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An Airbnb nightmare: Am I looking at blood stains in the bed?

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Consumer reporter and ombudsman

Koji Kawana and his family were looking forward to an exciting five days in New York City. The group had a tight schedule with plenty of activities planned. What they hadn’t planned for is the Airbnb nightmare that was about to confront them.

Now Kawana wants to know: Shouldn’t Airbnb refund him for this nightmare of a vacation rental?


Help! We just returned from our very own Airbnb nightmare. As of yet, we haven’t received a refund for this awful experience.

Here’s our story. My family and I flew from Los Angeles to New York’s JFK on Easter Sunday. We landed late in the evening. We met the Airbnb host, and he gave us the keys, and we immediately ran out for some dinner.

When we returned, my wife pulled back the sheets on the mattresses and discovered urine and blood stains in both beds. I have included the photos we took. The stains were on both sides of the mattresses.

Blood and urine stains on the mattresses of this Airbnb, yucky vacation rental, unsanitary bedding for guests.
A nightmare scene under the sheets of this Airbnb rental.

I sent the photos in a text to the host, but he didn’t respond. Since it was already around midnight, we decided to sleep in our clothes that night. My wife refused and rested on the couch.

Around 7 a.m., with very little sleep, I texted the host again. I also emailed Airbnb customer service for a resolution. I explained the problem with the unsanitary matresses to the representative. He told me not to move into a hotel and to allow our Airbnb host to remedy the problem. I told him that we had a busy day of sightseeing planned. I just wanted to get this problem fixed.

Then the representative told me that he would help me find a new Airbnb rental. He sent me a link to other similar properties. I found another apartment and booked the rest of our vacation with the new host. I assumed I would receive a refund for the first completely unacceptable, unsanitary Airbnb rental.

Get me out of my Airbnb nightmare!

Thirty minutes after I booked the new place, the original owner called to apologize. He told me that he had no idea of the condition of the mattresses. He promised to have new mattresses sent over. But the new owner would not allow me to cancel, and I preferred to stay at the new location.

The end resolution is that Airbnb only refunded $750 out of $1,893 for this nightmare. I find it hard to believe that the host didn’t know about the urine and blood. It is evident that more than one person made the stains because it was several spots on each side. If they even bothered to change the sheets, anyone would notice the stains. I submitted a credit card chargeback, but I lost the dispute. I don’t know why.

Can you help me get a refund for this awful vacation rental? Koji Kawana, Los Angeles


Yuck! No one wants to sleep in a bed stained by multiple strangers’ urine — or worse, their blood. And to have paid $1,893 for that experience makes it even more egregious! Your experience is truly an Airbnb nightmare.

When I looked at your photos and read through your paper trail, I wondered what happened here. You followed every step in the Airbnb Resolution Center. And still Airbnb, the owner and your credit card company sided against you.

This case puzzled me. The photos you took showed two mattresses with a variety of dark and light stains. And you had a well-documented paper trail to show your efforts to resolve this problem.

Resolving Airbnb rental problems

Our advocacy team receives many requests for help when Airbnb rentals go wrong. And in most of these cases, the Airbnb renter has not followed the steps in the resolution center. And so it’s easy to identify the reason for the delay or rejection of the refund.

Recently Andrea Walker  (A stay in a filthy Airbnb rental is just not her thing) almost lost $700 after she inexplicably neglected to follow the Airbnb resolution process — despite also being an Airbnb host herself.

Then there was Jennifer Tudor, who asserted that she had found the worst Airbnb rental ever. And since she completed almost the entire reservation before making a complaint, Airbnb rejected it.

By the way, Tudor hadn’t found the worst Airbnb ever. Not even close. Hands done, that award went to Lee Smith, who was forced to share space with a dirty drunk during her Airbnb rental.

But I digress.

Most Airbnb complaints can be resolved by using the Airbnb resolution center. Either the host will correct the problem, or Airbnb will work to rehouse the guest. But it’s critical to follow the resolution guidelines established by the vacation rental listing giant.

In fact, the terms and conditions of Airbnb require the guest to first give the host an opportunity to correct any problem with the vacation rental. If that isn’t possible, you must allow the company the chance to find alternative arrangements for you from its inventory.

You couldn’t sleep through this Airbnb nightmare

You had a lengthy paper trail. As soon as your family discovered the blood and urine stains on the mattresses, you alerted the host and Airbnb.

The next morning, after you had suffered a mostly sleepless night in this apartment, the Airbnb representative sent you a list of alternative properties. Since the owner had not responded to your texts from the night before, you chose a new property and paid for it. It was only after you packed your bags and got in the taxi, and left that the original owner answered you.

Too late.

Your sleep-deprived family wasn’t inclined to give this owner a chance to replace the filthy mattresses. You told me that you weren’t convinced that he would replace them by the time you returned from your day of exploring. And you just wanted a clean place to sleep for the night. What a novel idea!

You completed your vacation without incident and waited for Airbnb to send you a full refund for the yucky vacation rental. But it never arrived.

An Airbnb resolution center error?

Something went wrong in the Airbnb resolution center. That is certain.

The Airbnb you rented wasn’t habitable by any health code standard. And further, you were directed, in writing, by an Airbnb representative to rebook from the list that he sent you. Your request for a refund was beyond reasonable — you agreed to pay for the night that you “slept” in your clothes in the terrible vacation rental. You only requested a refund for the four additional nights that you didn’t sleep there.

I contacted the executive Airbnb resolution team, and they quickly agreed. It’s not clear why the initial representative rejected your claim or why Airbnb challenged your credit card dispute. However, you soon received this message:

I wanted to start by apologizing for the way in which your case was handled — this should have led to a better outcome and efficiency. Thank you so much for your patience and being cooperative with us. We truly appreciate it.

Secondly, I wanted to make sure you received a full refund for the canceled reservation too. I am personally authorizing the remaining $1,117.60 to be refunded back to you (for a grand total of $1,893.10 instead of the only amount refunded which is $775.50). The situation certainly merits this.

Airbnb Executive Resolution team

So, in the end, you received a full refund for the entire amount paid for this vacation nightmare. You shouldn’t have to pay for any nights at an Airbnb where it’s necessary to sleep fully clothed. (Michelle Couch-Friedman, Consumer Rescue)

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle Couch-Friedman is the founder and CEO of Consumer Rescue. She is a consumer advocate, ombudsman columnist, mediator, writer, and licensed psychotherapist. Michelle is a public speaker, and her expert guidance has been cited in MarketWatch, Consumer Reports, Travel & Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Popular Science, CNN, CNBC, Boston Globe, CBS News, National Geographic, Travel Weekly, Reader's Digest and more. You might even catch Michelle on TV reporting on a situation. :) Michelle is also the travel ombudsman columnist for The Points Guy and is the former executive director of the nonprofit Elliott Advocacy. During her six years in that position, she resolved thousands of cases for troubled travelers and other consumers. You can read hundreds of 5-star reviews Michelle earned during her service to the nonprofit since 2016 here on Great Nonprofits. She is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Today, she continues to spend as much time as possible fiercely defending consumers and traveling the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Couch-Friedman or on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook.