I'm freezing! Can you help me get out of this Airbnb?
November 16, 2023
Heather Steele is stuck in a cold Airbnb, and her host refuses to help her. Can she move to a different rental?
You have helped me before, and I am so grateful, but I need help again, unfortunately. I am currently in an Airbnb near Washington, D.C. I'm in the basement, and it's 63 degrees.
I have no control over the temperature. The host controls it upstairs, and I am freezing. The host forbids me from opening any windows to let in the warm air, and I am so cold, that I feel like it's some sort of torture. The host taped up some of the air conditioning ducts in the basement, which initially helped. But tonight, when I came back to the rental, the air conditioning was blasting again and even with multiple jackets and blankets, I was miserable.
I called Airbnb customer service tonight and the initial representative said he would escalate this and thought due to health/safety concerns I could be moved immediately to a hotel. But when he transferred me to another support representative via the app, they stopped responding. Can you help?
Heather Steele, Manchester, Conn.
I'm always happy to help you, Heather. This is a rare case because I handled it in real time and there wasn't really an opportunity to create the customary paper trail.
The problem is simple: Your host wanted you to live in a freezing cold basement, and Airbnb -- true to form -- wanted you to work it out with the host. But when you're sitting in a basement and freezing, you can only be so patient.
I think your host's demand to leave the windows closed was unreasonable. It may have kept the upper floors cool, but you were cold and there was no way of regulating the temperature in your quarters.
By the time you contacted me, you already had a record of your correspondence with Airbnb via its chat. And the news was not good.
Airbnb's representatives were apologetic, but they assured you that they had spoken to the host and that she had addressed your problem.
"It seems you are still feeling cold," the Airbnb representative said.
In the next message, Airbnb says it will try to help you tomorrow, which is completely unacceptable.
Airbnb has a guarantee called AirCover which addresses problems like this. "AirCover protects you from many issues that might come up during your stay – such as the heating not working in winter," the company says. That would presumably also cover air conditioning during the warmer months.
I'm sure Airbnb would have eventually found a way of making your stay comfortable. But when? By the time I got involved, it had already asked you to spend a night in a freezing basement. Then, to add insult to injury, Airbnb messaged you to say that your problem would not be covered by AirCover and that if you cancel, you would not get a refund. "This means any refund issued is solely up to the host," a representative said.
A brief, polite email to one of the Airbnb executives I list on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org, might have helped. But you needed a solution now.
I reached out to Airbnb on your behalf. A representative contacted you to apologize for the problem. The company refunded the unused nights and offered to cover two nights in a hotel, which you accepted.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him on his site.
© 2023 Christopher Elliott