‘Airbnb host fined me £900 for blocking the loo’

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Dear Katie,

My husband and I booked an Airbnb flat in France for our first ever holiday with our three-month-old baby. 

Less than two days in, we flushed the lavatory and dirty sewage water started seeping out from under the skirting boards in the kitchen. 

We then noticed brown, foul smelling water had started rising up from the bath plug. We reported it to the management company which was looking after the flat on behalf of the host. 

I tried to clean the bath, but it was impossible, as the drain was blocked so the water did not drain away. I had specifically chosen this flat because it had a bath, but it was disgusting and unusable.

The key issue seemed to be that the toilet was blocked. The management company replied straight away when I alerted them to the problem, offering to come over in the morning to inspect. 

They arrived and attempted to solve the problem with plungers, but this was unsuccessful. They said emergency plumbers would come in the afternoon. We said we were going out, but that would be fine. 

When we returned to the flat that evening the owners of the management company were again at the property trying to fix it themselves.

They said the plumber said they could not work in the flat if no one else was there, so we discussed alternative accommodation options. 

They said they had no other apartments they could move us to, but said we could use the washing facilities in their flat which was in a neighbouring town. 

This was not practical as it was nearly our baby’s bedtime so, although we were desperate to wash, we said we needed to stay put. By the time the management company left it was 10.30pm and we had still not had dinner.

We decided the least worst option was to stay put overnight. 

Later that evening a substantial amount of water leaked out onto the kitchen floor. It smelled like sewage and was absolutely sickening. As I mopped the foul liquid from the floor while making dinner it felt a million miles from being on holiday. 

The next day we told the management company that we would pack up and move to a different apartment, but instead a professional plumber finally came and fixed the problem. 

The bathroom was a complete mess. Management came to clean it in the evening so by Friday evening we could finally use the bath again. We left Saturday morning to come home.

The plumber told me that the problem was due to the fact that the flat is only used in the summer, so the pipes had dried out. This meant that when they started being used again, it led to severe blockages.

Once home I complained to Airbnb. This only led to the host making her own, vindictive complaint about us. She lied, saying we had put baby wipes down the lavatory, when this was categorically untrue. 

Unbelievably, she also tried to charge us £915 for the plumber. Airbnb ordered the host to give us a full refund, but she refused. Airbnb said the best it could do was repay us £161.11, which was for its own fees. 


Dear reader,

This issue with raw sewage entering your living area and bath wasn’t just inconvenient, it was a serious health and safety issue, made even more dangerous by the fact that you were travelling with an infant. 

Upon hearing about the situation, the management should have swiftly arranged alternative accommodation in the form of a fully paid-for hotel on the basis that the flat you had paid for was uninhabitable. 

The way this host failed to take responsibility before trying to distort the truth and pin the blame, and the cost, on you, was downright shameful behaviour that should have been reprimanded by Airbnb. 

It shouldn’t have taken my involvement for Airbnb to recognise that it failed to protect you from this penny-pinching host, however, after I had a word you were refunded in full for the £717 you paid for the five-night stay and deleted the review of you that was left by the host. 

An Airbnb spokesman said: “We recognise the impact this issue had on the guest, and we have issued the remaining refund as a goodwill gesture. They have not been charged for any damage.”

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