Airbnb customers upset, complaining about expensive cleaning fees

Short-term vacation rentals are booming as people look to travel. They offer easy booking for customers and a host of options – all from a cell phone or computer. However, some travelers are being vocal – disappointed by extra costs that are adding up – specifically with Airbnb.

READ MORE: DC among most desired travel destinations for 2021 as COVID restrictions loosen

For example, one DC resident, James Benson, said he was booking an Airbnb for $49 dollars a night – a steal! However, when he got to the checkout – the total price was $129 – nearly three times the amount of one night’s stay. In fact – the cleaning fee itself was more than the listing itself.

"I feel like it’s not transparent when you’re going to look for a place to stay with Airbnb. You’re not giving the full price of the residence that you’ll be staying at. Instead, you’re given a base rate and then you’ll find out before you check out that you might be paying double or triple the price depending on the cleaning fees and the service fees," said Benson.

READ MORE: Vacation rentals are selling out fast, positive boom for tourism

Other travelers are posting on social media also upset about high cleaning fees and rules for listings on the rental site.

One person tweeted: "We gotta stop Airbnb" – with a screenshot of a fee breakdown for a two-night rental: $198 for the room itself, but $413.95 cents total due to the extra fees. That sparked national attention and garnered more than 200,000 likes with people chiming in.

Airbnb responded to the online outcry in this blog post  that said they will review their fees and make changes where needed. They plan to have recommendations in place by December 15th. The rental website said they allow hosts to set the cleaning cost because there’s a difference between cleaning a studio apartment and five bedroom home. The company also makes it clear that they set their own service fee and the occupancy tax is set by the city, county, or state where a guest is staying. Hosts do not get any of that money.

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Fox 5 spoke to Airbnb hosts, like Elisa Cordova, who explained they have to meet certain requirements these days with cleaning protocols due to COVID-19 which makes the process more expensive.

"With COVID, you have to present a safe environment for people to come to and I would think that guests would also want to feel safe that the place was deep cleaned and aired out before they arrived and if that means the price of the cleaning fee is higher than normal, so be it – that’s the world we’re living in during this pandemic. We’re still not out of the woods," said Cordova.  

On top of that, she adds some hosts hire a cleaning company to do the work.

"In DC, if you hire a cleaning service for a two bedroom apartment – it can easy cost you $100 - $80 minimum so if guests are confused as to why the cleaning fee is so high compared to the nightly rate. The nightly rate may be $60 to be competitive – you can’t find a cleaning person who’s going to charge you $50 bucks – not in DC, maybe a smaller town so that’s why the cleaning fee can be almost twice as much," said Cordova.

Her #1 tip for anyone looking to book is to add up the total price including the fees and divide that by how many nights you’ll be staying to figure out if it’s affordable for your budget. Here’s another piece of advice:

"What I like to see as a host is it’s great if they say we’re coming for such and such reason, we’re fully vaccinated, and we’re following all of the COVID-19 protocols – if you want us to wear a mask in the home – if they reference what their safety levels are – I, as a host, love to see that," said Cordova.