Airbnb host banned after spilling food in another host’s home

Airbnb bans River Roberts after he accidentally spills food on his host’s sofa. Will he ever be able to book another rental?

  • By Wire Service
  • Saturday, June 15, 2024 1:30am
  • Life

Q: I stayed at an Airbnb in the United States recently. While I was there, I spilled food on the sofa. I talked to the host, and he said that he would file a claim through Airbnb’s insurance. I heard back from Airbnb, and it said that after a review of the available information on my Airbnb account and reservation, it had determined that my account should be removed from the Airbnb platform. The reason? “You haven’t followed our ground rules for guests,” it said.

I have 10 years of positive reviews. I am also an Airbnb host, so this affects my ability to earn money. Can you help me get Airbnb to reverse its ban?

— River Roberts, Lisbon, Portugal

A: Banning you for an accidental spill on a host’s sofa seems like an overreaction. So, what’s going on? I reviewed the correspondence between you and Airbnb, and it looks like your communications with the host were cordial. You spilled food on a sofa, and it needed to be professionally cleaned. It looks like your host had never filed a claim with Airbnb before your mishap and didn’t fully understand how seriously a claim would be taken by the platform.

I didn’t know either. But filing a claim against your insurance (part of the company’s AirCover for Hosts program) is apparently taken quite seriously. One of the possible outcomes, as you now know, is that you can get removed from the platform.

Did you violate Airbnb’s ground rules for guests? Technically, yes. Airbnb requires you to keep a rental clean, litter-free and undamaged. “Guests should not leave the listing in a state that requires excessive or deep cleaning (moldy dishes, soiled carpets, stains from pets, etc.),” it says.

But you did follow Airbnb’s guidance when it comes to damage. If there’s damage to the home, Airbnb requires that you inform the host as soon as possible and work to find “a reasonable solution.” Based on the correspondence between you and the host, it looks like you were agreeable to paying for the damage.

So, what happened? I suspect Airbnb used some kind of artificial intelligence to review the complaint and decide how to handle it, because a person would have never banned you from the platform. The correspondence between you and the host shows that you were cooperative.

An appeal to one of the executives at Airbnb might have made a difference. I publish their names and numbers on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. But this case would take more than an appeal to get resolved.

You reached out to the host and had a conversation with him, host to host. You explained that after your host filed a claim, Airbnb had banned you and disabled your hosting account, so you are completely off the platform now. The host was surprised and agreed that banning you was an overreaction. He decided to write to Airbnb on your behalf, asking for you to be reinstated.

I contacted Airbnb separately. I was genuinely worried that the same thing could happen to me if I had an accidental spill on a sofa while staying at an Airbnb.

The company reviewed your request and sent you some good news. “After careful review of all documentation and related communication provided by both parties, we’ve decided not to charge you for the damage that occurred during your stay. I have also reactivated your Airbnb account. You should have access to it immediately,” a representative wrote. (This time, it definitely came from a real person.)

I hope that if the tables are ever turned and someone spills something on a sofa in your Airbnb rental, you will remember this incident and try to work it out without getting AirCover involved. Otherwise, I will have another case on my hands.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (elliottadvocacy.org), a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at chris@elliott.org or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help.

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