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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
2811 posts

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

Posted by
474 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
85 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 for more discussion and stories from people with similar problems to yours.

Posted by
488 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
2518 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
2811 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
574 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.