Look before you book: Airbnb sticks to strict cancelation policies during pandemic

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Berkeley's Cindy Charles had just about had enough of staying home.

"In November, I was feeling very antsy and needed a break from the four walls of this room," Charles told 7 On Your Side.

Her escape plan? A road trip to Southern California.

"I booked several places, including L.A. to see my son and my husband's son, and then winding our way up north Paso Robles, Arroyo Grande and Ojai," she said.

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All the reservations were made through Airbnb, but then the pandemic really took off. L.A. hospitals were overwhelmed, and travel discouraged. Charles decided that this was not the best time to travel.

"I started canceling the reservations," she says, "and everybody was cool about it (offering), full refund."

Almost everyone. Two Airbnb hosts returned the entire cost of the stay, but the third one returned only the cleaning deposit, costing Cindy about $850... for nothing.

She checked back online and the host had followed his posted rules, that she had agreed to.

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Still this is a pandemic, so she asked 7 On Your Side about a refund. 7 On Your Side contacted Airbnb and it responded that there would be no TV interview and no refund. The company wrote, in part, that for all bookings after March 14, "... the host's cancellation policy will apply as usual and guests will not be able to cancel for COVID-19-related extenuating circumstances, unless they are sick."

And not just sick with COVID-19, but provably sick with COVID-19. Airbnb may require you to prove that you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 before a refund is issued.

7 On Your Side reached out to the Airbnb host, but we have not yet connected. The takeaway? As travel makes a comeback, it is more important than ever to read all policies and take screenshots or make copies. Airbnb's search feature allows you to search for a place to stay based on cancellation policy.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!

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