airbnb damage

What To Do When You Cause Airbnb Damage?

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I never thought I’d be a person in this situation investigating what to do when there is Airbnb damage as I try to be courteous and to treat places I stay in like they are my own. I appreciate it when people take care of their place and it’s the right thing to do to return the favor.

Yet, that’s exactly the situation I was in during my trip to Cartagena, Colombia.

I arrived after a long day of travel and no sleep. Though I got a good night of sleep the night I arrived, I was a bit foggy in the morning. My thoughtful hosts left some welcome gifts including some fresh mangoes, three eggs (three?), a bottle of water, and two beers. The perfect makings for breakfast! I was so excited to get out and visit this beautiful city.

cartagena, colombia

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How the Airbnb Damage Occurred

I do love staying at apartments when I travel but have had some interesting challenges with using appliances, in particular, stoves and laundry machines. This stove was no exception. First, I couldn’t figure out how to light it as the ignitor appeared to not work. After a few minutes, I found a lighter and lit the burner. Success! I had never seen a stove with a glass top, but I thought, perhaps it’s some special glass that conducts heat? My electric stove has a glass top, so it seemed to make sense.

airbnb damage to property
My Airbnb Stove

Boy, was I wrong.

My Airbnb Damage

After a few minutes, I noticed smoke and quickly turned off the burner. There was a small piece of something, now charred, under the glass holding it up from the top of the burners. Then, I took a closer look and saw hinges towards the back of the glass. Duh! The glass lifted up! Well, I thought, it was a good thing I caught it quickly before it caught on fire.

I lifted the glass to let it cool away from the burner and decided it was a good idea to go out to eat for breakfast. I was getting ready in the bathroom when I heard a loud crash. The glass cover shattered, leaving shards several feet away from the stove all over the kitchen.

I’m not sure how to describe my thoughts at the time: Shock? Horror? Embarrassment? Or perhaps a toxic combination of all three. I stood there staring at the stove in shock, trying to grasp what actually happened.

airbnb damage
Stove Damage

Thankfully I was in the other room so I wasn’t there when the stove rained glass shrapnel through much of the kitchen. But now I had a problem- and a big one. I had caused pretty significant Airbnb damage in the apartment.

Why a Glass Cover?

I took to Facebook when trying to figure out how to light the stove, and provided an update when I (thought I) rescued the smoking stove. I felt some comfort that several of my Facebook friends had never seen a glass plate over stove burners. A couple of them had, and the reasons they shared for them ranged from keeping dust off the stove to keeping the burners clean from food.

One actually found a post from another horrified traveler who did the exact same thing and caused Airbnb damage. I read the post like a drowning victim gasping for air, hoping it would share some insight for handling this situation. It was small comfort when I realized I still needed to reach out about it, but I wasn’t sure whom to contact.

And then, there was the big question: How exactly do you explain to someone that you mistakenly blew up part of their stove?

My Questions

What should I do and how much could I be liable for? Should I report the Airbnb damage? Should I contact my hosts that I communicated with through Airbnb, who live in Spain? Or should I contact my onsite hosts, who don’t speak English? I could only imagine that conversation in my very limited Spanish.

I tried doing some searching on the Airbnb site, and while I found several articles supporting hosts, and that there may be a security deposit, I saw nothing from my perspective that provided the guidance I was seeking. There was no article with a topic close to what to do when you damage an Airbnb.

What is fair? Clearly, it was an accident. However, should the owners be liable for the damage that I did? Should I offer to replace the cover? Or should I offer to replace the stove? Was the cover even replaceable? Was there a security deposit on the place? Or could I owe money for the entire cost of the damage? I had so many questions, and nowhere to go for the answers.

What is the Airbnb Host Guarantee?

Copied directly from the Airbnb website: The Airbnb Host Guarantee provides protection for up to $1,000,000 to a host for damages to covered property in the rare event of guest damages above the security deposit or if no security deposit is in place…the Filing a host guarantee request doesn’t preclude a guest from financial responsibility for the damages claimed if Airbnb determines a guest was at fault.

What I Did

I’ll admit that it took me a day to work up the nerve to reach out about it. I decided to message the people I was in contact with through Airbnb, as I believed they owned the condo. I took ownership of the mistake and simply explained what happened.

Within the hour, there was a knock on my door. I nervously opened it, and a man was standing there expectantly. I said hello in my rudimentary Spanish, and their uncle, whom I hadn’t met yet, began talking in rapid-fire Spanish. He asked me what the damage was, at least, that’s what I believe he said.

He had the experience to quickly bring up Google Translate on his phone when he saw my blank stare and realized I didn’t understand what he was saying. What a wonderful gift it was, so we could communicate. I told him what happened, apologetically explaining that I had never seen a stove with a glass top before and didn’t know to flip up the glass up. I caught it quickly and thought it was quick enough. However, the glass shattered. Thankfully I was in the other room so I wasn’t hurt, and I cleaned up all of the glass including behind the stove.

The Outcome of My Airbnb Damage

He didn’t seem overly upset, said it was ok and that he would get back to me. He left, I presume, to call the owners to discuss. Within 20 minutes I got a message via Airbnb from my primary contact. He was incredibly gracious and said that he was sorry it happened, he was grateful I was not hurt, he appreciated my telling them, and that they would not charge me for the damage.

It was incredibly kind and I was grateful. Interestingly, there was a list of instructions for how to use things around the house, including the WI-FI and the hot water heater in the shower, but no instructions on how to use the stove. And the lighter was tucked away in one of the cabinets and not in an obvious place. I’m not sure what they did with the stove, but I would imagine they added instructions for use in the other apartments in the building.

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