Airbnb blocking "High risk" bookings

33 Replies

We recently had a 2 guest, 4 night booking including New Years eve blocked by airbnb. We received the booking inquiry with a "red flag" from airbnb which we had never seen before. We told the guest we were unable to approve the booking because of this and called airbnb support- they said the account was under investigation and couldn't tell us anything further and they would eventually make a decision to block or allow the booking. The guest reached back out to us and said airbnb blocked their booking due to concerns about covid and gatherings and that they should try to book a single room instead of an entire house. Mind you our unit is a 1 bedroom condo that sleeps 4 because we have a hallway bunk bed. We called support back and explained all of this and they were not helpful. We asked are all new years bookings being blocked? No straight answer (our other rentals have NYE bookings) they recommended the guest extend their stay to avoid the block, but would not say how long the stay would have to be to not be "high risk". We are waiting on a call back from a host support manager. We haven't listed this specific property on vrbo but thought about doing it and having the guest book through there and also just doing an off platform booking. However, we have already been "dinged" once by airbnb for "inappropriate content" when messaging a guest and do not want to risk our account being deactivated by trying to give them our contact info or ask them for theirs.

Has anyone else had new years bookings blocked this year ? Or any anything similar to this? We only started short term rentals in Feb 2021 and have yet to deal with covid related issues like this

@Paige Martin

Don’t fight it.

Per Google, the blocks usually involve guests who are under 25, live within 50 miles, without reviews and trying to book an entire place.

That’s a statistically high risk profile for shenanigans.

It’s annoying when it happens, but you may have just dodged a bullet.

@Doug H. may be right, seems to make sense.  But I've found VRBO to be less authoritarian in their approach and prefer them quite a bit. Give them a try in the future. Also, to get around both platform's restriction's on exchanging information (although I understand why they need to do it), you can a) attach a file with your info, b) enter your number in separate messages, and use a mix of actual numbers and spelled out numbers, i.e.

eight o five

68three

four568

@Doug H. Thank you! We spoke to another airbnb support person who explained the high risk a little more indepth..she said "festive time" with no reviews specifically which makes sense based on what you found too. Our guest is at the marine base near by and just wanted a get away with his girlfriend for NYE so we wanted to work with him..he sent us our number in three messages so we didn't have to risk our account being shut down

Also if you give your property a unique name then they can find your house listed elsewhere. Just make sure you are listed elsewhere.

I prefer Vrbo over Airbnb too!

This is the opposite of my typical problems with Airbnb support. Someone can have allegations of serious illegal misconduct in their profile reviews, and Airbnb will still count it against your booking acceptance stats if you don’t want to host them - calling support will not help either. To hear that they are actually trying to help screen rather than punish hosts for screening is new to me.

Airbnb shut down all three of the spaces we have in our home. They did not inform us. (I found out by trying to change some calendar dates). I inquired as to what was going on? The answer I got was that there was a report of a dangerous animal in or on the property. I'm like Whaaat??? After some questions they removed the block. However... They refused to tell me what the alleged dangerous animal was. That's right, they refused to disclose to ME what dangerous animal was in MY house. I attempted going up the chain with customer service (obviously not USA based) and was informed they were adhering to their policies and procedures. I was trying to find out, "why don't you inform a super host if you shut down all their bookings?" and "what dangerous animal was in/on our property?" I wish there was an equivalent site. VRBO isn't suited for renting out rooms in houses.

@Bruce Woodruff

I'm very new to the str space, just listed my place 2 months ago. I have constantly heard from hosts that VRBO is far and above Airbnb. My experience has been the opposite. I have found that VRBO customer service is useless, can't solve my problems and they are way more expensive (8% compared to airbnb 3%) VRBO owes me alittle over 1k in past rents and they blame the root cause that my w 9 doesn't match IRS records but no one can seem to tell me how or what field. May just be my inexperience but airbnb has gone relatively painless so far.

Originally posted by @Dan Thomas :

@Bruce Woodruff

I'm very new to the str space, just listed my place 2 months ago. I have constantly heard from hosts that VRBO is far and above Airbnb. My experience has been the opposite. I have found that VRBO customer service is useless, can't solve my problems and they are way more expensive (8% compared to airbnb 3%) VRBO owes me alittle over 1k in past rents and they blame the root cause that my w 9 doesn't match IRS records but no one can seem to tell me how or what field. May just be my inexperience but airbnb has gone relatively painless so far.

 Me too

Originally posted by @Dan Thomas :

@Bruce Woodruff

I'm very new to the str space, just listed my place 2 months ago. I have constantly heard from hosts that VRBO is far and above Airbnb. My experience has been the opposite. I have found that VRBO customer service is useless, can't solve my problems and they are way more expensive (8% compared to airbnb 3%) VRBO owes me alittle over 1k in past rents and they blame the root cause that my w 9 doesn't match IRS records but no one can seem to tell me how or what field. May just be my inexperience but airbnb has gone relatively painless so far.

 I'm glad you have been doing well. I suspect if you stick with it for a while they will sort out and reveal their true colors..... There are too many people seeing what I said to discount them all. I doubt it is just my experience.

I hope you get things sorted out with VRBO....stick with it. I've found their customer service to be very good.

@Dave Stokley maybe it's a start...but guests are humans and the algorithm isn't always a sure fire way to prevent bad guests. In our case, even after explaining why our guest lived close by (currently on the local marine base) and wanting A NYE getaway with his girlfriend...they still wouldn't budge. I feel like if a host or guest calls to explain the situation they should take that into account. Their algorithm blocked the booking and then allegedly airbnb did their own investigation and decided to still block it. I doubt their investigation was legitimate. They're just costing us money at this point and not working with hosts or the guests.

They recommended also the guest try to book some shared spaces on airbnb before new years to get 3 reviews...sounds reasonable *eye roll*

Originally posted by @Dan Thomas :

@Bruce Woodruff

I'm very new to the str space, just listed my place 2 months ago. I have constantly heard from hosts that VRBO is far and above Airbnb. My experience has been the opposite. I have found that VRBO customer service is useless, can't solve my problems and they are way more expensive (8% compared to airbnb 3%) VRBO owes me alittle over 1k in past rents and they blame the root cause that my w 9 doesn't match IRS records but no one can seem to tell me how or what field. May just be my inexperience but airbnb has gone relatively painless so far.

 Wait for it, you too will likely find out the issues with Airbnb and some of their renters. It's not if, it's when.

As a long term host I can tell you VRBO and the people who use it are typically better to deal with. There are exceptions to every rule of course.

Since VRBO is the original platform in this field (by 13 years), VRBO guests tend to be older, more mature, and less picky/entitled.......

One of my properties (more rural) gets 50/50 bookings from both platforms. Another (downtown) gets more AIR about 75/25, probably because the younger folks want to be close to the 'action'.....

Originally posted by @Paige Martin :

@Dave Stokley maybe it's a start...but guests are humans and the algorithm isn't always a sure fire way to prevent bad guests. In our case, even after explaining why our guest lived close by (currently on the local marine base) and wanting A NYE getaway with his girlfriend...they still wouldn't budge. I feel like if a host or guest calls to explain the situation they should take that into account. Their algorithm blocked the booking and then allegedly airbnb did their own investigation and decided to still block it. I doubt their investigation was legitimate. They're just costing us money at this point and not working with hosts or the guests.

They recommended also the guest try to book some shared spaces on airbnb before new years to get 3 reviews...sounds reasonable *eye roll*

 They have a good reason for blocking the guest. We had someone blocked over New Years last year. They were new to the platform and local. They had no bookings and were younger. They could have been fine, but New Years is the highest risk night to try out someone new to the platform. Nobody every tells the host they are going there to party. If they let you rent to them and your place gets trashed, you will be on the phone complaining to AirBNB. Simple solution is work something out with the guest outside of the platform. Take payment via Venmo and take the risk on yourself. 

I would advise against taking this booking. In my experience AirBNB is very guest friendly, so whey they are saying no to a guest, I listen.

@Paige Martin definitely true, but I’d rather have an algorithm do it for me than doing it myself. Call me a cynic, but in my experience a local saying “I’m just looking for a quiet weekend with my beau” can be translated directly to “I’m going to invite 30 people over, trash your house, and if all goes well the police will be called and you’ll have to pay your cleaners more than you earned on this booking.” 

I recommend accepting private bookings in some cases where Airbnb wants to block - I judge by the message they write - if it is respectful and well-written I will usually give them a chance to book privately. 

The upside is you can save a significant amount on Airbnb fees - I usually pocket those, do not pass on the discount. Keep it for the additional risk of doing business outside the app. The Airbnb guarantee is pretty worthless anyway. It is too much effort to file a claim for something small, and typically they side with the guest. Trust me, I've been there. You are much better off asking for a Venmo directly from the guest for anything broken. 90% of guests will pay. Those that don't, do not pursue it - leave them alone and take the loss. They can do more damage by leaving a negative review, so always be pleasant. Damage to your unit is a cost of doing business. Get your furniture from thrift stores in nice neighborhoods (good quality, medium price) so you don't care when it needs replacing.

It's totally fine to move the booking off Airbnb and book a guest directly (just don't double book yourself). The Airbnb app hides phone numbers, but you can creatively leave your number by posting 1 number at a time or another method. Make the guest call you so you can hear their voice and ask them why they are visiting. If they ask weird questions and you feel uncomfortable, it's okay to decline.

I will say about 25 and unders - they are going to drink and party. That doesn't mean they won't be worthwhile guests.. I have had a few, most recently a group of five 19 year-olds who celebrated a birthday and it was fine. I charged them a little extra knowing that the cleaning would be a little more. 

Originally posted by @Dave Stokley :

@Paige Martin definitely true, but I’d rather have an algorithm do it for me than doing it myself. Call me a cynic, but in my experience a local saying “I’m just looking for a quiet weekend with my beau” can be translated directly to “I’m going to invite 30 people over, trash your house, and if all goes well the police will be called and you’ll have to pay your cleaners more than you earned on this booking.” 

That sounds like my first local booking!