I've stayed a few times with Airbnb hosts and everything went great. However I can't help but wonder what would happen in situations where:

  1. The house owner is unreachable, so I can't make use of my booking

  2. The house owner is reachable, but the booking is unavailable for some reason (flood, earthquake, overbooking, etc)

  3. It's possible to check-in, but the apartment has significant problems (no water, recent fire, leaky roof, etc)

What is Airbnb's legal responsibility in this scenario?

Real-world examples can also be posted if Airbnb deviates from what they're required to do by law.

  • This sounds a lot like a "poll" question.
    – Flimzy
    Aug 7, 2014 at 9:29
  • 2
    I'd like to get a general idea of what I can expect in case something goes wrong with my booking. I think many travelers share my concern in this area, so it can be useful to a wide range of people.
    – JonathanReez
    Aug 7, 2014 at 10:09
  • I've edited the question.
    – JonathanReez
    Aug 7, 2014 at 11:47
  • 1
    Just a comment- from recent experiences, your risk is significantly higher if the location is heavily (>90-95%) booked at the time of travel. The remaining 'hosts' may be not so reliable, and the likelihood of finding something else acceptable on very short notice when it was already heavily booked ahead of time (when you first booked) is much, much less. In such cases, especially if your flexibility is limited, a hotel with a well-proven reservation system may be a better choice. Feb 15, 2017 at 15:31
  • What do the T&C say?
    – JoErNanO
    Feb 15, 2017 at 20:18

1 Answer 1


I can't tell you what they would actually do, but I'm going to quote from the T&C anyway, because that's what lays out what they're legally obliged to do. And, alas, the answer is basically nothing. Boldface mine:

The Hosts, not Airbnb, are solely responsible for honoring any confirmed bookings and making available any Accommodations reserved through the Site, Application and Services. If you, as a Guest, choose to enter into a transaction with a Host for the booking of an Accommodation, you agree and understand that you will be required to enter into an agreement with the Host and you agree to accept any terms, conditions, rules and restrictions associated with such Accommodation imposed by the Host. You acknowledge and agree that you, and not Airbnb, will be responsible for performing the obligations of any such agreements, that Airbnb is not a party to such agreements, and that, with the exception of its payment obligations hereunder, Airbnb disclaims all liability arising from or related to any such agreements.

So basically, if the host cancels your booking for any reason (#2), Airbnb will refund your money and suggest other listings nearby:

If a Host cancels a confirmed booking made via the Site, Services, and Application, (i) Airbnb Payments will refund the Total Fees for such booking to the applicable Guest within a commercially reasonable time of the cancellation and (ii) the Guest will receive an email or other communication from Airbnb containing alternative Listings and other related information.

If there are no other listings nearby because of the World Cup or a Godzilla rampage, too bad.

More or less the same applies to an apartment you can't get into (#1) or an unusable/defective apartment (#3), which is covered by a separate but similar Guest Refund Policy. This policy also applies to cancellations made "shortly before the scheduled start of the reservation", although what exactly this means (hours before? same day?) is left undefined.

If you are a Guest and suffer a Travel Issue, we agree, at our discretion, to either (i) reimburse you up to the amount paid by you through the Site, as determined by Airbnb in our discretion, depending on the nature of the Travel Issue suffered or (ii) use our reasonable efforts to find and book you another Accommodation for any unused nights left in your reservation which in our determination is reasonably comparable to the Accommodation described in your original reservation in terms of size, rooms, features and quality. All determinations of Airbnb with respect to the Guest Refund Policy, including without limitation the size of any refund, shall be final and binding on the Guests and Hosts.

This seems more generous at first glance, since it looks like they're promising to actively find you alternative accommodations including non-Airbnb options, but on more careful reading there's that "or" in there. In other words, they can take option (i), refund your money and say "too bad".

Now, that's the T&C. Their FAQ claims they'd actually go beyond this minimum and offer you automatic credit to upgrade:

What happens if a host cancels my reservation?

3) Book something nicer. We'll help cover the difference if you want to book a more expensive listing. Just look for an email from us with details on how much credit we can offer based on your existing reservation amount.

Although reports on the net claim that credit is not too generous:

In our case, we spent over €1,200 and they offered €37 worth of a voucher for the inconvenience. That’s less than 3% of the price paid.

All this looks a bit mean at first glance, but truth be told, if you examine the fine print of most any hotel chain's T&C, you'll find pretty much the same wording. Most better hotels do adopt the practice of "comping" your room if they have to turn you away, meaning they'll find alternative accommodations and foot the bill, but this is customer service, not a requirement — and I'd expect Airbnb to go beyond the minimum as well if you really do run into the worst-case scenario of knocking at somebody's door in the middle of the night and not getting an answer.

  • Great answer! Although the blog post you've referenced later goes on to say AirBnb offered to refund the full price difference between whatever alternative accommodation they find in Boston and their previous booking.
    – JonathanReez
    Aug 7, 2014 at 11:56
  • My experience this week with airbnb was that they didn't go beyond the above minimal requirements. They'd cancel and refund but nothing else. Luckily the host reappeared after a day, but they never offered to refund price differences above 10% and they said I needed to find a new host on my own and they wouldn't find one for me. Jul 29, 2017 at 21:00
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    Don't use Airbnb if your travel expenses (airfare, etc) aren't refundable. I've had hosts realize they forgot it was a holiday and cancel my booking a day out to triple their price. Airbnb refunded my money and left me to pay $800 for two nights in a hotel where my original booking was for a $125/night apartment this past week.
    – apraetor
    Jan 1, 2019 at 7:18
  • My friend and I booked a USD 2k/mo Airbnb in Cancun for work, that was advertised to have 10Mbps Wi-Fi. When we arrived, the Wi-Fi was 0.1Mbps, showers didn't work, furniture was missing (the host admitted that the photos were from another apartment), and a bunch of other problems. Airbnb claimed to refund USD 57 for the 10 days until the host finally fixed the Wi-Fi. Needless to say, we lost much more productivity than 50 USD. Also, I never received the refund. Jan 10, 2020 at 3:40

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