27 Alarming Airbnb Problems You Need To Know In 2024

Encountering Airbnb problems when you travel can have a really negative impact on your vacation experience. Nowadays, the use of Airbnb has become so mainstream that you may not think twice before making a reservation through the platform. 

But have things changed to the extent that Airbnb is no longer the great platform that allows you to experience new cities ¨like a local¨ that it once was?

The Appeal of Airbnb

In various places around the world, the use of Airbnb makes travelling appear much more affordable. Not to mention, the platform seemingly gives you more bang for your buck as compared to making reservations through hotel booking sites. 

After all, why book a cramped, cookie-cutter hotel room on the outskirts of town when you can have a spacious apartment for the same amount of money, right? Sometimes, the decision to use Airbnb can seem like a no-brainer.

You will also likely save money when staying in an Airbnb because you have access to appliances that allow you to cook some of your own meals. This seems great if you have a budget to adhere to. However, the deeper you look into it, the more you realise that all that glitters is not gold.

When things go smoothly with Airbnb, the platform seems great. However, when things go bad, it is incredibly stressful and there is very limited help on hand to resolve your issues.

It is important to remember that Airbnb considers itself as just a third-party intermediary in the seller-consumer relationship between you and the host. So, in times of trouble, they often wash their hands of all responsibility for your problems.

They may act as a mediator in disputes between you and your host or guest. However, if you are dealing with a particularly problematic person, Airbnb problems can become nightmarish and stressful.

Airbnb Problems and Ethical Concerns

Anti Airbnb graffiti in Athens Greece
Anti-Airbnb graffiti in Athens Greece

I have been using Airbnb since the platform was first introduced. I’ll hazard a guess that this was way back in around 2013/14 when the sharing economy was a relatively new concept.

At that time, I was so blown away by the concept that I recommended Airbnb to anyone and everyone. Actually, I am pretty sure that my friends thought that I was getting royalties from Airbnb (I wasn’t!). 

For years, I have practically lived out of Airbnb apartments as a remote worker. I would book an apartment for a month at a time, and the platform enabled me to live in a bunch of different cities around the world.

This was great for me at first. I loved that this enabled me to feel like I was “local” in different cities across the globe. 

Living out of Airbnb rentals meant that I never had to keep paying rent for an apartment I wasn’t in, as I would with a long-term rental. As was probably to be expected as someone who was using the platform constantly, eventually I started running into problems with Airbnb. 

Airbnb Problems You Should Know About 

This article is written from the perspective of an Airbnb guest, not a host. A handful of common Airbnb problems are detailed below.

This should help give you a frame of reference for what happens should you encounter certain situations. Many of these examples are all based on my own experiences, which ultimately led to me boycotting the platform. Others are common issues that you ought to be aware of.

It should go without saying that if you ever find yourself in danger, or you feel particularly threatened by a host or an accommodation environment, you should alert the local authorities. Nothing is worth compromising your safety.

Airbnb is just a third party 

As mentioned above, one of the biggest Airbnb problems is that Airbnb consider themselves a third party. Essentially you could compare Airbnb to a job advertisement board.

Airbnb considers itself the platform on which hosts advertise their properties. After that? the communication is between you and the host. 

This is not a problem if you have a host that is good and ethical. On the other hand, if your host is a scam artist, you are at their mercy. 

You need to notify Airbnb of issues quickly

If you notice any issues with your vacation rental, you need to make Airbnb aware as soon as possible. Previously, Airbnb required you to contact them within 24 hours of noticing the problem but now they have extended this to 72 hours.

This is fortunate because you may not notice a specific issue right away, or you may arrive at the property later than intended, etc.

If you notice an issue in the middle of your reservation, you should contact your host in the first instance. Make sure that you contact them via the Airbnb messaging platform rather than Whatsapp, etc.

That way you have a trail and Airbnb support can see everything. In parallel, you should reach out to Airbnb as fast as possible too.

If you try and fix an issue without making Airbnb aware, or you shrug it off as being not that big of a deal, it will harm you later if you want to leave the property or get a refund and Airbnb ask why you never told them about the issue.

Hopefully, your host will be fast to respond to any queries and concerns. However, if the issue seems to be taking a while to resolve, or their communication is lacking, involve Airbnb sooner rather than later.

That way, you are covering yourself and ensuring that you have proof of the fact that you did make both the host and Airbnb aware of the problem.

A bad host may drag their heels in fixing something or not recognize the importance of a certain amenity for you. (e.g. the internet isn’t working and you need it for remote work but they think it’s not the end of the world).

Airbnb expects you to give the host time to fix things 

If you arrive at a property and a listed amenity is not working the way it should, or something within the property is faulty, Airbnb expects you to give the host ample time to fix it. That is reasonable up to a point. 

If the wifi isn’t working and you have made it clear to the host that you need to work during your stay, they should do their utmost to try and fix it immediately. It is reasonable for you to be expected to liaise with the host and wait for them to come and change the router. 

However, if you wind up waiting in the house on multiple occasions for workmen to come out and make reparations, and you find that days of your trip revolve around trying to fix an issue with the listing, that is not acceptable. Why should you, a paying guest spend your precious time fixing something that the host should have sorted out on their own time?

Unfortunately, this is a concept that seems to go right over Airbnbs head. If you contact customer service about such issues, they will be back and forth with you trying to get you to fix the problem with the host. 

They have no respect for the fact that this is your vacation and you didn’t want to spend your entire trip waiting around for electricians and engineers. 

Disputes become a he-said, she-said

Disputes can often become a “he said she said” which is particularly unpleasant if you are dealing with a nasty, unethical host. You start to feel like two bickering siblings explaining to Mum what happened, rather than someone who paid for a service and it wasn’t up to par.

Airbnb may cause an ethical problem in certain cities

Airbnb Problems: Anti Airbnb posters in Athens, Greece
Airbnb Problems: Anti-Airbnb posters in Athens, Greece

The original mantra of Airbnb was that the platform enabled travellers to “live like a local”. Airbnb gave travellers the chance to stay in authentic neighbourhoods and immerse themselves in the culture of the places that they visited.

Unfortunately, as the platform has grown, this has started to come at the expense of the comfort of the locals. This happens in some places more than others, and it has reached a point where the app has been completely banned in some countries and cities.

In Athens, Greece, Airbnb has had a profoundly negative impact on the lives of Greek people. This is a city that is still recovering from a crisis, and Airbnb has impacted citizens in the worst possible way. 

Here, people often purchase several properties and rent them out as Airbnb apartments. This has driven up the costs of rentals and properties locally and has made living in certain Athenian neighborhoods unaffordable for Greeks. 

Consider that the average Greek person makes 500-700 euros a month, and 250 euros for a studio apartment is an average rental rate. Then consider the fact that greedy Airbnb hosts now charge tourists 600 euros a month for the same tiny studios, and 900-1000 a month for one-bedroom apartments.

During the peak summer season of May through September, some rentals are now well above 1500 euros per month.

This is not a marginal increase. The cost of living in Athens is at an all-time high and Airbnb has been the main protagonist.

Anti-Airbnb attitudes can ruin your trip

It falls on Airbnb and the local authorities in each country to regulate the use of the app. However, as a traveller, negative perceptions of Airbnb can definitely impact your trip.

In some places where the response to Airbnb from the locals is overwhelmingly negative, guests may experience hostile attitudes from residents when entering a building. Using Athens, Greece as an example again, the anti-Airbnb attitude has become so strong that you can find anti-Airbnb graffiti all over the city.

You will also often find aggressively-worded flyers and posters that tell Airbnb guests that they are not welcome. In order to be thoughtful, ethical travellers, we should be supporting communities, not hurting them.

However, if someone has spent a lot of money on a vacation and they were simply oblivious to the ethical considerations of Airbnb, they don’t deserve to experience such intimidation. In some Greek apartment buildings, you will find threatening notes reading “We will call the police if we see any unknown person passing through the building.”

Anti-Airbnb attitudes are understandable. If you are constantly dealing with people on vacation blasting out loud music, stopping you to ask for travel tips, or mistaking your apartment for theirs, you would be irked too. But as a traveller, this can be intimidating and unpleasant.

Refund policies cause issues in times of trouble

If you stayed in a hotel, the wifi did not work, the room smelled of urine, and the ceiling was crumbling inwards, you would not be obliged to stay there. Hotels and other accommodation businesses typically have strong ethics regarding customer service and upholding their brand reputation.

This is not necessarily true of Airbnb hosts. It is important to check what the host’s refund policy is at the time that you make your booking.

Many hosts have a strict refund policy meaning that if you cancel before or during the reservation, you will not get your money back. If you begin to experience major issues during your stay, you will need to contact Airbnb to confirm that you will have a refund/you can leave the property before you exit.

Be prepared to document everything. If you want to leave a reservation and obtain a full or partial refund, you need to show them photos and evidence of the issue in question and explain why it has affected your trip.

You also need to prove that you have contacted the host and given them ample time to respond and fix the issue. This can become very stressful and time-consuming. Nobody wants to spend their vacation time both having an unpleasant accommodation experience and then engaging in a toxic back-and-forth with an Airbnb host.

It is often difficult to reach Airbnb

Contacting Airbnb as soon as you know there is an issue sounds fair enough. However, the challenge then lies in trying to get a hold of them.

Contacting Airbnb through their help centre and resolution platform means response times of up to 24 hours. This is far too long to wait in an urgent scenario. 

You can try to tweet @Airbnbhelp on Twitter. However, responses are equally slow. 

The best way to get a hold of Airbnb when you need a fast response is to phone their call centre. However, you should expect long hold times which is not great if you are overseas and also contending with patchy phone signals and high call charges.

You may perpetually need to wait for a call back as Airbnb will ping-pong between speaking to you and speaking to the host to try and understand the situation. You can “chat” with Airbnb via the app but response times are often as high as 24 hours.

During the summer months when everyone is travelling, you can be waiting for days at a time. Then, when you do get a response, expect further long wait periods between each subsequent message.

Customer service leaves a lot to be desired

When you message the Airbnb support reps via the platform, it often feels as though you are banging your head against a wall. Reps keep posting the same generic stock responses without really listening to what you are trying to say.

Then, Airbnb will often close out your case before you have even found a resolution with them – for you to have to open it again, explain your issue to a new member of the team and wait for a response all over again.

The customer service rep no doubt has a screen full of conversations open with various different guests and hosts and various different properties. They are just trying to get through them all.

Customers are just seen as a statistic and one more case to be closed out when they are often raising serious issues about safety and inaccurate listings.

Airbnb has little concern for your safety 

It is important to be aware of the fact that anyone can list a property on Airbnb. Airbnb does not background check its hosts, check the quality/safety of the listing, or ensure that the rental is legal.

On their app and website, they advise you to contact the local authorities if you feel as though you are in danger. However, in parallel, you will also need to contact Airbnb and let them know what is going on as they often do not take complaints seriously.

Serious crimes at an Airbnb in Costa Rica

A very upsetting incident as far as Airbnb properties and their lack of safety due diligence go is the case of Carla Stefaniak. Stefaniak was an American who was murdered at an Airbnb property in Costa Rica.

This is an extreme circumstance. However, Carla’s killer was someone who was working at the property despite being in the country illegally and having a criminal record.

A hotel would have conducted background checks on their staff and not allowed this person to work at their site. Airbnb does not. Several years have passed since the incident and yet, Airbnb’s due diligence has not improved.

Apartments may not adhere to safety regulations 

Hotels have to adhere to certain health and safety regulations. In most hotels, you will find fire escape plans, along with working fire alarms and carbon monoxide testers that are checked periodically.

In Airbnbs, there are no such checks. Accommodation options can be very basic in some countries.

While “basic” is fine, unsafe is not. Airbnb apartments and houses may well have faulty wiring and electrics, boilers that have not been serviced or maintained, fire alarms with dead batteries, etc. The platform does not check.

Fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors may be absent

Many Airbnb apartments do not contain fire alarms and carbon monoxide testers. However, hosts are required to specify whether or not one is present on their property.

Airbnb recommends that guests take their own carbon monoxide detectors to listings with them. But realistically, how many people travel with such a device?

Still, by stating that you should carry one, Airbnb is trying to cover their own backs in case something should happen to you while travelling.

Carbon monoxide-related instances in Airbnb properties

In Mexico, there have been two separate instances of guest dying at Airbnb properties due to carbon monoxide poisoning in the last year alone. Three Americans sadly lost their lives in Mexico City in October 2022 due to carbon monoxide poisoning when one guest was taking a shower, which appeared to trigger a gas leak. 

The families of the victims have been campaigning for Airbnb to require hosts to install carbon monoxide detectors ever since. However, as of yet, it is not a requirement from either Airbnb or fellow rental platform VRBO who both simply recommend that hosts install carbon monoxide detectors and do not require them. 

Another young traveller, American Sebastian Mejia died due to carbon monoxide poisoning in an Airbnb in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 2022. On June 16th, 2023, his family filed a lawsuit in a move to sue Airbnb.  

The New York Times reported that there have been at least ten carbon monoxide-related deaths via Airbnb and VRBOs in Latin America in the last ten years. (That is before we even start to look at other regions and continents). 

A 2018 study found that only 58% of hosts have carbon monoxide detectors installed, even though Airbnb has offered them for free. Sadly Airbnb has remained quiet on the matter – perhaps on advice from their legal teams to protect themselves. 

It is disappointing that the platform continues not to take safety seriously. If you are travelling and planning on staying in a vacation rental of any kind, it may be a good idea to purchase a portable carbon monoxide detector. 

They are available on Amazon for as little as $10 USD and shouldn’t take up too much room in your luggage.  

Do photos accurately represent the listing?

Unsafe Airbnb listing with exposed wiring
Unsafe Airbnb listing with exposed wiring

The above photos are from an Airbnb in Soleto, Puglia where faulty wiring was present all throughout the property. There were plug sockets that were loose and shifted around within the walls, too dangerous to be used. 

Then, there were those where wires were hanging out of the walls – even in wet rooms like the bathroom and utility room. However, you would never know that from looking at the listing photos. 

This is not safe and electrical safety is not something to be taken lightly. 

People marketing their rentals are going to take photos from the most flattering angles to demonstrate the property at its best and secure more bookings. These may be misleading or taken years before. 

The property may not be child-safe, and that may not have been clear from the photos. However, if you contact Airbnb, they may question what the actual issue is. 

The listed amenities work and you have a place to stay, after all. As mentioned, Airbnb is not interested unless something bad actually happens, which is a terrible stance. 

Reviews may be removed or mysteriously disappear 

After you complete a reservation on Airbnb, you are able to leave a review to discuss your experience, whether positive or negative. Airbnb state that they take the removal of reviews very seriously.

However, they do remove reviews if they break their review or content policies. According to their own policies, reviews can be removed if they are biased or contain information that is not relevant.

Aren’t all reviews likely to contain some element of bias if they exist to discuss a specific person’s experience? Isn’t that all subjective?

It is possible for hosts and guests to report reviews that they believe are inappropriate or untrue and Airbnb will review them. A host who knows that they did not meet their guest’s expectations may be irked at having a negative review on their page, and rant and rave to Airbnb.

Airbnb obviously makes a profit via hefty booking and service fees every time someone makes a reservation. So, they may well remove the negative review and warn the host about the issue discussed so it does not happen again.

In this sense, the entire review system is flawed and cannot be trusted.

Repeated negative reviews can push vacation rentals further down Airbnb rankings so that they do not get recommended on the first or second page of a property search. It is understandable why the host wouldn’t want this to happen but the focus should be on providing an excellent experience to visitors, not sketchy hosts being able to throw their weight to get listings removed.

You may be an illegal guest

When you make a reservation on Airbnb, you have no way of knowing whether the property is legal. Use of the platform is completely banned in some parts of the world and similarly, some people use it to illegally sublet rental apartments,

It is estimated that as many as 70% of listings in New York City, USA are illegal. In an attempt to regulate Airbnb, and to encourage long-term rentals as opposed to short-term lets, the city’s state made the use of Airbnb conditional and specified that it should only be used in instances where properties are rented out for longer than 30 days at a time.

Despite that, the vast majority of properties listed are available for significantly lesser periods. Profits for renting properties on Airbnb can be high.

So it’s not surprising that some renters think that they can make some extra cash by renting out their apartments while they go away for the weekend. If you are in town to realise your New York City bucket list, it is probably great to feel like a local and have your own apartment, kitchen, etc. But the impact on the local property market is very detrimental.

It is widely believed that a large percentage of properties on Airbnb are made up of illegal sublets. Some people have actually discovered that property was an illegal sublet partway through their reservation.

Illegal sublets around the world

Tenants around the world have been fined for illegal sublets. In London, the UK, the local councils have started working with the platform and the police to identify illegal sublets.

Similarly, in Barcelona, Spain, the government has employed a team of people whose responsibility is to track down illegal listings and investigate those that look sketchy. In 2019, several major European cities contacted the EU Commission for assistance in tackling Airbnb issues.

You don’t have the same amenities as in a hotel

There are many added extras that come with staying in hotels. Hotels, unlike Airbnbs, have reception and concierge services that are typically available 24/7.

At hotels, you can pretty much rock up at whatever time you like and check into your room. At Airbnbs however, you have the inconvenience of having to liaise with your host, and sometimes having to wait around for your host to arrive. 

When you are travelling internationally, it is not always easy to keep texting someone and updating them on your journey and your arrival time. Your data may not work in the new country and wifi access may be limited or unavailable. This can cause a lot of unnecessary stress.

Hotels also offer luggage storage and housekeeping by default. That’s not to say that you need to have someone cleaning your room every day, but it’s nice to know that the room is organised for you at the end of your stay. 

When you check in or out of an Airbnb, there is usually nowhere to leave your luggage. The host may well have another guest checking in right after you.

Cleaning expectations are becoming profound

Many Airbnb hosts charge an additional cleaning fee for your stay. It is understandable that they may need to pay professional cleaning staff to clean the rentals between guests.

Even if the host does the cleaning themselves, they are spending their own time and cleaning products in doing so. When you check out of a rental, it seems reasonable that you would do the dishes and leave the place in a generally good condition.

This could mean taking out the trash, clearing out your belongings and sweeping the floor. However, at the same time, you have already paid a cleaning fee so you should not be expected to do a deep clean of the place yourself.

Should you be expected to clean a property before leaving?

Still, there seems to be an ever-increasing trend of hosts expecting guests to strip beds, mop floors, and do a deep clean to have the property looking as it was when you found it. In that case, what is the cleaning fee for?

Some properties are going as far as leaving lists of chores to do and leaving negative reviews if the guest has not done the requested cleaning. When you are on vacation, you should not be expected to deep clean the rental you have paid a cleaning fee for.

Chances are, at the end of your trip, you are already in a rush as it is with trying to get everything packed and make it to the airport for your flight. You don’t have time to mop and bleach and hoover.

In a hotel, you would not be expected to. It is beyond a joke when you stay somewhere and the host is late to meet you, and then they nag at you like your Aunt Freda because you didn’t mop the floors.

Bait and switch bookings are not unheard of 

One of the more common Airbnb problems is the bait and switch. This often happens with hosts and investors that manage multiple properties in a certain destination. 

Bait and switch takes place when you make a reservation via the Airbnb platform and then arrive to find that you have been taken to a completely different, often inferior property. The host may contact you prior to your arrival to tell you that the property you reserved is no longer available but that there is another option. 

You are not obligated to accept this and are well within your rights to cancel with Airbnb if you do not like the new property. Alternatively, you may arrive at your destination to find that you have been assigned other accommodation without any prior warning from the landlord – in which case you should contact Airbnb straight away. 

You are at the mercy of your hosts 

Although it can have a negative impact on their ratings, hosts can cancel Airbnb reservations right up until the last minute. In this instance, Airbnb apparently provides assistance and support in finding alternative accommodation.

As mentioned though, they can be fairly tricky to get hold of, even in urgent scenarios. 

Hotel overbookings and last-minute cancellations are pretty rare. However, the chance of an Airbnb host leaving you high and dry is a real threat.

The idea of arriving in a foreign country and noticing that your host has cancelled your booking at the last minute is too stressful to think about. If you are travelling somewhere during the peak tourism season, you may find that there are no other options available.

If a host cancels your reservation and you have to book a last-minute hotel, there are limitations on how much Airbnb will reimburse you for the additional costs of a hotel room. As an example, if you booked an apartment for $50 a night, you may only be eligible to reclaim 150% of that amount.

When you are booking at the last minute, you may find that the only hotel choices that remain are those that are very expensive. So, your choice to book with Airbnb first and foremost leaves you out of pocket. 

You are not insured

When you stay at a hotel, you and your possessions are covered. An Airbnb is considered private property and therefore you are not insured.

There is no guarantee as to how safe various properties and neighbourhoods are. If you leave your expensive photography equipment in your room and it mysteriously goes missing, Airbnb will wash its hands of any responsibility.

Remember, they are just a third party! You would like to think that hosts would never steal from guests but you can never be entirely certain when you are renting from a stranger.

Airbnb fees and taxes add to your total cost

It’s important to assess the cost breakdown when you book a property on Airbnb. What can at first look like a good deal at $50 a night, may well amount to much more after cleaning fees and Airbnb service fees are added. 

Airbnb service fees are essentially the platform’s “cut” of connecting you with the property. This varies depending on the season and the duration of your stay, but the fees can actually be pretty high.

When you consider that hotel platforms like booking dot com do not charge such fees, you may realise that your Airbnb property is not as economical as you first thought. A month-long booking can mean paying literally hundreds of dollars in fees.

Some countries now also require taxes to be paid on Airbnb bookings which may be added to your reservation cost along with the Airbnb service fee and cleaning fee. For instance, in Mexico, tourists now have to pay an additional tax known as Impuesto Sobre Hospedaje which can add 15-20% to the listing price.

This is due to the fact that hotels and other hospitality businesses in Mexico voiced their concern and expressed that they expected Airbnb to pay the same taxes they did. While that is understandable, it makes the platform less and less economical for users.

For instance, a 28-day accommodation in the Yucatan city of Merida comes with a price tag of £1182. The Airbnb service fee is £153 and the additional tourist tax is £251.

Along with a £19 cleaning fee, this brings the total cost of the rental to £1605. A huge chunk of that is made up of added fees!

Big brother may be watching

People often talk about hidden cameras and voyeurs in Airbnb. On the whole, this is probably quite rare and unlikely to affect you.

The implications if a host were to be found guilty of having illegal recording devices would be huge. But you honestly never know.

There have been reported incidents of people finding cameras in their Airbnbs. The scary thing is that the way that technology has advanced these days makes it difficult to detect hidden cameras. 

Hidden cameras may be teeny tiny, and hidden away inside other household devices, making them virtually undetectable. Realistically most of us don’t wander around our travel accommodations disassembling every item to check for cameras.

Who knows how many instances of voyeurism have occurred? At least in hotels, there are fewer people with access to your room, and the opportunity to tamper or install hidden cameras. 

Hosts may not respect your privacy 

The risk of hidden cameras is one privacy issue that could affect you in an Airbnb but it isn’t the only one. Some hosts, particularly in destinations like the Mediterranean or Latin America, may live right next door to the Airbnb rental. 

Perhaps it was the home of a late relative which they now rent out. Whereas that is not a major issue in theory, some hosts may feel protective over renting out the property and you can often feel as though they show up constantly for no reason, and let themselves into a property (when you have rented an entire listing) or watch nosily when you enter and exit the premises. 

In Mexico, it is not uncommon for hosts to have security cameras at the main entrance. This often seems to be more for the purpose of monitoring the guest rather than seeing if anyone else tries to access the property.

Do you really need a full apartment/kitchen?

It is easy to look at Airbnb from the perspective of ¨Wow, that hotel room is $60 per night whereas I can get an entire apartment for the same price!¨ But you need to ask yourself, do you really need it?

If you are on a tight budget and plan on cooking every day, fair enough. But if you are on a once-in-a-lifetime weekend break to a city you have dreamed about visiting for years, you may prefer eating out and find that you don’t even utilise the extra space you have. 

Some hosts may change house rules on arrival

The photos and information that you see when you make a reservation are usually written with a sales mindset. In other words, the host is trying to “sell” the benefits of the accommodation to you so that you are inspired to book it.

Ideally, the host should also write down their rules here but the reality is that many hosts do not. Always check the “house rules” document prior to check-in to familiarise yourself with the host’s expectations.

If you have any questions or concerns or you have a bad vibe from the onset, message your host to clarify. Sometimes though, hosts can spring additional rules on you when you arrive.

They can tell you that you are only permitted to use the air conditioning for a certain amount of time per day, or that you are not allowed guests or have to pay a fee for guests to enter. This is unethical but it happens. If you feel uncomfortable, always involve Airbnb as quickly as possible.

There may be hidden additional costs

The price displayed on the listing page at the time of booking should be the total cost you will pay for the reservation but that is not always the case.

It seems to be quite common in Mexico and Latin America for instance, for the host to accept your booking and tell you that electricity or utilities are not included.

You should be well within your right to cancel if a host has not been honest or upfront about a cost. Guests expect the listing price to be the final price and so it should be. 

Similarly, it should go without saying that you should never ever hand a host cash outside of Airbnb. Any requests that they or you have for additional fees and expenses should be made on the platform through the Resolution Center.

Rental prices are not regulated 

Expensive Airbnb rentals driving locals out of their neighbourhoods and causing a soar in rental costs are one thing. However, the absence of pricing regulations being set forward by the platform or by local governments means that short-term rentals are becoming more and more expensive every year – to the extent that certain travellers are being priced out. 

For instance, rental properties that should cost a local $900 for a month may have charged $1300 a month for longer-term lets a few years ago. Now they are charging tourists upwards of $2000 a month. 

There is often an assumption that people from certain nations (The US, the UK, Canada, etc) are just effortlessly affluent. Opportunistic hosts around the world are now raising their prices to get what they can from guests. 

Basic listings in sketchy parts of Mexico City now cost as much as apartments in London or Oslo. The interesting thing is that things will actually go full circle – with people choosing not to travel because it is more expensive than staying at home.

Prices need to be regulated and local laws updated. Until they are, there are always going to be people that try and make the most that they can and exploit the system.

Are all Airbnbs problematic?

Airbnb problems: Ethical hosts do exist
Airbnb problems: Ethical hosts do exist

It would be wrong to say that all hosts on Airbnb act unethically or to tell you that you should completely boycott the platform. The reality is that among all the Airbnb problems there are still good hosts.

There are still people on the app that simply rent out rooms and enjoy the cultural exchange as much as they appreciate the additional profit. Similarly, for many people in developing nations, Airbnb has provided a glimmer of opportunity for them to make money and improve their standard of living.

So we cannot say that Airbnb is intrinsically bad. It is for Airbnb and the local authorities to better regulate the use of the platform going further.

When people involved with Airbnb are making such huge amounts of money though, it does not seem that they will be motivated to do this any time soon. There is no foolproof method for ensuring that your Airbnb experience is a positive one.

However, there are steps that you can take to mitigate your risks of having a terrible experience. Try to only book through Airbnb superhosts and do not book through people who clearly own a bunch of properties. It is also a good idea to never book a new listing with zero reviews.

Final Thoughts on Airbnb Problems

Get the Data” is an interesting resource if you want to read more about the impact of Airbnb in various cities across the globe. This article will be periodically updated with more information and case studies as they become available.

Do you have anything to contribute to this conversation regarding Airbnb problems? Have you had a nightmare experience with any Airbnb listings or conversely, have you had any positive experiences with a Superhost? Feel free to reach out and leave a comment below.

Safe travels! xo 


Alice Cooper is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.


  1. This is an interesting post, and as I’m an Athenian I totally agree with the issues you raise here. The question here – are other platforms advertising the exact same apartments any better or “safer”? Would bookingdotcom act differently in a similar situation, or would they also wash their hands off? I travel a lot and honestly never had any issues (apart from flakey wifi, or some dust here and there) – but have never used airbnb as I don’t like the platform. Btw, I always call up hotels in Greece – saves them the hefty commissions!!

    1. Hi Vanessa,
      That’s true – would be interesting to have a look at their policies. I was leaning more towards the idea of supporting local businesses and hotels but recently I have seen a lot of apartments and private properties popping up on booking etc – sometimes to the extent that there is so much to have to sift through when trying to find a hotel. I guess they have seen the success of these types of rentals on Airbnb and want a slice of the pie.
      The whole short term vacation rental sector needs to be better regulated – by both the platforms and the local authorities.

  2. question for the author: i just spent a month in Greece, a wedding in Athens and most of the time down in Kardamyi. i’m from San Francisco, but living in Napoli currently. the question is What is the draw to Athens? Why Athens?

    1. Hey Carmine,
      I’m sorry but I’m not sure I’m clear on your question.
      Do you mean why do I live in Athens, or why does this article focus a lot on examples in Athens?

      If it’s the former, I came here on a trip in 2017, really fell in love with the city, and never left. Actually before that I was living in Napoli too! (I’m British and Italian and my grandmother was from Sorrento!). I used Athens as my example a lot in this article as I live here currently and there is a lot of concern about the impacts that Airbnb is having on the already troubled Greek economy.

  3. I’ve used Airbnb for years now. All over Italy and the US east coast. Never had a problem other than a faulty shower head and we had an extra bathroom. They were willing to fix it but we couldn’t coordinate times since we were tourists. But, I strongly urge folks to Read reviews and look for super hosts. Much better chance of a better stay. However, the cleaning fees and service fees are now gouging, often more than a night’s stay. I’ve also seen the rate change from the time you find it until you book it just minutes later. In one case it almost doubled in price.

    1. That’s good to hear Tina! I used the platform for a really long time all over the world without experiencing any issues, however then it felt as though I really started to have a bad streak of experiences. Even sometimes with reading reviews, it does not omit you from something bad happening. Agree with you about the fees. I’ve seen fees as high as $80 for a booking price of $400. Quite startling.

  4. We live next to a Short term rental that advertises it sleeps 16 and across from one that advertises it sleeps 22. We are a small rural community in the mountains…every weekend is like a scene from “Animal House”, year round. There are more homes in the area also STR’s. We no longer have neighbors, we have weekend partiers who create a mess and leave by Sunday night. Trash all over, the wildlife scatters the trash through the woods and we look like a dump if we don’t clean it up.
    Like you we have rented for years in Hawaii, Rome etc. We have had bedrooms smaller than our motorhome with the only ventilation being the sliding door to the outside…want to sleep with the door wide open. Have had the “kitchen” being a corner of the bathroom. In Rome, when luggage was delayed we spent a week sitting in the apartment all day, everyday waiting for our luggage. We had to be there to receive it…no concierge at the front desk. In a strange city nothing beats the help of a good concierge…

  5. Very thoroughly written article but as an airbnb user I can only add from my experience ” do not use an apartment without having read the reviews”. I personally have never had a problem. My children had an unpleasant experience this summer when they were shown into a different flat than the one they had booked through the Airbnb site on Naxos Island, but as it was high season August and they had no other option they had to accept it than keep on arguing with the hostile host. Still I think airbnb should go on existing but with tighter regulation rules… Perhaps…

  6. I am not surprised by any of this. It was obvious from the start that the entire system depends upon universal honesty and ethical conduct on both sides. That’s not to say that everyone is dishonest or greedy or unethical but there was bound to be a percentage that would create the types of problems described. The whole idea didn’t appeal to me. As a solo traveler I prefer the safety of a hotel with a staff. I don’t stay at a hotel in Venice any more after a winter stay during which the owner left the hotel unattended over night because there were only a few guests. I was left in the small hotel with several very elderly guests and no instructions about who to contact in case of a fire or other emergency.

  7. I agree with you completely after using Airbnb for many years we recently returned from a trip to Spain and Germany and decided we won’t use them anymore.
    My issue is the over inflated five star reviews which I now don’t trust. We have encountered three apartments that were not as described and had hidden issues such a six story walk ups and excessive street noise that are nowhere described by previous guests or in the ad for the apartment. One stay in Austin this summer said the apartment was $70 a night for a two bedroom which is what’s expected wanted. When we got there it was two story townhouse that the host was also living in and I had a bedroom on one floor and my husband had a bedroom on another floor. It was creepy and weird to have the host also living there, as we never met him although in his ad he said he was welcoming and friendly. We heard him creeping around and whenever we went out for he room to say hello he was gone.
    The one in Germany just last week had a bedroom that was basically in the attic, very low ceiling and a windy steep staircase to get up there. It was so uncomfortable for a normal size person and nowhere in the ad does it mention this.
    I have sensed that the reviews are either fake, or anything realistic has been removed because all these apartments were rated five stars and all the hosts were super hosts.
    When I wrote my review of the one in Austin, the host wrote me back and was very rude and attacking.
    I think we will go back to hotels or use VRBO in the future.
    Thank you for sharing,

  8. I used airbnb, vrbo and booking.com , today i can clearly says it is all the same. They are all «third party », it is down to our luck on what host we get.
    Like one said, the review are not a good guide. My idea of clean and comfortable seems to be different of many travellers.
    I gave up as a guest of airbnb and only go for agency if i need a house for the family holidays and i specifically check their duties and responsibilities in case of issues.

    I also used to host. I actually only stopped 3 months ago with my last apartment.
    I rented 1 long term and 1 with airbnb + visit of friends family as my own place is too small.
    There is indeed issues to use airbnb as a guest, but oh my …the non sense and nightmares i went through as a host are unbelievable.
    It’s like people feel entitle to everything or else they threatened to leave a bad review, and even when you think you did all well, they leave a bad one because you did not offer « breakfast or a welcoming drink » or « show them around »…
    I will pass the one who litterally destroy your place and just say it is part of the « cleaning » service
    I had it all. Once i even had to call the police as the woman refuse to let gas inspector in, due to an alert in the building. I discover she was actually a local (!!!) and asked to terminate her stay but airbnb refused….who knows what she was doing there?
    I wish i can say my bad experiences were isolated but for the past 2 years that was the norm.
    Hence why i stopped.
    Everytîme i had issue, airbnb was useless and let me deal with it alone.
    I also used homeaway, VRBO and recently booking,com and they are equally bad if not worse for the latter.
    I don’t believe this business model is dead but it certainly calls for regulations and accountable responsibilities !

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