A couple who saved for five years for their dream trip claim Airbnb refused to refund their £700 despite their destination flat looking like a ‘bombsite’ strewn with laundry.
Helen Hewitt, 38, and partner Jay splashed out on a 12-night stay in Auckland, New Zealand, with ‘beautiful’ views promised in pictures showing a pristine apartment.
But the couple say they arrived to find it ‘dirty’ and ‘cluttered’ with the bed covered with other people’s clothes.
They agreed to stay after the host pledged to fix the mess, only to find other people’s luggage dumped there the next day, when they discovered open food lying around.
Pictured, left: the balcony the couple were promised. Right: the balcony they got, complete with luggage and other people’s laundry
Despite complaining to Airbnb and showing them photos of the mess, Helen claims Airbnb told her a refund was at the discretion of the host – before closing the case.
Helen, from Redditch, Worcestershire, said: ‘It was disaster. It looked like a complete bombsite.
Helen Hewitt and Jay described the flat as a ‘bombsite’ following the trip
‘The clean pictures are of the apartment we thought we’d booked.
‘Of course when we got there, it was so messy and untidy – we just couldn’t stay there.
‘I don’t live like that at home so why would I want to come on holiday and live like that? It was very cluttered.
‘We’d been travelling 30 hours and when she initially came in at about 6pm and said she would get it sorted tomorrow morning, I thought it was fair enough.
‘But when we got back the next day, the flat was in more of a mess.
‘It became quite apparent that the host didn’t live there – she was obviously working for somebody because more suitcases came in the next day.
‘She must have been looking after quite a few premises in the area because the next day all the laundry for the other properties was in the flat, thrown over the table and sofa.
‘There was luggage on the bed that was meant to be our room, but that’s the room she was staying in.
‘It’s a two-bedroom apartment and we’d been given the smaller room. It was like nothing like what was advertised.
The couple were outraged to find letters, other documents and laundry strewn about the apartment in New Zealand
‘The bed took up the whole room and we couldn’t wheel our suitcases in there. There was clutter shoved in the cupboard with the boiler which is a fire hazard.
‘The balcony is pictured with the lovely table and chair and it just had that rotten old mouldy bench and all the suitcases. I’ve no idea who they belonged to.’
The apartment that Helen and Jay, 40, had been promised was an airy, spacious sanctuary above busy Auckland, but what they found was very different.
After almost 30 hours in the apartment with little sleep due to dirty bedding, Helen claims she and Jay were forced to find alternative accommodation.
Dirty sheets were dumped about the apartment, the couple said
When she requested a refund from Airbnb, she was told it was down to the host to make that decision.
They were also allowed to re-post the advert for other guests.
Helen said: ‘I said to my partner “this is ridiculous”. The sheets were dirty so we couldn’t even sleep.
‘We just thought “we’re not staying here when we’ve come on our holiday”.
‘We found a hotel that actually only cost £100 more than this Airbnb, with great big double room, sofa, TV and en suite. There wasn’t even a mirror in our other room.
‘My mum was with us too but she was staying with my auntie thankfully. When I complained to Airbnb they initially said to me they’d get in touch with the host.
‘Then I got another email saying the host disagreed to giving me a refund and it’s at her discretion.
‘No host is going to give a refund if they just got £720 and I’m not there. You’d think Airbnb would be able to make that decision.
‘I’m still out of pocket by £720 and the host was allowed to advertise the room again and get somebody else in. How is that fair?
The property advertised online was a far cry from the sight the couple was greeted by when they arrived
‘I definitely won’t use Airbnb again. I’m sure there’s some brilliant hosts on there but it’s just unfortunate that this is the first time I’ve used them.
‘We’ve been saving for this holiday for five years. We paid £720 for 12 nights but had to leave after 30 hours.
‘When we asked for a refund, Airbnb said we didn’t give the host enough time to get it sorted. The last message I have from Airbnb was that the case was closed.’
A spokesperson from Airbnb said: ‘Our original handling of this case did not meet the exceptionally high standards we set for ourselves and we are reaching out to the guest to help make things right.
‘There have been over 400million guest arrivals on Airbnb and negative experiences are extremely rare.’
What are Airbnb’s refunding rules?
Airbnb says on its website that guests can apply for a refund if the host fails to provide reasonable access.
It also says there may be grounds for a refund if the listing is misrepresented, generally unclean or unsafe, or there’s an animal in the listing that wasn’t disclosed prior to booking.
On its website, Airbnb also says that hosts not meeting one or more requirements may be forced to refund guests.
The company lists the requirements as being:
- Provide essential amenities, including toilet paper, soap, bed sheets and at least one towel and pillow per guest
- Maintain a high response rate by replying to booking enquiries and reservation requests within 24 hours
- Make guests feel welcome by accepting requests whenever you’re available
- Avoid cancellations – your guests’ their travel plans depend on it
- Maintain a high overall rating – guests like to know they can expect a consistent level of quality