel. We have strict cancellation. They would lose everything.

They also state that the children will mostly be sleeping here, most of the time [‘90%’] at a family member’s home.

Our home is not suitable for children because we have many houseplants (which could be toxic for all we know). We explicitly state that it has not been childproofed (though we’ve put electrical covers and done some things but don’t want the liability in case it’s not suitably childproofed), because we have a pool (though that’s closed now), because we have wood floors that we thought children would mar/damage, and just because we thought children might pull things, mess up, damage the place. [As one parent warned, ‘Well, kids are kids.’]

  1. If I write that ‘I prefer’ that they cancel, is there a way that could be interpreted as Host initiated? Such that the 100% cancellation penalty doesn’t apply?

  2. If we wanted the reservation canceled and keep the money, would we be better off to contact Airbnb ourselves and ask that the reservation be cancelled with the 100% penalty?

  3. Do you think we should just make an exception and let them stay, with the main risk to them being the plants? [I don’t think legally the fact that were I to give a warning about the plants or the statement that the home is not suitable for children under 12 would protect me if a child got hurt at the home. Even if it did, nothing would protect me from the consequences of a lawsuit even if I won (and in real life the insurance company would settle)]

As I write this I realize that we cannot really make an exception and protect our interests. But what do you think? And what do we do/say to best protect our interests – contact Airbnb and ask them to cancel with the 100% penalty applying?


They are not following your rules and if you decided to let them stay chances are you would regret it.

Ask them to cancel. Let them know there will not be a refund which I’m sure they don’t have a clue about since they didn’t know they couldn’t bring children. Then, tell them if you get rebooked, you will refund some of their money.

That’s what I would do. You shouldn’t have to eat it because of their mistake.


As long as you are not the one to cancel, then you won’t be get the penalty.

You might have to get Airbnb involved because the guests are most likely not going to want to cancel and not back their money. Customer service may not be accommodating to you and want you to refund the guests. You might have to escalate it.

You are absolutely within your right to have it cancelled because they are not following your house rules but that doesn’t mean that Airbnb will back you up so be prepared.

You have to decide how much you want the money verse the time it will take to get it cancelled.

In my opinion, it never really works out when you accommodate guests who start off breaking your house rules, especially when it comes to safety.

  1. They booked a listing not fitting their needs.

  2. To me the risk of them staying outweighs the benefit of the $$

  3. This is an opportunity to recognize your IB booking message could use some additional detail so this doesn’t happen again. Perhaps point out specific info about the listing such as not suitable for children

  4. If you document in your airbnb text thread that if the guest cancels you would approve overriding the booking cancellation policy & provide a full refund, it will not be considered a host cancellation.

Under the old cancellation policy this would trigger a refund of the Airbnb fees too. Under the new policy Airbnb “May” refund the booking fees so it’s at their discretion.


Actually it does remind them of that.

Well, I don’t want to do that as this is now a lost booking. We will never re-book by 11/4. I think they not I should bear the cost.

Don’t tell them you “prefer” that they cancel. Tell them you require them to cancel, since they have grossly violated your house rules. If they don’t cancel today, contact AirBnb, and tell them you want the guests gone.


Ken, the guests are not in residence yet- they haven’t violated house rules, they have ignored them and booked a place that clearly says no children, then indicated they intended to stay with children.

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You are in a tough spot. Sadly all scenarios look bad, and Airbnb will most likely go in the guest’s favor. Your choice is between putting up with these guests and losing revenue.

It’s hard not to feel annoyed by such guests but if I were in your shoes, my challenge would have been to be nice to these guests to get a five-star review.

Of course, I would take care of these guests in the review, which would make it difficult for them to IB again.

I’ve had a similar situation where people are bringing infants and exceeding unit occupancy. And they inform you last minute so that puts you in a tough spot. Now I’m aggressive about asking guests if they need anything else beforehand so I can plan and also remind them about no free nights in the form or early check in/late check out, etc.

Let us know how it turns out.

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I will let you know but I don’t know how Airbnb could rule in guest’s favor.

[Famous last words.]

@HostAirbnbVRBO I would tell them they need to cancel and that you will refund them any dates you are able to rebook, that it’s unfortunate that they didn’t read the house rules before booking or thought they could be ignored.


I guess I could make a rule that says to make a reservation in violation of the occupancy conditions (e.g., children, number, animals, pets) is itself a violation of House Rules.

But it does sound like a little . . . much.

The reservation is in the spirit of a violation because if the reservation stands the House rules are violated upon entry. We’ll see what this Airbnb CS says.

I can easily do that, though I usually say I would refund the net amount I receive on such re-booking.

If you don’t refund, you’ve removed their motivation to cancel. Although you feel the listing is unsuitable for children such as toxic plants & home not childproofed those are not strong indications of unsafe. Those are common conditions in homes.

@KenH is correct you could demand a cancellation because they are going to break your rules but now Airbnb will look at the rules. Plus I think (not sure) but since the cancellation is prior to the stay, you will forfeit payment.

Rules that discriminate based upon family status are a dangerous gray area. A pool surrounded by a fenced yard but accessible without impediment from the back door is clearly unsafe.

It is not like they are sneaking children in, they disclosed prior to arrival.

Your choices are guest cancel with refund or host cancel. Both of these will have fallout.

There may be a way to spin this as one of your “free” instant book cancellations but you will forfeit payment.

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I don’t think a rule like that is necessary. You already have rules. That means that ignoring them is a violation of the terms.

I would suggest, though, that you research whether any of the house plants you have are toxic and replace any that are with non-toxic plants.

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I had a slightly different scenario where someone wanted to work remotely from my studio (that does not even have a desk). I immediately messaged him that I cannot guarantee the internet speed. He needed super reliable wifi as he was working on some customers with a multi million dollar deal.

I told him I could not guarantee the internet speed or connectivity as power outages are extremely common on the island.

Eventually, he canceled and Airbnb did not offer him the full refund as I had informed him within an hour of booking that he should cancel because I cannot guarantee the wifi connectivity.

Unfortunately, in your case, since they didn’t inform you earlier, you could not send a message as I did.

I know this is not your fault but I’m not sure if Airbnb will help you. It’s just a bad scenario all around.

You might well be right but I don’t understand why. What is the point of the cancellation policy if it does not apply? What is the point of a House Rule against children under age 12 if asserting it before the guest enters the property means the Host has waived the cancelation policy??

I hope you’re mistaken but we’ll see what this particular CS does.


I don’t have an answer except Life’s not fair.


while you are technically correct, it’s just that Airbnb, in reality, does not want to offend a guest. The listed policies and implementation has differences.

that’s the best answer I can think of as well.

Life is not fair, so I try to figure out how I can use the unfairness to my advantage.

Last year I lost some payouts to scammers. This year I have gotten a few payouts from cancellations by being aware of how Airbnb operates.

Let’s tell that to the guest!

[Even though I think it is fair that the contracting party that makes the error bears the burden of that error.]

I also understand this.

Interestingly, we have recently turned on instant booking. In every instance but one (so far) it has turned out that the guest did not pay attention to the listing – even though I left an intentionally onerous IB message because the only reason I turned IB on was because Airbnb required it when using a pricing service like Wheelhouse.

EDIT: By the way the one guest where we have not so far had an egregious violation is from Slovakia. Every message I sent to them was answered simply by “OK” or “I agree” or “English not good. OK. I agree.” So when they had not checked in several hours after check-in time I messaged them (though concerned that int’l texting rates would apply to them but wanting them to be able to easily reach me if any problems.]. Finally I see on the Ring doorbell that they have finally arrived but are pushing the doorbell and . . .waiting. This despite laborious step by step instructions – and pictures – on self check-in. Anyway, I met them, let them in and we communicated via Google Translate. Just hoping they don’t ruin the appliances. [To be continued] On seeing our coffeemaker, which is a very simple Cuisinart 14 cup coffeemaker, they said they had seen nothing like this – nothing like this at home. I did send a message on the platform, in English and Slovak, on the step by step instructions that are in the House Manual.

You don’t need to it’s already in Airbnb’s T&Cs

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