Let's say you've made an Airbnb reservation for an upcoming stay that's been confirmed and paid for.
Then before your trip, you receive a digital message from the vacation rental's owner (or "host" in Airbnb parlance), saying that, whoops, never mind, the property isn't available for you to rent after all for whatever reason.
According to Airbnb, host cancellations are rare but not unheard of. Maybe a pipe burst. Maybe the host had a personal emergency. Maybe the rental house got airlifted by helium balloons to South America, à la Pixar's Up. You never know.
But here's the tricky part: What if the host then instructs you—the guest—to cancel the reservation through Airbnb since the place is no longer available?
Actually, that isn't tricky at all, except in the sense that you're being tricked. You should not cancel the reservation.
In fact, asking you to do so is a violation of Airbnb's policies, which clearly state, "A Host must promptly cancel a reservation that the Host cannot honor and may not encourage the guest to cancel the reservation."
Why shouldn't you cancel the reservation?
When a host does the canceling prior to check-in, the guest should "automatically receive a full refund," per Airbnb's website. "If a Host cancels 30 days or less prior to check-in, and the guest contacts us, we will also assist the guest with finding comparable or better accommodations."
If the guest cancels, on the other hand, the guest is on the hook for the changes made, and, consequently, refunds and rebookings get more complicated (especially if the cancellation happens at the last minute). You might not get all of your money back. Or you might have to file a claim for a refund when the cancellation wasn't even your fault.
Why doesn't the host want to cancel?
The host isn't necessarily running an out-an-out scam (though that's always a possibility). Instead, the host could just be trying to avoid the consequences Airbnb imposes on hosts who cancel reservations.
Because the company obviously doesn't want to disappoint its customers, Airbnb charges penalties for host cancellations in hopes of keeping those outcomes few and far between.
Hosts who cancel have to pay fees between $50 and $1,000 (depending on the booking's nightly rate and how much advance notice the guest gets), and reservations for the listing will be automatically blocked for the canceled dates to prevent replacement bookings. Hosts who repeatedly cancel could lose "Superhost" status or even have their accounts suspended or removed.
So basically Airbnb hosts who ask you to cancel your reservation on their behalf could be trying to pass along those extra fees and inconveniences to you.
But don't let them. It's not your fault they want to cancel the reservation you booked fair and square. Oh, they're going to have to pay annoying extra fees? Welcome to Airbnb.
What should you do if a host asks you to cancel a reservation?
"If your host lets you know that they can't accommodate your stay anymore, don't cancel for them," Airbnb's website advises. "Instead, send [the host] a message asking them to cancel. That way, you'll be eligible to receive a full refund."
If that doesn't work, you can notify the platform via the online cancellation form.
But you might accidentally cancel your reservation if you go that route. So it's probably wisest to reach out to Airbnb's support center directly by going to Airbnb.com/help/contact-us.
A company representative can put in a request with the host to cancel the reservation or, barring that, issue you a refund.