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VRBO Rental Problems and Fraud Listings?

I attempted to reserve a rental in Paris just after Christmas. The renters calendar showed the rate & showed open. He denied me, saying it's too early, try again in a couple of months. The next day I see his rates went up. This owner is very highly rated.

I then attempted renting 2 others and received emails from VRBO stating these were fraud listings.

Curious if others have had these problems.
I have used VRBO in the past.

Posted by
5371 posts

I'm seeing more and more reports of fake listings through VBRO and Homeaway that I'm now very reluctant to book through them. Trust your instincts.

Posted by
1540 posts

Several years ago I was also scammed on a VRBO Apt in Paris. They wanted all the money upfront and I was naive enough to send it.
Almost immediately found out that the property did not exist and I was lucky enough to find that my funds were still in transit (going through conversion process).
AND I got all my money back. In talking to the VRBO company it appears they are "hacked" frequently - mine was in Paris France too.

Posted by
7578 posts

Those are troubling experiences, and, of course, you’re still without a place to stay, at this point. We’ve had nothing but positive experiences with VRBO (merged years ago with HomeAway.com). Prices accurate, listings legitimate, properties as advertised, over many times in the USA and Europe. If crooks are now corrupting those vacation rentals, that’s really a shame. Hope you get a good place.

Posted by
381 posts

I attempted to reserve a rental in Paris just after Christmas. The renters calendar showed the rate & showed open. He denied me, saying it's too early, try again in a couple of months. The next day I see his rates went up. This owner is very highly rated.

This isn't necessarily fraud. I say this as someone who has a vacation rental on VRBO. What probably happened is that he has set seasonal rates that he neglected to put into his calendar for Christmas 2019.

VRBO and similar sites show your calendar a year or two in advance and do not automatically reflect the owner's general rates policies. The owner has to manually input the rate changes year by year. As far as I can remember, VRBO never sends reminders to owners to take care of this, nor do they remind owners how far in advance their calendars extend.

In other words, you can have in your VRBO listing that Christmas rates are higher every year from X date to Y date, but the interface doesn't let you set it up that way in the calendar. You need to set the rates for Christmas 2019, for Christmas 2020, and then again for Christmas 2021.

Remember also that owners have the right to turn down your booking request for any reason or for no reason at all.

Fraud is when you pay for something that doesn't exist or that the person receiving the money doesn't have the right to rent out.

Posted by
166 posts

VRBO/Homeaway has been bought out by Expedia and there have been some changes. If the owner had consistent great reviews it could be as the poster above mentioned that the rate calendar just wasn't updated yet. The owner has to go in and manually do it themselves. With the Expedia buy out I can tell you that the booking fee has been raised and they are charging the owner a higher percentage leaving higher rates across the board. I have recently found more luck with AirBNB. I look for super host and read reviews very carefully to avoid owners that tend to cancel on their guest. We are doing a combination of AirBNB, VRBO, and hotels on our next trip. One thing to watch out for in Paris is that they are registered. Paris is really becoming very strict with vacation rentals just like other larger cities. I have read horror stories of entire blocks getting into trouble and host having to cancel due to not being registered. When we went to Paris a year and half ago with our teen it was some what a new issue so we booked a apartment through Cobblestone Paris. This eliminated the issue. I have also heard good things about Paris Perfect. With our next trip to Germany and Austria I looked for or asked for their registration details. All host were happy to share these details and two out of the three has it listed on their ad. I hope it works out for you. Happy and safe travels.

Posted by
885 posts

I think the recent changes have affected my VRBO plans. I was using VRBO in Paris for the first time and when I re-visited my reservation the reservation is there but the apartment is no longer listed on the site. Maybe the owner wasn't registered or didn't want to follow the new rules - I don't know. But I don't like the idea that my reservation is through a company they no longer care about pleasing.
I've contacted the owner and I haven't heard back but I have until 5/11 to cancel the reservation at VRBO without charge. So I made a cancellable hotel reservation last night as well and I will end up cancelling one of these in the next couple of days

One thing I hadn't considered when I started was the late check-in time we have affecting our VRBO choices versus a hotel because some owners don't want to stay up that late just to meet you.

C'est La Vie,
=Tod

Posted by
1097 posts

The last, and I mean last, time I used VRBO was for a beach rental that advertised an ocean view and even had pictures of said view. When we arrived, there was a building that had been recently erected directly in front of the condo which completely obscured any beach view. The owner was using old photos and knew full well that the beach view was no longer there. I wrote a scathing review which she managed to get erased off of VRBO by claiming that I was lying, not her. I just think that you don’t have any recourse when you are dealing with individuals as opposed to a company. This is especially true when you’re in a different country where you don’t speak the language. What are you going to do if you arrive, dead tired and jetlagged and your property does not exist or you have a major problem? I know that many people are avid Airbnb or VRBO advocates, but I have heard enough stories and have personally experienced enough snafus that I now prefer hotels, where if my room is unacceptable at least I have the option of moving down the hall.

Posted by
454 posts

We've used VRBO many times to rent homes and apartments--Paris, Prague, Seattle, Aspen, Maui, Sedona, LA, NYC, and other cities. All but one have been wonderful experiences. I felt that some fraudulent activity was going on re the Prague rental. We picked a beautiful apartment right in old town city center. It had been recently remodeled and had lovely, chic furnishings and high end looking kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures. We were going to be in Prague the week after Easter, which is a high tourist week, and I was looking for a 2- BR place just 6 or so weeks in advance of travel, so I was surprised that the unit was available. All the other apartments that I liked were booked. I felt lucky to get it. We were scheduled to arrive in Prague by train after spending a few nights in Berlin. At 9:30 p.m. on the night before the rental was to begin, when we were in Berlin, I got an email from the owner of the Prague apartment, reporting that a water pipe had burst and the unit was flooded and uninhabitable. She offered to put us in a different apartment at the same rental rate (she sent a link to it), or she'd refund our money and we could find new accommodations on our own. I didn't have adequate internet service in the Berlin hotel to go on a search for a new place to stay, and we didn't want to arrive in town without a reservation. So although the substitute apartment didn't really appeal to me, we took it. It was a dismal apartment, much worse than the photos. It was located in a residential neighborhood that was a long way away from old town city center and it had dingy, mis-matched furnishings, cracks in the walls covered by cheap art, thin, worn towels, inadequate kitchen supplies, etc. I complained to the owner that this apartment wasn't on par with the other and she did agree to take a little money off of the rental rate. In the end, we were okay with what I assumed was a bait-and-switch. It gave us the opportunity to be in a part of Prague that wasn't toursty and crowded. The restaurants in our neighborhood were filled with locals, not tourists. No English was spoken but service was warm and friendly and the food was cheap and delicious! We got great exercise every day walking into town. So, lemons were made into lemonade. A year or so after the trip, I was thinking of booking another VRBO and was curious to try to determine whether I'd been scammed in Prague . . .offered a nice apartment with the intention of switching us into one that never gets rented. I looked for reviews written by people who had stayed in that owner's Prague apartments. I found one written by some people who'd been in Prague about 8 months after we were there. They wrote that they liked their apartment, but it wasn't the one they'd originally booked. And when they described the one they'd originally booked, I saw that it was the one we too had tried to book. They too had gotten notified by email, the night before arrival, that water pipes had burst and they were going to have to be put in a different unit. I wasn't able to post a review on the page of the unit we were supposed to have, because you have to stay there to be qualified to review it. I reported to VRBO that I wanted to post on that page to let people know what happened to us. They wouldn't let me do it.

Posted by
7578 posts

Wow, Vickie, glad you were able to make the best of your Prague situation. At least there was a place to stay, and you weren’t stranded without a roof over your head, but the owner is clearly dishonest, advertising a place that may or may not really be available to rent, or the place has really, really unreliable pipes!

Also it’s really bad that VRBO’s operators won’t take action against a crook, which is ultimately giving their service a bad name. They should Czech that woman off their list of clients!

Posted by
3208 posts

Reading all these forum posts lately about apartment scams and misrepresentations: for our next trip I have booked apartments in Italy through booking.com for the first time.
I have used it before for lots of hotels, and been very happy; but first time trying apartments.
I've booked ones you can cancel up until quite near the rental date.
They all have lots of reviews.
So, we'll see!
I have used HomeAway and Airbnb for years, and never (touch wood) had a bad experience; in fact , quite the opposite.

Posted by
4574 posts

I was looking for an apartment in Paris in 2010. At the time, Craigs List was considered a reputable source for short let apartments. At the same time, I was looking at a lot of other sites for apartments in my price range.
The one on Craigs was beautiful, but very underpriced for Aug 1 week. But I sent an inquiry an and got a response but it took a few days. Yes it was available for $700 for the week.
I replied that I was confused as I saw the same photos on VRBO for $2980 a week. How could that be? By next morning, Craigs listing had disappeared and the email address had been ditched.
I knew what was going on and wanted to see how far it would go, but it was a clear example of internet theft (of photos) and what would have been my money. Unfortunately too many people are sucked into the photos and price without remembering 'too good to be true' is a saying come by with lots of experience.
Though I have my favourite platform I always start reviewing several, then emailing owner with some questions to get feedback and a feel for the host, then look some more for reviews (as one question is the actual street address)...eventually I book.
As to price changes for peak times, it isn't fraudulent. OP booked months in advance and the owner has the right to deny with the intent to update the calendar (and prices). I had an ongoing 'maybe' booking for some time while the hosts daughter was trying to decide her family's visit dates (that would likely coincide with my booking). I had booked many months in advance as it was a limited remote area. I booked a cancellable option as a plan B and the host and I kept in touch until daughter made her decision. Successful outcomes sometimes mean a bit of give and take.

Posted by
33146 posts

I agree, James E. Perhaps if wayne approached our hard working Webmaster he could move this thread from France to General Europe.

I think that would be a Good Thing.

Posted by
113 posts

We are using a mix of AirB&B and VRBO for our trip in September. So far, we've had no issues with either service on previous trips. For Paris, be sure to look for their official listing number. If they don't have one, they are not legal and could be shut down by the city if they are found out by the authorities.

If they are a Super Host or have high ratings, you'll probably be okay...but as others have said, trust your gut. Not worth worrying all the way to your vacation about whether or not you'll have a place to stay.

Posted by
1 posts

My family of 4 used Cobblestone Paris Rentals and had a great experience with their rental in December and January. Found their information in Rick’s book.