Your legal rights on claiming back Airbnb bookings and holidays cancelled because of coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak has shattered many people's plans for a summer holiday this year. And with the with government still advising against all non-essential travel, many summer breaks have already been cancelled. As a result, the crisis has left lots of holidaymakers out of pocket, with some companies blocking refunds and pushing credit refunds instead of cash.

It has left many confused whether they will get a full cash refund, and wondering what they can do if they have booked a future trip. To answer all your questions, Ashlee Robinson, Associate, DAS Law, and Thomas Pertaia, Legal Adviser, DAS Law explain what you need to know around your cancellation rights during the coronavirus pandemic.

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I have booked a summer holiday. Should I cancel it?

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently advises against all non-essential overseas travel for British nationals for the foreseeable future.

The lack of clarity on the period of restriction is largely due to the unprecedented international border closures and various restrictions. You should speak with the travel agent to discuss your options.

If it is cancelled, can I get a full refund?

If the holiday you booked is cancelled you should be entitled to a refund. If you booked activities as part of the holiday and both the holiday and the activities are cancelled, you should be entitled to a refund.

Some firms may also offer a credit note, perhaps with an increased value. It is worth discussing the options with your travel company. If refused, we would advise you to seek legal advice to discuss your particular circumstances.

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Instead of giving me my money back, I have been offered holiday vouchers or a credit note.

Is it legal for the firm to do so? Can I refuse and demand a full cash refund?

If you booked a holiday and it is cancelled you may be offered a Refund Credit Note or a voucher. However you are not obliged to accept it and are entitled to receive a full refund should you choose to.

The refund should be provided within 14 days but, under current circumstances, it may be reasonable to allow the operator slightly more time for processing the refund.

What if I haven't paid for the holiday in full yet?

If the holiday is likely to be cancelled you should not be expected to make the full payment, only for you to be refunded shorty after. However, if the holiday is few months away and you have contractual commitments, you may be liable to pay. If so, it is advisable to speak with the firm to negotiate perhaps delaying the payment or seek legal advice on your specific situation.

If you do decide to make a payment it would be advisable to pay by credit card to give you little bit more protection.

What if the travel or holiday company goes bust? What are my rights and what should I do about my holiday booking?

If you booked a holiday your money should be protected and details on making a claim should be laid out in the ATOL Certificate, which you would generally be provided with when you book your holiday. Also, if you paid by credit card and you holiday is more than GBP100 you may be able to make a claim against the credit card, commonly known as a s75 claim (Section 75 of  the Consumer Credit Act 1974).

Somewhat similar protection applies if you paid on debit card but, rather than this right being enshrined in law, it's a voluntary scheme although most large banks have signed up to it. If the operator goes bust, contact your bank, unlike s75 there is no minimum spent on cashback claim. Also check if you have insurance in place that could perhaps assist.

I have purchased travel insurance for my summer holiday but it is now cancelled.

Can I cancel my travel insurance and obtain a full refund?

In this instance you should check the policy documentation on cancellation rights. Most insurance policies have a minimum of 14 days cooling off period within which it can be cancelled free of charge provided you have not travelled and/or made a claim.

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Can I cancel my Airbnb reservation and get a full refund?

Airbnb is operating an "extenuating circumstances policy" which in certain circumstances allows customers to get a refund though the policy rather than the hosts' own cancellation policy. If you do not qualify under the policy it is advisable to contact the host to discuss a refund or seek legal advice on your particular set of circumstances.

I still haven't received a refund from a cancellation I made one month ago.

How long does it take for me to get my money back?

According to Airbnb, most refund are processed within ten days. If you still have not received a refund then you may want to chase this up.

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I am an Airbnb host, can I keep letting out my second home as an Airbnb?

Businesses providing holiday accommodation have been advised by the government to close for commercial use. There are few exceptions where holiday accommodation could still be provided; for example to key workers or vulnerable groups.

In light of the government guidance, Airbnb has imposed temporary restriction on listings at least until 9 May, limiting reservations to key workers and other essential stays.

As a customer, am I allowed to make an Airbnb booking?           

Following on from the government's guidance on social distancing in relation to Covid-19, people are also advised to avoid travelling unless it is essential. If one is planning on booking a place on Airbnb for the purposes of self-isolation or holiday this would be against the government guidance. Thus most people should not place a booking on Airbnb unless the stay is essential; for example NHS worker having to stay at a different location due to work commitments.

In light of the government guidance, Airbnb has imposed temporary restriction on listings at least until 9 May, limiting reservations to key workers and other essential stays.

This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created.

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