This post is aimed at Airbnb hosts. There are unfortunately ways that guests can use the mechanisms in Airbnb to get out of their reservations penalty free and override all cancelation policies. Unfortunately Airbnb support have not shown any interest in helping out hosts who fall victim to this despite guests clearly showing that they have done this trick for this specific purpose. With that cleared up, let’s get into how this is possible.
What enables the scam?
Put simply, Airbnb introduced a grace period in 2018. The grace period enables guests to cancel a reservation for 48 hours penalty free if the booking starts later than 14 days in the future. The grace period has issues and was not well received by hosts especially those on the strict cancelation policy. It was another policy created at host’s detriment to compete directly with the larger online travel agencies (OTAs).
The issue with the grace period for accommodation is, you can book somewhere, receive all the contact details, address etc from the host and then cancel. Most properties on Airbnb are residential and not hotels like other OTAs. This causes a security threat and a way for unscrupulous characters to gather leads.
I get it, plans change and sometimes people need to make changes to their trip. This is fine. Airbnb allows both hosts and guests to send amendments for their trip. Both parties have to agree to an amendment to make the date changes confirmed. There are stories about people booking a minimum stay 3 night property and sending amendments for 2 nights, people using amendments and then their card payment failing and the main point of this blog post, people using the amendment feature to reset the grace period and cancel penalty free.
The Airbnb amendment system is broken. If a guest sends an amendment and the host doesn’t want to accept it then you just increase the chances of retaliatory reviews. Airbnb puts such an emphasis on reviews and screws over hosts who might have a legitimate reason for not wanting to accept an amendment. This shouldn’t happen and there should be more protection. Unfortunately Airbnb has grown too fast and you only have to look at their trustpilot page to see what people think of their customer support.
How to prevent this?
It is difficult. People send amendments for a variety of reasons. Some genuine and some amendments are sent with the pure purpose of resetting the grace period so a penalty free cancelation can be made. Airbnb should really step up and build into their systems that once a booking is confirmed there is a 48 hour period. If an amendment is sent, this is not reset. It is lazy development and hosts should never be put in a position of being scammed out of a reservation they have already confirmed.
Some hosts I have spoken to have a blanket no amendment policy and others I have spoken to will verbally confirm the amendment but they will not click the buttons to confirm it on the system. How you handle amendments as a host is up to you. Just be warned, that if someone is asking to make an amendment and the dates are more than 14 days in the future, they may well be doing so just to make a cancel and override your cancelation policy.