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Beware of Airbnb Damage Scams: Take Photos of Your Rental

Before you settle into your Airbnb, take as many photos and videos of it first—it could save you a lot of money and hassle in the future.
Updated 10 August 2021
Beware of Airbnb Damage Scams: Take Photos of Your Rental
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Identified Scam:
Key Finding

Airbnb hosts charge you for damage you didn't cause after your stay.

Key Risk

Unless you have sufficient evidence that you didn't cause the damage, you could be liable to pay.

Sections on this page
  1. What Are Airbnb Damage Scams?
  2. How to Beat Airbnb Damage Scams
  3. Red Flags of Fake Airbnb Damage Scams
  4. Examples of Airbnb Damage Scams
  5. What to Do if You’ve Fallen for Airbnb Fake Damage Scam
  6. Frequently Asked Questions

To avoid Airbnb damage scams you need to take photos of your rental when you arrive and send any evidence of damage to the landlord as soon as possible. This can prevent you from being charged for damage you didn't cause.

What Are Airbnb Damage Scams?

In Airbnb damage scams, you’ll check out of your Airbnb rental, leaving the property in the same condition as you found it. However, instead of receiving an appreciative message from the host after your stay, your inbox dings with a demand that you pay for repairs for damages that you know you didn’t cause. 

Scammer hosts are well aware of the limitations of the Airbnb platform, particularly the difficulty of determining whether damage occurred and when. They also know that guests are liable for any damage caused to the property. That’s why they use this trick to successfully scam guests out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars after their stay. Here’s how it works.  

You Check Out of Your Rental Property

You leave the Airbnb rental in pristine condition, following the instructions given by the host. This could mean cleaning the premises, washing dishes, or laundering towels. You aren’t aware of any damages that may have occurred during your stay.

You Receive A Message from Host

A day or two later, you receive a message from the host accusing you of causing damage to the property. The host demands that you compensate them for the damages. You deny causing the damage, but the host does not believe you.

Example Message

Your host is requesting additional payment for an issue related to your San Francisco trip. You have until Mon, Jun 14, 2021 at 3:43 PM PST to respond to this request. Guests with multiple unresolved requests like this one may be subject to review.

The Host Escalates the Matter 

Since you denied causing the damage, the host brings the matter to the attention of Airbnb’s dispute resolution service. You may receive another message, this time from Airbnb, advising you of the damages that the host is claiming you caused. Airbnb may ask you for additional information to come to a resolution. 

Airbnb Sides with Host

Airbnb investigates the host’s concern and determines that you are responsible for paying for the damages. If the host charged a security deposit, Airbnb would collect the deposit to pay for the damages or charge the card on file. 

If you refuse to pay for the damages, Airbnb may send the unpaid amount to collections. You’ll have to deal with collections calls and letters—as well as expensive interest accruing on your bill—the longer you avoid paying. The host could also leave you a negative review, or you might be banned from using Airbnb.

How to Beat Airbnb Damage Scams

It’s vital to take an extra step before leaving your Airbnb to protect yourself from unfair property owners. Although it may seem unnecessary or a chore, you’ll thank yourself later if you’re ever in this unfortunate situation. 

Take Photos and Videos Before You Leave

It’s always best to take photos and videos of the property before you leave. Consider this as a protective measure in case you’re later falsely accused of causing damages. You should also take photos of where you placed the key. You can use these photos and videos to counter any accusations that you caused damage. 

Notify Host About Damages That Are Already Present

If you do happen to damage anything during your stay, let the host know immediately—don’t wait until the end of your stay. Take photos and videos of the damages and send them to your hosts, letting them know it was like that when you arrived. 

Don't Wait To Look for Damage

It's important to contact the host about damages upon your arrival, so it's clear that you were not responsible. Even if the host doesn't respond, at least you have a record of the damage and communication.

Hosts are much more likely to work with you when you are upfront about a problem. If you notice something is broken or damaged upon your arrival—and you know you didn’t cause it—let the host know about your discovery. 

Read Reviews Thoroughly

Whenever you use Airbnb to find a short-term rental property, comb through the reviews very carefully. Be wary of overly positive reviews that sound like the same person posted them or reviews with poor grammar and spelling. Look for reviews that mention excellent communication with the host and clean, well-managed properties.  

Red Flags of Fake Airbnb Damage Scams

Red flags are difficult to spot with the Airbnb fake damage scam. Unfortunately, you may not realize what’s going on until you’re on the receiving end of a host’s angry accusation. However, there are some key signs of this scam to look out for:

  • Stains or broken items
  • The host doesn’t provide proof of actual damage
  • Few reviews or negative reviews
  • Unresponsive host

Stains or Broken Items

If you notice stains or broken items in your Airbnb rental, take photos. It’s typically a bad sign if the host hasn’t fixed damages before your arrival and could mean the host is trying to pin the blame on you. 

The Host Doesn’t Provide Proof of the Airbnb Damage

In fake damage scams, the hosts are often short on proof, such as photos, repair estimates, or invoices—the host will accuse you of causing the damage. However, Airbnb requires clear documentation of damages and receipts, and billing statements to investigate a claim. 

Few Reviews, or Negative Reviews

A host that accuses you of fake damages is generally not going to attract five-star reviews. You might notice that the host doesn’t have many reviews or may have negative ones.

Unresponsive Host

If you contact the host about damages early on in your stay and they remain unresponsive, that is a sign you need to document everything early on and do a thorough sweep of the property. Unresponsive hosts may be trying to set you up to pay for damages by claiming they were unaware of any damage before your stay. 

Examples of Airbnb Damage Scams

Airbnb fake damage scams can be a disappointing end to a vacation. In this example, a traveler was stunned to receive a claim that he damaged a shower sliding curtain and incurred excessively high cleaning fees. However, the host does not offer photos showing the damage or any receipts or statements explaining why she is charging this amount. 

Example of Airbnb damage scam
Take photos and videos of your rental when you first arrive will help you fight claims that you caused the damage. (Source: Culture Passport)

 In the following example, the host claimed that a family caused damage to floorboards and water outside a basement bathroom and owed more than $5,000 in repair costs. The guests adamantly denied that they caused the damage, although they did notice bubbling on some floorboards in the basement when they checked in. 

Eventually, Airbnb dropped the matter and did not force the guests to pay anything. The host uploaded the below photo to prove the extent of the damages supposedly caused by the guests.   

Example of Airbnb damage scam
(Source: CBC)

This following user’s account, published on Vice, details another version of the scam—the owner instructing guests to leave the key in a specific spot, then later accusing the guest of not following these instructions. 

This guest could’ve been liable for the charges to re-key the door, but luckily, Airbnb ruled in her favor.  

Example of Airbnb damage scam
(Source: Vice)

What to Do if You’ve Fallen for Airbnb Fake Damage Scam

As a victim of the Airbnb fake damage scam, you’re likely feeling angry about the false accusation and the amount of extra money you may now have to pay. You can take a couple of steps to ensure you don’t need to pay for damage you didn’t cause.

Dispute Airbnb Damage Accusations

If you are hit with a false accusation, dispute it with Airbnb through the Resolution Center (you'll need to log into your account). If you have proof that you didn’t cause damage, such as photos and videos, Airbnb may be more likely to side with you. 

Write out a detailed account of your arrival and stay and anything you noticed (such as broken, damaged, or dirty items). If Airbnb is unable to determine what really happened, you may not have to pay anything, or you could end up being able to negotiate for a lower amount than the host is charging. 

Dispute Charges with Your Credit Card Company

If Airbnb charges you for fake damages, you can also reach out to your credit card company and file a dispute. The credit card company will investigate the matter, and if it determines that you should not have been charged, you may receive your funds back.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Airbnb pay for damages?

No, the cost of damages will come from either the host or the renter, depending on who is found to have caused the damage. As a renter, if you cause damage, the host can request money or take money out of your security deposit. 

Can an Airbnb host charge you for damages?

Yes, Airbnb hosts can charge renters to cover the cost of repairing damages. To protect yourself from paying for damages you didn't cause, you should take photos and videos of the property when you first arrive so you have proof the damage was already there.