Life is uncertain, and nowhere is that uncertainty more evident than in the world of travel plans. You might have scheduled a weekend getaway in the mountains, only to discover at the last minute that your child is sick and needs you to stay home.
Situations like these can be a bit of a bummer, but sooner or later, you’ll need to cancel your reservation for a vacation rental. In situations like these, it’s crucial to understand the cancellation policy of the place you booked. In fact, it’s best to consider the policy before booking, so that you can rest assured you’ll get your money back if you do have to cancel last-minute.
If you’re an Airbnb guest (or host), you’ll be glad to know that the company has a variety of cancellation policy options to suit the preferences of both hosts and travelers.
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at the various types of Airbnb cancellation policies so that you can understand which is best when listing or booking a property.
Why Airbnb Has Cancellation Policies
Airbnb put cancellation policies in place to create standardized expectations for both hosts and guests regarding how refunds work if a guest needs to cancel an Airbnb stay. The host’s cancellation policy clearly outlines how far in advance a guest has to cancel before getting a refund, as well as what that refund will include. Oftentimes, this policy clearly defines what happens to a guest’s security deposit upon cancellation.
Not only does the policy help mitigate unpleasant surprises for guests, but it also helps if the Airbnb Resolution Center has to step in to resolve disputes related to payments or refunds.
Of course, Airbnb knows that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cancellation policy. That’s why the company has created several different cancellation policies to fit different situations. For example, a guest with a consistent track record of staying long-term with the same host might have a little more flexibility than a first-time guest.
Let’s examine each of them in more detail.
Flexible Cancellation Policy
To start, we have the Flexible cancellation policy. As the name implies, this policy is the most generous in both the amount of time the guest has to ask for a refund and the extent of the refund they will receive.
Here’s how the Flexible policy works for the different types of fees that Airbnb guests pay:
- Cleaning fee — This is always refundable if the guest cancels before they check in.
- Airbnb service fee — This is refundable up to 3 times per year, provided that the guest cancels the reservation within 48 hours of booking AND at least 24 hours before they check in.
- Accommodation fees — This is the total nightly rate that guests pay to the host. Accommodation fees are refundable under the Flexible cancellation policy if the guest cancels at least 24 hours before the listing’s local check-in time.
In other words, you could theoretically receive a full refund of everything you paid as long as you cancel within 48 hours of booking the property. Otherwise, you’ll be able to receive a full refund of accommodation fees and the cleaning fee (but not the Airbnb service fee) as long as you cancel at least 24 hours before check-in time.
Note that if you cancel less than 24 hours in advance, the accommodation fees for the first night of your stay will be nonrefundable, but you’ll still be able to get a refund for the remaining nights in your booking.
If you’re uncertain that you’ll be able to take a trip, then booking a property with a Flexible cancellation policy offers you the best opportunity to get a refund if your plans change.
As a host, having this policy can make you more attractive to guests who value flexibility. On the other hand, you have to be comfortable with last-minute changes and cancellations, so this may not be the best policy if you value predictability in your bookings.
Moderate Cancellation Policy
Up next, we have the Moderate cancellation policy. It’s similar to the Flexible cancellation policy, except that you have a more limited period of time to receive a full refund.
Here’s how refunds of different fees work under the Moderate cancellation policy:
- Cleaning fee — This fee is always refundable if you cancel before check-in.
- Airbnb service fee — This fee is refundable up to 3 times per year as long as the guest cancels within 48 hours of booking AND at least 5 days before check-in.
- Accommodation fees — These are fully refundable if the guest cancels at least 5 days before the listing’s check-in time.
Note that if you cancel less than 5 days in advance, you’ll still be able to get a partial refund. The first night will be nonrefundable in this case, but you will get back 50% of the accommodation fees for the remaining nights of your booking.
The Moderate cancellation policy makes sense as a guest if you’re fairly sure about a trip but still want a bit of flexibility if something comes up a few days before you’re set to leave. As a host, this policy could make sense to have if you want to allow some flexibility for guests booking far in advance but don’t want to deal with as many last-minute cancellations.
Strict Cancellation Policy
The Strict cancellation policy offers much less flexibility than the Moderate or Flexible policies, though a full refund is still possible under specific circumstances.
Here’s how the Strict policy handles refunds of the various Airbnb fees:
- Cleaning fee — This is always refundable if the guest cancels before check-in.
- Airbnb service fee — This fee is refundable up to 3 times per year as long as the guest cancels within 48 hours of booking AND at least 14 days before check-in.
- Accommodation fees — These fees are fully refundable if the guest cancels within 48 hours of booking and at least 14 days before the listing’s check-in time.
Note that you’ll still be eligible for a 50% refund if you cancel at least 7 days before the listing’s check-in time. If you cancel less than 7 days in advance, you won’t be eligible for any kind of refund.
The Strict cancellation policy is riskier for you as a guest, though it may not matter to you if you’re certain you’ll be taking a trip. As a host, this can be a smart policy to have if you don’t want to worry about losing money due to a cancellation. On the other hand, you should be aware that such a strict policy could deter some potential guests.
Super Strict Cancellation Policy
The Super Strict cancellation policy is the strictest that Airbnb has. We won’t spend a lot of time discussing it, as it’s pretty rare. To have this policy as a host, Airbnb must invite you personally. There are also some claims in the Airbnb forum that you can get the policy if you call Airbnb and request it, though we can’t verify if any of these claims are accurate.
For reference, however, here’s how the Super Strict policy works:
- Cleaning fee — This is fully refundable as long as the guest cancels before check-in.
- Airbnb service fee — This fee is non-refundable under the Super Strict policy.
- Accommodation fees — These are 50% refundable if the guest cancels a full 30 days or 60 days before the listing’s check-in time. The Super Strict policy comes in two versions: Super Strict 30 Days and Super Strict 60 Days. The only difference is how far in advance you have to cancel to receive a partial accommodation fee refund.
So why would a property have such an inflexible cancellation policy?
Generally, Airbnb reserves the Super Strict cancellation policy for high-end properties that cost thousands of dollars per night. With so much money on the line in the form of service fees, they want to prevent people from canceling high-ticket reservations.
It also makes sense if you’re the host for such a property, as losing a booking could mean losing a significant chunk of your projected revenue.
Unless you’re regularly booking stays at villas or private complexes, however, then it’s unlikely that the Super Strict cancellation policy is something you’ll have to worry about.
Long-Term Cancellation Policy
The final cancellation policy to discuss is the Long-Term cancellation policy. This policy applies to all Airbnb reservations of 28 nights or more.
Here’s how the Long-Term policy affects different fees:
- Cleaning fee — This is the fee that guests pay to cover an Airbnb cleaning service. This fee is fully refundable if the guest cancels before check-in.
- Airbnb service fee — This fee is refundable up to 3 times per year as long as you cancel within 48 hours of booking your reservation.
- Accommodation fees — If a guest cancels before the start of their reservation, then the accommodation fees for the first month of the reservation will be paid to the host in full. If a guest cancels during their reservation, they’ll be responsible for paying for the 30 days remaining after their cancellation date. If there are less than 30 days remaining in the reservation, then the guest will be required to pay for all of those days.
The Long-Term cancellation policy can sound quite strict as a guest. However, bear in mind that your host is allowed to offer you a refund for the days remaining in your stay if they want to.
They aren’t under any obligation to do so, but if you’re polite and have a good reason for canceling your reservation request, your host may decide to be generous and give you more of your money back.
Airbnb Cancellation Policy FAQ
To conclude this guide, here are answers to some common questions about the Airbnb cancellation policy:
1. When is the Airbnb cancellation policy void?
There are certain circumstances when the Airbnb cancellation policy may be void. The main reason for this would be any “extenuating circumstances.” For instance, if a guest has a death in the family or a serious illness, then Airbnb may decide to give a full refund.
Consider this like bereavement leave at a full time job. Be understanding, sensitive, and willing to just accept the fact it happened without getting frustrated or upset.
Ultimately, Airbnb has the final say in all refunds, and they will do their best to determine if giving a refund makes sense.
2. How does the Guest Refund Policy differ from the Cancellation Policy?
If you read Airbnb’s Cancellation Policy pages, you’ll see that it says, “Cancellation policies may be superseded by the Guest Refund Policy.” So what exactly is the Guest Refund Policy, and when would it supersede the Cancellation Policy?
The Guest Refund Policy is in place to help travelers get a refund if something serious was wrong with their Airbnb. Airbnb says there are 3 main situations where the Guest Refund Policy could apply:
- “The host fails to provide reasonable access to the booked listing.
- The listing is misrepresented (ex: number of bedrooms, location, lacks promised amenities).
- The listing isn’t generally clean, is unsafe, or there’s an animal in the listing that wasn’t disclosed prior to booking.”
If any of the above apply, you can contact Airbnb customer support and request a refund. Note that Airbnb may also attempt to find you a different place to stay for the remainder of your booking, and it’s up to them to decide how much of a refund you’ll receive.
To prevent abuse of this policy, Airbnb requests that you first contact the host for assistance resolving your issue. After all, you might think that the home is out of toilet paper, only to discover that the host keeps extra in a closet. If the issue is this simple to resolve, then asking for a refund would be absurd.
Assuming the host cannot or does not assist you with the problem, you’ll then need to provide photos or other documentation of the problem. This helps Airbnb ensure that the issue is legitimate and not just an attempt at a fraudulent refund.
3. Do I get a refund if a host cancels my Airbnb reservation?
If your host has to cancel your reservation, you have a couple options. You can request a refund from Airbnb, or you can transfer the payment to a different Airbnb booking. It’s up to you to decide which is better for your situation.
Airbnb discourages hosts from canceling reservations unless there are special circumstances, but cancellations will still happen from time to time. This is just part of the reality of using Airbnb.
Understanding the Airbnb Cancellation Policy Puts You in Control
We hope this guide has helped you understand the main differences between Airbnb’s cancellation policies. If you’re ever unsure how a particular cancellation policy works, don’t hesitate to either message your host or contact Airbnb support. It’s better to ask for help than to end up with a nasty surprise just because you didn’t understand the policy.