8 SF nurses unable to cancel Tahoe rental because Airbnb says “bad weather” not mitigating factor

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – Thousands of people would normally flock to Lake Tahoe for Labor Day weekend. Now, as the Caldor fire sweeps through the Sierra, tourists are forced to cancel their plans. But despite the fire and smoke, many say they struggled to get reimbursed for their rentals.

Labor Day and Lake Tahoe always go hand in hand, but this year people stressed by the pandemic were especially eager to climb up, breathe some fresh air, and hike the trees. Instead, it’s about smoke, fire, and evacuations. So it was confusing when some Airbnb hosts disagreed that it was an emergency.

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Jamie Bulla and seven other nurses in San Francisco had just spent a grueling 18 months together battling COVID-19. “We are working together, we have been through the pandemic together, so we all really wanted to,” she said.

They were ready for a getaway.

“And we were just going to go to Lake Tahoe and hang out on the beach, go out to eat, all that fun stuff,” Bulla said.

“So we’re going to go down to South Lake Tahoe. And just enjoy it. We rented, like, a bigger house. And you know, enjoy like, hikes and just being by the lake and the water, soak up the sun, ”her friend Ana Diaz said.

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They rented a large house in South Lake Tahoe through Airbnb for a well-deserved getaway in mid-September.

“We were really looking forward to it. It is one of our first hangouts after COVID,” Bulla said.

“We were like all gung-ho and then…” said Diaz.

And then it happened.

VIDEO: How to Keep Indoor Spaces Smoke Free During California Wildfire Season

Hell was moving rapidly to their vanishing point, the air too thick to breathe, thousands fleeing to safety.

They asked their Airbnb host to cancel their reservation.

Jyotsna Mentreddi and her family booked an Airbnb rental a year ago, never thinking it could happen – a raging fire, poisonous air. “We go to Labor Day in South Lake Tahoe every year with our families,” Mentreddi said.

She asked her Airbnb host to cancel.

“And the hosts said no, we won’t refund you …” she said.

RELATED: Air Quality Advisory Extended To Monday For Bay Area Due To Smoke From Wildfires

So she asked Airbnb to cancel under its policy of allowing emergency refunds.

“And then they were like, ‘Oh, that’s not a mitigating factor,'” she recalls.

An Airbnb email read, “Host’s policy will apply … we cannot process a refund … I fully understand that this is not the resolution you would like to hear.”

This was not the case.

“I wouldn’t have been there but I felt like they were telling me you should go,” Menentreddi said.

“And that’s perfectly fine. With the beaches closed, the businesses closed, all ablaze. Yeah. Thank you,” she said sarcastically.

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After months of wearing PPE, protecting against COVID, the last thing nurses wanted was to climb in smoke. They couldn’t get a refund either.

“It feels like any setback is hitting us a little harder now …” said Bulla.

Their email from Airbnb read, “Sorry, you have to cancel due to bad weather” but “your reservation is not covered by our extenuating circumstances policy” and “we acknowledge that this is not the case. result you were hoping for “.

Airbnb policy allows refunds in areas of “declared emergency”.

However, the crisis was changing day by day. 7 On Your Side contacted Airbnb and they agreed that Tahoe was still in a declared emergency over Labor Day weekend. And Menentreddi was reimbursed.

TAKE ACTION: How to Help Tahoe Communities

However, the nurses will not be boarding until September 17. It’s possible the emergency will be over by then, and Tahoe could reopen – if not, Airbnb can extend the policy and allow cancellations.

“It would be amazing,” Bulla said.

Not all booking sites have a cancellation policy that applies to all hosts. When you book on any site, read their refund policies so you know what to expect – especially with all the natural disasters these days, it can be difficult to plan a trip safely.

Check out more stories and videos from Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE! The 7OYS Consumer Hotline is a free mediation service for consumers in the San Francisco Bay Area. We help individuals with consumer issues; we cannot help with business-to-business matters, or matters involving family law, criminal matters, landlord / tenant disputes, work issues, or medical issues. Please see our FAQ here. As part of our support process, it is necessary that we contact the company / agency you are writing about. If you do not want us to contact them, please let us know immediately, as this will affect our ability to work on your case. Due to the high volume of emails we receive, please allow 3-5 business days for a response.

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