Your Airbnb host falsely claiming damage and requesting money for damage is quite unfortunate. It could be that they are pulling a stunt to get money from you or the property is indeed broken but the previous guest was responsible for the damage.
Whatever the situation, you can get out of it without paying for the damages, as long as you’re innocent. I’ve been using Airbnb for a long time now and am always careful to ensure that I leave my place of stay in great condition. However, my recent stay wasn’t a great experience after the host falsely claimed damages. I cleaned the flat and double-checked everything to be sure nothing was damaged. Called the host and she said she couldn’t come by to get the keys, so we agreed that I leave it in the mailbox downstairs. I informed her on Airbnb that I took care of everything and she even left me a review saying that I left everything immaculate.
Events quickly took a turn when the host messaged me that her window is broken and I was the last guest there. I informed her that I never even touched the windows since it was below freezing outside, and had no idea about the broken window.
I felt uncomfortable because I pride myself on how well I care about my stay places as my own home. I know your story is similar to mine and long story short: I was able to protect myself from the host’s false accusations.
Airbnb host falsely claiming damage and requesting money for damage
You did not cause any damage, right? It can be upsetting and extremely off-putting when your Airbnb host is falsely claiming damage and requesting money for repairs. However, the burden of proof is on the host and Airbnb decides whether the claim is valid or not and how much you’d have to pay.
Moreover, Airbnb urges hosts to try to resolve any issues with the guest first before they will get involved. So, your host will have to communicate any problems with you as a first step in the process before they involve Airbnb. This will help prevent the host leaving you a bad Airbnb review.
Can Airbnb force me to pay damages to the host?
No, Airbnb will not force you to pay damages to the host. In fact, Airbnb will never charge you without advance notice. You will also get a chance to appeal before and after you’ve been charged, according to Airbnb.
Airbnb gives 60 days for a guest to appeal after being charged and the mediating Airbnb agent will try their best to be as fair as possible. Also, note that whatever the mediator decides is final and can’t be appealed.
So, can I refuse to pay Airbnb damages? Well, if you refuse to pay Airbnb damages or fail to submit a timely payment or appeal, Airbnb will charge your payment method—that’s what happens if you don’t pay Airbnb damages. However, there are popular claims by some guests that closing their Airbnb account stops Airbnb from charging for the damages. During my research, I also came across an unverified claim that Airbnb will keep a record of such an act against such a guest so that if they reopen an Airbnb account in the future, it’ll be known that they initially refused to pay for damages.
What to do if an Airbnb host accuses you of damage?
Some reasonable hosts understand the need to replace things from time to time, so they won’t expect you to pay for damages due to wear and tear. However, be sure you did not cause any damage.
How Airbnb disputes work is that your host will first inform you about damages before they create an Airbnb claim via the Resolution Center. As a guest, you’ll be expected to respond within 3 days, otherwise, the claim will be processed by Airbnb.
Usually, Airbnb customer service agents act kindly. In my case, I was reassured that the host must prove that I’m responsible for the damage to be awarded the money. Airbnb understands that it causes discomfort when a guest is wrongly accused of damages they didn’t cause and are more likely to make a decision in your favor if the host has no proof.
So, to avoid paying Airbnb host for damages you did not cause, do the following:
1. Make sure you’re not at fault
If you’re responsible for any damages, make sure to pay for the repairs. Perhaps, you follow the internet hoax that Airbnb management companies pull in millions of dollars from several hundred apartments. That’s not exactly the case in reality—they don’t make as much as you think. Think about the repairs as well as city taxes, those take the money. Most hosts are just citizens trying to supplement their incomes while staying in their homes due to the high cost of rent in most major cities surging faster than wages.
That aside: if the reported damage is normal wear and tear, your host should not charge you. However, if you indeed caused damage outside wear and tear, even if unintentional, the right action is to pay for the damages. Your host may take the money from your security deposit but may still discuss additional payments if the damages exceed the security.
2. Take pictures of the damage
Usually, you should look out for damage on arrival before entering an Airbnb and take pictures of them against potential damage claims or disputes by the host. Besides, after a busy day, you may be too tired to peek at the apartment’s nooks and crannies. If you noticed any damage, make sure to report it to your host. Do not assume that the host is aware—they may not be aware and will likely think you caused it.
Before leaving, have a walkthrough and take photos or even videos of the apartment one more time to protect you against any damage claims.
So, if you already have pictures of the apartment before and after checkout, that’ll serve as proof. What if you have no photos? Then you’ll have to be descriptive enough to convince Airbnb—read on to learn the trick.
3. Get in touch with the Airbnb host
Contact the host through Airbnb. NEVER discuss with your host outside Airbnb app to ensure safety. Airbnb’s judgment is weaker if you send them screenshots of text messages of your chat with a host from another app or your description of a phone call which they believe can be fabricated. However, communication on Airbnb is trusted by the agents.
I recommend contacting the host via written messages instead of a call to have a clearer record of the conversation. That said, when you notice damages, reach the host via Airbnb immediately to prove that:
- you’re informing the host about damages
- you have the right to accommodations that comply with the specifications of the listed ad on Airbnb
For example, if the dishwasher is not working, your host is responsible for the repairs.
However, if your host is not responding, contact Airbnb. When your host is not available to respond to any complaints during check-in, it’s reasonable to contact Airbnb. You can contact Airbnb via the app or call Airbnb Community Support and explain the issue to the representative.
But what if you did not try contacting the host or Airbnb to report the damages? Well, although this would have been evidence that you did not cause the damage, then it’ll be your word against the host.
4. Wait for the host to make a claim at the Resolution Center
Airbnb gives hosts 60 days to make a claim on a deposit. However, guests have to respond to the claim within 72 hours. If you do not respond to the claim, the Airbnb mediator will still process the claim and rule in the favor of the host.
Now, you want to read through the host’s claim carefully to help you write the perfect response. The best way to approach the claim is to respond (as well as disagree) to every point the host raises in their claim.
Remember that the burden of proof is on the host—that means they have to prove that you caused the damage. Airbnb also understands how uncomfortable it feels when a guest is accused of something they did not do.
5. Prepare to respond
When responding to the host’s claim, do not bring in emotions no matter how you feel. Otherwise, the host will leverage your emotions to be very extremely professional and win the dispute. So, you want to respond and explain things as naturally as possible.
Also, during your defense, use the phrase “ordinary wear and tear” in the Airbnb damage dispute. Airbnb rightfully and usually does not hold guests responsible if damages in the host’s residence are due to normal wear and tear.
Your response preparation should begin immediately after you hear from the Airbnb mediator. If you choose to dispute the claim, an Airbnb mediator could be involved who will collect information from both dispute sides and make a decision. Note that the mediator’s judgment is final, which also means you can’t further escalate the situation.
6. Wait for the mediator’s response
Wait for the mediator’s response and possibly final decision. If they don’t get back early, resist the urge to reach out. Remember that the host must present proofs that you cause any damage and the mediator will carefully review the pictures or video (or any other required documentation) evidence provided to make the best decision.
If the mediator finds that the damages were caused by regular use of the apartment and you maintained professional and prompt communication with Airbnb, they may rule in your favor. The whole process will likely make you more nervous since the host’s claims are untrue and you could be paying for damages you did not cause. Just keep your calm and take emotions out of it and the win will be yours.
How to respond Airbnb host falsely claiming damage
You want to provide a good response with the following elements for a chance to win the Airbnb dispute:
1. Restate your previous positive reviews
If you do have existing positive Airbnb reviews as a guest that describe you as respectful of hosts’ apartments, point those out as a testament to your personality. That will go a long way to inform the mediator that you treat the hosts’ properties as your own home.
2. Give a clear and truthful description of the damage
If you used the said item during your stay, explain in your response the condition of the item at the time of your use. If you did not use such an item during your stay, be completely descriptive for the mediator to get informed with the facts. Just use this opportunity to tell your side of the story without bringing in emotions.
3. Attach pictures of the apartment
If the Airbnb host is lying about the damages, attach photos of your move-in and move-out to help the mediator establish whether the damage is a result of normal wear and tear. For instance, if your host argues that the broken bed was brand new and solid wood, your pictures could show that it was built from particle board. This can help you win since the host is not telling the full story.
4. Use the phrase “wear and tear” and “reasonable use”
Hosts can’t expect furniture and appliances to remain in the same condition after long-term use. If the claimed damages resulted from normal wear and tear, point that out. Airbnb understands that normal wear and tear is expected, including small scratches and minor wall stains. Don’t hesitate to point out if the damages took place during reasonable use. For example, you shouldn’t pay for damage resulting from using furniture for its intended purpose such as a closet door coming off the tracks when you slid it open. It’ll only be reasonable to pay for damages if you used the Airbnb for parkour which could cause some damages.
5. Respond smartly
In general, when responding to Airbnb mediator, highlight your previous positive reviews, identify and point out the apartment’s shortcomings, reasonably describe any existing damage you noticed and avoid responding with extreme statements or bringing in emotions. For example, do not say “this was the dirtiest Airbnb I’ve ever stayed” but say “the apartment was not the best of Airbnb”. Likewise, when describing the host, instead of saying “the host was mean and nasty”, say “we didn’t get along well and I’m a polite traveler used to interacting with different hosts and cultures”.
A vacation rental may be an affordable alternative to a hotel, however, you risk encountering an unscrupulous host. Thus when booking a short-term rental like Airbnb in the future, make sure to take photos and videos of the place before your stay. Since you have a soft copy of the condition of the apartment, a host will not win the dispute if they lie about damages.
Lastly, when a host makes false claims, do not be dramatic and overly emotional in your defense to avoid reducing your credibility. If you don’t submit a timely appeal, Airbnb will rule in the host’s favor and your payment method will be charged. Make sure to be responsive and work closely with the mediator and host to resolve the issue.