What to do if Airbnb cancels your accommodation at the last minute ?

You are a planner. You don’t wait for the last minute.

It’s been a long year and you are really looking forward to that holiday. In March you booked and paid for your flight. Hotels cost a fortune, so you found a stunning accommodation on Airbnb that is just perfect. You check the availability and the price and instantly book it before it is snapped up by someone else.

Now, all that you need to do is count down the months until year-end-break….

But there is a problem.

Two weeks before your magical holiday is about to begin you are notified that the Airbnb host has decided that he would rather use the accommodation himself and promptly cancels the booking. You now have to scramble to find alternative accommodation for a family of six which is scarce and at the last minute any accommodation you do find cost a fortune.

This has just happened to a family from Johannesburg, South Africa who received an SMS saying the accommodation in Plettenberg Bay has been canceled leaving them and their family who will fly to South Africa from overseas stranded.

Dena confirmed that when she received the SMS, she called the host to get more information “the host was incredibly rude, said he needed the house and hung up the call. There was no apology from the host nor was there any offer to help find alternative accommodations.” Dena confirmed that Airbnb refunded her money but she felt frustrated as there was no way to contact Airbnb to report the host’s behavior. Dena also tried to call Airbnb but could not find a telephone number on the site. Thankfully she found another accommodation to accommodate their family of 6 over the busiest time of year.

This is not an isolated incident as others report similar incident such as this tweet:

Airbnb host cancels family’s accommodation at the last minute

Kobus did confirm that he did find another accommodation that same day and the process was disappointing but painless. Kobus also confirmed that the host was “host wasn’t very helpful. I found a new accommodation on the app pretty easily they refunded me the difference between the rates (the new one is slightly cheaper) on the same day. Super impressive Airbnb also responded to my tweet to ask if they can help almost immediately”

I reached out to Airbnb to understand how they protect their guest from such negative experiences.

How Airbnb protects its users

“Over 60 million guests have stayed on Airbnb, and on our peak night this summer nearly 1 million people were staying with Airbnb hosts worldwide. Cancellations are incredibly rare but we know there can be circumstances where a host needs to cancel a guest’s reservation” Airbnb replied in a statement to my list of questions.


Of course Airbnb are only the facilitators as each property is run and managed by the “host” however, due to the negative impact a cancellation has on a guest’s trip, Airbnb has implemented a number of measures around cancellations:

  • If a host cancels any reservation within seven days of check in, they will be charged a $100 fee. And if they cancel more than one reservation within a six-month period, they will be charged $50 per cancellation.
  • If a reservation is canceled, an automatic review is added to the host’s listing page to say that they have canceled one of their bookings. The host has the ability to respond and explain for future bookers the reasons for the cancellation
  • Hosts that cancel a reservation will not be eligible for super host status and the benefits that brings for one year after their most recent cancellation
  • The host’s listing calendar will be blocked for the dates the canceled reservation was due to take place and they won’t be able to accept another booking for the same dates

The fact that the calendar is blocked for the canceled reservation date is a great way to ensure that host do not cancel a guest’s accommodation as they think they are able to sell those days at a higher price to someone else.

What about the money ?

When it comes to the money, Airbnb protects is users by holding the money and it does not pay it out to the host until 24 hours after the guest has checked in. Therefore, if the host cancels or the listing is not what a guest expects, the money can always be refunded direct from Airbnb and no fights need to be had with the host.

If a guest does find that their host has canceled their reservation, they have two options:

  1. Transfer their payment to a new reservation and if the new reservation is less than they originally paid, Airbnb will refund the difference.
  2. Receive a full refund on their payment.

“Guests can contact our customer services team at any point if they have concerns about a reservation or need help finding somewhere new to stay in the rare event of a cancellation. The contact details can be found on their booking itinerary and our customer service team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a variety of languages.”

5 tips for booking through Airbnbimage

1. Read the reviews from travelers that have already stayed at the listing. Airbnb’s review system provides in-depth information about listings, graded across six criteria: accuracy, cleanliness, check-in, communication, location, and value. And keep in mind that unlike some other sites, Airbnb’s reviews are all authentic: travelers can only leave a review of a place after they’ve actually stayed there. You can also see in the reviews if the host has previously canceled a booking.

2. Look for the “Airbnb logo” watermark in the top right corner of the listing photographs or the phrase ‘Verified Photo’ underneath the images. This means that a professional photographer has been to the listing and taken the listing images so you can be reassured that the listing is as described.

3. Only book and pay through Airbnb. Airbnb gives peace of mind by handling all transactions and communication through its secure platform. When you pay through Airbnb your money is protected and the payment is not released to the host until 24 hours after check in so you have recourse if the accommodation isn’t as advertised.

4. Get to know your host (and their home). The Airbnb experience is unique and authentic because you’re booking with a local person. That means every home will be different. Take advantage of the many tools Airbnb offers to get to know your host (and their listing) before you book. Read their description thoroughly, including house rules and amenities. Check their cancellation policy and see if there is a security deposit. And go to their Host profile page to read more about them, including where they went to school, where they work, and what languages they speak.

5. Communicate with your host using the Airbnb messaging service before and after you book. That way you can ask any questions about the property and let the host know any special requests you might have. You can exchange messages either through the website or using the iOS or Android app.


  1. Just happened to me as well. Absolute rubbish. this dude cancelled mine and everyone else’s bookings 2 days before my flight. Because the booking was over super-peak period and for 8 nights, it’s been hell trying to find a decently priced accommodation at such short notice. Here is his sob story: “We are very sorry that we have to cancel your reservation as we now have legal problem with the house rent. We were inspected by police for illegal house rent to tourists. Honestly, we have been caught 2 times before for illegal rent to tourists and this morning we were caught for 3rd time.
    So, the house is being closed by police now and we cannot accommodate you anymore.
    If we rent house, we will be jailed…. hope you may understand our situation…..
    We don’t know how to say sorry about the cancellation and hope you can quickly find another place for your stay in seoul….. so so sorry……
    Kate and Jason”

    I’m half decided to expose his full details online – but I need to cool down first!
    AirBnB had better find some better way for poor users to flag rotten apples and receive feedback…. but this will be my last time on such a rubbish service.

  2. My Airbnb host canceled my five bedroom house in Washington DC two weeks before my trip to my daughter’s wedding. They have had my $2400 for nine months and this host has apparently done it before. Now, the only options are $4200 and Airbnb offers a mere $200 cancellation fee. This illegal practice needs to be stopped.

  3. Similar situation has just happened to me. A host in Dupont Circle, Washington DC. confirmed my booking dates for the January 2017 Presidential inaugural back in June of 2016. Saturday the 22nd of October I get a change reservation request from the Host stating that I can keep the reservation by paying an additional $9,000 for the four night stay. When I declined the change the host immediately cancelled the reservation. Airbnb says while this is “discouraged” it is not against their company agreements with hosts and I am basically on my own. I should have probably just accepted the change then disputed the charge on my Credit Card as extortion after the stay was over.

  4. Today our host told us hat the house was not available 1 hour before check in… they did not cancel the reservaion and we did not get refunded, even though they said they will. If we dont get our refund we will make their name and address very public.

  5. Our Airbnb in Oslo was cancelled 11 days before our arrival. We were already in Europe. We found another Airbnb unit, it was unsavory, but bearable. It very much disrupted our stay in Oslo.

    I think that the host cancellation charge should be the same as the guest cancellation charge, i.e. 50% -100% of the total rental. That cancellation fee should go to the guest along with a full refund of the original rental. As it is, the guest takes the full risk of a rental.

  6. Same for me. I booked for a Cape Town house at new year, back in April. Airbnb have had my money for 7 months. I contact the host this week to arrange key pickup and she says ‘sorry, cancelled for renovations’. If I hadn’t contacted her until three days before arrival, I wonder if she wouldn’t have even let me know. Bloody rude. Won’t use airbnb again – they simply don’t give a damn. Treat is as ‘aren’t you lucky you get a refund’. No commitment to reliability, and I can’t even leave the selfish woman feedback about her lack of respect…

  7. Airbnb need to offer insurance to cover a guest when the host cancels because it is very difficult to secure alternative suitable accommodation at short notice.

  8. I came across with similar situation when 2 weeks before my family ski holiday to Seoul. I settled my booking and payment months ago with this apartment owner in Myeongdong, Seoul and the nightmare happened when I received the “cancellation” notice…just two weeks before my family trip. It seems like no obligation by the host for cancellation and they can simply cancel the booking for convenience, BUT WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO THE GUEST!!! I had to rush looking for other alternative, which are more expensive, less convenient and most importantly EXTREMELY TIME CONSUMING. Airbnb MUST increase the host penalty to stop their irresponsible cancellation as it is super seriously impact our holiday plan.

  9. I just had a “superhost” cancel on us a little over a week before our family Christmas vacation. We had to scramble to find a new place which turned out to be much more expensive. I was not allowed to review the host that cancelled and so far airbnb has NOT updated his profile to show that he cancelled. I received a small amount of compensation from airbnb (<$50) for the cancellation, but it did not even come close to compensating us for the extra out of pocket. This guy is still listed as a "super host". Not impressed with airbnb. Certainly would not use them for business since their reviews don't accurately reflect reality.

  10. Happened to me just 3 days before I was to arrive in Washington dc. Leaves me really high and dry. I had booked several months in advance of the inaugeration and it is impossible to find anything reasonaby priced. The Airbnnb penalty is a joke considering the chaos such behavour precipitates. I will not be using Airbnb again untill they come up with a more apropriate penalty

  11. Booked/paid in full 11/9 for a 2 week Mid-March stay in Gold Canyon, Arizona. Cancellation E-mail arrived Jan 22, with no explanation. With golf and spring training travel at ultra peak we are faced with over 50℅ increase for similar accomodations, not to mention airline change fees, as new place availability is out of sync with cancelled unit.

    We have used Home-Away to rent homes throughout the U.S. and South America for years. First time with Airbnb ended this way…No More.

  12. I personally recommend reserving at a real hotel (Hilton, Marriott) as backup, just in case this sort of thing happens. I can always cancel that reservation a day in advance – just in case!!! I also speak with my host before booking to get a sense of who I am dealing with. I am not a fan of booking automatically. They will understand my needs and let me know if they can guarantee that time is locked in if I pay.

  13. I just had a host cancel the Airbnb reservation WHILE I WAS STAYING IN IT. I checked in around 2pm and at 9:30pm, received an e-mail that the host was canceling it. Airbnb’s customer service was of no help, and the host even walked in on me while I was in the bathroom.

    Airbnb sent me a list of other places I could book, but they were all very far away, and when I asked Airbnb to help me find closer ones, they said it was too late at night, and said I should find a hotel (but refused to tell me that they would cover the cost, as I am in London and hotels are much more expensive). I will never use Airbnb again — particularly after one customer service agent told me that I needed to leave the apartment, even if it meant “sleeping on the street.”

  14. There is no penalty if the listing is instant booking. I had a host who cancelled my reservation because she had also listed the same property on booking.com and could get guest through booking.com. She could easily get away with it!

  15. Without some kind of insurance or guarantee, it will be very risky to use Airbnb and Homeaway as well, especially if u r traveling with family.

Add your comment