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Renters Beware -- VRBO Coronavirus Refund Policy is Toothless

Well before the Coronavirus outbreak, my family reserved a house owned by Greg Kruse in North Naples, FL through VRBO. The reservation was for Easter weekend, April 9-12. We cancelled the reservation in mid-March due to the severity of the outbreak at that point. Greg Kruse instructed us to cancel online, saying he would give us a full refund. When he failed to refund any money we contacted VRBO and asked them to enforce their special Coronavirus refund policy, which was applicable to our situation. That policy states that owners should give renters a refund of at least 50% for cancellations due to the Coronavirus outbreak. VRBO tried to contact Greg Kruse multiple times to get him to issue a refund but was unsuccessful. VRBO essentially told us that their refund policy was unenforceable. Mr. Kruse also failed to respond to multiple requests for refunds from us. VRBO did refund their service fee, the damage deposit, and a portion of the taxes. We still were out over $1400 that Greg Kruse kept, including the $395 cleaning fee for a house we never stayed at.

This property is still being offered for rent through VRBO (Property #1825814). I'm sharing this as a cautionary tale for anyone considering renting through VRBO, particularly anyone considering renting from this owner.

Posted by
2879 posts

Not good. I rented places through AirBnB that I had to cancel, and I got full refunds as per AirBnBs policy.

Posted by
617 posts

Andy, sorry to read about this and your financial loss. However, unless they just rewrote it the VRBO policy does not state a min 50% refund. There policy is that they have ask homeowners to offer future stay credits or a partial refund of up to 50% (when outside the cancellation period) if possible. VRBO also clearly states that the cancellation policy period in your original contract apply. Again, no VRBO owner is required by VRBO to alter their stated cancellation policy that was in effect at the time of booking (aka entering into the rental contract). VRBO does state that due to Covid they will refund their fees. That is the only Covid related refund that VRBO promises to deliver. VRBO also clearly acknowledges that many property owners count on VRBO to make mortgage payments thus renters must examine and look to the cancellation conditions of each individual property.

Posted by
96 posts

Airbnb, VRBO, Homeaway, etc - they're a completely unregulated area that so many people like you are just realizing now after Covid. Basically, VRBO and the others are just like the want ads. There’s very little they can do when things go wrong. You might want to join Elliott.org for more discussion and stories from people with similar problems to yours.

Posted by
596 posts

I'd suggest a review but after reading their policy don't bother. Doesn't seem like it's allowed for the reasons you're experiencing. Enough to discourage me from ever using vrbo.

Posted by
2 posts

The relevant language of the policy is copied below and clearly states that VRBO expects owners to refund at least 50% even if trips are outside the set cancellation policy.

"We ask that Vrbo partners (homeowners and property managers) handle cancellations for trips booked within this period in one of two ways (even if those trips are outside of the set cancellation policy):
Option 1 (Default): If the booking is for stay dates up to and including June 30, offer a credit for full value and flexible stay dates within the next year to travelers who can’t take trips now due to COVID-19.
Option 2: If the traveler is unwilling to accept a credit, we advise partners to issue them a refund. If partners are unable to accommodate a full refund, Vrbo expects partners to provide at least a 50% refund if the traveler cancels during this time.

Posted by
2546 posts

Unless the home is in a corporate or trust name, according to Collier County property records, no one by that name owns real property in the county. Could it have been a scam to begin with? You can go to the Property Appraiser’s website and search by property address as well as name. Then report it to the Collier County Sheriff’s Department.

Posted by
2879 posts

Airbnb, VRBO, Homeaway, etc - they're a completely unregulated area that so many people like you are just realizing now after Covid. Basically, VRBO and the others are just like the want ads. There’s very little they can do when things go wrong.

Although I've used AirBnB a fair amount, I'm not about to toot their horn, because there are aspects of their operation that have been pretty unsavory. However, based on what the OP has written, there seems to be a big difference between AirBnB and VRBO, and maybe most of the others -- AirBnB holds the money, not the property owner, until the rental occurs. So, for example, that made it easy for me to get a full refund for 3 AirBnB rentals this spring.

Posted by
598 posts

I looked at that property and it states under Policies

100% refund if you cancel at least 30 days before check-in.

50% refund (minus the service fee) if you cancel at least 14 days before check-in.

No refund if you cancel less than 14 days before check-in.

I'm not a lawyer, but one question is whether you cancelled 14 days before. Since you say you cancelled mid-March for a stay that was to begin April 9th, it does appear you should get a 50% refund. Are these policy terms the same as were in effect when you made your reservation?

If he should have refunded your money and didn't, then your only option may be Small Claims court. You'll have to weigh the cost of a ticket to Florida and one nite's stay against the $700 you should be due, and that's assuming you can do the filing from home and not in person in Florida. Probably not worth it, but up to you.

Posted by
29 posts

I will never deal with VRBO or Airbnb ever again. I will deal with a property management company that has real people, phone numbers and service. I will only use American Express for all travel charges.

We booked a property in Feb 2020 for an April 2020 Hawaii trip. I'd never used Airbnb, but we couldn't get into the Marriott, so we thought it would be fun to try Airbnb. Ha! We understood the no refund policy, but Covid was supposed to be done with by April, remember? But, when the state is shut down and noone can get in, you have to refund money--it's not a discretionary decision. This property was managed by a property manager who apparently uses Airbnb as another booking/marketing avenue A call to the management company was going to result in a full refund.

However, because Airbnb had the property coded for no refund, Airbnb was not giving us money back. $1600! I called the Visa card company and "due to covid response times are long, and to email us" so dealing with VISA was a pain, too. I couldn't contest the charge. I used Visa instead of AXP because I'd get bonus miles on this new card if I made X$ of purchases in the first 3 months. Mistake.

After countless hours alot of stress, we finally got a refund but it took a month of daily stress to do it. One thing about AXP-- they process and control their card. It isn't done by individual banks. So if I have an issue with an American Express charge--it's one call and done, not some cheesy phone tree hassle with Chase, Citi or whomever issued the Visa Card.

Posted by
617 posts

I’m not sure why this thread was brought back to life after almost 6 months....do folks read before they post? I do not like Air BnB and won’t use them for unrelated reasons. I shouldn’t comment ...but I will. NOT all but many “issues” are often caused by the “complaining” party.

Nonrefundable means just that-nonrefundable. Why do people have such difficulty with understanding that concept? Whether Hawaii or Europe, just because YOU cannot get there doesn’t mean you get a pass. Your ability to get there is NOT a risk the property owner assumes; that is your risk. Not every renter is from out of state or out of country. The rules are equal to both. The property is yours from date x to y and a cost. You do not escape the contract because of an airline strike, a broken leg, nor a disease. Whenever you rent, buy (airline ticket) on a nonrefundable basis you bear all the risk. Nonrefundable is exactly that, Nonrefundable.

Posted by
5519 posts

onefastbob

I’m not sure why this thread was brought back to life after almost 6 months....do folks read before they post?

This looks like one of many posts that got revived when somebody posts a semi-related advertisement into an old thread. But the short answer is no, not everyone checks the dates.

Posted by
4137 posts

And after all this time, the owner got money for a place that did t get used. Wonder whether it’s been a booked-up renter’s hotspot since last spring? Wonder how many other bookings didn’t wind up with stays, yet were paid to the owner? Shady is as shady does.