Skift Take

In an era of scams, Airbnb is wise to verify host identities and payout methods. Still, its at-times subpar support for and communication with hosts remain persistent problems.

Some Airbnb hosts have been complaining that the short-term rental giant abruptly stopped paying them for weeks and even months, often without explanation, and then they got the runaround from customer support agents when trying to resolve the issue.

“My payout was paused since September,” a host in the Philippines wrote in an Airbnb community forum last November 1. “I’ve been calling Airbnb super host support almost every week and they can’t give me an answer. They keep saying call back, or we will contact you.”

The host said she uploaded the ID Airbnb was looking for. “I’m losing patience and hope to get my previous payouts. Please help, what should I do?”

Skift communicated with six Airbnb hosts in the Philippines, Botswana, Pakistan, Singapore, and Indonesia about similar payout issues, most involving verifying their identity, and some with $20,000 to $30,000 in missed payments dangling in the balance. All complained about lack of notification or explanations, at least initially, from Airbnb, and getting shuffled from one support agent to another in a crescendo of frustration.

All six saw their problems eventually resolved either with Airbnb’s help, or some hosts claimed without the company’s assistance.

Perennial Issue But Are These Host Complaints Isolated?

Hosts have sounded off about these sorts of payment issues for years, with some alleging that they are increasing and have become rampant.

Airbnb couldn’t be more emphatic in rejecting the notion that there is an increase in payout issues. “There has not been an increase at all,” Airbnb said in a statement provided to Skift. “The rate of delayed payouts has remained consistent year over year and, to reiterate, it has always been exceptionally rare.”

The company claimed that out of all host payouts — and Airbnb counts more than 4 million hosts — “only about 0.1 percent are delayed because of an Airbnb systems issue. Of those, 99 percent are resolved within one week.”

Of course, one can conjure myriad reasons beyond vaguely defined systems issues where Airbnb could potentially be at fault. Hosts sometimes screw up, as well, or may not understand what’s required.

Nevertheless, Airbnb said the vast majority of host payout issues revolve around hosts not having a valid payout method, they haven’t completed identity verification requirements, or they have a minimum payout amount set on their accounts up to $50,000, and that threshold hasn’t kicked in at the time in question.

“On the very rare occasions when this does occur, most of the time, it is because the host did not have a valid payout method to which we could deliver the payout,” Airbnb said. “This is most commonly seen with new hosts getting familiar with the platform. If any host has questions about their payout, they should contact Airbnb as soon as possible, and we have a specialized payments support team who are trained to help hosts navigate through the issue as quickly as possible.”

Some Hosts See It Much Differently

There are two tough things to get straight about this issue. First, it would be very difficult to verify beyond Airbnb’s denials whether host payout complaints are on the rise based on social media posts or threads in Airbnb’s community center forum. Even if there were an increase in hosts expressing anger over the issue, one has to believe that hosts active in the community center represent a fraction of Airbnb’s more than 4 million hosts around the world so how representative would that be.

Second, it’s tough to confirm statements in that forum, where hosts are identified by screen names and have profiles, and even after limited interactions independent of the community forum with these hosts on a variety of other platforms, as I’ve seen hosts contradict themselves as to the details of their cases.

Still, the hosts we conversed with scoffed at the notion that Airbnb resolves these problems expeditiously or that they even received a timely notification that there was a problem. However, at least one of the half-dozen hosts we interacted with conceded that the problem was his fault, namely the passport he’d been using for identity verification had expired.

Engelie, the superhost in the Philippines who we cited above, saw her payouts withheld for several weeks and said last week that her payout issues were resolved.

“Yes it was due to identity issues,” she said. “I removed my ID and re-uploaded it, and it solved the issue by itself. It was a headache. I called almost every day and every agent was giving a different answer.”

Aubrey, an Airbnb host in Botswana, said a year ago he changed his payout details from a personal account to a business account to take advantage of lower processing fees, and all was fine for the next seven months “when Airbnb requested I change my account details.”

He said he completed the account details form to make the changes but found out in January 2023, after a guest checked in, that Airbnb had paused his payouts. Airbnb usually releases payouts to hosts around 24 hours after a guest arrives.

“I submitted all requested documentation with business registration numbers and shareholder details but they didn’t release my payouts,” Aubrey wrote in a forum. “I had to lose out on my long-term guest because I couldn’t afford to host without payouts.”

Aubrey said his payouts started flowing again almost a month after they ceased. “I found a solution that worked for me,” Aubrey said. “But Airbnb didn’t assist anyhow.”

Another host in the Philippines, who declined to be identified, wrote in early February that she saw three guest check-ins in January, didn’t receive payouts, and then contacted support when she saw her payouts were stuck in pending in her Airbnb account. She found that problem had to do with identity verification.

This Philippines host said she completed all the necessary requirements, and received a confirmation email that everything was OK, but payouts didn’t resume for “almost a month” from when she initially reached out to Airbnb support.

“Even after re-verification, nothing happened and I got passed from one support agent to another,” she said.

Airbnb believes hosts get ample notifications when there is a problem, but that’s not the case according to some of the hosts we spoke with.

“The worst is that was no warning about the payout stop,” this Philippines host said.

In the interim, she signed up to host with Booking.com, and then “snoozed” Booking.com after her issues were resolved with Airbnb.

Mark, a Singapore host, said he saw his payouts dry up in mid-November. He said he called Airbnb support daily and almost always got the stock answer, “‘I am forwarding your case to the dedicated team that will be able to assist you,’ but no one is contacting me.”

Mark claimed it took almost two months for Airbnb to resolve the issue, but as with other hosts, we couldn’t verify the duration of the problem.

“Yes, it was resolved after I uploaded my new passport ID,” Mark said. “Seems it was expired. The weird thing is that no one advised me about that.”

A Bali, Indonesia host claimed late last month that Airbnb withheld his payouts for two months, saying that they had been going to a person or business that wasn’t registered on the host’s account. The problem is resolved, although the host didn’t say how.

As with other hosts angered by delayed payouts for stays, the Bali host said the got the runaround from Airbnb support, and that each time he called his inquiries got routed to support agents in different countries, depending on the time of day.

“They keep saying ‘we put your case as priority, our specialist team will contact you soon, your case is already managed by a higher department, rest assure, I will personally assist you,’ etc.” the host said.

Contact Support

Airbnb has acknowledged over the years that it needs to improve support services for hosts, and it has a new program in some geographies to pair experienced superhosts with new hosts to answer questions and to help get them started, and community support agents can provide advice, too.

The company, though, doesn’t acknowledge any support deficiencies when it comes to hosts complaining about payout issues.

“The fact that this issue is exceptionally rare — and when it occurs, we correct it quickly 99 percent of the time — is a testament to the investment we’ve made in our products to make the hosting experience as seamless as possible, as well as the Community Support teams we’ve trained to support Hosts expeditiously,” Airbnb said.

Airbnb advises hosts with questions about where their missing payments are to “contact Airbnb as soon as possible so that our specialized support team can assist.”

Meanwhile, managers in Airbnb’s community center monitor host complaints about missing payouts, and can readily see hosts’ frustration at times with playing phone tag with customer support. And the suffering over halted payouts.

Responded a Toronto Airbnb community manager to a host angered over paused payouts: “I have raised your issue to the related team to check if there are any updates. I hope it gets resolved soon.”

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Tags: airbnb, customer service, fraud, homes, hosts, payments, vacation rentals

Photo credit: An Airbnb host in Guadalajara, Mexico. Some hosts have complained about the payout getting freeze. Airbnb

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