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I've recently booked a stay with Airbnb for $1600 of which between $240 and $320 went to Airbnb in the form of host or guest fees. I like to avoid fees whenever possible, so I was thinking of a way to get around them for long stays:

  1. Confirm with the host that the unit is available for the full time you need it
  2. Book one night to get their contact details and Airbnb support in case you find out on the very first night that the unit is awful
  3. Contact them directly and pay the host via Paypal/Venmo for the rest of the nights, with a 15-20% discount

Are there any downsides to this option? Am I likely to find hosts who would agree to this deal?

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    Obligatory: xkcd.com/1494 – Nate Eldredge Jan 7 at 22:43
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    I’m an AirBnB host and I wouldn’t agree to this kind of request. – Traveller Jan 7 at 23:10
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    That would be committing fraud against Air BnB – Matt Douhan Jan 8 at 2:30
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    What would be the benefit for the host? For example, he loses all types of gurantees provided by Airbnb – Nico Haase Jan 8 at 7:13
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    In my experience (as both a guest and also partner of a host) hosts will only do this for subsequent stays (after you've proven yourself) not the first one. – Aaron F Jan 8 at 9:12
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As Nate Eldredge pointed out this is against Air BnB's T&C's and could result in both you and the property provider being banned from their platform.

But it's pretty dam unlikely you would get caught, so let's assume you and property owner have agreed to the deal you suggested. What additional downsides exist?

The homeowner could take your cash, then re-book someone else over those nights. For all intents and purposes you never booked the extra night. The homeowner could leave you high and dry with no place to stay and take your money.

The homeowner could also get screwed by you. With no booking you could ruin their house and then claim you were never there. After all, you can show the app to any judge in small-claims showing you in fact were not there when the house was ruined as you checked out the day before.

Letting Air BnB be the middle man eliminates much risk for both parties and provides proof of purchase/occupancy for any potential legal troubles.

Ultimately your scenario involves a lot more trust, and I personally think both parties would be foolish to trust one another if they have never met, considering that either party has the ability to rip the other off possibly thousands of dollars. People scam other people every day and for a hell of a lot less.

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    +1, this applies to pretty much any selling platform (Uber, Freelancer etc.). Quite close to the classic en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_dilemma – jpa Jan 8 at 8:27
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    Letting Air BnB be the middle man eliminates much risk for both parties Not at all true. Doesn't reduce any risk, there are ample cases where Airbnb's behaviour left a lot to desire for. – DumbCoder Jan 8 at 10:34
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    Nothing stops you from signing a different contract with the host for the remaining nights. – Josef says Reinstate Monica Jan 8 at 14:04
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    @DumbCoder Using AirBnB doesn't eliminate risk, but it very much does seem to reduce it. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jan 8 at 17:00
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    Those supporting the use of Airbnb as an intermediary, have you actually try to get Airbnb to compensate you for anything? More often than not, they don't do jack, or issue reimbursements for peanuts. – Dan Dascalescu Jan 9 at 0:39
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I would do this only for subsequent stays and with a written contract.

I've done this. I was renting a furnished apartment for about 5 weeks over Airbnb¹. After about 3 weeks, the host asked if I wanted to renew, and if so, with or without Airbnb. He wrote a contract which we both signed, only then I paid, and less than through Airbnb.

I don't care whether or not this is against the T&C of Airbnb or not, for Airbnb as a business certainly doesn't care much about their societal impact. If Airbnb wants to enforce that if I ever rented from someone through Airbnb I may never again rent from them through any other means, good luck to them (imagine if a dating site would try to prohibit couples who met on their platform from communicating outside of it ;-). The only practical problem for me was that Airbnb wanted me to write a review when I was actually still staying there, which limited how honest I felt I could be about the property, and in fact the host was unhappy that I also mentioned negative points.


¹Normally, I avoid Airbnb like the plague, for I strongly detest their city killing and lawlessness akin to Uber or Deliveroo, and indeed I have never used them and will never use them where alternatives exist. In the four cases I've used it, it was very much an action of last resort as nothing else meeting our requirements was available.

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Airbnb would almost certainly consider this to be a terms of service violation. From Section 14:

In connection with your use of the Airbnb Platform, you will not and will not assist or enable others to: [...] use the Airbnb Platform to request, make or accept a booking independent of the Airbnb Platform, to circumvent any Service Fees or for any other reason;

Airbnb might come after you and/or the host, via lawsuit or arbitration or other legal means, for the fees they didn't receive. They might also ban you from the site.

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    There is a 0% chance that Airbnb would take legal action against anyone for doing this - they're not going to pursue a few hundred pounds through courts. It's far likelier that they will terminate any involved accounts instead. – Ben Watson Jan 8 at 8:52
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    There is a 0% chance that AirBnb will find out. That said, the top answer explains why it's still not worth the trouble. – knallfrosch Jan 8 at 12:10
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    @knallfrosch maybe, maybe not. I've had conversations with guests get flagged asking me if they tried to make a deal outside Airbnb. So they must have algorithms to look for it, and there'd be enough discussion through the app to be suspicious. – Kat Jan 8 at 17:09
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    Suppose I booked a week in 2018 and want to return in 2020. Does the TOS require that I book through Airbnb, even a year later? – Ross Presser Jan 8 at 19:17
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    @Kat: many hosts switch from communicating via the app (which is pretty terrible), to WhatsApp. Airbnb can't monitor those discussions. – Dan Dascalescu Jan 9 at 0:40
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Yes, you are likely to find hosts that will agree.

You are also likely to find a host who, upon your revelation of dishonesty, refuses to rent to you and reports you to AirBNB.

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    @JonathanReez The first time I tried to use Airbnb (i.e. with a new account) I was declined and ignored many times (including cancellations after auto-acceptance) before someone finally accepted me. Quite frustrating, I should have just booked a hotel where such nonsense doesn't happen. Hotels also provide their address before booking, I was uncontactable in the 12 hours before arriving due to moving from Canada to England, and didn't realise the Google Maps pin, including the automatically calculated address, was "approximate" (a.k.a. wrong) and I went to the wrong address. – gerrit Jan 8 at 17:02
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    Many people (but far from all) will decline someone who doesn't have a recommendation (review) from a prior stay. But someone who signs up for automatic acceptance and then doesn't honor it should be reported to AirBNB. – WGroleau Jan 8 at 17:17
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    @JonathanReez: how do you also obtain new identification to verify within five minutes? – Dan Dascalescu Jan 9 at 0:43
  • You can only be banned so many times before you can't do that anymore. – さりげない告白 Jan 9 at 0:53
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    I'm in the second camp - if a prospective guest booked a night with me then tried to negotiate a deal on a longer stay, I'd assume they were a scammer and report them. – Johnny Jan 10 at 0:48
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Keep in mind that if you e-mail the agent for the property (owner or otherwise) saying, "I'll give you $1000 to stay here from June 1st to 7th this year" and they reply, "Ok," you now have a legally binding written contract. The risk here is not about not having a contract (even an oral agreement can be legally binding if correctly formed) but in how you deal with enforcement if one party feels the other party didn't fulfill the terms (both explicit and implicit) of the contract.

In theory if you go through Airbnb they will provide both better-defined contract terms and support for enforcement. In practice the level of support for enforcement you'll get from them varies because Airbnb has conflicting interests here: one is to keep the system running smoothly but the other is to spend as little time and money as possible dealing with problems. Airbnb has in the past ignored scams until they experienced enough reputation damage from articles by journalists that they felt they had to address them.

It's not really possible to provide specific advice on how risky your idea is for any particular rental. The prospect of enforcement through Airbnb depends on the nature of the problem and how publicised it's been at that particular time, and the prospect of enforcement through other actions (courts, other governmental authorities, NGOs such as the BBB) also varies widely depending on the country and province in which you reside and in which the property is situated.

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    Keep in mind that if you e-mail the agent for the property (owner or otherwise) saying, "I'll give you $1000 to stay here from June 1st to 7th this year" and they reply, "Ok," you now have a legally binding written contract. — is that universally true? It sounds like the kind of thing that may depend on location. – gerrit Jan 9 at 9:52
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    @gerrit It depends on the type of contract -- e.g. depending on jurisdiction, no matter how hard you try you can't make an oral contract to sell real estate. But pretty much every jurisdiction accepts the idea of an oral contract, and has roughly the same ideas of what constitutes offer and acceptance. – Sneftel Jan 9 at 10:11
  • @Sneftel My understanding is in most jurisdictions it's actually a written contract, not an oral one, if you do it via email. That's a lot stronger regardless because the written copy removes at least some of the he-said/she-said that exists in oral contracts. That said, I still think it doesn't make nearly as much difference as the enforcement issues, since making a contrat is easy and it's enforcing it that's the difficult part. – cjs Jan 9 at 14:49
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Am I likely to find hosts who would agree to this deal?

Sure. I've done it myself.

But on the part of the host-- long-term, off-the-books rentals are not wise.

The laws vary by state but if a host allows a guest to stay in their home long enough (California is something trivial like 2 weeks), and they are collecting the equivalent of "rent" from the guest, the guest gains tenant's rights in the host's home.

AirBnB themselves warn of this.

It has happened before.

If the guest becomes a nuisance or stops paying, the host cannot legally get rid of the guest without going through the eviction process, which is both costly and time-consuming. If the guest stops paying during this time, the host is denied a source of income for the duration of the proceedings while the guest extracontractually occupies the room. It is a nightmare.

Conducting your business through AirBnB at least provides some contractual boundaries to the agreement that might supercede tenant law in favor of the host.

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