Q: I am currently in an Airbnb near Washington, D.C. I'm in the basement, and it's 63 degrees.
I have no control over the temperature. The host controls it upstairs, and I am freezing. The host forbids me from opening any windows to let in warm air, and I am so cold that I feel like it's some sort of torture. The host taped up some of the air conditioning ducts in the basement, which initially helped. But tonight, when I came back to the rental, the air conditioning was blasting again, and even with multiple jackets and blankets, I am miserable.
I called Airbnb's customer service tonight, and the initial representative said that he would escalate this. He also mentioned that due to health and safety concerns, I could immediately be moved to a hotel. But when he transferred me to another support representative through the app, they stopped responding altogether. Can you help?
A: This is a rare case because I handled it in real time, and there really wasn't an opportunity to create the customary paper trail.
The problem is simple: Your host wanted you to live in a freezing cold basement, and Airbnb — true to form — wanted you to work it out with the host. But when you're sitting in a basement and freezing, you can only be so patient. I think your host's demand to leave the windows closed was unreasonable. It may have kept the upper floors cool, but you were cold.
Airbnb's representatives were apologetic, but they assured you that they had spoken to the host and that she had addressed your problem. "It seems you are still feeling cold," the Airbnb representative said. In the next message, Airbnb said it will try to help you tomorrow, which is completely unacceptable.
Airbnb has a guarantee called AirCover, which addresses problems like this. "AirCover protects you from many issues that might come up during your stay, such as the heating not working in winter," the company stated. That would presumably also cover excessive air conditioning.
I'm sure Airbnb would have eventually found a way to make your stay comfortable. But when? To add insult to injury, Airbnb messaged you to say that your problem would not be covered by AirCover, and if you canceled, you would not get a refund. "This means any refund issued is solely up to the host," a representative said. Come on!
I reached out to Airbnb. A representative contacted you to apologize for the problem. The company refunded the unused nights and offered to cover two nights in a hotel, which you accepted.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of the nonprofit Elliott Advocacy (elliottadvocacy.org). Contact him at email@example.com or elliottadvocacy.org/help.