8 AirBnb Problems and How to Solve Them

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Photo: @meohmygirl
Don’t let a few hiccups ruin your trip.

If living like a local is high on your travel to-­do list, skipping the standard hotel and using Airbnb (or similar sites Flipkey, HomeAway, One Fine Stay, etc.) to find your home away from home is a no-­brainer. Chances are your AirBnb rental, like most, will go smoothly, but do you know what to do if it doesn't? What happens if your host doesn't show up, or cancels the day before you arrive?

AirBnb issues like these don't have to ruin your entire trip. Here, we're covering eight common AirBnb problems (including some we've experienced ourselves) and how to resolve them, from roommate tension to lost keys.

1. The host cancels your reservation at the last minute.

Your bags are packed and you're anxiously counting down the hours until your departure — and then it happens — an e­-mail notifying you that your host has canceled your reservation, for whatever reason, suddenly appears in your inbox, leaving you scrambling for a place to stay (because your plane tickets are also non-­refundable). Breathe: All is not lost. In situations like this, Airbnb will either apply your payment to a new booking (and if the new place costs more, will help cover a portion of the difference) or give you a full refund. If you're unable to find another Airbnb rental you like in such a short period of time, sites like LastMinute.com or the Hotel Tonight app can help you find last­-minute hotel accommodations.

2. You're unable to reach your host when you arrive (and they're late) or they simply don't show up at all.

Despite spending a good amount of time painstakingly searching through listings for digs with amazing reviews and high ratings, miscommunication and unexpected circumstances have left me stranded on several occasions for hours outside my potential apartment, waiting for my host to arrive or confirm the process for obtaining the keys — and that's even after giving them plenty of heads up regarding my arrival time, as requested. Coordinating with your host, mapping out a very specific plan and checking in repeatedly before arrival typically covers all your bases, but I am living proof that sometimes it doesn't. So what to do? To plan for a situation like this, you'll need to do a little footwork before you leave home. Scope out the area ahead of time and pinpoint a few spots, coffee shops, libraries, parks, etc. where you can kill some time while you wait for your host, and make sure your cell phone is fully charged (you may even want to invest in a portable charger). It's also not a bad idea to scope out area hotels; On the off chance that your host doesn't show up at all, you'll already be aware of your other options, as well as how to get there. Have the Airbnb phone number written down somewhere, so you can call them at a moment's notice if you run into any issues.

3. The place isn't exactly what you expected.

Whether your host forgot to mention that they have a few furry friends, or the cleanliness of the space is subpar, if you notice that something is not working, missing or simply not what you expected when you check in, let your host know stat. Typically they're in the best position to help you and resolve the issue quickly. If your host is unable to do so, and it's a total deal breaker, you may be eligible to receive a refund from Airbnb, as long as you contact them within 24 hours of check­in. Snap a few photos to help back up your claim, and use the Airbnb messaging tool to notify your hosts of the issue, so that there is proof that you and your host have discussed the problem at hand. Can't get a hold of your host? Airbnb says that you won't be eligible for a refund after 24 hours, but notes that they will help you mediate with your host if you've reached out with no response.

4. Something goes awry during your stay.

Again, your host should be your first point of contact if something goes wrong, whether the washing machine goes haywire or you can't get the Wi­Fi to work. If, after contacting them, you don't receive a response or your host isn't able to resolve the issue, you can file a claim for a refund with Airbnb within the first 24 hours of your stay. Otherwise, Airbnb will step in to help mediate between you and your host. While it won't fix a busted box spring or ward off noisy neighbors, sharing your experience with an honest review after your stay will help other people avoid similar headaches and negative experiences.

5. You lost the key or locked yourself out.

Don't panic. Get in touch with your host the minute you realize you can't access the property. Most hosts will have a spare key on hand, but know that they may not be able to come let you in right away. If your host has to replace a lost key, change the locks or hire a locksmith to let you back into the property, be aware that the cost may come out of your security deposit if your host charges one.

6. You have an issue with your host or another guest.

If you're renting an entire house or apartment, this is an issue that probably isn't even on your radar, but if you're staying in a guest room, be aware that sharing a stranger's personal space has the potential to spur small conflicts. Communication is key in avoiding this situation — make sure to read through the host's profile, reviews and listing information before booking, and ask questions if anything is unclear. Note the timeliness and tone of the host in their responses, and look out for red flags. If an issue arises after you've checked in and you can't resolve it, reach out to Airbnb for help mediating, and have a backup plan ready to go if the situation becomes too much to bear.

7. You're not sure if your rental is legal.

While Airbnb has become a go-to for travelers the world over, there are many cities — New York, Paris and San Francisco included — that are putting up legal resistance against the service. So how do you know if your rental is legit with the law? Renting a spare room in someone's home or apartment, where they are present during your stay, gets the green light, but in many cities, renting an entire apartment for a short period of time isn't legal because of laws trying to preserve housing for local residents. While you, the renter, likely won't be penalized, you may be out of a place to stay if the authorities turn up during your stay. Before booking, do a quick skim of local laws to find out if Airbnb is okay to use in the area where you're staying.

8. Your host left you a bad review.

A bad review can do damage to your Airbnb cred, and affect your ability to rent. If you feel that your host's review of you and your stay isn't accurate, you can share your side of the story in a response that will appear under your host's review for future hosts to see.