It’s every host’s worst nightmare…
You get a phone call from a guest, saying that there has been an accident. With major damage – major enough that you can’t rent it out until it’s fixed.
What should a host do when a guest causes major damage to their home?
If you are a host who found this article because they are in this situation and frantically searching for advice, don’t worry. You are on the right track. This article will tell you exactly what you need to know if your vacation rental guest has damaged your property.
During 99% of guest stays, everything goes as planned. We have had to charge for the occasional extra cleaning fee or broken dish, but for the most part guests are respectful of our home.
According to an Airbnb customer service representative that I spoke to, major damage is considered to be anything above $500. Damage can also be considered major if it renders the unit un-rentable, especially if you have incoming bookings.
There’s only been one other time where we have had what Airbnb considers major damage, and it was during our second month of hosting. Some locals rented our basement to cook meth, (that’s a long story for another time), and we ended up with broken furniture and a hefty cleaning bill. Although Airbnb eventually made it right, it took over two weeks of constant phone calls and emails before they would do anything to help us.
Fast forward a few years later, and yet another group of locals has caused major damage to our property – this time with a glass bottle that went through our front window.
We have a few more years of experience under our belt, with insight into how Airbnb works and how to deal with Airbnb customer service representatives. I hope that by sharing this information with my readers, other hosts can learn from us and protect their business and homes.
When a guest damages your home, there are 6 steps you need to follow to make sure you get reimbursed:
- Try to get the guest to admit fault in writing
- Call Airbnb
- Gather Evidence
- Submit Resolution Claim
- Wait 72 hours for it to be escalated
- Call Airbnb during regular US business hours
1. Try to Get the Guest to Admit Fault in Writing
If you can get the guest to admit (in writing) that they were the ones who caused the damage, it will greatly help your case. Even if it was an accident, your guest can still admit that they caused the damage, which will greatly help your case with Airbnb.
So how do you get a guest to admit this in writing, without escalating the situation?
In my experience that happened this weekend, the guest called me 20 minutes before check out to explain the situation. She admitted fault, apologized, and offered to pay for it. It’s fantastic that she took responsibility for the situation, but it is no guarantee that she will stand behind her promise to pay for it.
If the guest becomes hostile in response to your request, blame it on Airbnb protocol. “I apologize, but I’m just a host! Airbnb will want to hear your side of the story. If you could send a message recapping what we just talked about, it will make sure everything is fair for you. It will also let Airbnb move more quickly with the claims process, so we can get the case closed more quickly and you don’t have to worry about it anymore!”
Of course, not all guests are good people. Some guests will try to hide damages, deny that they did anything, and even flat out lie to you.
If your guests won’t fess up to the damage, see if you can catch them in a different lie. For example, they had a party at your rental and broke the TV. When you ask about the TV, they claim that it was broken when they got there. You know this isn’t true, but still respond with something noncommittal like, “Thanks for responding! I will ask my cleaners if they noticed anything unusual.” Then, ask them to confirm how many people were staying. “I like to keep track of how many guests stay at the house for my records. I know your reservation says 2 guests, so I just want to confirm that is the correct number.” You know that they are lying, but hopefully they don’t know that YOU know they’re lying. If they tell you only 2 people stayed, then you can show Airbnb your security camera footage of 8+ people checking in with suitcases. The guest has then proven themselves to be a liar, which throws doubt on their denial of damages. Phrase your question in a way so that if they don’t answer, it’s assumed a yes. For example, “My cleaner needs a record of how many pets stay in our rental. Your reservation didn’t specifically mention pets, but I just like to confirm that this is correct so I can let my cleaner know what to expect. Thanks!” If they suddenly grow a moral compass and correct you, they admitted to lying on the reservation request! You have even more proof that they are not trustworthy.
2. Call Airbnb
This is an especially important step if you have guests scheduled to check-in the same day, or even in the next week (depending on how severe the damage is).
When you call Airbnb, the first person that you talk to will have to transfer you. The second person that you talk to will be in charge of finding new lodging for your incoming guests, but you will have to wait for a rep from the Trust and Safety team to call you back about the damage. The second person I spoke with was sympathetic, and tried to help me the best she could. She told me that I needed to submit a claim through the Airbnb Resolution Center within 24 hours to get the claim rolling. I expressed my concern that I wouldn’t have an accurate estimate, as it is difficult getting a contractor out on a Saturday. There was also a good chance that our windows would need to be special ordered, which would mean 6-8 weeks of lost income – and I knew if that were the case, it would be a pretty penny.
This rep assured me that I could put in an estimate, and could upload receipts and pictures later. Now, I have not heard that from Airbnb before – in fact I have heard the opposite, and have gotten myself screwed out of $30 because I jumped the gun and submitted a resolution center request too soon. As with guests, it is important to get as much as possible from Airbnb customer service reps in writing. I asked the Airbnb rep to please message me with a recap of our conversation, especially the part about requiring me to submit a same-day resolution claim, and that it could be a general estimate with the ability to update later.
In this circumstance, our next guests were due at 4:00. Unfortunately, we had to request that Airbnb cancel their booking and find them someplace else to stay. Luckily, they were very understanding of the situation.
3. Gather Evidence
Take pictures and screen shots of everything that could be relevant to your case. This can include:
- Pictures of damage
- Security camera footage
- Estimates from contractors or google
- Bills: for repairs and any excess cleaning
- Price and description of similar products (for example, on Amazon)
- Receipts for how old the damaged items were and how much they originally cost (if possible)
- Any form of communication – text messages, Airbnb messages, emails, and screenshots to prove a phone call
Besides the evidence I’ve already shared in the post, here is what we added to the resolution claim
4. Submit Resolution Claim
It’s a little bit tricky to get to the page where you need to submit an official resolution claim.
Find the reservation itinerary, either through your messages or calendar.
Once you get to the reservation itinerary, click on “Send or Request Money” under their profile.
You are going to “Request Money” and click Next.
Then your reason will be, Damaged or missing items.
Next describe the items and the damage, and how you came up with the amount you are asking for. After that page, you will be able to input all of your evidence, although you can also email your assigned Airbnb case manager additional pictures and documents.
5. Wait 72 Hours for it to be Escalated
Once you submit your resolution claim, the ball is in the guest’s court to either deny or accept the charges. If they accept the charges, your work is done! If they decline the charges or do not accept within 72 hours, you will have to manually go in and click the button that says “escalate to Airbnb”.
An Airbnb customer service rep will then review your case, most likely somebody from the Trust and Safety team. However, if you have additional cleaning fees, it will be handled by a separate department (from what I can tell, this department is less experienced than Trust and Safety).
6. Call Airbnb During Regular US Business Hours
Hopefully, you will receive an email from Airbnb the next business day. I have heard that cases are prioritized by the amount of damage, so it may be sooner or later depending on your particular set of circumstances.
If you have not heard from Airbnb within a business day, give them a call during working hours (9-5 M-F, US). The person you talk to will not be able to transfer you to the Trust and Safety department, but they will be able to send a message to your claim representative on your behalf. As always, ask the Airbnb rep to send you a message summarizing the call if they promise anything to you.
The Trust and Safety person that was assigned to my case informed me that most host guarantee claims were resolved within a week. I have been emailing with her back and forth, to clarify a few things. It is now day 6, but I am going to give them until Monday (when she first contacted me about the claim) before I start making a fuss.
Tune in next week to see if I got my damages reimbursed!
Bonus: Will Airbnb reimburse for an incoming reservation that had to be cancelled due to prior guest damage?
Airbnb will reimburse you for some lost income. If you have previously booked reservations that you need to cancel due to damage from a guest, they will both help the guest find new lodging, and reimburse you. It is difficult to get them to pay for the loss of potential bookings, but you can get some, depending on how high your recent occupancy rate has been.
The bottom line is this:
As much as I love hosting, it is still a business. And hosts have a right to protect their businesses, homes, and families.
Thanks for visiting my Airbnb hosting blog! Hosting is a huge passion in my life. I love showing others how to build their own hosting business and reach financially independence. If you are enjoying the content on this blog, it would mean a lot to me if you would consider purchasing my new book, Financially Free with Airbnb. Blog readers get a special discount – just enter the code airbnbbabes at checkout.
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