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What to do if guests are trapped at your rental?

We had a major earthquake in Kaikoura, New Zealand back in 2016. We had a group of Chinese guests staying at our holiday house there.

Fortunately our house only suffered light cosmetic damage, although there were houses that were destroyed or badly damaged, and there was one fatality. Power & water was out, and it was of course stressful with constant after-shocks coming through. From memory the roads were completely cut off for about a month. The navy sent in a ship & transported many of the tourists out after a number of days.

In our case, the staying longer issue wasn’t there because the Chinese government chartered helicopters and evacuated all Chinese nationals pretty much the next day. They were the first out of the area. I don’t think I would have charged for additional days, but then I didn’t really think about it!

Our guests were full of praise for our neighbours (who are our cleaners), for helping them, showing them where to find the torches, how to use the BBQ etc.

The biggest impact for me was giving subsequent guests the option to cancel, or wait and see how the access issues worked out. AirBnB were very cooperative & helpful in that respect.

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I reiterate what @Brian_R170 said in that we understood the guest’s home to be affected by the hurricane, NOT the host’s. Imagine I am in Timbuktu (or anywhere but the Bahamas) and my current guest lives in the Bahamas. My next guest lives in next town over or Siberia (or anywhere but the Bahamas).

To decrease unease about the situation, I think once you decide your stance, address in your house rules so there is less grey on the topic. It will those coming to your Airbnb to be wise consumers and possible make you feel better about the situation as well if you are faced with the decision to charge or not charge.

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So the fact is that while the current guest may not be able or allowed to go to their house they are not stuck at YOUR listing. Kind of like the adage of “you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here” when the bar closes. Many of us would willingly let the current guest stay (paying in full, for a discount or for free) if it wasn’t booked. Some of us would also be willing to do anything else we could to provide them shelter (either for a short time or for the duration of their ability to return home or to a suitable alternative) depending on their situation and level of need.

We own a property in Minnesota, we were hosting a large group of 12, all but 4 of the people left a day early because of impending weather, the 4 that stayed texted the next day and asked if they could checkout late, we asked them to stay as late as they needed to, even if that meant overnight, and we offered this free of charge. Out cleaning crew wouldn’t have been able to get there any way and we didn’t have another guest for 4 days.

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