In a recent TikTok video highlighted by Bored Panda, an Airbnb user complained that she was asked to pay $229 per night for a short-term accommodation plus a $125 cleaning fee, even though she was asked to clean before checkout. That's not unusual. Actually, a cleaning fee can be higher than an STA's nightly rate. As a woman told USA Today in 2020, "I saw one rental where the daily rate was $89. I was about to book it, but on the last page, I found a summary of mandatory fees," including a $200 cleaning fee and $188 business charge. Frustrations over such hidden fees are only building, as the Wall Street Journal reports.
About 85% of STA listings in the US have a cleaning fee, according to data from analytics company AirDNA. But these fees increased 9.8% on average from the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021, and another 6.6% to the first quarter of 2022. The average fee has "gone from $112 in 2019 to $137 now in 2022," Jamie Lane, AirDNA's vice president of research, tells the Journal. He says that's understandable with COVID-19 protocols and increased labor costs. Airbnb acknowledges that its enhanced cleaning protocol, introduced at the start of the pandemic, "may have meant increased time and investment" from hosts. Meanwhile, professional cleaning services say the cost of supplies, wages, and gas have risen.
What many searchers say is not easy to understand is the fact that cleaning fees—and other fees outside of a host's control, such as service fees and occupancy taxes—often remain hidden until the final stage of booking. That's especially frustrating for guests who have traditionally turned to platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo to avoid the high and often hidden costs of booking a hotel. Though Vrbo does allow guests to "filter results by the nightly rate or total cost with fees," per the Journal, "Airbnb’s price-filtering feature sorts properties by the nightly rate rather than total cost" in the US. Airbnb, however, says it's working toward more transparency in pricing, including experimenting with advertising the total cost of booking an STA, rather than the nightly rate. (Read more Airbnb stories.)