Another Airbnb horror story

Copyright notice: images of Airbnb property from original listing are used under fair use doctrine of relevant jurisdictions (US and UK). All other images were taken by the author. All copyrights are reserved.

It's not like it's new, there are plenty of Airbnb horror stories out there, this one is simply mine.

For our 10 year anniversary, my wife and I decided to travel from the US to Cardiff, Wales to check off a shared bucket list item of watching the Welsh national rugby team play at the Principality Stadium. Even better, we managed to get a pair of tickets to the Wales v. England 6 Nations game.

While they couldn't come to the game, ticket sales were limited and they're too young to enjoy it anyway, we brought the kids and they were going to hang out with their grandparents while we went to the game.

So with all that in mind, we planned a long weekend in Cardiff and booked an Airbnb that at the time had great reviews. Like everything else in the city the prices per night were extortionate because of the match. We arrive at the property as it's getting dark around 6:30pm. With 2 small kids in tow there's just about time to grab some dinner before we need to start getting them ready for bed.

Then we open the door to the property and see for the first time that it doesn't really live up to the listing photos. OK, that's somewhat normal. Airbnb hosts often have pristine pictures from immediately after they last renovated, so some marks on the walls/floors are pretty normal. As we looked around the house though it quickly became clear this wasn't normal wear and tear, there was a serious damp problem.

While some of the more obvious areas appeared to have been at least wiped down, we found anywhere that wasn't immediately visible had been skipped.

The corner behind the sofa bed was just starting to get furry.

If this level of mold was the limit, we might have just wiped it down ourselves and not worried about it, but this was the least bad area. The bathroom, probably because it had some level of ventilation and a huge heated towel rack, wasn't terrible, but also wasn't free from the problem.

Mold along the ceiling and around the exhaust fan in the bathroom

Still, not looking too bad at this point. On to the bedrooms. The first bedroom is where it started to get a bit worse and an obvious effort had been made to wipe the walls.

Mold inside and outside the closet.

At least one of the kids would be sleeping in this room, not something you feel great about as a parent. The second bedroom though was the real shitshow and the straw that broke the camel's back.

Increasingly bad mold along the 2nd bedroom wall reaching fully opaque, furry, coverage.

Noticing the attempt to clean the wall in the bottom left image, and seeing the mold extend along the wall to the bed, I pulled the bed out from the wall. The top and right images show what I found. No effort had been made to clean or otherwise remediate the mold, and by the time it reached the corner, it was completely opaque and furry.

At this point we phoned around hotels to see if any had a last minute cancellation while we also got some takeout for dinner. It shouldn't be surprising that none of the hotels had sufficient capacity for all 4 adults and 2 children the night before a 6 Nations game. Around 7:30pm we had simply resigned ourselves to the fact we'd be stuck in the house for at least one night. We ensured the kids stayed out of the second bedroom and gritted our teeth.

In the morning, we got out of the house early, got some breakfast and some fresh air looking around Cardiff Castle. As soon as that was over we were back on the phones to Airbnb and local hotels simultaneously. A lot of the visiting fans leave town immediately after the game so we were fortunately able to find rooms at a hotel and vacate the Airbnb early, though at triple the cost of the Airbnb's rate for that night.

As far as Airbnb's response to the situation it was mixed. The initial customer support agent we spoke to was straightforward about refunding us the night we'd no longer be staying, and giving us a partial refund for the night we did stay. However once we vacated, a second support agent we contacted to confirm we were out was much more defensive, even with our photographic documentation.

Additionally Airbnb wanted to contact the host while we were still in the property. While I understand this, the property only had a single lock that anyone with a key could open from the outside, there was no additional deadbolt or similar on the inside. With our children present we didn't want an angry host turning up at the door.

The end result of all this is we're done with Airbnb. This isn't the first time we've ended up in some janky place, though this was definitely the worst, and by a long way. Their policies and support are largely unhelpful, forcing you to deal with finding alternate accommodation on short notice with absolutely no help from Airbnb. In situations like this, Airbnb's insurance should cover alternate accommodation at their expense. This is a clear case of the advertisement being a misrepresentation of the product and Airbnb's policies and level of help simply don't live in reality.

The contract an Airbnb guest enters into is based on the state of the accommodation presented in the listing photos. We as customers expect to get something approximating the listing photos for the price we pay. If the state of the accommodation is so far from the listing photos that it constitutes a misrepresentation, alternate accommodation should be covered at no additional expense to the guest.

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