Marianne Aksamit thought she would save a few bucks in credit card transaction fees by using a check to pay for her vacation rental through Globe Homes and Condos. As it turns out, that decision cost her $1,500.
Aksamit rented a condo in Marina del Rey, Calif., through VRBO. A friend of hers had recently stayed at the same condo and recommended it. Globe Homes and Condos, a local property manager, handled the rental.
Aksamit received a contract that gave her the option to pay a nonrefundable $60 damage waiver fee, or a refundable $1,500 security deposit. She opted to pay the security deposit because her friend had no problem getting her money refunded.
Aksamit also had the option to pay the $1,500 by credit card, wire transfer, electronic check, check or money order. Because there was an additional $194 processing fee if she paid by credit card, she choose to to pay the entire $7,000 rent and deposit by check.
That was a mistake.
At the end of her stay, no one was available to check her out. A representative told her to leave the keys at the condo and the deposit would be sent to her. Four months later, she still doesn’t have her refund.
“I have been calling Globe Homes and Condos every week since we left. I have also emailed several times to get my refund. I have received nothing.”
Aksamit’s been told her calls and emails would be returned, that there was an issue with the accounting department, that they can’t give her the name of anyone in accounting who can help her, that the accounting department is in another building so they can’t go see them, and that they can’t give her a number to call the accounting department herself because they dial a four-digit extension to reach them.
She’s been told a lot of things, but hasn’t been helped. She still doesn’t have a refund. We wonder if she ever will.
Turns out, Aksamit went outside of the protection of the VRBO website by directly paying Globe Homes and Condos with a check. VRBO, which is affiliated with HomeAway, has a Book With Confidence Guarantee. It provides:
When you book and pay through HomeAway checkout and your booking is accepted by the owner or property manager, you are eligible for the Book with Confidence Guarantee. The Book with Confidence Guarantee provides security deposit protection to help you recover your deposit if it is wrongfully withheld.
By trying to save $194, Askamit lost $1,500.
Never gamble with a guarantee by circumventing the secure payment process established by VRBO, or any other similar provider.
Had Aksamit done some advance research on Globe Homes and Condos, she would have discovered several negative online reviews the company has been given. That may have encouraged her to spend the extra money and use the VRBO secure payment process.
Our advocates tried contacting Globe Homes and Condos by email, and it didn’t respond. They also tried to contact Globe Homes and Condos through the VRBO website because it still listed the same property for rent, and it failed to respond. Now that it appears that Aksamit is out $1,500, what can she do to try to get it back? VRBO’s terms and conditions provide that Aksamit must first give VRBO an opportunity to resolve her dispute. If it can’t resolve her issue within 60 days, she can seek relief through small claims court.
Aksamit should initiate the dispute process with VRBO and see if Globe Homes and Condos responds to it. If VRBO can’t resolve the issue within 60 days, Aksamit can pursue her refund in small claims court, in California. Aksamit lives in Rochester, Minn., so pursuing Globe Homes and Condos in California isn’t really practical. But it’s the dispute resolution process she agreed to when she used the VRBO website. We encourage Aksamit to initiate a complaint with VRBO, and if necessary, pursue a small claims court action against Globe Homes and Condos.
Our advocates were unable to help Aksamit obtain a refund, and unfortunately, we have to file this one as Case Dismissed.