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Guide to Suing Airbnb in Small Claims

Camila Lopez - Suing a Business - April 21, 2023

Start by creating a free demand letter to Airbnb.

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    Do you have a dispute with Airbnb over a refund, rental, or overcharges? You have several options, including suing Airbnb in small claims court.

    Did you know People Clerk can help you navigate San Francisco small claims against Airbnb? Get started.

    Common Types of Small Claims Lawsuits Against Airbnb

    We often receive the question, can I sue Airbnb in small claims? The answer is yes, as long as the dispute is for $10,000 or less (more on this below) and you sue in San Francisco small claims. You may also want to consider suing the Airbnb host you rented the unit from, or if you rented your home, you should consider also suing the Airbnb guests.

    Here are some examples of small claims lawsuits against Airbnb, Airbnb hosts, and Airbnb guests:

    • Damages to your home. For example, you listed your home on Airbnb, but the Airbnb guests threw a party in your home and damaged the countertops.

    • Failure to refund you. For example, Airbnb promised you a refund, but you still have not received it.

    • Unexpected charges. For example, a week before the trip, you received an email that there would be an unexpected fee that you had to pay. Otherwise, the reservation will get canceled.

    • You reserved and paid for a unit, but it was booked to someone else. For example, you arrive at your Airbnb cabin and find that someone else is already staying in it when you already paid to rent it out for the week!

    Examples of Lawsuits Filed Against Airbnb

    Case Facts 

    Case Outcome

    A San Francisco small claims lawsuit was filed against Airbnb requesting a refund for alleged safety and habitability issues of a listed property. 

    The person suing was seeking a total of $4,029.88. This includes a refund for the unused days of their Airbnb reservation and reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses incurred for alternative accommodations.

    The court awarded the person suing the total $4,029.88 they were seeking

    A San Francisco small claims lawsuit was filed against Airbnb requesting a full refund for their Airbnb reservation because the listed property was not as described and was dirty inside

    The person suing was seeking a total of $3,758.72, which included a total refund of the amount paid for the Airbnb reservation and additional court costs. 

    The court awarded the person suing a total of $1,426.88 and an additional $80.00 in court costs. It is unclear from the court’s decision why they awarded that amount. 

    A San Francisco small claims lawsuit was filed against Airbnb seeking a refund due to issues with their rental. These issues included an unclean rental and the host's cancellation of the reservation.   

    The person suing was seeking a total of $5,146.64, which included the cost of the original Airbnb reservation, lost wages, and court costs

    The court awarded the person suing a total of $1,259.32 and an additional $84.90 for costs and $105 in interest. It is unclear from the court’s decision why they awarded that amount. 

    *Review Airbnb’s terms of service to see what they say about their responsibility and liability to Hosts (the person who lists their property) and Guests (the person staying at the listed property). Please remember, each small claims case is unique, and the outcome of a particular case cannot be guaranteed. Ultimately, it will be up to the judge to decide how responsible Airbnb is for your damages and how much they owe you.

    What to do Before Suing Airbnb in Small Claims Court

    Contact Airbnb's Customer Service

    Call Airbnb's customer service phone number 1-844-234-2500 and have them troubleshoot your problem.

    Contact Airbnb on Twitter

    Many companies respond to Twitter complaints extremely fast. Here is Airbnb's Twitter handle:

    Send a Demand Letter

    A demand letter is a letter that outlines a set of requests. For example, you could request a refund and explain why you are requesting a refund.  

    If you eventually decide to sue in California small claims court, you are required to first request your money or property back before you can file the lawsuit. While you can request your money or property back orally, it is recommended you do so in writing in the form of a demand letter.

    What to include in the demand letter?

    Unsure of what to include in your demand letter to Airbnb:

    • How much money you are owed.

    • Why you are owed money.

    • Your contact information.

    • Where to send payment.

    • Give them a few days to respond (usually about 7 to 14 days).

    • State that if they don't respond, you intend to sue.

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a demand letter? Check out our demand letter tool.

    Where to Mail the Demand Letter to?

    You can mail the demand letter to Airbnb’s headquarters: 

    Airbnb, Inc. 

    888 Brannan St. #4 

    San Francisco, CA 94103

    Make sure to always verify this information by reviewing the California Secretary of State's website as this information may change.

    If Airbnb ignores your demand letter, what is the next step? You may be able to sue Airbnb in a small claims court. Make sure to review any contracts you have received from Airbnb. .

    San Francisco Small Claims Court Facts 

    Small claims court allows individuals to sue businesses in a less formal and more cost-effective manner than regular court. Small claims courts handle all types of disputes against companies, for issues like breach of contract, negligence, etc.  

    Airbnb's headquarters are located in San Francisco, California. This means that you have the option to sue Airbnb in San Francisco small claims court. The location of a business's headquarters is similar to its "home," and it is subject to the laws of its home state.

    Below we cover some quick facts about San Francisco small claims court: 

    Where is San Francisco Small Claims Court Located? 

    Civic Center Courthouse  

    400 McAllister St.  

    San Francisco, CA 94102

    The entrance of the courthouse is located on the corner of Polk St and McAllister St. 

    Are Lawyers Allowed in San Francisco Small Claims Court? 

    Lawyers are not allowed to represent you in your initial small claims hearing. This helps keep the cost of going to small claims court low

    However, you can still hire a lawyer to assist you with any questions or concerns you may have leading up to the hearing. The restriction only applies to the hearing itself. 

    How Can I Attend a San Francisco Small Claims Hearing? 

    The San Francisco small claims court offers the option for individuals to attend their hearings in person or virtually. The virtual hearing option enables individuals to participate in their hearings from the comfort of their own homes, making the process more convenient and accessible to people nationwide.

    Facts About Virtual Hearings 

    To request a virtual hearing, you will need to fill out a request for a Zoom hearing. Essentially, this form asks you the reason you are requesting a virtual hearing. 

    You need to make sure you submit the request at least 10 days before your hearing. 

    Besides submitting this request to the court, you will also need to send this request to the other party.

    The process is even more convenient if you use People Clerk to help you prepare and file your request!

    How Much Does it Cost to Sue Airbnb in Small Claims?

    So how much are you going to spend by suing Airbnb in small claims court?

    Court Filing Fees

    The amount you will pay to file a small claims lawsuit in California depends on how much you are suing Airbnb for. You will pay between $30 to $75 to file the lawsuit. If you cannot afford to pay court fees, you can ask the court to waive the fees.  

    Serving Costs

    Once the lawsuit is filed, you have to notify Airbnb that you have sued them. This is called "serving." Serving Costs can range from $0-$75.

    More on who to serve on behalf of Airbnb below. If you win, you can request that Airbnb pay for your court fees and serving costs.

    How Much Can You Sue Airbnb for in Small Claims?

    In California, you can sue Airbnb for a maximum of $10,000 if you are an individual. If you are a business suing Airbnb, you can sue for a maximum of $5,000. Note, if you are a sole proprietor, you count as an individual. 

    Learn more about the California small claims limits.

    By suing in small claims, you are agreeing to waive any amount over the maximum amount you can sue for, even if you are owed more. For example, if Airbnb owes you $11,000, and you decide to sue them in San Francisco small claims court, you are waiving suing for an additional $1,000. Meaning that you will win a maximum of $10,000.

    While you may be missing out on the full amount you are owed, there are practical benefits to suing in small claims instead of suing in "regular court."

    Here are some of the benefits:

    1. Court filing fees are cheaper in small claims than in other courts.

    2. The process is faster in small claims than in other courts, as your hearing will usually be scheduled 30-70 days after you file the lawsuit.

    3. Lawyers are generally not allowed in small claims, which helps keep the costs of suing low.  

    How to File a Small Claims Lawsuit Against Airbnb

    Generally, there are 3 steps to suing in small claims court: 

    1. Complete the small claims form.

    2. File the small claims form.

    3. Serve Airbnb with the small claims lawsuit. 

    Below we break down each step. 

    Step 1: Complete "Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court" (Form SC-100)

    Step 2: File "Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court"

    Each California Small Claims Court has a different procedure for filing. You have to check with your whether they allow filing in-person, by mail, online, or by fax. !

    Step 3: Serve the lawsuit on Airbnb's agent

    Remember, you will be serving Airbnb's "agent for service of process" as listed on the California Secretary of State's website

    What is a small claims court hearing like?

    Small claims hearings in are informal, and most hearings last around 15 minutes. While many disputes settle before the hearing, here is what to expect if your lawsuit does not settle.

    Who will represent Airbnb at the hearing?

    • The easiest way to answer this question is that a lawyer will not be representing Airbnb since lawyers cannot represent parties at the initial small claims hearing. They will have a non-attorney representative.

    The hearing:

    • Right before the hearing, the judge will ask you and Airbnb's representative to show each other the evidence that you will later show the judge.

    • The judge will ask you why you are suing.

    • The judge will ask Airbnb's representative to tell them their side of the story.

    • The hearing will last around 15 minutes.

    • The judge will ask you to show them the evidence you brought. Sometimes the judge will keep the evidence. Other times, you will get the evidence right back.

    • Very rarely, a judge will tell you whether you won or lost at the hearing. Instead, the judge will tell you that their decision will be mailed to you (usually takes a few weeks to two months or so).

    Up next: 8 Tips on how to win your California small claims lawsuit

    Consider Filing a Complaint With the BBB Against Airbnb

    The Better Business Bureau may be able to help you with your complaint against Airbnb. .

    Make sure also to review complaints other customers have filed against Airbnb with the BBB (review Airbnb's BBB complaints here). This will help you learn whether Airbnb responds to BBB complaints.

    Alternatives to Small Claims Court

    File a complaint against Airbnb with the California Attorney General’s Office

    • The California Attorney General is the state's top legal officer and is responsible for representing the people of California in all legal matters as well as protecting consumers against deceptive business practices.

    • File a complaint against Airbnb with the California Attorney General's office online using the link here

    • If you prefer, you can also mail the complaint along with support documents by downloading this form

    File a complaint with the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)

    • The DCA is a government agency responsible for protecting and promoting the interests of California consumers. The DCA is also responsible for regulating various businesses, including vacation rental companies like Airbnb

    • Use the link here to submit a complaint online. 

    Did you know People Clerk can help you navigate San Francisco small claims against Airbnb? Get started.


    Camila Lopez

    Chief Legal Architect & Co-Founder @ People Clerk. Camila holds a law degree and is a certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.

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