A hard-earned lesson about Airbnb’s claim center

I recently learned a lesson the hard way about navigating Airbnb’s claims center. 

Airbnb’s Terms Of Service require that you submit any damage claims to them within 14 days of a guests’ checkout, or before the next guest checks in, whichever is greater. I’ve known this for a long time. If you’ve ever filed a single reimbursement claim through Airbnb this is one of the first things you’ll learn. 

However, what I didn’t know is how Airbnb calculates “time of check-in.” 

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I recently had an emergency garbage disposal that had to be, well, disposed of (pun intended). Since it was a same-day check-in, I had to get things done as quickly as possible. 

I had reached out to the guest arriving that day, asking when she planned on getting there. She said between 5:00-6:00 pm. Great. That would give the plumber a little more time past the 4:00 pm check-in time to get things done. He wrapped up and gave me an invoice, which I promptly submitted to Airbnb for a damage reimbursement claim. 

The claim was submitted at 4:15 pm. 

A few days later, I got an email from the Airbnb case manager: “we’re sorry, but our TOS require that you submit a claim before the next guest checks in to be eligible for a damage reimbursement. Since your guest checked in at 4:00 pm, and you submitted this at 4:15 pm, you’re not eligible, yada yada yada.” 

What…the…heck. 

I was so angry. Despite the guest stating in writing in Airbnb that she wasn’t checking in until 5:00 or 6:00, and despite me sending screenshots of the smart lock and outside video camera showing her arrival time, the case manager wasn’t budging. 

I mean, I guess in a way I get it. Airbnb isn’t responsible for the success of their individual hosts; only for the success of them as a company. Like any insurance company, it’s in their best interest to deny claims whenever possible. 

Eventually, I was able to escalate my case and get the claim approved. But through the process I learned 2 important lessons. 

First, if at all possible, always submit your damage claims before your posted check-in time on the day a guest checks in – even if the guest has told you they won’t be checking in until later. 

It will just make your case so much easier to win if you don’t have to argue about when the damage was reported, who’s responsible for it, etc. 

Second, if you do for whatever reason have to submit the claim after your posted check-in time, go overboard on the time-based evidence to prove that it was still before the guest actually checked in. Send screenshots of smart locks, cameras, and whatever else you might have installed that will help your case. Make a note in the case file that you can submit more evidence as needed. Make it as difficult as possible for Airbnb to reasonably claim that you have not complied with their TOS. 

In my case, I even quoted the TOS back to my case manager, showing them that the Terms Of Service explicitly say that I must file a claim before the next guest checks in…not before my next check-in time. 

Although I was eventually successful, it took hours of talking with various case reps and is not a situation I ever want to be in again.

I’m grateful that my lesson was learned on a relatively small case – I’d much rather potentially lose a $300 claim than a $3,000 one! 

So many hosts these days complain about how Airbnb is so not helpful to them in their hosting businesses because of X, Y, or Z. What those hosts have forgotten is that they are not business partners with Airbnb. Airbnb has their own best interests at heart – and they’re not always the same as yours. 

Don’t be insulted or upset by this. Accept it as a fact of life and learn to play by their rules. Either that or close down shop and go do something else.