Airbnb guests displaced by Hurricane Ian’s path have relied on their hosts to choose to refund them because the company’s cancellation policy specifically excludes issues related to the storm season in Florida.
Ian, which landed in Florida as a category 4 hurricane on Wednesday, dumped up to 12 inches of rain in some cities, leaving millions of homes and businesses without power as trees fell and blocked roadways. The storm is one of the costliest in U.S. history, with an estimate of tens of billions in total damage.
Floridians are familiar with hurricanes as they land nearly twice as often as Texas, the second most hurricane-prone U.S. state, which is why Airbnb covers some natural disasters in its policy but does not provide refunds for weather “common enough to be foreseeable” in that state. Specifically, the company cites Florida’s hurricane weather among its exceptions, following a similar policy as other short-term rental businesses like Vrbo and Expedia Group.
Hurricane Ian’s arrival is another example of the delicate balance between guests, who must pay upfront, and hosts, about half of whom rent out their properties to make a living. In the early days of the pandemic, Airbnb’s cancellation policy came under scrutiny as guests were not given refunds, forcing the burden of accommodation onto hosts instead.
Eventually, the company rolled back the policy and allowed full refunds, angering hosts facing mounting bills.
Disgruntled Airbnb guests on Twitter commonly complain about everything from misleading ads to cleaning fees, but hosts have also become increasingly disillusioned. On message boards and Facebook groups, hosts share stories about their own difficulties.