Family concerned about Airbnb policy: ‘We don’t like the outcome … but we had to pay the bill’

Investigations

Skiing is a favorite pastime for the Semmel family. They share their adventures on their video blog “Lift Ticket TV.”

The family has traveled to more than 25 ski areas in the past three years and took a special trip over Christmas.

“We decided to go to Canada and ski at Mont Tremblant,” Courtney Semmel said.

They booked a home near the ski resort using Airbnb.

“It’s always been a fantastic strategy for us to be comfortable and save a lot of money,” Courtney Semmel said.

This time, using Airbnb ended up costing them money.

“We start driving home and four hours down the road, I get a message via the Airbnb app from the homeowner, and she says ‘How did you break my bathtub?’ and we are trying to figure out what on earth is she talking about,” said Courtney Semmel.

The owner sent a picture of a crack on the inside of a fiberglass tub. It was on the side wall in an area that would typically be covered by the shower curtain. The Semmel’s friends used the tub in the master bathroom during the stay.

“They say they took five showers in there and they never saw anything,” said Courtney Semmel. “A couple hours later, we are home and I get a bill through Airbnb for $1,400. This is not even 24 hours after we have checked out and reported that this happened.”

Airbnb gave the Semmel’s two options: pay the bill or use its resolution center.

“I obviously chose to use the resolution center. I am not going to just pay $1,400 for something I didn’t do,” said Courtney Semmel.

Airbnb allowed the homeowner to submit more information. According to its terms of service, Airbnb has the final say in all damage claims.

“I get another notification from Airbnb that says we have made our decision and you need to pay this bill. And it’s now about $1,900; it went up. We are not told why and we are provided no documentation,” said Courtney Semmel.

“No itemization like how much did the new bath tub cost, what kind of a new tub did you put in, just, this is your bill and you will pay it,” said Eric Semmel.  “We don’t like the outcome, but obviously, we had to pay the bill, so we submitted a claim to our homeowners insurance.”

The Semmels’ insurance policy covered the damage. 

“My concern is, did they decide they want an upgrade and so they damage it, send you a picture, blame you, and now they get an upgrade on our dime?” said Courtney Semmel.

The Semmels looked up the home they rented on Airbnb to see what the new tub looked like. The fiberglass tub was replaced with a walk in tile shower.

“It’s super shady,” said Courtney Semmel. “I don’t know who the bad guy is here. Is the bad guy the homeowner, is the bad guy Airbnb, is the bad guy us because we naively thought this can’t possibly happen?” said Courtney Semmel.

ABC27 reached out to Airbnb. The next day, the Semmels received an email from Airbnb stating the money in the damage claim would be refunded. Their Airbnb account was reopened and they were given a voucher to use toward their next Airbnb rental.

Despite several attempts, Airbnb would not respond to our questions. We asked how many homeowners filed damage claims in the last two years and how much money those homeowners were awarded. We also asked if Airbnb has a system in place to flag homeowners who make multiple damage claims.

If you agree to Airbnb’s terms of service, you are agreeing to Airbnb’s process which gives them the power to decide the outcome of damage claims.

Airbnb did not respond to our questions about how renters could protect themselves from false damage claims. The Semmels suggest you check with your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if it will cover damage at Airbnb rental properties.

Eric Semmel is a former ABC27 employee.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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