VRBO and homeowner keeping full rental amount for Covid-19 cancellation-- do not use VRBO

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Jul 10, 2020
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The problem: I rented a large 5 bedroom VRBO house for our family reunion to celebrate my mother's 92nd birthday in Jupiter FL (near where she lives as she cannot travel anywhere more than 1/2 from her independent living residence in West Palm) in April 21019 for the week March 14-March 20, 2020 which cost $12,000 including all fees for the week. (This was to be our 8th consecutive Family Reunion in FL). The 50% deposit was paid on the VRBO website in April 2019. We paid the remaining 50% when it was due, 60 days before the rental start date of March 14. On March 12, 2020 my mother's living residence was quarantined and she was not allowed to leave and we were not allowed to visit her due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Also air travel was strongly discouraged that same week and the rest of the family was to be flying in from MD, MN, and NY. The official website cancellation policy is that cancellation must take place 60 days before for a refund, but no one knew about Covid-19 at that time. We had committed to this house and the home owners held our deposit a whole year in advance since April 2019. When I contacted VRBO they said they are strongly encouraging their home owners to provide FULL REFUNDS but neither them nor the rental agent would not put us in direct contact with owner. The rental agent responded that there was absolutely no refund or credit since our cancellation was less than 60 days before. We received the $1,000 damage deposit and the $499 VRBO fee back from VRBO but not the cleaning fee, nor the taxes, nor anything else from the home owner.
I refuted the charge with our credit card (VISA) but since VRBO only encouraged the home owners to refund or credit the rental contract and it is not stated as mandatory, the credit card company decided that they were "unable to assist us in resolving our claim".

Outcome desired: The desired outcome is to be treated fairly by the home owners during this health crisis and receive a refund for our rental that was not used-- at the minimum there should be a refund/credit arrangement for a future VRBO rental. DO THE RIGHT THING VRBO!
 
Jul 10, 2020
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It also appears that our review as well as any negative reviews are not posted on the VRBO website. They review all reviews before they are posted and do not post them if they don't like what it says. That is not the true nature of what a review is supposed to be.
 

justlisa

Feb 12, 2019
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With regard to the reviews, it's my understanding that VRBO/AirBnB only post reviews of those who actually stayed at the property, so as you canceled and didn't stay your review would be blocked by the system.

You're not the only one in this mess, and unfortunately there's not much you can do. VRBO can't force the owner to give you a refund, and VRBO no longer has your money to give it back. If you search this forum there's multiple posts by other people in very similar circumstances as your own. This happening at the very beginning of the US covid mess doesn't help a lot as there were plenty of places in Florida still acting situation normal at that time, if the rental was in one such area they likely are looking at your cancellation as a choice. (Jupiter is far enough north of Miami that I don't think it was included in those counties early shut downs.)
 
Feb 24, 2018
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It also appears that our review as well as any negative reviews are not posted on the VRBO website. They review all reviews before they are posted and do not post them if they don't like what it says. That is not the true nature of what a review is supposed to be.
In fairness, it is also not the true nature of a review to leave a review of a property where you have not stayed. The review section is for your review of the property, not your review of the owner and VRBO's business practices. This is why your "review" is not being posted, not because it is negative.

The harsh reality of the situation is that in each situation arising due to Covid, someone is going to take a large and unfortunate loss they are not responsible for and that was not foreseeable. Typically, we say, "Businesses can afford to take a loss and should do so in unusual circumstances in order to build goodwill and because they can absorb the loss better than their customers." Sadly, this is just not the case during this crisis. Businesses intent on fostering goodwill by absorbing losses will find themselves the subject of plenty of social media pats on the back but businesses no more, as many simply cannot afford to offer refunds and stay in business.

Consider that it is very likely that every rental has canceled during this crisis. If this is a business for these owners, they have relied on the money you contracted to give them to pay their basic life necessities. Far from sitting at home cackling in delight over unearned money scammed from unwitting would-be vacationers, these are our fellow community members who surely wish another alternative could be had that would also allow their basic needs to be met but have acted in reliance on yours and other contracts.

Our only advocacy advice can be to reach out to VRBO and the owners to ask for a credit, but it would be an exception.
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
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Maui Hawaii
It also appears that our review as well as any negative reviews are not posted on the VRBO website. They review all reviews before they are posted and do not post them if they don't like what it says. That is not the true nature of what a review is supposed to be.
They are likely not allowing your review because you did not occupy the rental. You cannot review a property you have never seen or occupied. The issue of refunds is not a review of the property.

Here are VRBO contacts: https://elliott.org/company-contacts/homeaway-com/
Read the entire page before emailing the VRBO contacts.

Start at the first level of customer service and move to the next level after 10-14 days if no/negative response. Do NOT start at the CEO level.
If you have searched these forums you will find many similar issues with VRBO where VRBO "encourages" the property owner to provide a refund, but does nothing to require a refund. Most people who have come to these forums with issues similar to yours have not been successful in getting a refund.
 

smd

Mar 14, 2018
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Did you purchase the travel insurance policy that VRBO offers when you book? The Generali policy they offer covers cancellations due to the Quarantine of one of the travelers.

Quarantine is defined in the policy as "QUARANTINE means the enforced isolation of you or your Traveling Companion, for the purpose of preventing the spread of illness, disease or pests." If your mother's quarantine fits this definition, you should file a claim. Be aware that there are many disputes right now about what actually constitutes a quarantine (eg "too risky for a person to travel" is not), so you may have a fight on your hands.
 
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Jun 24, 2019
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I concur that review sites often take down reviews from guests whose experience is limited to none, even when the review makes that clear. That behavior adversely affects the value of reviews, whose value is shoddy at best to begin with. (For example, I had a review taken down of a hotel where I checked out 10 minutes after I arrived as the room and the hotel were totally unsatisfactory. The hotel complained that as I checked ou early, I should not be able to review.)

For our OP, I understand the personal and financial impact you have faced, and I sympathize. I have had a vacation cut short, a vacation cancelled, and two more trips seriously imperiled. Nevertheless, describing the issue as one of fairness to the VRBO people who also must answer to homeowners whose income has gone to zero may be counter productive. I’ve observed before on these boards that a refund of half of what you paid would leave everyone equally unhappy. A full refund shifts the entire risk of the pandemic onto a VRBO homeowner who published his cancellation policies in advance. Both OP and the owner are free to buy insurance to cover the risk that a $12,000 vacation won’t happen.
 
May 30, 2019
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Outcome desired: The desired outcome is to be treated fairly by the home owners during this health crisis and receive a refund for our rental that was not used-- at the minimum there should be a refund/credit arrangement for a future VRBO rental. DO THE RIGHT THING VRBO!
The fair treatment would be to honor the contract. The goodwill approach and nice thing to do is to offer a refund or credit. Noting that, trying to post negative reviews won't help get that goodwill gesture.

I agree with posts #4 & #5 -- reach out to VRBO and the owners to ask for a credit or partial refund. But, be nice about it. Threatening to sue or write more negative posts won't help with getting a goodwill gesture.

Sorry it this sounds harsh - just trying to help.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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San Francisco
This is horrible, I am so sorry that your wonderful reunion didn't happen. Your mom must be so disappointed. Bluntly, this is a business transction. the owner owes you nothing. But that doesn't mean you'll get nothing. I would take a deep breath and start negotiation for a 50% refund, sharing the pain between owner and renter. Be polite and resist the temptation to opine on the fairness of it all. Be factual and businesslike. Property owners have on-going expenses that are not reduced by this virus disaster. Be polite, patient and persistent. Best of luck, and please let us know how everything turns out.
 
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Sep 23, 2019
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It also appears that our review as well as any negative reviews are not posted on the VRBO website. They review all reviews before they are posted and do not post them if they don't like what it says. That is not the true nature of what a review is supposed to be.
VRBO will post negative reviews. I see them all the time.
What DATE did you leave the Review?
VRBO policy is different than AirBnB: Each party has UP TO A YEAR to leave a Review.
Once ONE PARTY has left a Review, the "clock starts ticking" and the other Party has 14 days to Review.
After 14 days OR after the other Party leaves a Review, both "Reviews" are supposed to become visible.
VRBO changed their Review policy in the last year and Hosts can only leave "stars" for Guests now, no written reviews.

As a VRBO Host I have also experienced delays in getting even 5 Star Positive Reviews from Guests to post in a timely manner which is why I asked WHEN you posted your review. It is also possible that your Review was held if it made wild claims or was threatening or libelous in some manner, but I don't know what you wrote.

Edited to add screenshot of a very negative review for a property in my area as an example that negative reviews are indeed posted. Note the date, this was posted in March 2020.
1-star.png
 
Last edited:

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
2,921
3,798
113
Maui Hawaii
VRBO will post negative reviews. I see them all the time.
What DATE did you leave the Review?
VRBO policy is different than AirBnB: Each party has UP TO A YEAR to leave a Review.
Once ONE PARTY has left a Review, the "clock starts ticking" and the other Party has 14 days to Review.
After 14 days OR after the other Party leaves a Review, both "Reviews" are supposed to become visible.
VRBO changed their Review policy in the last year and Hosts can only leave "stars" for Guests now, no written reviews.

As a VRBO Host I have also experienced delays in getting even 5 Star Positive Reviews from Guests to post in a timely manner which is why I asked WHEN you posted your review. It is also possible that your Review was held if it made wild claims or was threatening or libelous in some manner, but I don't know what you wrote.

Edited to add screenshot of a very negative review for a property in my area as an example that negative reviews are indeed posted. Note the date, this was posted in March 2020.
View attachment 3595
The OP cannot leave a "review" because the OP never occupied the property. This is likely why it was not posted.
 
May 21, 2020
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near Charlotte, NC
It isn’t due to meanness or lack of fairness from your host that you aren’t entitled to a refund. It’s because you chose a rental with a strict cancellation policy and the host is simply adhering to the terms. You also agreed to the same terms when you sent in your deposit. It appears you cancelled two days before check in so even if you had chosen something with a relaxed or moderate cancellation policy, OR if you had cancelled for a myriad of other reasons other than Covid, you still wouldn’t be entitled to a refund.

You could have mitigated some of the loss by purchasing travel insurance when you booked. Some policies would have covered your mother’s mandated quarantine in her assisted living facility making it impossible for her to leave. The premium cost would have been small compared to the possibility of losing up to $12K.

As for a credit or partial refund, the chances are slim but you should continue to make polite requests. However, some hosts I know are pondering changing their business strategy to more long term or month to month rentals, or just getting out of the short term rental market completely. Their plans might be in flux and don’t want to issue a credit they may not be able to honor in the future.

Also, the cleaning fee is refundable but not always refunded, unless the guest specifically demands that it be returned. Since your host is no longer responding, your best option is to dispute it with your cc. Keep this in mind if you ever use a short term vacation rental again.
 
Jul 10, 2020
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With regard to the reviews, it's my understanding that VRBO/AirBnB only post reviews of those who actually stayed at the property, so as you canceled and didn't stay your review would be blocked by the system.

You're not the only one in this mess, and unfortunately there's not much you can do. VRBO can't force the owner to give you a refund, and VRBO no longer has your money to give it back. If you search this forum there's multiple posts by other people in very similar circumstances as your own. This happening at the very beginning of the US covid mess doesn't help a lot as there were plenty of places in Florida still acting situation normal at that time, if the rental was in one such area they likely are looking at your cancellation as a choice. (Jupiter is far enough north of Miami that I don't think it was included in those counties early shut downs.)
But they sent me a link to review the property at the end of the rental period so I completed it and it was never posted and I never heard back about the review from VRBO or the owner-- nothing. I think it is also important to hear a review about the lack of flexibility by the owners to even have a discussion instead of just completely ignoring my requests during tin s of emergency.
 
Jul 10, 2020
4
0
1
64
It isn’t due to meanness or lack of fairness from your host that you aren’t entitled to a refund. It’s because you chose a rental with a strict cancellation policy and the host is simply adhering to the terms. You also agreed to the same terms when you sent in your deposit. It appears you cancelled two days before check in so even if you had chosen something with a relaxed or moderate cancellation policy, OR if you had cancelled for a myriad of other reasons other than Covid, you still wouldn’t be entitled to a refund.

You could have mitigated some of the loss by purchasing travel insurance when you booked. Some policies would have covered your mother’s mandated quarantine in her assisted living facility making it impossible for her to leave. The premium cost would have been small compared to the possibility of losing up to $12K.

As for a credit or partial refund, the chances are slim but you should continue to make polite requests. However, some hosts I know are pondering changing their business strategy to more long term or month to month rentals, or just getting out of the short term rental market completely. Their plans might be in flux and don’t want to issue a credit they may not be able to honor in the future.

Also, the cleaning fee is refundable but not always refunded, unless the guest specifically demands that it be returned. Since your host is no longer responding, your best option is to dispute it with your cc. Keep this in mind if you ever use a short term vacation rental again.
That is all easy to say all that now in hindsight knowing about Covid-19. Also most policies decided to add a special exclusion for Covid-19 unless you the renter actually had it once it was actually an issue. VRBO only pushed the availability of insurance (which still excluded Covid-19 ) except for a very high price from private insurers after thus doesn't disaster started not previously.
 
Dec 19, 2014
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In my opinion, COVID-19 has exposed the dark side of VRBO and. I suppose a contract is a contract, but if a renter is truly unable to utilize a rental, the notion that an owner can 100% retain the payment just doesn't seem right.

At best, short term gain by the owner can result in permanent damage in reputation and future rentals

I do not have any additional advice for the OP, or anyone else in this situation, except to REMEMBER this and factor that into your future vacation rental selection.
 
May 30, 2019
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But they sent me a link to review the property at the end of the rental period so I completed it and it was never posted and I never heard back about the review from VRBO or the owner-- nothing. I think it is also important to hear a review about the lack of flexibility by the owners to even have a discussion instead of just completely ignoring my requests during tin s of emergency.
The link was likely sent automatically. Because you paid for the rental, in VRBO's system that sends the link, it might not have been "cancelled". But the point remains -- you are trying to get some money back.

That is all easy to say all that now in hindsight knowing about Covid-19. Also most policies decided to add a special exclusion for Covid-19 unless you the renter actually had it once it was actually an issue. VRBO only pushed the availability of insurance (which still excluded Covid-19 ) except for a very high price from private insurers after thus doesn't disaster started not previously.
Yes, most policies now have an exclusion and some in the past had exclusions for pandemics. But some did not. And, you mother was over 90. Had she had a different medical issue or something more serious, without insurance you would not have been covered for a refund.

But that's in the past. As far as how things stand today in the interest of self-advocacy ...

Have you tried any of the recommendations mentioned on this thread?
 
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