What Kind of Compensation to Offer Guest

We’ve been so lucky but it’s finally happened. Something went really wrong while we have guests. Their toilet backed-up.

Yesterday afternoon the guest messaged me that it was backing up and could he use a plunger and asked what he should clean up with. We were away from the house but I told him where the plunger and cleaning supplies were and offered to come back and help. I was relieved when he said “no worries” and that it would fix it. He later messaged that he had.

However, this morning I got another message that it had backed up again and that he had tried plunging it but it didn’t work and that it was “gross” this time. I told him we would fix it asap and he said great and that they’d be gone for a few hours.

My husband suited-up (re: Covid) with face shield and all and went in there and snaked it and cleaned their bathroom. It is flushing fine now and hopefully will continue to do so :crossed_fingers:t4:

I feel like I need to compensate these guests somehow. I’ve never had a situation in which I needed to. Maybe I dropped off some pastries for something smaller a couple times, but there’s never been anything like this.

I have no idea where to start but I feel like I should offer some money back. Any advice would be appreciated. For reference, they are staying for 3 nights and this happened the afternoon after their 1st night and the morning after their 2nd night.

How much do I refund? And do I just use the Resolution Center?

Thank you!!

BTW, this is so much worse with Covid. I hadn’t played out this scenario when I decided to have guests again. My husband was put in the position of going in their apartment and dealing with their air and their fluids without the apartment being empty for anytime at all, etc. Definitely something to consider.

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If I were in that position I would definitely refund one nights stay and the cleaning fee.


That was my initial instinct, but I wasn’t sure if it was enough. Thank you so much for your response!

And just to offer another point of view, I wouldn’t refund at all. Pre-COVID, in the event of a problem in the apartment, I’d give guests a voucher for The Cheesecake Factory or Starbucks (depending on the seriousness of the problem) so the guests could have dinner or coffee on me ‘for your patience’.

I use the above establishments for this because both places are fairly near to me. The reason I use chain places is because if the guests are from the USA, they can choose to use it here, at home if they prefer or at another location if they’re on a roadtrip.


I would refund, I think one night is enough.

I’ve never been a fan of gift cards because they are never to anywhere I want to go and especially not now.

My most recent guest showed up with 2 dogs that he didn’t disclose when he reserved. I was like WTF, but just messaged him and sent the pet fee request. BTW, this was after I’d gone to bed and the dogs woke me up with whining and barking. After sending the request I get a text from him saying he can’t get the TV to give him any programming. After exchanging a few messages with suggestions of what to try I gave up and said “sorry, just skip paying the pet fee. The listing says there’s a TV so we will just call it even.” In the past I would have gotten dressed and gone in the room to help if they would allow it. But not now. The next morning I see there is nothing wrong with the TV, he just didn’t push the right button and I couldn’t recall which button it would be. I’ve now attached an antenna and printed out a remote control guide, it was on me for not doing it prior. But still annoyed about the whole thing. It’s just not worth the work for fifty bucks.

A bigger rental with more moving parts complicates it.

It occurs to me that globally there is bound to be someone(s) who dies of covid because they didn’t shut down their Airbnb.

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Also, the guest could have put something in the toilet to stop it up but I’d still give the compensation.

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I feel like that is what happened! However, I am going to give some refund anyway. Thank you for your help!


If I was you I’d refund one night, the cleaning fee and gift them a bottle of champagne. It is of course possible that they clogged the toilet themselves but their offer to clean it up themselves on the first day would indicate otherwise. I am afraid you just need to suck this up and refund. If I was you, I wouldn’t ask “can I refund you one night?”, I’d just do it on the AirBnB and then inform them that you have done this and a bottle of champagne is coming their way.

S**t happens.


Your guests seem pretty laid back, so any gesture on your part will be fine – cleaning fee, one night, treat basket left outside, etc. The gesture is the important part I think.
Reminds me how much better you are than my very first Airbnb stay in NOLA. It was smelly and beat up but in a good location and I’m not fussy. But, I left for the day’s activities and came back to find the toilet had backed up and the bathroom floor and bedroom carpet next to it were wet. I plunged it myself, called the host who promised to send a plumber. No plumber came and I couldn’t sit around all day (no plumber ever came). I wiped up the water with the bath towels, washed the bath towels with shampoo in the bathtub, stomping on them like grapes with my feet, and hung them all around the courtyard to dry. Messaged the host they should refund me a night for playing charlady, and that I sincerely hoped they would shampoo the carpet before the next guest, as I had used the toilet right before I left and it backed up. Ewwww. Never heard back. I was way too nice in the review, just said the place needed repair and downstarred the cleanliness. I should have had Air rehouse me; I’m much savvier now. It’s a wonder I kept using Airbnb AND got in the business myself.


@JJD I’m in the don’t refund camp. I disagree that anything that goes wrong needs to have money thrown at it to somehow make it right. It’s one thing if a host hasn’t checked to make sure that everything is working properly, or can’t get it repaired right away, but for something that simply started acting up after the guests were in residence, which they themselves might have caused, and that you dealt with ASAP, I would be inclined to simply apologize for the inconvenience, and maybe drop off a bottle of wine, or some other token of appreciation for them not getting stroppy about it and being briefly inconvenienced.

If anything, I’d refund all or partial of the cleaning fee, since the guests had to deal with something yucky, rather than the nightly fee.


if I were the guest I would be

  1. embarrassed to have my hosts have to come in to fix my mess*
  2. grateful that my hosts were available by phone and showed up

*I say my mess because if hasn’t happened before, and unless there is something suddenly wrong with your plumbing (tree roots, buildup), it’s likely too much TP or other.

But not all guests react like that so, as a host I’d feel the guest out to see if they how they are reacting

  • are angry and disappointed -> I’d offer one night
  • more embarrassed / responsible -> I’d try to make them feel at ease and then provide them with an offer of gift certificate for dinner or gift card, as others have suggested.

In 4 years I’ve only that happen once, and it was just a few months after I had moved in and way before I started AirBNB’ng my guest house. Fortunately it was only my oldest brother staying in the guest house. It was late in the evening and I didn’t have a plunger so I made a trip to Home Depot at 5am the next morning. To my knowledge, the plunger has never been used since.

Coincidently I came across this article today that I wished I had know about 4 years ago. I actually thought of printing it out and putting it a copy of it under the bathroom sink, with a bucket and some Dawn. There’s currently a plunger there, but this method seems more sanitary.


Reminds me of this’un, again :rofl:


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Note to all hosts: Always always always have a plunger in your rental’s bathroom! :crazy_face:

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This is what I’m going with! Thank you for your response! I’m a gift-giver by nature so this satisfies me in that way as well.

Interesting. I actually think the opposite. I don’t think they would offer to clean it up themselves unless they knew it was their fault. I can’t imagine they’d want to clean up someone else’s mess.

I actually really do think it was them. When cleaning after the previous guests, my husband put a tablet in the tank. It’s to deter rust and grime. However, it makes the toilet bowl water cloudy for awhile and I don’t like the way it looks, so I flushed it no less than 7 times prior to their arrival and had no trouble.


Agreed. And even though it is not “my fault”, I am still the host and am still responsible for their overall experience. It’s nice to be able to blame someone when shit happens, even if it’s not warranted. It’s rare that we get to do that but being a guest opens up that opportunity. I have been well-compensated for silly things in hotels and it did make me feel better. It kind of sucks for me but I feel like the right thing to do is to take the fall to make them feel better.

In some ways, I could see a guest believing it is actually somehow my fault anyway. Along the lines of, “she should have a better toilet” or something. Either way, I just want happy guests.

Thank you for your response!


Thank you for your response @muddy, I do appreciate it. However, the reason money helps is that they paid money for a certain type of experience, a certain value that was based on not dealing with a backed-up toilet. They actually paid quite a lot. So, the toilet backing up and having to plunge it and clean the area, brings the value down. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t my fault. The value has been diminished so they should pay less than what they originally agreed to. Just my perspective.


The first guests to stay in my brand new ensuite bathroom when it was completed in Feb 16 was my nephew and his girlfriend. I had flushed the toilet a few times prior to their arrival as part of the cleaning and readying. My nephew asked if I had a plunger and I gave him one. I also immediately called my contractor and he told me to call Roto Rooter and he would pay for it. The plumber told me that sometimes in new construction something falls into the pipe and it doesn’t block it at first. He’s rootered plastic bottles out of new construction. In terms of old construction I’ve had my own toilet back up once at about year 20 and I don’t think it was my fault.

In any case, a properly functioning toilet is a required amenity and I, like JJD,am going to err of the side of taking responsibility for it. If a guest wanted to be an ass about it they could probably contact Airbnb and get a better settlement than whatever I offered so I would take the initiative. And while I won’t be held hostage by a bad review and not going to pretend a bad one might not hurt my business. I see several reasons to offer some compensation, no good ones not to.


@JJD you and I share similar perspectives on hosting -> Treating guests as you would want to be treated (if not better) will ideally pay itself back.

Even when a guest told me they didn’t want any compensation for a water heater failure, I still refunded one night. Those guests have returned 2 times since that incident occurred.


I understand your perspective. But I do think that hosts have gotten too used to guests who will try to get refunds for any little thing (not that a toilet backing up for 12 hours is a tiny thing) and so tend to think they should refund to appease the guests, make them feel we are fair hosts and not leave a bad review.

But, in fact, adaptable guests are what all hosts really want. There are guests who are quite adaptable and understanding, especially seasoned travellers. They know that “s**t happens” and that even the best laid plans can go awry. So if it doesn’t appear that the guests are particularly fussed about something, I just don’t see a reason for the host to act like it’s something that needs to be compensated, other than an “I’m so sorry about the inconvenience”, and perhaps a thoughtful offering of some kind.

If the power goes out from 8PM-6AM, some guests would demand a full refund for the night, even though for more than half that time, they were asleep anyway. If you get guests who you can tell are irritated or upset about something, I agree that it’s probably best to offer some refund so as to avoid more complaint.

But other guests might say “Well, we were planning on watching a Netflix movie, but you know what? We ended up playing cards by candlelight and had a great time. We know it wasn’t your fault that the power went out. No worries”. If guests seem to take something in stride, I don’t see a reason to refund money, unless you feel you were somehow responsible for the issue.

I’ve never had a mechanical problem at a hotel and gotten a refund. The most has been a wine basket for a extended repair time. And if the power or water goes out all over the hotel, they’ll give you bottled water or a flashlight and apologies, that’s about it Anyone’s experience differ?