I was asked for advice on how to win Airbnb deposit disputes, so my first thoughts were to look at consumer legislation. This was the scenario I was faced with.

BACKGROUND

We hired a house in Norfolk for a week and nearer the dates they changed the check in/check out times ‘to allow for extra Covid cleaning in your price’.

We could not check out until 7pm and had to check out a house of 13 people with kids by 9am. Quite tough.

Anyway, that allowed for 10 hours of cleaning with a team of 3.

Long story short, they kept £100 of our deposit saying we left it in such a state they had to do 2 hours more cleaning.

That is just a massive lie but because we were in such a hurry I broke the habit of a lifetime and did not take photos. The only photos the owner provided me with as proof were one pot where we couldn’t scrape rice off the bottom and two tablecloths stained with food (she provided non washable table cloths on a holiday rental).

I am done with the owner and do not want to deal with her. Do you think I have grounds to say something to the letting agency?

MY ANSWER

You are going to struggle to be honest without any photos to evidence what you are saying.

I actually covered this in the Daily Telegraph about student rentals, tenancy agreements and deposit disputes.

I would look for other reviews to support your stance to the lettings agency and contest it if you can find some proof that this is a common scam.

Speak to the lettings agency as your contract is with them.

As for the tablecloths, that is unreasonable and unfair to charge you for that under the circumstances.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that goods and services should be:

  • Fit for purpose
  • As described
  • Satisfactory quality
  • Last a reasonable length of time
  • Services ought to be carried out with due skill and care

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 is another piece of legislation that applies when contract terms are deliberately misleading and unfair.

If you knew the hidden clauses that were not disclosed to you, you would have made a different decision.

You were enticed in to making a different decision that you would not have made otherwise.

TRY TO RESOLVE YOUR DISPUTE WITHOUT AIRBNB INVOLVEMENT

If you did break something in your host’s place, then kindly offer to pay for it or just replace it while you are there. The majority of (good) hosts will not expect you to pay for the item, as many are aware that things need to be replaced from time to time.

  • Attempt to negotiate with the host without getting Airbnb resolved
  • Have a good track record – take pride in your reviews
  • Create a logical explanation as to why the damage was not made by you or is not your responsibility
  • Provide Airbnb with inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and irresponsibility with the host

RESPOND TO THE HOST

Write a very simple message to the host.

Airbnb also allows you include a private message to the Airbnb Resolution Center team, so use that to go in to more detail.

This will probably lead to the host involving Airbnb soon afterwards.

Airbnb usually take the view that the host has to prove that you caused the damage in order to retain the deposit. If you did not cause the damage, then it is likely that you would not have to pay for it.

Be reasonable. Emphasise that it is not nice to be accused of something you did not do and hope that justice will prevail under the circumstances.

SCRUTINISE THE CLAIM

If you can prove it wasn’t your fault, do so.

If you are not able to prove it, you will need to create and display inaccuracies, inconsistencies and irresponsibility on the part of the owner.

In other words, you will need to demonstrate to Airbnb why the owner’s word is questionable.

RED FLAGS

  • No photos of the actual damage
  • A “cleaning fee” with photos of the used items
  • No receipts, repair estimates or invoices

Read over your host’s claim several times before responding.

Read over their private messages to you and re-familiarise yourself with their account and yours.

HOW TO WIN

Try to create inconsistencies on how much the damaged item would cost to fix or replace.

Use the term, “extort” or “extortion” if you feel the host is increasing the damages due amount or the amount doesn’t seem practical.

Address any personal attacks the other party made and demonstrate the irrelevance.

Attempt to get more information on the age of the item in question. The older the item, the less value it has due to depreciation and age.

Clarify the inconsistencies the owner is providing.

Describe any other maintenance issues, (e.g., mould, electricity issues, plumbing odours / issues, etc). It shows an overall lack of maintenance, care, and engagement.

AIRBNB RESOLUTION CENTER

The way Airbnb disputes work is either party can create a claim with the Airbnb Resolution Center. The other party must respond within 3 days, otherwise the claim is processed as reported.

The host has 60 days to make a claim on a deposit, but the earlier this is done, the better chance the host has of winning.

If the other party denies to pay the claim, the complainer can then elect to involve a mediator at Airbnb. The mediator’s decision is final and cannot be appealed. 

RESPONDING TO THE AIRBNB MEDIATOR

In this case, the guest had no photos of the apartment to support her case. She would need to convince the Airbnb mediator that she was innocent.

TREAT IT LIKE A LEGAL CASE

Even though you are the “defendant”, the burden of proof still lied with the “plaintiff” to prove your alleged wrongdoing.

  • LACK OF PHOTOS: Use this to your advantage to prove that the host just wanted to charge a cleaning fee and was making up damages in order to get it. If the claim was truly about damages, there would be detailed photos.
  • CLEANING FEE: The host’s addition of a cleaning fee on this claim would not help their case. According to Airbnb, you cannot charge a cleaning fee to a guest after they leave, unless it results in the damage to your property.

Ordinary cleaning fees cannot be extracted from a security deposit.

When they added a cleaning fee, it immediately lowers a host’s credibility for true damage to an apartment.

  • NO RECEIPTS: The host did not include an original receipt or a repair estimate. You cannot simply make up a number to charge someone, even if you found the same product online.
  • WEAR AND TEAR: Point out any ‘wear and tear’ on any disputes to mitigate any false hose claims.

Use the information the host give you to prepare a response to the Airbnb mediator.

WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR COUNTER-CLAIM TO AIRBNB

Type up a formal letter to Airbnb to outline your complaint.

Be subtle to make your point.

For example, instead of saying, “The apartment was a pig sty and the worst I have ever seen”, try saying, “The apartment was surprisingly dusty”.

Instead of saying, “The host is simply dishonest and a vile individual”, try saying, “We didn’t see eye-to-eye, but I am a friendly and adaptable traveller who is used to dealing with hosts from different cultures and backgrounds”.

You may wish to use the following subject headers and key points to reinforce your claim.

CHECKLIST

CHECK-IN PROCEDURES

  • Were they rushed?
  • Did anyone walk you through the premises?
  • Discuss any issues that the host informed you about upfront.
  • Safety concerns you observed or noticed, e.g., bars over windows, no smoke detectors, etc.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS OF THE UNIT

  • Cleanliness or lack of within the premises.
  • Noises, e.g., construction, noisy neighbours.
  • Smells – strategically placed air fresheners.

INVENTORY CHECKLIST OF THE UNIT

  • Any essentials that were not provided.
  • Cleaning supplies not included, e.g., soap, mop, broom, etc.

PROBLEMS INCURRED DURING THE STAY

  • Describe ALL issues you had during the stay that were NOT perfect.
  • Highlight any issues that you notified the host about and were never remedied.

CHECKOUT PROCESS

  • If the host picked up the keys and was physically in the premises, explain here.
  • Describe any discrepancies in respect of the damaged item. Perhaps the owner moved the item and caused the damage?

EXTORTION

  • Did the host quote more than one replacement price?

CONCLUSION

  • Question the overall safety of the premises.
  • Provide a final argument summary.
  • Bring to attention the good reviews you received in the past.

CONCLUSION

If you want to win a dispute, here is my advice.

Take photos of everything before you leave, and make a video too if you can. This will help you against any claims.

Report any damage you notice the day you arrive. Don’t assume the host is aware of it. Most hosts will apologise for things not working, and attempt to replace them, but some will apparently try to charge you for them.

My best tip is to use the phrase “ordinary wear and tear” in your defence. Airbnb rightfully does not hold guests responsible for items that break in a host’s residence, provided they broke due to normal wear and tear.

The purpose of this blog is not to provide an escape route for bad guests.

There are scenarios where hosts try to extract money from guests and my intention is that this blog will help you avoid extortion from unethical hosts.

There are bad hosts and there are bad guests. I wish Airbnb rental expectations were consistent to avoid situations like this, but for now, it is a free for all.

Bad experiences travel much faster than good experiences, and I would be very careful when using Airbnb now.

Have you had problems with Airbnb deposit disputes? If so, how did you resolve it?

 

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