How to Airbnb

I’ve recently noticed that despite its growing popularity, a surprising number of people still either haven’t heard of Airbnb, aren’t totally sure what it is, are afraid of it, or have never used it.
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I didn’t scratch the floor on my vacation rental – why should I have to pay?

1-imageThe circumstances of Saundra Lyon-Reiser’s recent home rental were less than ideal. She’d gathered her extended family in Aptos, Calif., to bury her mother and grieve their collective loss.

So when Lyon-Reiser was notified that her rental company would pocket her $500 security deposit for allegedly scratching a hardwood floor — damage she insists she did not do — it added insult to her injury.

Now, she wants me to help her get the deposit back, even though there are photos of the damage (above), which she says are inconclusive.

But before we get to the matter of the bill, let’s rewind to the start of the three-night rental. At first glance, Lyon-Reiser says the home looked “perfect” for her family.
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Help, my Mexican vacation rental pocketed my deposit!

Blue Orange/ShutterstockNancie Thomas had no reason to believe the owner of her vacation rental in Akumal, Mexico, would keep her $1,000 deposit. Her friends had rented the same house on three separate occasions, “and had a great experience each time,” she says.

Alas, the fourth time wasn’t a charm for Thomas.

Her first warning? The method of payment.

“We were surprised when the owner asked for a deposit check rather than credit card,” she recalls. “But we confirmed with our friends that they had always made the deposit by check.”

(Let me stop right here and say it: Always, always insist on paying by credit card. If Thomas had done that, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.)
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A few missed opportunities in San Diego — and a hit or two


These shacks at the end of Crystal Pier on Mission Beach were among the highlights of my visit to Southern California last week. You can actually stay in one of the larger cottages right on the pier, which is something I’ve never seen.

San Diego, the second stop on our month-long tour of the West Coast, was quite the experience. I had a chance to reconnect with long-lost relatives and to meet up with the folks at Hertz, who introduced a few interesting new concepts for rental cars.
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I canceled my vacation rental, but they’re keeping my deposit

David Smith/Shutterstock
David Smith/Shutterstock
Pat Morin’s vacation rental in Aruba is a disaster — and she hasn’t even left yet. She’s trying to get her money back, but the owner refuses. Is there any hope?

Question: I recently paid a $2,060 deposit to rent a home in Aruba through VRBO. Before I was sent a copy of the lease, I realized that the rental didn’t have enough room for our party of 10, and I notified the owner that I wanted to cancel.

The owner refuses to refund the deposit, saying she runs the rental “like a timeshare.” I don’t even know what that means. That should have been explained in rental agreement, and even more importantly it should be explained to a customer when they are making a $2,060 deposit.
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Something’s still “phishy” about vacation rentals

If you think the words “vacation rental” and “phishing” are all but synonymous, you’re not alone. Just talk to Ann Schutte, who recently found a rental villa with a “million-dollar” view in Sedona, Ariz., through the rental Web site

A woman claiming to own the property quoted her a $645 rate for five nights if she wired her the money. “After a number of e-mails back and forth, I agreed to the rental,” says Schutte, a property manager from Phoenix. “I received a contract. Everything looked correct on the contract. It even had the rental property address and logo. I signed the agreement, and wired the money through Western Union to the U.K.”
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Can you trust a vacation rental?

Your next rental? / Photo by Loren Sztajer/ Flickr
The two-bedroom apartment in the trendy Tunali neighbor-hood of Ankara, Turkey, that Richard and Ellen Lacroix rented through Airbnb fell dramatically short of their expectations.
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New confidentiality clauses can influence vacation rental reviews

Look who's trying to doctor those online reviews! / Photo by I Scott-Flickr
Tom and Terri Dorow didn’t like their recent vacation rental in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Their online review is clear about that. It’s a laundry list of complaints about equipment, appliances and even the appearance of a house they felt didn’t meet the expectations of a $3,500 price tag for five nights.
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Vacation rental phishing scams catch more travelers

Shauna Kattler thought she’d found the ideal rental home in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for her Christmas vacation: a two-bedroom penthouse condominium with a hot tub and an impossibly perfect view of the Caribbean.

And she was getting it for the impossibly low peak-season rate of $450 a night through, a popular vacation rental Web site. “Impossibly” being the operative word.
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Is this enough compensation? A $300 refund for an oil-soaked vacation

Fort Morgan, Ala., is a quiet Gulf Coast resort known for its sparkling white sand beaches. Well, usually.

Thanks to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill last year, Anne Hill’s spring break on Alabama’s Gulf Coast wasn’t all she had hoped for. She phoned a local rental agency, Meyers Real Estate, and says she inquired about the state of the beaches before booking a vacation rental.

“They said they were in great shape,” she says.

They weren’t.
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Advanced vacation rentals: 9 things to know

Renting a reliable vacation home isn’t easy.

And not just because there are a seemingly endless number of rental resources to turn to — everything from local sites that list a few condos to big listing services like or

For me, it’s the politics.
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