Our guide to Airbnb for guests: how to avoid accommodation complaints and conflict

6 min read
June 28, 2023

As we all get ready for our hols, the search for accommodation intensifies. Whether it’s a last minute escape to the countryside, or fulfilling a long-time dream of visiting a far-flung foreign city, Airbnb is a likely choice for those looking to find the perfect place to stay. 

Airbnb has its own internal processes for raising complaints or resolving disputes between hosts and guests. But while there is some oversight, they generally take a rather hands-off approach: preferring to let hosts and guests come to their own agreements or, as the case may be, stand-offs. 

If you’re an Airbnb guest there are a number of problems that can arise and you must be prepared to stand up for your rights. In this guide, we’ll cover some classic conflicts and key rules around the procedures for raising a complaint. If you’re a host check out the guide we’ve made specifically for you

Airbnb policies and procedures: what you need to know

Airbnb has a Help Centre to guide guests and hosts through the terms and conditions of using the site and the legal protections that exist. As you can imagine there are so many Terms and Conditions it’s unlikely that anyone reads them as thoroughly as they should. 

Rebooking and refund policies for Guests 

For guests, the most important thing to know is that they have a rebooking and refund policy – so if a host cancels your reservation prior to check-in, you will automatically receive a full refund. If this cancellation happens 30 days or less prior to check-in, you can contact Airbnb and they will help you find comparable or better accommodation. 

As well as refunds on your booking if it is cancelled, Airbnb will help you recover funds in the event that a property was not as described or there are other issues that arise during your stay. 

However, there is also guidance on expectations for guests. For example, they expect guests to “interface honestly” with hosts. So if you have misrepresented yourself or the people you are travelling with you’ll have broken the guidelines and may not have recourse to these protections. 

The most important thing to remember with Airbnb is that any issue with a booking should be reported no later than 72 hours after it has been discovered. If you don’t report something right away, you may not get the assistance you need. 

Double-check for country or city-specific regulations

The boom in the Airbnb market means that many countries and cities have responded with legislation regulating or curtailing short-term holiday rentals. This is due to concerns that Airbnb will exacerbate problems with the rental market, undercut tenant rights, bring in an influx of travellers and drive out local people and businesses, and allow for tax or zoning loopholes. 

If you are looking to use Airbnb while visiting cities like New York, Paris, Barcelona, Miami, Amsterdam or Santa Monica, make sure you do more research on the regulations that may impact how long you can stay in an Airbnb property and any extra fees or charges you may incur. 

Managing and meeting expectations for your Airbnb experience

After cancellations or damage to property, the biggest cause of conflict on Airbnb is confusion or lack of clarity on what is being offered. To avoid conflict, it is important to have clear expectations going in of what service is being provided.  

Read listings and reviews carefully

When you are looking for your dream accommodation, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the options or underwhelmed by what is available in your price range. Sometimes we see what we want to see, rather than what there is. 

To minimise the chance of a complaint, you should ensure that you read the Airbnb listing and previosu guest’s reviews thoroughly. Because the Airbnb review system means that hosts will leave reviews of guests and vice versa, some of the problems other guests encounter may be minimised by those looking to get a good review from their host. So read very carefully – if something vague comes up repeatedly, it’s a sign that there is more below the surface. If you have any concerns or uncertainties it is best to ask the host directly before you arrive to save yourself from disappointment and potential conflict. 

Remember that your host will have certain expectations of you too: a cleaning fee doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean up after yourself and it is up to you to communicate clearly if there are any problems during your stay so you can give the host a chance to address them.

Communicate clearly and effectively with your host

While Airbnb leaves it to guests and hosts to figure out problems between themselves, language barriers, cultural differences and unfamiliarity with the guest or host’s expectations can all contribute to more difficult experiences of getting requests or complaints heard and acted on. 

If you have a problem during your stay, ensure that you are communicating as effectively as possible. It’s a good idea to stick to written communication and, if possible, to do so within the Airbnb app. This way all correspondence is recorded, and if you need someone from Airbnb to step in and help, they will be able to review any previous exchanges easily.

In the end, there is no way to guarantee that you won’t run into problems with your booking. So it’s a good idea to prepare for dealing with them. Our guide to having reasonable expectations and getting positive solutions to a complaint could be a helpful resource.  

Leaving feedback is an important part of using the site well and maximising your own expertise. Our tips on leaving constructive feedback will not just save you time but ensure that you are helping other Airbnb users have the best experience. 

What are your other options?

The breakdown of trust between guests, hosts and the Airbnb platform’s process for resolving disputes, as well as rising costs and the introduction of extra charges like cleaning fees, means that many people are returning to hotels and more traditional holiday lettings companies. 

There are all kinds of protections that exist for consumers using these services.  

From Holidaycottages.co.uk to Britannia Hotels, Resolver users have raised over 6000 case files about ‘Holiday lettings’ and over 73,000 about ‘Hotels’ using our system. 

Booking your accommodation in the UK means you’ll have protection under the Supply of Services and Goods Act. So if the quality of the property or services provided are not ‘reasonable’, then you’ll be entitled to some form of compensation – the higher the rating or price you paid, the higher your expectations of the quality would be. 

Just like with Airbnb, accommodation and facilities need to be ‘as described’. If you encounter problems you’ll also need to keep and record and report the issue as soon as possible. You should also keep a record of any receipts of costs incurred so that they can be refunded. 

If you paid by credit card and spent more than £100 you’ll be able to make a claim against your credit card company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act

Most holiday lettings companies and hotels and property agents will be members of an association – you should notify them of any problems and they may be able to arbitrate the dispute. 

If you feel like relying on an Airbnb host is too much of a risk, then you may find that you’re better protected going down a more traditional route when it comes to finding your dream place to stay. 


If you have any thoughts on this topic, or any other consumer issues you would like us to cover, feel free to get in touch with us at .

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