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Woman claims Airbnb rental was 'like a dungeon,' says she didn't get refunded for unfinished stay

Basement Airbnb room.jpg
Posted at 12:12 PM, Sep 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-07 13:19:31-04

Many travelers stay in an Airbnb rental to save money and stay someplace unique that's not a cookie-cutter roadside hotel. But one woman said she ended up in a dank basement.

Noel Short needed a room in St. Louis as part of her college internship. She booked a room in a house she found on Airbnb, and the description of the property said it was a place to "kick back and relax."

"It didn't really have anything describing the bedroom itself," Short said. "It only really described the house and said that there is a bedroom for you."

When she arrived for her two-month summer stay, Short found a small basement room with no windows or door to the outside. It was anything but a place to kick back and relax.

"It doesn't have windows; it doesn't even have a vent," Short said. "You couldn't tell that from the one photo provided."

Short said the listing said nothing about the rental being a lower-level room with no egress, no window and no air-conditioning vent, leaving the room stuffy and dank.

When she told her parents, they begged her to move. One of Short's relatives recently had had a house fire that could have trapped someone in the basement if someone was sleeping there.

Short decided to move out after a few nights, but the host won't give Short her money back for the unused days.

"She said that she had a cancellation policy, and if I were to cancel, I would have to pay for the next 30 days," Short said.

So Short paid several hundred dollars, even though she moved out, for what she describes as a "windowless dungeon."

What are the rules?

Airbnb has no rules about basement rooms; only that rooms must have a smoke alarm. A check of listings shows that many single rental bedrooms are converted basement rooms, but Airbnb specifically says all rooms must meet local fire and building codes.

Almost every municipality in the U.S. requires a basement bedroom to have a door to the outside or an egress window 24 inches high to allow escape from a fire.

Reporters contacted Airbnb and asked them to investigate and refund Short's money if the room violated local fire codes.

Remember to research accommodations carefully, read reviews and inspect all the photos of the property so you don't waste your money.

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