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I had to clean my Airbnb before I could check in. Can I get my cleaning fees refunded?

Tyson Love's Airbnb is a mess. Worse, the company will only refund $14 of his rental fee, even though he bought cleaning supplies and cleaned the rental himself. Is that fair?

I recently rented a home for three nights through Airbnb in Jacksonville, Fla. The pictures posted by the host did not match the property. The home was damaged and dirty. The sofa in the living room was peeling and dilapidated. One of the exterior doors had mold growing on it and would not close all the way. And the toilets were filthy.

I filed a complaint with Airbnb, and a representative told me that they contacted the host about a refund, and the host refused. Airbnb offered me a $14 credit, but I was not satisfied because I had paid $649 for the rental.

I had to buy candles to kill the horrible odor and a Swiffer mop to clean the floor and wash the dishes. After Airbnb didn't solve this matter, I spoke with Discover about a credit card dispute, but Discover recommended that I try to resolve this with Airbnb. Can you help?

Tyson Love, Jacksonville, Fla.

No question about it, your Airbnb rental was not fit for habitation. I reviewed the photos you took of the kitchen, living room, and bathroom, and I came to the same conclusion you did -- this shouldn't have been an approved Airbnb rental.

Airbnb has a five-step cleaning process that hosts must follow. It includes cleaning, sanitizing, and checking each room in the house. If hosts don't agree to these practices, Airbnb will remove their listing.

When I looked at the images you sent, it was obvious the host hadn't even bothered to clean your rental. So I was surprised when you said Airbnb had offered a $14 refund and left you with no choice but to stay in the trashy rental. Airbnb should have found you alternative accommodations.

Airbnb offers some guidance for guests who check into an unclean rental. The big takeaway: Work it out with your host, and if you can't, we might be able to help.

"If an issue comes up that you’re not able to resolve with your host -- or your host declines or doesn’t respond to your refund request -- let us know and someone from our team will step in to help," it says.

It looks like you handled this one by the book. You took images of the dirty rental -- the toilets, the mold, the peeling sofa. You also put everything in writing with Airbnb, asking it to return your cleaning fee. Remarkably, Airbnb said it could not return your fee because the host refused.

I'm not sure if that's a good enough reason. After all, you have a host obviously disregarding Airbnb's rules here. What more evidence do you need?

You could have appealed this to one of the Airbnb company executives whose names I list on my consumer advocacy site, A brief, polite email to one of them might have given your case the attention it deserved.

I asked Airbnb about your case. A representative told me it does not have a record of your contacting the company until after you checked out of the property. "He was not eligible for any additional refund outside of that partial refund he had been issued," the Airbnb representative told me. "That being said, our team was able to make an exception and refunded him for the cleaning fee."

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


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