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TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER

Airbnb closed my account. Am I locked out forever?

Q. I tried to book a vacation rental through Airbnb while we were traveling in Spain. I received a notification that my Airbnb account had been closed.

I e-mailed Airbnb to find out why. In response, Airbnb said it “regretted” informing me that it would be unable to support my account. It said it had exercised its discretion under its terms of service to disable my account.

I don’t know why my account has been closed. I last rented a property through Airbnb in Switzerland in 2018. I received a very positive review from the owner after the stay. I’m dumbfounded.

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I also had my attorney mail a letter to Airbnb in an effort to understand why this occurred. To date, he has not received a reply. Can you help me get my Airbnb account reopened?

LAUREL MOAD, St. Charles, Ill.

A. You’re kidding, right? I thought we had dealt with the last “Airbnb closed my account” case a few weeks ago. But no.

Here’s the thing: Airbnb, like any other business, can close your account if you’ve violated its terms. It would be helpful if the company told you which terms you violated, but it said nothing. That’s really frustrating, and it’s not a responsible way to handle an account closure.

Airbnb can close your account if you’ve “materially breached” its terms. What’s a material breach? It can include violating its payment terms, policies, standards or applicable laws, regulations, or third-party rights. Airbnb may also cut you loose to protect the personal safety or property of Airbnb, its members, or third parties.

The notice you received from Airbnb is a standard termination notice. But it’s so vague that you might never know why the rental site made its decision to close your account.

I’ve received a lot of these cases, including from Anthony Klockenbrink, Chiaka Aribeana, and Robert Jackson, which I covered in this column.

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Airbnb should have given you a quick and frank answer about your suspension and offered a way to fix it. You could have appealed your case to an executive at Airbnb. I list the names, numbers, and e-mail addresses of Airbnb’s customer service managers on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/airbnb/.

Beyond that, I think Airbnb needs to stop closing accounts without being prepared to offer a reason for the banning. I support a company’s right to close the account of an abusive customer. But you were a model renter. You shouldn’t be on anyone’s blacklist, especially Airbnb’s.

I can only speculate that the company has automated some of its systems to flag suspicious accounts and ban them. The algorithm may need some adjustment if it’s flagging people like you. It always helps to have a human involved in delicate matters like closing customer accounts. So Airbnb, if you’re reading this — free advice!

I contacted Airbnb on your behalf. You received an e-mail from Airbnb that it had reactivated your account, with no explanation as to why. I’m not surprised.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Contact him at elliott.org/help or chris@elliott.org.