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The value of Airbnb and its product has gone down in recent years. To some entrepreneurs, hosting seems like an easy passive income gig. Unfortunately, it’s an active job. Guests and great hosts suffer from incompetent hosts.

Then, some scam-like hosts misrepresent their Airbnb listings or make false damage claims against unsuspecting guests. In this post, I’ll discuss the issues with Airbnb and how it seems like a scam for new users of the platform.

But let’s get one thing straight, is Airbnb a scam? No, it’s not. It’s far from it. However, scammers do use the Airbnb platform, and customer service could be improved.

I still use it, but I need to spend hours or days avoiding shady hosts listing a poor unit and trying to pass it off as the Ritz Carlton.

Potential Airbnb phishing scam
Airbnb Phishing Scam from Reddit

Is a Superhost Really an Excellent Host?

Most superhosts are great with customer service and the rental products they offer.

There are a few criteria for meeting superhost status on Airbnb, but the most difficult one to attain or maintain is the 4.8 out of 5 review rating.

The issue with the rating system is many guests who had a poor Airbnb experience with their hosts or accommodation refuse to leave a negative review. Even I didn’t leave a negative Airbnb review in the past.

I once stayed at a co-living apartment through an Airbnb superhost in Medellin, Colombia. The superhost misled the listing description, and my room was missing the private washroom. In addition, the kitchen had cockroaches. But apparently, cockroach-infested Airbnbs are allowed and don’t violate any policy. Imagine cooking in the kitchen with roaches lurking.

By looking at my prior superhost’s Airbnb reviews, the maintenance of the apartment building (he had multiple units in the building, and I concluded his family owned the building), and speaking with other guests, it was evident many guests were reluctant to leave a negative review. Some people want to avoid all possible confrontations, which I’m guilty of in the past with Airbnb reviews.

The host wasn’t willing to compensate me and thought his listing description was honest, so I left a one-star review, and he lost his superhost status. Airbnb refunded some of my money.

Missing Amenities

It’s quite annoying when hosts list a non-existent amenity. False advertising is common on Airbnb — really common.

The most common misrepresented amenity I notice is hosts list a dedicated workspace. But it turns out they use the dining table or picnic bench as a dedicated workspace. Come on, there should be a dedicated work desk and ergonomic chair at the minimum for remote workers and digital nomads. I have to look at Airbnb listing photos to ensure there is actually a work desk.

Why do hosts misrepresent their listings? Well, it’s to show up on the Airbnb search results when guests use the filtered search.

One Reddit user even complained that the swimming pool for his Airbnb condo rental was 10 miles away at a community center, and Airbnb wouldn’t do anything about it. It turned out that the 10-mile-away swimming pool was managed by the same property management company as the Airbnb listing. This is a situation of poor customer service from Airbnb, and the guest would need to file a chargeback.

The Bait-and-Switch Airbnb Scam

A common Airbnbscam I’m noticing now is hosts listing one unit and providing a different accommodation for whatever reason. This usually results in an inferior product.

If a host ever offers a different accommodation or the accommodation is in a different location than the original address or Airbnb map, more often than not, don’t take the offer without the original listing being canceled by Airbnb or the host, and a new reservation with the new listing is created. 

Reason being: if the new place is missing amenities or is a downgrade, you may not be entitled to compensation or a refund due to Airbnb’s poor subjective customer service.

In addition, some Airbnbs are illegally listed due to condo or city bylaws. You can expect a bait-and-switch in these situations.

Asking for Fees Outside the Airbnb Platform

This is a complicated one. Hosts requesting fees outside the Airbnb platform aren’t allowed but are in some instances. However, it should stated in the Airbnb listing description.

In most cases, Airbnb doesn’t allow security deposits or excess fees outside the platform, except for API-connected accommodation software. Which I find strange but should be mentioned in the listing description. Personally, I wouldn’t pay any security deposit because hosts claiming false damages is a real thing on Airbnb.

Another common fee paid outside of Airbnb is electricity and water usage charges. Though Airbnb doesn’t mention if this is allowed or not, make sure it states such in the listing description. Electricity usage fees are quite common in tropical Airbnb listings that have air conditioning.

Like a cleaning fee or pet fee, Airbnb really needs to allow hosts to add a utility fee (even though it varies by guest) in certain locations, or hosts should just factor it into the total cost of the listing. This issue occurs when ignorant guests leave on the air conditioning or lights when they leave the accommodation for the day.

Damaging an Airbnb Unit

Damages occur. Unauthorized wild parties or a baby writing on the wall. Guests should expect to pay a fair and reasonable amount for the damaged property they cause. Otherwise, it will be covered by Aircover for hosts.

But there has been an onslaught of hosts claiming damage by guests that never happened. For this reason, like renting a car, you need to start taking pictures or videos of your listing when you first arrive. Yeah, it’s annoying, but the Airbnb experience is downhill right now.

Airbnb host claims fraudulent damages by guest.
Airbnb host claims damages from guest. Host may be fraudulent or accused the wrong guest.

Unfortunately, you can’t take a picture of everything or check if every appliance is working because then you would just go mad.

Airbnb Customer Service and Aircover

I feel like Airbnb customer service itself is a scam. They don’t always honor their own Aircover for hosts and guests. There is an ongoing method of resolving issues through Airbnb support, which involves continually asking another customer service rep until you find someone who understands the problem and will listen.

The idea of Airbnb is forward-thinking for budget travelers, remote workers, and backpackers. However, in order to improve its products, Airbnb needs to overhaul its customer support and vetting of hosting instead of listings appearing like an Airbnb scam to new guests.

Vincent Croos
About the Author: Vincent Croos

Hola Parceros,

I’m the founder of Aperlust. I enjoy web development and SEO and am into snowboarding and linguistics. In my spare time, you can find me destroying my opponents in chess across the globe.

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