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What Happened When an Airbnb Host Tried to Charge Us $1,000 Extra

Kids sit on a couch that our Airbnb host falsely claimed was damaged.
Our kids using the couch in the Airbnb properly, not damaging it.

In 2020, we had an Airbnb host falsely claiming damage. The owner demand $1,000 from us for a couch we did not break. We were about to find out what happens if you don’t pay Airbnb damages. What would happen if we refused to pay? We had no idea, but we knew we were going to fight the charge tooth and nail. Here’s how it went:

What happens if you don’t pay an Airbnb host’s false damages claim, tl;dr

Basically, this is the timeline of what happened:

  • We stayed in an Airbnb.
  • We received a request from the Airbnb host to pay $1,000 for a damaged couch.
  • We did not pay the false damages claim.
  • We reported to Airbnb that the host was falsely claiming damages.
  • Airbnb did an investigation. We were given the opportunity to defend ourselves.
  • Airbnb ruled that we damaged the couch and owed $800.
  • Airbnb sent us a payment link for the false damages claim.
  • We ignored the damages payment request.
  • Airbnb sent several followup payment requests for the false damages claim.
  • We never paid the Airbnb damages.
  • Nothing bad happened to us.

We had never had an Airbnb host claim damage

We’ve been staying in Airbnbs since before Airbnb existed. I mean, back then they were just vacation rentals. Through all these years of staying in homes, I’ve always been super concerned about accidentally damaging something and getting charged for it. Over the years, we added three kids and two dogs to our family, increasing the chances of accidental damage. I take precautions: I choose rentals that aren’t too fancy or fragile looking (white couch? next!). When available, I buy damage insurance. As soon as we arrive at a rental, I put away breakables, cover couches with blankets or sheets, and make sure everyone takes off their shoes at the door. I lecture and remind. I’m a real party girl on vacation! Because of my precautions, I had never been asked by an Airbnb host to pay damages.

We’d never received a single host complaint about the condition of a rental we stayed in. Until this occasion.


Our Airbnb host falsely claimed damage

For Thanksgiving 2020, we decided to isolate from the Covid-infested world with our dogs in a San Diego beach house. We had two mishaps during our stay. One: The teen fell asleep with an eyeliner in her pocket and stained a sheet. Two: My husband opened the refrigerator and a compartment fell off the door and broke in half — right on his bare foot.

I photographed both damaged items. And messaged the owners offering to pay for the sheet. (The refrigerator door was not our fault.)

So I wasn’t too surprised when I heard from the management company the next week. I expected it to be about the sheets. Or maybe even concern about my husband’s foot! But I was wrong.

Instead, the Airbnb host was falsely claiming damage we did not cause. The company claimed that we’d broken the living room couch. This couch was an Ikea hide-a-bed, which we hadn’t opened. The Airbnb host said the couch was damaged inside. They sent a photo and asked if we knew what happened.

Damaged couch photo sent to us by the Airbnb host falsely claiming damage.
In the photo the Airbnb host sent, you can see the couch is damaged. But we didn’t do it.

I told the host we had not caused the damage

I immediately replied that we had not damaged the couch. If the damage shown in the photo had happened during our stay, we probably would have heard a crack. Besides, we hadn’t abused the furniture in any way. My kids were old enough to know not to jump on the couch.

I reminded them that I’d be happy to pay for that stained sheet.

After replying to the owner, I worried. Would the Airbnb host charge us for this damage that we hadn’t caused? I didn’t have to wonder for long. The same day, I received a request through Airbnb for $1,000 to replace the couch!

The payment request included response buttons, labeled “pay” or “decline.” Of course, I declined to pay the Airbnb host’s false damage claim!

We dispute the Airbnb host’s false damage claim

After that, I heard nothing for more than two weeks. I proactively contacted Airbnb to ask what was going on with the host’s false damage claim. Airbnb customer service told me that after I declined to pay the damage claim, the next step was for the host to request an investigation. Then I would get a chance to respond. Customer service told me the owner had two weeks to initiate an investigation. Since just over two weeks had passed, I figured we were in the clear.

Maybe I shouldn’t have contacted Airbnb. Just one day later, I got a message saying the owner had started the investigation. By this time, I had already researched what other guests do in this situation. I penned a thorough refutation of the Airbnb host’s false damage claim. It cited my perfect record of positive reviews spanning many years. I also pointed out that I had been upfront with the host about accidentally damaging the sheets. Finally, I argued that the owner’s photo of a broken couch did not prove that the damage had happened during our stay. I felt confident that I had proved our case.

In the meantime, I removed my credit card from my Airbnb account. I don’t know if removing a credit card helps if you don’t want to pay Airbnb damages. But I figured I might as well try it.

Two days later, Airbnb informed me they were requesting additional documentation from the host. A week after that, Airbnb emailed to say that they had reduced our fee to $798. They sent me a link to pay for the alleged damage.

What happens if you don’t pay Airbnb damages?

Of course, I wasn’t going to click the link and pay the Airbnb host’s false damage claim. On online forums, I had learned that Airbnb doesn’t charge your credit card without permission. Airbnb also doesn’t send you to collections if you don’t pay damages. Basically, Airbnb tries to collect from guests for host damage claims, and if it fails, it reimburses owners itself. After all, Airbnb promises its hosts a $1 million guarantee to cover guest damages.

So I ignored Airbnb’s request to click a link and pay $798. I knew we didn’t damage the couch. Airbnb sent a reminder, including a vague warning worded, “To prevent further action on your account in the future …” I thought Airbnb would probably terminate my account because we didnt pay the damages, but I was willing to accept that. After all, if Airbnb was going to treat me that way, I probably wouldn’t want to use the service in the future. I could always stick with VRBO or book directly through rental companies.

We never had to pay the Airbnb host’s false damage claim

This all happened nearly four years ago. We have never paid a dime in Airbnb damages. After a few days, Airbnb stopped asking me to pay for the host’s false damage claim. Airbnb never shut down the account. It’s still open now, although I haven’t used it since the false damage claim. I wrote a review of the Airbnb host, including the information that they had falsely claimed damages. I will obviously never stay with that rental company again!

Of course, if you damage a property, you should pay the Airbnb damages. But I am 100 percent confident that my family did not abuse any furniture at this Airbnb. So I don’t feel guilty about not paying the Airbnb host’s false claim.

Many other people have had Airbnb hosts falsely claiming damage

Scroll through the comments section, and you’ll see we are not the only people who had to decide whether to pay false damages claimed by an Airbnb host. It happens surprisingly often.

Why do Airbnb hosts make false damage claims? I imagine some of these hosts are scammers. But other hosts are reputable businesses, even Airbnb Superhosts. The Airbnb host in our situation was a legitimate rental company. I combed through their reviews and didn’t see any other guests complaining of false damage claims.

So I think a lot of times, these false damage claims are simply mistakes. Did our beach house rental have a broken couch? I don’t doubt it. The company claimed that their cleaners open the folding couch to inspect it between every guest. But my guess is that the couch mad been broken for awhile, and they just happened to notice the damage after our stay. After all, the damage was not visible from the outside. This house was near Mission Beach, a party area of San Diego. I wouldn’t be surprised if a rowdy group had rented it before us and treated the furniture roughly. The couch also might have been broken by normal wear and tear. After all, Ikea furniture is not known for its durability.

Tips to avoid paying Airbnb damages

Here are the steps we take when staying in an Airbnb or any other rental to avoid getting hit with false damage claims — or legitimate damage claims, for that matter:

  • Take photos of everything the moment you arrive. (Open folding beds and take a pic of the inside!)
  • Message the host on arrival. Mention anything that is damaged, no matter how small. (This doesn’t have to be a complaint. Just let them know.)
  • Avoid causing damages! Move any breakable knicknacks to a closet. Treat furniture with respect like you would at home.
  • If you accidentally damage anything, let the host know immediately with an apology.
  • If you receive a damage claim from a host, don’t agree to any unfair charges. Even if you caused the damage, you have the right to negotiate if you think the charge is too high.
  • If an Airbnb host sends you a false damage claim, do not pay it. Ignore the payment request.
  • If Airbnb initiates an investigation, tell your side of the story in clear, calm language. Include your photos as proof.
  • After the investigation, if you are still sent a payment request for damage you did not cause, feel free to ignore it.

Susana

Thursday 23rd of May 2024

Hi, I'm going through the same situation! Exactly the same! Also with a sofa-bed we didn't even opened! But the worst thing is that we actually paid for a waiver damage insurance (a request from the host) before our arrival! So we paid for insurance for damages, we didn't do the damage, the host gave us a shining review of our stay in the day after we leave and fifteen days after she claims this damage. And Airbnb is siding up with the host. I just can't understand...

But they say they are going to charge my credit card (with which I made the reservation). Can they just do this?

Thank you, is really a relief to know that I'm not alone in this...I'm just so careful, it was my first time in an airbnb with the family, I'm never going to do it again, Airbnb is done for me.

Susana

Carrie

Thursday 23rd of May 2024

I'm so sorry that this happened your first time (and it sounds like only) with an Airbnb. We have stayed in dozens of Airbnbs over the years and this is the only time any host every attempted to charge us for anything.

Based on my experience, I didn't think Airbnb would charge my card without my permission. Have you messaged Airbnb support to ask why the damage waiver you paid for isn't covering this? And of course also to let them know that you didn't cause the damage?

If I were in your shoes, besides communicating with Airbnb, I would watch my card account online, and immediately initiate a chargeback if anything gets charged.

Dee Stegle

Wednesday 7th of February 2024

Wish I’d read more reviews before using! Winter weather in the Midwest and son worked an hour one way from home, so got a whole house closer to work for him for worst month of snow in January. 4 days later Host msg that they had to have Plummer come to repair pipes from clogging. Asked son if anything was wrong. Nope. They want $300 to cover the cost. Initially we were going to rent it for another month but the cost was 300-400 more than current fee. Gonna have to call bank and cancel card I guess.

Bruce Stern

Friday 2nd of June 2023

I went to Thailand earlier this year. I unpacked then sat down at the kitchen table to use my laptop. The chair collapsed under me. Then I found out all the chairs were extreemly loose and one was already broken. I reported this to AirBNB in the first hour. Then I found more damage. I moved out the next day.

Not only did I not get a refund, but I was charged for all this damage by the owner. They continued to maintain a 61 year old doctor decided to destroy a condo in his first hour instead of correctly realizing this was a scam.

The only thing that saved me was , I had severe back pain, had a doctor's note and a photo of me in a wheelchair at the airport. I could barely lift 20 pounds. I also pointed out the damage was severe enough to require tools like a sledgehammer.

I had to file a complaint with Chase Visa who supported me. I was also close enough to their San Franscisco office I was going to protest in front of it, with Air BNB reviews about fraud blown up on signs.

sb

Saturday 8th of April 2023

Like wise: I was told if I did not pay $400 us dollars for wifi they would give me a bad review- they wanted cash to get it the host banged on my door at all hours of the night would not stop texting me, they then said they would simply make a damage claim, they did for $2500 us dollars, no damages. It has been going on for a month, bnb informed me they would be charging me $400 instead of 2500, likely $400 is their deductible from the insurance plan they use to reimburse the host. I have years of five star reviews. I stained a small pillow but notified the host, and after contacting bnb to report the harassment, the host kept knocking on the door, this is in a small community in Israel recently attacked with Rockets from Lebanon, a one hot ten minutes from the host home, and thet have a bomb shelter being used as a bedroom if the advertised capacity of up to five person and a rocket hit, well say good bye to a few guets: bnb reply ; thanks we will get back to you i am not here until Sunday but you can reach out to another rep: this was followed by another request for damages to followed by we have concluded that you are at fault. I am currently brining legal action against the host and will be posting 6 weeks of correspondence with bnb which will illuminate how their ignorance is putting human life at risk, while instead they have prioritized false claimed damage payment over their concern for the safety of their customers while a country is being attacked by enemy rockets minutes from the property

imran

Friday 31st of March 2023

i am from barcelona, i went to a france for christmes holidays in le bercares noel village, the host blame me for breaking the window lock and inapproperiate cleaning, we did not break any window lock, he files claim after i give the positive review,the lock which he is saying is broken by us we never open that window,host friend came to open all the doors and window, after leaving the house,on the second day he blamed me for breaking the lock, i was new one on the airbnbn so i did not know, you have to take fotos and videos before and after departure,i did not take any foto of any thing as i never knew this could happen.after a long battle with airbnb damage claim ,they accused me to pay 110 euros as damage claim,i did not pay any thing and shut down my credit card.but i was worried about it as they keep on sending me payment reminders, things happen its ok if some thing is broken by me i can pay for it ,and if i have not broken any thing and they ask you for false damage ...i am not going to pay even 1 cent.i think all those host who want verification of id ...they do the fraud..so any thing which want your id verification dont book it at all....i think we must file an online petetion to say no to airbnb and start a boycott compain against airbnb.......as this website is full of frauds.lets gather all those guests of airbnb who are accused of fraudlent damages and start a battle against airbnb......................