- Some Airbnb customers are complaining about what they say are excessive fees and rules for rentals.
- Social-media posts showed some fees totaling more than the nightly rate of the rental itself.
- Airbnb has seen surging demand for rentals as travel begins to pick up again.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Airbnb is trending on Twitter this week as social-media users complain about what they say are excessive fees and rules for listings on the rental site.
“We gotta stop airbnb,” one person tweeted, including a screenshot of the fee breakdown for a two-night rental: $198 for the room itself, $413.95 total.
The tweet garnered more than 200,000 likes, and other Airbnb customers began chiming in with their own experiences and jokes lamenting issues ranging from intrusive hosts to the company’s impact on local housing prices.
“AirBnb and Uber trippin. We back to yellow cabs and hotels this summer. They not gonna fee us to death,” one person tweeted.
“I spend the first 30 minutes every time searching for cameras whenever I go to one,” another tweeted.
“Hotels don’t bug you about anything. AirBnB hosts are insane,” another person said.
-Chelsea Kirk (@bad_tenant) May 18, 2021
Airbnb responded in a blog post explaining its fee structure, saying that hosts set nightly rates and cleaning fees, that the company typically charged a service fee of about 14%, and that local governments often charged taxes (similar to other hospitality businesses).
Airbnb has long positioned itself as a low-cost alternative to hotels. But a surge in demand as travel picks up again – the company reported a 52% year-over-year surge in gross bookings last quarter – could be contributing to an increase in prices for Airbnb rentals as well. The company has also raised its service fee several times.
Many of the complaints, however, concerned taxes and cleaning fees that aren’t displayed to people while they’re browsing listings.
For years, Airbnb didn’t collect lodging and other taxes on behalf of its hosts, operating in a legal gray area and aggressively fighting local officials‘ efforts to tax Airbnb listings like hotel rooms, most likely causing cities to lose out on significant tax revenues as hosts may not have paid those taxes on their own.
As regulators have sought to crack down, Airbnb has entered into “voluntary” agreements with many local governments, promising to collect taxes on behalf of hosts, which is why customers may have seen higher taxes on more listings over the years.
While Airbnb said in its blog post that it has generated $3.4 billion in taxes in the past seven years, Bloomberg reported last year that some governments believed they might be still missing out on 75% of the lodging taxes they’re owed.
But cleaning fees and house rules are set by hosts, so customer complaints along those lines reflect another tension Airbnb has encountered as it grows: striking the right balance between allowing hosts to express their individuality and ensuring a consistent and high-quality experience for guests at scale.
Airbnb, originally founded as AirBed&Breakfast, markets itself as a way to connect guests with unique local hosts and experiences. But as it has grown, it has had to wrestle with more instances of scam and low-quality listings, as well as guests trashing listings and hosting illicit parties, some of which have turned deadly.
“You want things to be professional in terms of the quality of the stay, you want to have standards … but will Airbnb lose its soul in the process?” Dennis Schaal, the executive editor at the travel industry news and research site Skift, previously told Insider.
At the same time, Airbnb’s increasing popularity has attracted hordes of corporate real-estate owners and professional property managers to its platform, many of whom own or operate dozens of listings within the same city. Skift reported in March that, according to the analytics site AirDNA, just 5% of hosts own or operate nearly a third of all Airbnb listings, reflecting the massive power wielded by corporate and professional hosts.
That impact has complicated Airbnb’s attempts to portray its hosts as local residents offering a spare room to budget-conscious travelers, rather than wealthy out-of-towners and corporate landlords, as one Twitter user alluded.
-Miss Cleo “Call Me Now” (@cookie_davis) May 18, 2021
In many of Airbnb’s largest markets, especially in Europe, state and local officials are weighing new regulations on Airbnb, The Information reported last week, which could lead to even higher fees for customers.