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Vacation Rental By Owner scam

I received an email from a VRBO Paris property owner canceling my reservation on three days notice. I spoke several times to the VRBO call center before being transferred to their Traveler Care Unit that handles these sorts of issues. They require you file a complaint and then foreword it to the owner for a response. I paid for their "Carefree Guarantee" but that doesn't seem to matter in how they treat you. The email cancelling was sent through the VRBO system. I'm glad I at least found out a few days in advanced that the VRBO apartment was nonexistent for my stay. So far VRBO has been of no meaningful help!

Posted by
24872 posts

sorry, which part of this is the scam?

The apartment owner? VRBO? Somebody else?

Posted by
20972 posts

Need more information before you can it a scam. Do you have a deposit that is not being refunded? Any reason for the cancellation?

Two years ago we had rented a house in the Florida Keys through VRBO for the month of January for a family event. Two days after Christmas received an email, "Sorry, we had a fire. Your deposit is in the mail." My first reaction was they had received a better offer and cancelled us. Big problem, you don't find houses in the Keys for a month with one week notice. Later we were able to confirm through friends in the Keys that there had been a fire. So disappointed and terribly inconvenienced there was nothing we could do. So these things happen.

Posted by
2635 posts

The Carefree Guarantee means that you will get your money back and nothing more so if the person renting to you does not return any deposit that you paid, you can get your money from VRBO. That is why you have to wait and see what the owner does. There is nothing in the description of the Carefree Guarantee that guarantees that VRBO will help you find a replacement apartment or do anything other than pay you your deposit if there is fraud etc. in the rental -- it's for when you show up and there is no apartment or the place is a mess or you can't get into the apartment. Why do you think this is a scam? Vacation rentals can be canceled. It happens. It could be anything such as a problem in the apartment, a better offer, maybe a neighbor threatening to report the owner about an illegal rental or any of a number of other possibilities but that does not mean that the apartment is nonexistent -- it's just unavailable for you. By the way, I am not saying that the rental is illegal -- just suggesting that it could be.

Posted by
3642 posts

Wow, stressful! I know people receive some great deals booking a VRBO, but I've always felt there's less types of risk booking with a hotel.

Hopefully you find a substitute and enjoy your time in Paris!

Posted by
2246 posts

This occasionally happens with Paris and other cities' rentals. An owner may get a last minute offer to rent, for example from another listing service they are also using, for a higher price, and dump you. Or, residents in the building that the apartment is in will stage a revolt and tell that owner how they feel about them using the apartment for a vacation rental, and threaten sanctions against them-so they dump you. Some renters of vacation apartments have resorted to maintaining a cancelable hotel reservation until they are safe and sound in their apartment.

Sorry this happened to you, but I don't see a VRBO scam here, perhaps an unscrupulous owner-or maybe there was a real life emergency and it has nothing to do with scruples. I suspect that VRBO will make good; would you please report back when it's resolved so others may benefit from your misfortune?

Posted by
4532 posts

MTS 1000 -- Having rented through VRBO before, I'd appreciate knowing how this ultimately comes out for you. From what you've posted so far I wouldn't call it a "scam," though if the owner broke your contract because of a better offer it's certainly unethical on his part, and should be reported to VRBO. Seems like VRBO would want to know why this happened, so if the cancellation wasn't for a legitimate reason they can drop that owner from their service. And they'd have more leverage to find out the facts than you would.

Anyway I hope you find an alternative place to stay that's as good or better, and get your deposit back from VRBO. We've bought that "Carefree Guarantee" too, and if they don't pay on it I hope you'll let us all know. Condolences.

Posted by
7311 posts

It's unfair and lopsided that an owner can cancel three days before a rental is due to begin with no explanation, but if the renter were to cancel, the renter would lose the deposit or even the whole rent. It's not a scam, however--unless the owner somehow kept your money. But it is unfair, a disappointment, and terribly inconvenient.

We've seen people report these incidents before where renters who are staying longer get the apartment, family members decide to use the property at the last minute, or unexpected work on the building makes the apartment uninhabitable. It could also be that the apartment was an illegal rental and the neighbors finally got fed up and reported it, forcing the owner to take it off the market.

If it were a hotel or an agency with legal rentals, they'd be bending over backwards to get you a replacement room or apartment. If it were in the States, the hotel would be comping the nights you are displaced. But in this lopsided case, the owner can pull out of the deal at the last minute with no consequences.

I suppose you could consider yourself lucky that you were informed before arriving on the doorstep in Paris without a place to stay.
RS needs another category for bad situations so people don't have to write under the scam category--though VRBO making you jump through hoops when you've been wronged is outrageous.

Posted by
2635 posts

One problem here is that if this apartment is truly being rented by an owner, it is possibly the owner's only rental so he or she has nothing to offer you as an alternative. An agency, whether the apartment was legal or not (and it must likely would not be legal) would at least usually have some alternatives. That's one of the things to consider with Paris vacation rentals -- places being rented by owners of a single property might be more likely to be legal rentals but if something happens to cause the owner to cancel, the vacationer is out of luck. Agency rentals are likely to cost more and are generally not legal but agencies usually have enough apartments available to find you a replacement.

Posted by
518 posts

Yet another problem with such "vacation rentals." Sure, they are highly economical (especially for groups and families), very convenient (many are located in the heart of the action), but they can be also wrought with dangers such as this. Again, whenever booking such accommodations, always ask yourself, "what is my recourse should something go wrong?" "who is ultimately responsible?" At a hotel, you have the front desk, the concierge, and if it's a large chain (i.e., Hyatt, Ibis, Best Western, etc.) there's also recourse with the main company. Some hotel brands also offer vacation rentals, but it's much more limited in terms of locations/destinations and more expensive too, compared to an apartment.

Posted by
4 posts

Now VRBO is telling me to file a form that they did not provide and continue to try to contact the property owner & document the contacts. Apparently he did not respond to their contact. I have now sent the property owner private messages through FB and LinkedIn.

The most bizarre requirement is that I seek reimbursement from my credit card company as I paid through VRBO. So I take that to mean they want me to allege they committed some wrongful act. I responded to VRBO asking if I was to allege they committed fraud. I am awaiting their response.

Posted by
20972 posts

They may ask you to claim fraud as that is your only option. With a credit card you have one billing cycle to claim a wrongful charge. After that you only recourse is to claim fraud. And I think you only have 90 days to do that.

Posted by
2635 posts

VRBO does not have to commit fraud for you to make your claim. You will be alleging that the person renting the apartment committed fraud. VRBO is just the listing agent and not a brokerage service. You would not allege that the yellow pages committed fraud if they unknowingly listed a fraudulent business. It's the same with VRBO. And, you are not going to get a lot of help from VRBO if you suggest that they are committing fraud. Look, they don't want to pay out on the Carefree Guarantee. That's a given. They want the person who you paid to reimburse you and VRBO will pay you only after all else has failed. How long has it been since the person canceled? Have you checked the terms and conditions to see how long they have to return your deposit in the event of a cancellation. You will get nothing from VRBO as reimbursement for your deposit until after that amount of time has passed.

Posted by
12139 posts

Paris is a complicated market.

Did you research to see if the apartment is being legally rented? Looking at their availability calendar can give you an indication. If they are renting illegally what would make you think they would have a higher degree of ethics with a customer.

Renting a professionally managed apartment increases your odds of getting professional service and fall back options if for some legitimate reason the apartment is not available (fire, flood, death in the family, what ever). Most professional management companies will have their own website and also rent through VRBO, AirBnb, etc. Despite various commission rates more often than not your rate is about the same no matter which listing agency you go through. If there are significant differences in rates from one to another, I would be cautious.