Complaints Against Vacation Rentals, Hotels, and How OTAs can Complicate Your Business

Imagine being forced to dole out a refund to a customer who, by all accounts, had an ideal stay at your vacation rental. You provided them with top-tier service only to find they used a policy loophole to get a free visit while you foot the bill.

Unfortunately, scammy vacation rental complaints are common vacation rental industry problems. Airbnb and third-party bookers like OTAs complicate the situation further by favoring the guest in most cases– even if they’re legitimate. Read on to learn about such policies and how they impact your bottom line.

Vacation Rental Complaints: What You Need to Know

There are many types of complaints that range from legitimate to malicious. Some common complaints that customers can file to get refunds are:
False advertising
Property issues (internet outage, broken appliances, etc…)

You can think of legitimate claims as good-faith claims. The customer is telling the truth– you provided inadequate service, and they deserve a refund.

Vacation rental complaints become malicious when guests knowingly make them under pretenses. They could have a bone to pick with the host after a disagreement. However, they often try to scam some money into their pockets.

Airbnb’s policies toward complaints are in the customers’ favor.

Customers can complain about many things and receive full refunds without asking questions. It’s up to the owner of the vacation rental or hotel to bear the cost incurred by these policies.

Airbnb recently extended this unfair system by adding time for customers to file complaints to their policy. Instead of a 24-hour window, guests now have 72 hours to file a complaint after discovering the issue.

In cases where they can prove it was impossible to file during the window, Airbnb will accept complaints even later.

The longer window does nothing more than providing scammers more time to stage photos and falsify claims.

A similar complaint window is not afforded to the owners of Airbnb properties, who are responsible for costs that result from customer complaints.

They can, of course, dispute complaints with Airbnb or their OTA, but disputes still favor the client.

How to Handle Complaints About Your Vacation Rental

Receiving a scammy customer complaint isn’t the end of the world. OTAs and Airbnb provide avenues to protect hosts. But, appealing vacation rental complaints is more complicated (and less likely to succeed) from your position.

Without evidence of your service and amenities, you’re on shaky ground with an appeals process that’s up in the air. To appeal a complaint, the host must first be able to prove the customer wrong.

In cases without physical evidence of a problem (think “he said, she said”), Airbnb and other OTAs tend to side with customers.

The most effective way for hosts to file appeals is to use photographs or video recordings during check-in and checkout as evidence if an incident arises later.

Don’t go overboard with your recording by breaking laws regarding customer privacy. Then, you’ll find yourself in real legal trouble.

Finally, even if you lose the appeal, always review the client on Airbnb or your OTA. Make sure your review is professional, factual, and thorough. This can serve as a warning for future hosts to beware.

The appeal process can take a while since Airbnb hosts face falsified vacation rental complaints worldwide. Amid the claims process, you still have a business to run despite its impact on your vacation rental business.

The Impact of Complaints Against Vacation Rentals

Airbnb’s policy reflects well on the company because they serve the customer, yet they’re not the ones who pay the price. The impact of vacation rental complaints on hosts is twofold.

How Malicious Complaints Hurt Airbnb Hosts

First, you lose out on valuable profit by providing refunds to scammers. This impacts your bottom line, creating a difficult financial situation for you and those you support.

But these hotel complaints can also affect your future business. Lower-rated Airbnb and OTA-listed lodging facilities are less likely to get booked.

Recouping Losses Is Tricky

Depending on your business insurance type, you may recoup the losses through your provider. But, most providers won’t payout until the Airbnb claim is finalized.
Many Airbnb hosts mitigate these losses by charging more for their rentals.

This may manifest as an increased cleaning fee or extra booking fees. But that kind of fail-safe is less enticing for potential clients.

However, guest interest lowers even more if you must raise prices to help recoup the losses you experienced due to scammers. Guests become incredulous and sometimes turn to online mockery over such changes without knowing the context of your raised prices.

In summation, bad-faith guests could effectively topple your entire business and never face any consequences. So, you must prepare and stay on top of any guest complaints.

How to Prevent Complaints About Your Vacation Rental

Avoiding false complaints is trickier than avoiding legitimate ones. Luckily, there are ways to take advantage of how people file complaints. Try using these tips to help prevent Airbnb scams.

1. Provide a Clear and Thorough Listing

Your listing and the photos should present the property and all booking fees. Moreover, the listing should accurately represent your property.

There should be no reasonable expectation for accommodations you cannot provide.
That means you must upload a new picture if it got fresh paint. Moreover, if you got rid of a deep freezer, washing machine, or other amenities, you must strike them from the listing.

Proper advertising on your end makes it easy for the Airbnb claims team to identify whether or not a claim is legitimate. But it also helps because you have rock-solid evidence for an appeal if you lose the lawsuit.

2. Document Everything

Scammers notice when someone is being proactive about protection. In addition to the appropriate use of security cameras, ensure all your correspondence with the client is well-documented. You can even offer to email your clients copies of all your post for their records.

When scammers see signs of documentation, they often bolt. They may be willing to fake a photo or falsify a claim but still prefer an easy target. They’ll move on from you and try to find someone easier to trick.

3. Don’t Accept Every Guest

Make your Airbnb listing by request only, allowing you to vet guests before accepting their stay. You may even find a review from a host saying they did it to them! Guests with low scores and poor reviews may be more prone to trying to run a scam on Airbnb hosts.

4. Add Rules to Your Listing

Adding rules to your listing also helps mitigate bad-faith guests. Some great rules that keep rowdy vacation rental guests at bay are:

No parties
Quiet hours
Cleanliness standards
Set a strict visitor maximum

These rules help weed out potential visitors down to good-faith, respectful guests. Remember not to go over the top with rules– you still want your guests to have an enjoyable experience.

5. Provide Excellent Customer Service

It may seem counterintuitive to provide excellent service to someone who may try to scam you. But most malicious complaints aren’t intended.

Instead, a vacation rental guest has a poor experience and lashes out. So, one way to prevent malicious complaints is to avoid giving your guests anything to complain about. During each stay:

Ensure the rental is clean inside and out
Check the WiFi for a robust and fast connection
Make sure your appliances are working
Stock up on sanitary towels, blankets, and pillows
Check for bugs or rodents and apply prevention measures

Finally, remember to provide timely and clear communication to your guest. And don’t forget to be kind and courteous at all times.

It’s Time to Advocate for Change

In the hospitality industry, we’re quick to say, “the customer is always right.” In cases of large hotels and corporations with insurance and backup accounts dedicated to handling scams, these issues are hardly a concern. But hospitality is different now.

Since the introduction of Airbnb (and Vrbo, its less popular successor), people are opening their homes and properties to strangers to make ends meet.

These scammers aren’t targeting massive corporations anymore; they’re zoning in on our neighbors and community members.

Even worse, Airbnb and OTAs allow vacation rental complaints to bring hosts to financial ruin.

Now is the time for a change. The policies must change to provide more support to every vacation rental business, so they no longer have to suffer at the hand of an unequal market.

Finding Friends in the Hospitality Industry

Hotels aren’t so different from lodging services like Airbnb. However, we’ve been in business longer and know how to protect ourselves from scams. Instead of creating a division in the hospitality industry, we should find ways to help one another.

Hotel refund policy can inform new OTA and Airbnb standards to protect hosts from vacation rental complaints.

At least, that’s what we believe at our Jamaican vacation getaway, Villa Serenity. Contact us to learn more if you’re a like-minded individual seeking change.

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