What to do if guests are trapped at your rental?

I live on the west coast of Florida, with the east coast threatened by Hurricane Dorian. I had two guests with reservations and emailed them to let them know they might want to try again after the hurricane went by. One cancelled and one did not. The prices were higher because it was the Labor Day weekend.

The guest who said they were not worried about Dorian were from the east coast of Florida, where it looked like the hurricane was going to come ashore–but they nonchalantly went on with their plans, brought their own kayaks and had a good time. Our weather cooperated and they went out kayaking several times each day. They left to go home the day before Dorian was supposed to land at their home and it took them five hours to drive there.

That makes me wonder, what would I have done IF Dorian had come into their area. If they had to stay extra days, what would I have done? Charged them for the extra nights? And, the obvious other question would be if the other nights were already reserved by someone else, which they were before they canceled, what would I have done then?

Ideas please, the hurricane season in Florida does not end until November, so there will probably be other similar occurrences.


The first thing to do is to realise that you’re the local expert on the subject so the guests will be looking to you for information. Provide them with bottled water (the water usually goes off during hurricanes here - east coast of Florida) and flashlights (to ensure that they don’t use candles if the power goes off)

Provide non-drinking water for them to flush the loo if there’s no water and show them how to do it if necessary.

A battery/solar/wind-up radio is good too and be sure to have books, magazines, board games, cards etc. in the rental too if you don’t already.

Be sure to have enough food in your own supplies that you can share with the guests if you need to.

Chances are that your next guests will have cancelled but if not, Airbnb will help rehouse your existing guests. No, I wouldn’t charge for extra nights as it wasn’t the guests’ fault.


I’ll be interested to hear if any other hosts have faced this and have advice.

I’m not in a hurricane zone, but we can have big snow storms here. So what would I do? Well, if guests are trapped, then isn’t it likely that the next set of guests wouldn’t be able to travel to their reservation? In that case, I believe I’d talk with the current guests and offer them whatever additional days were necessary until they could travel safely. In our case, that would mean until the day when it’s legal for them to drive again and possible for them to get out of the driveway, etc.

I would hope that the guests would be willing to pay something for the additional days, but even if they weren’t, I believe we’d have to extend their stay.

I wonder if Airbnb has rules or at least guidelines about this? Maybe a policy that if evacuation is ordered, then no one check in.

If they got stuck at the rental due to a hurricane and needed to stay put, I would extend their stay without charge.


I had a young woman from Germany get stuck at my coastal home two years ago. All airports were closed due to the hurricane. She ended up being here two days longer than she had planned and I did not charge her for the stay. I also cooked for her and we had some lovely conversations over several bottles of wine!!


If you’re in an area that frequently has weather problems, then it’s a good idea to see if your local authority has any leaflets about [insert weather issue here] problems.

For example, for hurricanes it’s important that people know the dangers of flooded roads, power lines that are down, about the lull when the eye passes over and so on.

You can print the info from your city website or even create your own info sheet if nothing ready made is available.


@Jaquo and @RebeccaF, that’s not how I understood the question. The question is what if the guests can’t leave my listing to go back home because their own home is in danger (or some other reason they can’t get back home), and what if other guests are coming to my listing when the current guests have nowhere to go?

If no guests were coming, I think it would be fair to ask them to pay a nominal charge that would cover the costs of their stay above the cost of the listing sitting empty. For my listing, that is a paltry sum (averaging about $14/day), but might not be for others.

If guests were coming, I’d consider the incoming guests an obligation, and do my best to help the current guests find other temporary accommodations. Maybe Airbnb would even help with their Open Homes program.

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Hi Brian,

I can only speak for my own situation where the problem has been caused by a hurricane. In this event, the media is all over it for weeks beforehand. Even my old mum in England used to know about hurricanes threatening South Florida a long time before I did thanks to the BBC. So many guests will cancel. I’ve had people here during less dramatic circumstances though such as tropical storms.

I don’t charge for the extra days because I offer the apartment in the open homes setup. If people can’t get out of South Florida, then the chances are that people can’t get in either. I’ve hosted (free) people who can’t get their flights home because the airport has been closed. So the apartment would be standing empty anyway.

As I said above:

Plus, I like to think it’s good karma :slight_smile:


Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the situation is that my listing is not directly affected by the hurricane, but my guests can’t get back home because if it. This could be easily be the case where the guests were staying at my listing in Phoenix, but their home is in South Florida and the guests can’t leave because all flights back to Florida are cancelled.

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Definitely. (Being a South Florida host I never think about it that way around :slight_smile: )

I’ve found that some people love being in wild weather whereas most people will cancel. Maybe travellers from South Florida do the same? Although plenty of people simply leave the area when a hurricane is supposedly coming here and maybe don’t even think about how and when they’re going to be able to get back. I must admit, that if I was leaving the area for bad weather I’d be thinking more about getting the place here ready.

Of course they have to pay to stay. I doubt the Hilton justs suspends payments during a storm.


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Years before the Airbnb days I got stuck on an island in Panama due to heavy rains. Everything was flooded on the mainland and I ended up having to wait it out for a few days before I could return to Costa Rica.
Really, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I had to pay for those nights.


Being in central Florida, we’ve run across this situation twice. The first time their next stop was in South Florida, with Irma coming in. They were fully refunded for that cancelled stay, so were happy to pay for a few days at our pro-rated monthly rate.

The second time was this year, with Dorian. They wanted to come in a day early so the airport would still be open. It was available and they were already staying awhile so we just allowed it.

If guests are truly trapped and it’s an emergency situation then I’d do whatever I could to help. My home is really only a two bedroom but I have an air mattress, plenty of blankets and floor space in the living room of my home. So if there is literally no where to go then they are welcome to all stay here. The paying guests coming in get the Airbnb room of course. The guests who can’t leave get whatever they can.

As for payment some things are worth more than money.


If I cooked for anyone they would better off facing the hurricane!:innocent:


Our fear is what to offer guests in the event of a wild brush fire. Hopefully we will all have enough time to evacuate. We will make sure they leave safely and likely refund time not used. Hopefully guests will be on site and not just some of their stuff. We do have direct communication with a friend who is super knowledgeable about fires, fire timing and safety:)

Just because a guest has an emergency at home, with their family, etc. - does not make it your responsibility to take care of their finances, etc. Of course assist anyway you can. But no…the guest does not get to stay at your place for free just because back at home they are experiencing weather issues, a personal family emergency, etc.

Of course if you would like to offer that, then by all means do so. You are under no obligation. People know this by the way. Would you expect someone to house your family for free if the situation was reversed and you were waiting for a hurricane to pass through your hometown?

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And most definitely not do offer guest to stay for free and cancel on a guest who already paid.


To be honest, there are many hotels that are used as shelters at no cost. To allow people to vacation at you property at certain high storm seasons is at their choice and also the host’s choice but if things do get out of control be thr bigger person and loose money for thier safety. Has anyone thought about turning their owned, meaning they own the property not subleasing, off grid for these reasons?

During Dorian, I had guests with flights the day before Dorian was to hit. I told them if their flight was cancelled they could stay at no charge however it Dorian escalated to hurricane, I recommended they evacuate. We discussed it…I am 4 hours away so I couldn’t help them with food or water and couldn’t guarantee power but they would have a roof & bed & shelter.

I’m not kicking any one out and the guests after had already cancelled.