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6 Ways Airbnb Rentals Mislead Travelers Into Booking

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Despite a variety of complaints about short-term rentals, it appears they are here to stay for the long haul.

Some are concerned about the safety of such rentals, and others complain they are ruining the heart and soul of certain neighborhoods.

man looking out of a window

Many travelers still prefer hotels over vacation rentals such as Airbnb, VRBO, and even some listings on

But it's Airbnb who takes the cake in being the #1 vacation rental platform, and with that comes the potential for being misled into thinking your rental is better than it is.

It’s important to have a keen eye for detail when choosing a place to stay on such sites as Airbnb.

These are 6 ways Airbnb rentals are misleading travelers into booking:

Too Picture Perfect

We’ve all had that one friend who seems to take a selfie of every single aspect of their life. Using filters, duck faces, and calculated angles to make themselves appear more Instagram-able — maybe even photoshopping.

taking picture of kitchen

It’s no different with Airbnb listings where deceptive tactics are commonly used.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, low-quality pictures can hide negative aspects of the rental.

So if the listing seems too good to be true, or you catch yourself squinting at blurred photos, it might be best to book elsewhere.

Oops…Did I Forget To Mention That?

It’s probably not always easy being an Airbnb host and being able to fully encapsulate what travelers should expect.

Hosts provide a summary of their property, but some travelers have been disappointed to find key elements left out of the description.

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couple annoyed with loud neighbors

Perhaps a couple is looking for a romantic getaway in a private cabin only to arrive and find out its actually a guesthouse in someone’s backyard. 

Maybe someone is looking for some solitude only to arrive and realize they are located across the street from a loud mechanic shop.

It’s important to not only read through the property description but also past guest reviews, if applicable.

This will limit these disappointing experiences for travelers. 

I’m Sorry, But This Wasn’t In Your Video

On the surface, videos seem like a much more reliable way to get a feel for a rental before seeing it in person.

Unfortunately, there are bad apples out there who will purposely record at certain angles, or even record something entirely unrelated to present a false scenario.

making a video recording of airbnb

Maybe those epic views of the ocean are coming from another area of the building and not the specific unit you will be staying in.

Perhaps the dwelling itself is remodeled, but the building is janky and falling apart. Would the host include that in the video?

These tactics do not violate Airbnb terms or laws in any way. That’s why its important for users to be vigilant in turning over every stone before clicking “Reserve”.

A Little White Lie Never Hurt Anyone

Bending the truth can alter guests' expectations. It would be very disappointing to show up to a dreamy place to stay only to find it doesn’t match expectations.

laundromat storefront

Maybe you plan on staying a while and taking full advantage of a nice, open kitchen with all the bells and whistles. 

When you show up, maybe it's more college-style with a mini fridge and microwave. Hosts could also be deceiving in describing other amenities, such as washing machines and dryers.

Maybe they word it in a way to imply it’s in the house, but really they live a block away from a laundromat. 

Excuse Me, Where Is Your House Again?

Sometimes hosts might imply they are a little closer to certain attractions, when in reality, that’s simply not true.

lost tourist with map

Say you were to book a cozy apartment in San Diego and wanted to be within walking distance of a nice beach.

Airbnb does not disclose the exact location of rentals before officially booking. The listing only shows a blip on the map.

To become more appealing, hosts might exaggerate the location and say things like “walking distance” and “close to”, when in fact it might not be walkable at all.

What Are These Charges?

In rare cases more common in other countries, some properties may charge for the use of air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and not-so-clear cleaning fees.

traveler using wifi at airbnb

It’s important to read the fine print of the listing to ensure there are no surprise charges upon checkout. 

Although uncommon, it does happen and can result in an uncomfortable back-and-forth dispute between the host, yourself, and Airbnb.

To combat these frustrations, travelers should know Airbnb has implemented a new guarantee called AirCover to ensure the best experience possible.

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This article originally appeared on

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Saturday 6th of May 2023

We used Airbnb for a long time with many great experiences, but over the past 4 years or so it seems to have been overrun with hosts looking to get rich quick, and when they find out it doesn't work that way for most, they skimp and deceive to pad their losses.

We've since stopped using Airbnb entirely as it's too much of a gamble.

Outdated photos masking run down units are the most common in our experience. We've also found that hosts are able to easily convince Airbnb to remove many negative reviews because oftentimes, the negative reviews break or brush up against the rules one must follow when reviewing. We had major issues with a month long stay and $2000+ price tag. We had clearly documented evidence of violations of Airbnb's guest protection policies, and got most of our money back that way, yet they failed to take any serious actions against the host. We had to go through our credit card for a full refund, which was essentially instant when they were given the evidence. After the fact we realized that the property's management company was shuffling, deleting, and relisting properties to manage negative reviews.

Hotel chains are straightforward, you know what you're getting, and while not as warm or welcoming as Airbnb's traditionally were, those qualities are long gone from most Airbnb's anyway.


Saturday 6th of May 2023

I booked a room in someone's house. It failed to mention that they also booked other rooms and they all used a shared bathroom. The other guests were also not aware of this. Going forward, I will never book a room again.

Morgan Williams

Saturday 6th of May 2023

There are a handful of dubious hosts, but Airbnb is famous for its guest favoritism, and hosts that deliver a product less than what it appears will quickly get slammed in their ratings, lose bookings, and eventually, possibly delisted.

With respect to conflicts, by far the most common are guests who misrepresent who they are and how many of them, leave unnecessary messes and damage, and then when confronted, demand refunds based on fabricated horrors imposed on them by the host, and as a minimum, write a scathing review.

Further, "AirCover" is not a guarantee or insurance, and in many cases, is absolutely useless to hosts making claims against guests who cause damage or fraudulently misrepresent their numbers to save money. Therefore, hosts generally don't file claims or make a fuss because it can come back to hurt them.

For guests, "AirCover" simply means they can request a refund for something they don't like. And because Airbnb is extremely guest- favoritist, they'll usually get their money back, which explains why guest defrauding of hosts is a rather quietly popular occurrence. And further, when hosts are damaged or defrauded, it almost always is presented as an affront to the guest, not the host.

So, as an Airbnb guest, you're actually pretty safe. Hosts however, have to be very careful. Most will have had at least one such bad guest experience in their first year. But they quickly discover there's precious little they can do about it.

Morgan Williams

Monday 8th of May 2023

@Mike Easley,

I find it curious how the majority of mainstream media stories focus on guests being screwed by dubious hosts.

But statistically, it's hosts who get screwed far more often, with far less recourse available to them. The customer is always right. Right? Few journalists ever mention this, yet it's glaringly prominent in this business.

There are internet blogs that instruct people how to get cheap or free stays on Airbnb by making fraudulent claims against hosts. And it (mostly) works - if they play it right.

Most experienced hosts have had this happen to them, and because they have so little recourse, eventually just resolve it to "a part (and cost) of doing business". Yet it's rare that the media ever mentions it.

Still, some enterprising journalist would be well served to research and write about this "other" quietly popular phenomenon in the short term rental business.

Mike Easley

Sunday 7th of May 2023

@Morgan Williams, well said. I have experienced exactly that as a host.

Morgan Williams

Sunday 7th of May 2023


First, booking a "shared room" on Airbnb does to a large extent subject you to increased cooperative behaviour, because you're essentially living together with someone else. It's not a hotel room.

Second, you need not take my word for it, it's a well known fact that for a host to get any guest review removed is extremely difficult, (usually impossible) .

The only way (and not guaranteed) is to furnish irrefutable proof that the review is false, and/or violates an Airbnb policy, such as containing racist or threatening content.

Did you for example, (in writing on the Airbnb message system) demand a refund or else you would write a bad review? That is one way it could be removed.

Otherwise, the host would have to live with whatever you write, whether it's true or not, or simply the result of retaliation for anything you found undesirable, no matter how frivolous.


Saturday 6th of May 2023

@Morgan Williams, it's not true that the guests are airbnb's favorite; in my opinion the hosts are, as they bring in the money! We had a bad experience last year in an airbnb in France: we didn't get a key as we were only allowed in the apartment with the host that left at 8 am and came back around 8 pm. In the ad it said 'private room' but we were sleeping on a couch in the living room, while she was working until late, just a few meters away from us. We felt very uncomfortable. She was not friendly and she clearly 'hosted' people because of the money. She didn't even provide toilet paper, totally crazy. Anyway, she should have been honest about these things in the ad, but she wasn't. I posted a negative review (completely honest and respectful) which was simply deleted by Airbnb because the host had asked them to.


Friday 5th of May 2023

The last Airbnb we used showed pics that were very white compared to reality. One unit had been upgraded, however the way the description was written implied that all the units were updated.

Grail Surfano

Friday 5th of May 2023

Author must work for hotel industry. Airbnb has been great for us. 10+ years, dozens of stays. Never a bad experience.