DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I rented an Airbnb in Houston for a summer internship. About halfway through our 10-week stay, my husband and I saw a mouse. Then, we discovered mouse holes in sealed food bags inside the pantry.
We left the rental and contacted the host. We requested that he lay some mouse traps and disinfect the unit. We told him we would stay out of the unit for four days to provide him time to do this.
He responded that no one else had reported any issues. I again requested him to lay mouse traps, and he said the place was under a Terminix contract and that they would spray.
I escalated the issue to Airbnb. A representative said the host informed them he took care of the issue. He told me he did a walkthrough and everything was as it was before.
Airbnb told me that based on my evidence — I didn’t have any pictures of the mouse — they couldn’t refund me any amount. If I canceled, I would receive no refund.
I asked if they wanted me to return to the Airbnb to take better pictures and lay mouse traps. They said if I wanted support, that is what I would need to do.
So I did. I caught two mice on the first night of laying the glue traps. We also had bait boxes, so I imagine more mice ate that bait and will die in the vents.
I sent photos to Airbnb. It didn’t respond. I called Airbnb. A representative promised a return call, but no one called back. I expect much more from Airbnb. Can you help me get a refund?
— Kristal Bird, Austin, Texas
ANSWER: Airbnb rentals should be free of mice and other pests. And both your host and Airbnb should have taken your complaint seriously. Telling you the place was under contract by a pest control company isn’t the same thing as actually doing something about it.
According to Airbnb’s terms (found here at www.airbnb.com/help/article/2868/rebooking-and-refund-policy), a rental is “not habitable” if it contains pests. Airbnb’s policy is to delist the home until the host can prove it has been treated by a professional pest control company.
At the same time, Airbnb was correct to require proof of the rodent infestation. You had presented it with photos of mouse droppings and bags that the mice had chewed through, but that wasn’t enough. You needed mice — and to your credit, you furnished Airbnb with two of them.
Airbnb should have found you alternate accommodations and paid for them while the home was being treated. I think you might have also made a strong argument for moving to a different rental for the duration of your stay.
I would have suggested escalating this case to an Airbnb executive. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Airbnb’s managers on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/airbnb-customer-service-contacts/.
I contacted Airbnb on your behalf. It apologized and refunded your remaining nights.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2022 Christopher Elliott
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