VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – It’s officially summertime and many families are heading to Virginia Beach for some fun in the sun.
However, a Missouri family’s vacation didn’t go quite as planned. They said the beach rental they booked through Airbnb wasn’t actually available.
The family said they drove 15 hours only to find out the vacation rental had been listed by an Airbnb host who didn’t actually own the home. The company said this is a rare occurrence and the host has been removed from the platform.
“It was like, ‘Is this really happening?'” said vacationer Missy Bersing.
The family booked a week-long stay a couple of weeks ago at a vacation home in Sandbridge through Airbnb. As suggested by the company, Bersing said she communicated through Airbnb with someone claiming to be the host’s personal assistant before the trip.
“What got me is that he went so much into detail about things: ‘You going to bring animals? How many kids?'” she said
Bersing said they were told they could check in early, but a cleaning crew was at the home when they arrived. They came back a few hours later, but this time, the door code they were given didn’t work.
Bersing called and messaged the host, but she said they never answered or called back.
“I called the sign on the house where it said Sandbridge Realty and they were very nice, but they assured me that it is not rented by Airbnb,” she said. “It was just such a disappointment.”
Bersing immediately contacted Airbnb and local hotels, but nothing was available for their group of 16.
“We ended up leaving and started heading back to St. Louis,” Bersing said. “I don’t understand Airbnb enough to understand how they can let somebody list something when they don’t own it.”
Airbnb sent a statement, saying: “We are disappointed to hear that Ms. Bersing and her family’s trip was disrupted, and we are providing them with our full support including a refund for this experience. These instances are rare, but when they happen our Community Support Team works hard to make things right. We’ve removed this host from our platform.”
Airbnb said its Community Standards policy “prohibits the use of someone’s property without their permission.” It also said that according to its refund policy, the company will help guests to rebook “should they arrive at a listing that is different than what was advertised” or provide a full refund. Airbnb also has a host verification process listed on its website.
“Airbnb hosts do not receive payments for trips until 24 hours after their guests have successfully checked in, which helps to disincentive this type of behavior,” the company said in the statement. “To that end, we can confirm that the host here did not profit or get paid with this reservation.”
Still, a scan of news headlines reveals that some percentage of travelers do fall victim to bogus vacation rental listings each year. The Better Business Bureau suggests scrutinizing images on the property to confirm they are authentic, staying in communication with your host to establish that they are professional and attentive, and to beware of last-minute changes that may reveal something is not right.
Despite the experience, Bersing said returning to the area is not out of the question.
“We would love to go back and book through Sandbridge and stay there,” she said.