Airbnb backs down after charging Montreal family $2K for damage they deny causing

The rental service was originally going to charge a Montreal woman $2,000 for damage to a rental property that she says her family didn't cause. After being contacted by CBC, Airbnb backed down.

Basement already subject to water damage when Vanessa Angell's family arrived, she says

Vanessa Angell, left, and her family are pictured in the basement of the Airbnb rental property that they were accused of damaging. (Submitted by Vanessa Angell)

Airbnb has backed down after originally charging a Montreal woman $2,000 for damage to a rental property that she says her family didn't cause.

Vanessa Angell rented the home in Halifax, N.S., for a week-long family holiday in August. It was occupied by Angell, her husband, their one-year-old son, her parents and her in-laws.

Around 45 minutes after checking out, they received a text from the host asking about some damaged floorboards and water outside a basement bathroom.

The host said his family has spilled water on the boards before and it had the same effect.

"Did water get spilled or did it just appear?" the host texted. "I'd like to know before I start ripping up the floor boards looking for a leak."

This photo showing damage in the basement of the home was sent to Vanessa Angell by Airbnb in it's final decision. (Submitted by Vanessa Angell)
Angell said nothing "out of the norm" happened during their stay, but she had noticed some bubbling on a couple of floorboards in the basement when they checked in.

"It was there the entire week, and it was there when we checked out," she told CBC.

She also denied that any water was spilled.

In the end, Airbnb told Angell it would drop the $2,000 fee and will cover the repair costs.

In a statement, Airbnb spokesperson Lindsey Scully said negative incidents are "extremely rare."

"We are fully supporting this host under our $1-million host guarantee and have followed up with our guest regarding this matter. We strive to ensure that every guest has an incredible reservation and work to make things right when things don't go as expected."

Airbnb originally sided with host

Angell was unable to settle the matter with the host. The host took the matter to Airbnb.

"That seemed like the appropriate route to take," Angell said. "We thought this is the way we should proceed."

Within five days of the host's claim being filed, Angell received notice from Airbnb telling her she owed more than $5,000 for the cost of fixing the basement.

"They asked us for the total cost of his basement floor remodel, which was to tear up these laminate floors, bring up the padding, remove the drywall from the mouldings, dispose of the laminates and replace the floors," Angell said.

She says Airbnb sent the family an itemized list of the work to be done that was prepared by a local contractor.

"We thought it was hilarious that it would come to this, that he's trying to make us pay for his floors," Angell said. "We thought it was crazy."

Angell replied with a four-page letter to Airbnb's Trust and Safety Department stating the damage was localized to one or two boards and that it was already present when they checked in.

She also provided a list of deficiencies with the house that they originally thought they would keep to themselves.

Airbnb replied to say Angell was instead on the hook for the $2,000 deductible on the host's household insurance.

The total would be charged to their credit card within 10 days if she didn't pay immediately.

On Thursday, after being contacted by CBC about Angell's case, Airbnb said it would get in touch with her. Eventually, the company agreed to drop the fee.

When contacted by CBC News, the Airbnb host declined to do a recorded interview, but said he was surprised to learn the family had been charged for the damage.

Get your insurance company involved, Angell learns

Angell said she now realizes she should have got her own homeowner's insurance company involved immediately, a view that was echoed by the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

A spokesperson for the board told CBC that liability coverage is part of your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy.

So if anyone accuses you of damaging their property, contact your provider for advice.

"We would have been able to get them to inspect the property to figure out what exactly happened," Angell said.

With files from Sean Henry