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Airbnb complaints – stop them before they happen

It’s no news that trust is the glue that both holds together and provides structure for Airbnb. Trust and reputation are the two most important (and most heavily relied upon) factors in any given transaction among sharing community members; they represent the currency that runs the system.

[There’s] a social glue of trust that makes sharing easier and easier….Reputation is a currency that I believe will become more powerful than our credit history in the 21st century. It will be the currency that says that you can trust me.

– Rachel Botsman, TEDglobal

On the one hand, as an Airbnb host, it’s amazing when your guests are picking up what you’re putting down, so to speak. In other words, if you do in fact host according to the way in which present yourself as a host, the trust that you create between you and your guests will be rewarded with positive reviews and in turn, more bookings. This is all a sign that the Airbnb trust system is running smoothly, as planned, and that the currency is strong.

On the other hand, however, there are inevitably going to be some instances that mark the exception to the rule, meaning, you are a trustworthy host who deserves a good Airbnb reputation, yet the system doesn’t reflect that and your value goes down. The front-running issue at hand in this instance? Airbnb complaints. Regardless of whether or not the guest complaints are warranted, you will have to wear any negative reviews on your sleeve, as that is the nature of the trust system beast.

Getting to know the system inside and out is the best way to ward off any run-ins with the trust law. This guide is meant to get you more well-versed in just that: how to master the trust system by stopping Airbnb complaints before they happen and getting filthy rich with a valuable reputation.

Time Is Money

Airbnb’s Guest Refund Policy protects guests from taking a blow to their experience in the event that their host breach any one of their hospitality standards. The standards include expected levels of transparency, cleanliness, reachability, and the like. In order to maintain these standards, Airbnb recommends that you stay “on-the-clock” within the first 24-hours of guest check-in to your space, so you can be available to help with any SNAFU before your guest has the chance to file a complaint, yet alone even conceive of one. Let’s be fair, it wouldn’t hurt to go the extra mile and check-up on your guests throughout this window of availability to make sure everything’s running smoothly.

It’s not always possible to dedicate such big blocks of time to your guests simply as a preventative measure. But alas, it’s super important to maintain the trust and good-standing with guests and Airbnb. Sometimes outsourcing guest communication is the safest solution, as sort of a time-sensitive complaint emergency hotline.

Lay Your Cards On The Table…

Even with an Airbnb listing that is less than stellar, you can still be a well-renowned host. As long as your property’s description is see-through and you expose all on your profile, there will be very little room for any dramatic guest complaints. It’s the host’s responsibility to be honest, and it’s the guests’ responsibilities to be wise. Read: if a dirty kitchen is advertised (this is not recommended, for the record), a dirty kitchen is to be expected.

Give your listing descriptions a good ole’ thorough read-through to make sure you’re accurately managing guests’ expectations and, if necessary, airing any dirty laundry ahead of time. Nothing unexpected, nothing warranting a complaint.

… But Not All Of Your Cards

Every few days, you see something or the other about a guest leaving or finding odd household items in or conditions of their Airbnb, like ridiculously messy beds or meth pipes, or something. Okay, okay, so the meth pipes are obviously an extreme example, and they represent an instance of something odd that the Airbnb guests left behind, but nonetheless, the scary scene of meth pipes everywhere paves the way to a very relevant underlying warning for hosts. If you have anything that the average guest might find to be the least bit off-putting… hide it or get rid of it or at least keep it out of plain site.

This is important to keep in mind when sweeping your Airbnb for valuables that you may want to keep secur and make sure you consider every possibility. For instance, if you have a family with young kids coming to visit, maybe hide the liquor. This is of course not necessary, but a good example nonetheless. Otherwise, just keep an eye out for personal objects that others may not want to see, such as underwear, half-eaten food, and the like, as well as, you know… meth pipes.

Don’t Anger The Man

Yes, Airbnb tries to do its part by warning hosts at the very genesis of each listing – once you type in your listing address, Airbnb will suggest that you reference local property laws. But while Airbnb aims to educate its community about breaking local laws, their waving finger is all too often overlooked, and hey, maybe they’re really not doing all that good of a job of getting through to their users (but alas, they’re trying, and they’re trying really hard).

By not warning people more explicitly about local laws, [Airbnb] is making casualties of the very people they need to make their site a success.

– Ron Lieber, NY Times

While that’s just one unlucky host’s opinion, it’s a red flag to look out for nonetheless. And all the more reason to take this matter into your own hands. Local property-related laws have many forms, from tax requirements, to home sharing restrictions, to fire regulations, you name it. The bigger your city, the more likely you are to have stronger legal boundaries around the whole Airbnb thing. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you volunteer to host, because you could unknowingly be putting your guests in a very uncomfortable situation, or even breaking the law (like this guy, who faced handsome fines and eviction after buzzkill cops arrived at his apartment to break up the illegal transient hotel party that he was unsuspectingly running).

Plus, I guarantee a run-in with an officer is one of the quickest routes to an unhappy guest. And an unhappy guest is one of the quickest routes to an Airbnb complaint. Don’t look at me, that’s just science.

Quid Pro Quo

On the subject of legal terms…

Quid pro quo is a great philosophy to adopt while approaching your Airbnb career: you seek to represent me in a positive light, and I’ll do the same for you. Though it may seem like a somewhat insincere approach – given that the importance of trust currency is that it is the most genuine form of expression among Airbnb community members – it doesn’t have to be heard with this sort of ring to it. Consider the idea that instead of looking at this approach as insincere, look at it as setting the bar, and setting it high, at that?

It’s a fact that setting the bar high in terms of how you contribute to your guests’ Airbnb reputations will encourage reciprocity from them onto your own host reputation. Of course, each of your guests won’t see your review of him or her until submitting one for you. But there can be a ripple of kindness floating around the entirety of your Airbnb experience as a host, made clear by the past guest reviews that you’ve written, and you can be the one to start that wave (by the way, if you need a good place to start with the Airbnb host review system, this is a great resource).

Think about it this way: unless you’ve crossed a line, a guest may find that a small complaint is a poor representation of who you are as a host, deep down. If a complaint doesn’t represent you, your guest may not feel the need to go through with filing it. And the best way to gauge whether or not a complaint represents you as a host is to look at your past reviews, both those written and those received. If you’re the type of host who often praises your pasts guests’ behavior (and vice versa), that may encourage your future guests to follow suit.

Therefore, we ask for reviews that are truthful, clear, and helpful to both the review’s recipient and the wider Airbnb community.

– Airbnb, Reviews Guidelines

See? Even Airbnb prefers reviews that are helpful to the community, not reviews that are littered with personal opinions that may not truly reflect the hosts.


Truth be told, a strong reputation must be earned and deserved. So if a guest Airbnb complaint is inevitable and valid, so be it, this is what makes the trust currency world go round. However, there are those instances where these complaints can be avoided, and they should be. In any well-running Airbnb host system, think of these trust and reputation kudos as the oil that greases it. So take Airbnb complaints seriously, as they can make or break your home sharing experience. But with this guide, you should be able to easily steer clear of any avoidable complaints from guests, so you can soon be making it rain with good host reputation.

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