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What HomeAway/VRBO Doesn't Tell You About Not Refunding Your Money

I recently had to cancel three HomeAway/VRBO bookings at the last minute due to my husband's health. I have had great success with HomeAway/VRBO for over nine years UNTIL I had to cancel. I fully understand and complied with their policy of having to pay for the stays without refund. HOWEVER, I have had to fight to receive refunds for CLEANING FEES AND REFUNDABLE DAMAGE DEPOSITS! Since we were not at the properties, there was nothing to clean nor could we have damaged anything. I called the HomeAway number twice. The first time, I was told that it was up to the homeowner to refund the cleaning fee and damage deposit! I then had to contact the owners to request refunds for the above. One owner still has not responded to me even after three weeks and three emails requesting him to do so. HomeAway states that it is out of their hands! Another authorized HomeAway to refund both cleaning fees and damage deposit, however, only the cleaning fee has been refunded requiring me to make, yet, another call to them. Yes, the next time we travel, we will definitely obtain trip insurance but absolutely NOT from HomeAway! I doubt that I will ever use them again, actually. I have registered complaints with HomeAway regarding their cleaning fees and refundable damage deposits policies as it leaves too much power in the hands of some greedy and unscrupulous home owners. Unfortunately, reviews cannot be made on the HomeAway site if you had to cancel even though the reservation was fully paid including the HomeAway fee. Beware that some damage deposits are $1000+ and some cleaning fees are in the hundreds of dollars. Mine were not, thankfully, but imagine if you cancelled your trip and did not have those amounts refunded.

Posted by
6207 posts

Have you contacted your credit card company about the cleaning fees and damage deposits?

Posted by
50 posts

Yes. We have contacted our credit card company. We were advised to first try to recoup the money from the home owners. One homeowner from Oxford refunded everything to us without our even asking which we never did. We just wanted the cleaning fee and damage deposits refunded. Another from London has been very helpful, but he is also going through all sorts of hoops contacting HomeAway to get it all straightened out. So many phone calls. So many emails. It's exhausting. My op is designed to warn others about HomeAway/VRBO's cancellation policy which does not in anyway protect the customer.

Posted by
1162 posts

Here's what I learned about HomeAway (and AirBnB too?) on a recent attempt at a HomeAway place in Quebec City.

When I arrived, there was work being done inside the apartment (the owner's home where I intended to rent a private room)--with dust everywhere from the drywall, kitchen full of furniture, and a very iffy parking situation.

Owner said he would refund my full amount, no problem, as I left. This was also in writing on the chat function for the site.

I said see ya and went and booked another place on booking.com.

But, now, THERE IS NO WAY THAT HOMEAWAY (OR AIRBNB?) CAN COMPEL THE OWNER TO REFUND YOUR MONEY. That is illegal in most countries, I gather.

You are at the mercy of the owner's good graces. I finally got HomeAway to say that the only thing they could do if I did not get my refund was to kick the owner off the platform.

I did get my refund fairly promptly this time--had a nightmare experience with an AirBnB two years ago in Avignon on this (when I did eventually get my refund, after about 20 calls. That time I also contacted my credit card and started a challenge to the charge, which I think got AirBnB in gear.

My particular credit card for the Quebec fiasco said the only thing they could do was file a fraudulent charge action.

Posted by
860 posts

I'm really sorry that happened to you. I've gotten burned a couple of times by "by owner" situations in the past, such that I don't use them anymore--only use hotels now, where, at least if you don't like the room, you can move to one down the hall, and cancellation policies have a little more leniency and fewer $$ upfront.

Posted by
5497 posts

Your claim seems very resaonable. AS your cerdit card company suggest, apply for the deposit refund from HomeAway/VRBO documenting the interaction. Then file a claim with your bank/credit card company for services not recieved.

It appears that HomeAway is more focused on property owners and not renters. For example, HomeAway describes how security deposits are handled from a property owner perspective:
https://help.homeaway.com/articles/Does-HomeAway-Payments-automatically-issue-refunds-to-travelers

Does HomeAway Payments automatically issue refunds to travelers?

With HomeAway Payments, the refundable damage deposit will be held and
later automatically refunded 7 or 14 days after check-out, depending
on which grace period you select. If damage occurs during a stay, you
can claim all or a portion of the refundable damage deposit prior to
when the 7 or 14 day grace period ends. You will receive an email
reminder the day a traveler checks out to take action if necessary.

HomeAway also advises property owners about bank chargebacks in favor of the renter:
https://www.vrbo.com/discoveryhub/tips-and-resources/success-on-homeaway/homeaway-payments-your-top-questions-answered-1

What is a chargeback and how do I prevent it?

A chargeback occurs when a guest contacts their bank to start a
reversal of a payment made with their credit card. Chargebacks can
happen for several reasons, but they usually happen because:

The guest changed their mind about their booking The guest is
dissatisfied with your property Someone has used the guest’s credit
card without their permission

Here are ways to prevent chargebacks in each of the above scenarios:
etc etc etc

Posted by
50 posts

"But, now, THERE IS NO WAY THAT HOMEAWAY (OR AIRBNB?) CAN COMPEL THE OWNER TO REFUND YOUR MONEY. That is illegal in most countries, I gather."
Actually, Barbara, HomeAway/VRBO DOES refund the damage deposit, not the owner if you stay. So, if they can refund the damage deposit if you actually stayed, why can't they do the same if you cancelled?! It is counterintuitive to say the least!

Posted by
50 posts

"I finally got HomeAway to say that the only thing they could do if I did not get my refund was to kick the owner off the platform." How does one kick the owner off the platform? I'm uncertain what the platform is. I cannot even make comments about the flat which I paid for but didn't stay in. It is impossible to comment on the HomeAway/VRBO site unless you stay there.

Posted by
1162 posts

Je m'appelle Barbra.

I'm talking about a real refund, as in when something goes wrong and you can stay there or have to leave mid-stay for good cause, both of the scenarios I have experienced.

Otherwise, you have paid a REFUNDABLE deposit.

Posted by
5308 posts

Sorry you had problems with HomeAway -- we rented four separate apartments through HomeAway this April and got deposits back from owners within days.

Posted by
2765 posts

We have gone to Europe for 16 of the last 18 years and have stayed in most countries. We have never used HomeAway/VRBO preferring to book directly with small hotels or B&Bs. We have never had a problem.

Posted by
7143 posts

Other people’s good experiences, or reporting they don’t use HA/VRBO, has nothing to do with anything, not relevant to Lindy’s message. Thank you Lindy for taking the time to warn us, it’s kind of you.

As you know, HA/VRBO, and others like it, are just a platform for individual owners to advertise their rentals. Just like placing an ad in a newspaper back in the day. As someone else said, you are at the mercy of the owner.

We rented an apt in Paris that was so disgusting we refused to stay. It is still advertised on VRBO.

Posted by
2759 posts

Airbnb and Homeaway/vrbo do not have the same practices. I refused to use vrbo because until recently, the host set the deposit policies and method of damage deposit often in cash upon arrival. I preferred knowing that hosts don't get the money until 24 hours after check in so there is 24 hours to contact Airbnb and have them help mediate any problems found upon arrival. I have always been meticulous with my research and choices and have never had to report a host or problem, but have had to cancel so the agreedmupon refund policy and amount (includkng cleaning fees and deposit) were promptly refunded. I explained to the host why I was cancelling and he ipu derstood. A couple of weeks later, I read there was the option to ckntact a jost to request further refunds...at their discretion. As the host had been able to rerent 4 of the 5 days I had previously booked, I decided to email and request a refund for the balance of the amount adding up to 4 days' rent leaving him with the amount he would have been out of pocket....and he agreed.
I appreciate that things are not perfect, and next Airbnb rental may be a real nightmare, but I don't believe you can paint all hosts and all similar age cies with the same brush. It is only recently that I have seen an Airbnb type model in VRBO, but expect there is a legacy attitude where host has the power and ability to decide with VRBO as the yes man.
@Lindy, I hope you are able to resolve this to your satisfaction, but I'm sorry it has required so much energy when uou most likely need it elsewhere.

Posted by
2329 posts

We’ve had good experiences with both VRBO and HomeAway. Some places have been a bit less than the pictures would lead you to believe or had maintenance issues on arrival. Nothing major. These are well used short term rentals and, unfortunately, some people don’t respect the properties. There is a lot of fine print. Because we have had health issues and have had rot cancel two vacations we always buy comprehensive travel insurance through insuremytrip.com.

Posted by
342 posts

As you know, HA/VRBO, and others like it, are just a platform for individual owners to advertise their rentals. Just like placing an ad in a newspaper back in the day. As someone else said, you are at the mercy of the owner.

As someone who rents out a place through VRBO, I have to tell you the above is less and less true. Since being bought by Expedia a few years ago, the management has been ramming through policies that homeowners have no choice about agreeing to, to the point that many owners are up in arms. We now have to select among preset refund/cancellation policies and renters are now apparently allowed to request (and get) certain kinds of refunds of VRBO that run contrary to the rental agreements of the owners.

So I would warn you against generalizing from anything that happened 2 or 3 years ago to now.

In addition, they "double dip" in the sense that they charge both the owner and the renter fees for each rental.

Posted by
44 posts

Lindy, I am very sorry for your loss. It's never pleasant to have to deal with administrative hassles like the ones you had with HA/VRBO, but under the circumstances it must have felt positively Kafka-esque.

We've had pretty good experiences renting through both HA/VRBO and Air BnB, but have found that there is a lot of variability amongst owners as to how savvy they are about their own platform interfaces with the agencies in general, and online communication and administration.

Posted by
50 posts

Thank you for your many responses. Again, my focus was to let people know that HA/VRBO needs to change their policy regarding CANCELED reservations: the cleaning fee and damage deposit must be returned IN FULL. Since HA/VRBO collects all fees for the rental and then disburses payments to the home owners, it should be very easy for them to remit the above fees to the renters. I have registered my complaint with HA/VRBO.

Posted by
2329 posts

Marcia, that is eye opening. Thank you for your post. We have been renting a condo in Kauai for years. The owners and several other owners in the complex left VRBO. They said it was the fees but it sounds more complex than that.

Posted by
342 posts

Marcia, that is eye opening. Thank you for your post. We have been renting a condo in Kauai for years. The owners and several other owners in the complex left VRBO. They said it was the fees but it sounds more complex than that.

Alan, One part of what is happening is that Expedia would like the experience of booking a vacation rental to be as much like booking a hotel room as possible. That means that any venue that doesn't accept credit cards or that requires a discussion between the owner and the potential guest before the booking is no longer welcome on VRBO.

Owners have been losing more and more control of who gets to stay at their property, and as a result we have the rise of vacation rental management companies that offer various kinds of intrusive monitoring of guests. For example, I have been heavily marketed to by a company called Turnkey, which I believe is owned by Homeaway, and they tell owners that they will install noise monitors in their properties and keyless locks that keep track of people going in and out of the property. This really bothers me!

On the one hand, I can understand the need for owners who don't live on or near the premises to make sure that renters aren't having out-of-control parties. However, the reason that need arises is partly because the platforms offer owners less of an ability to screen their guests in advance now.

If you as the vacation rental owner enable Instant Booking, you have a big advantage in list rank over owners who don't, and I suspect that gradually every other option besides Instant Booking will disappear.

This is not good for the guests, either, in my opinion, if vacation rentals become a pure business and there is no relationship at all between owners and guests.

Posted by
7143 posts

marcia, i take your point. I guess the only thing i’d say differently in my post is that a renter is at the mercy of both the platform and the owner.

Posted by
5497 posts

...a renter is at the mercy of both the platform and the owner.

The benefit of going thorugh a "platform" is that they accept credit card payments and hopefully have clear (even if fine print) terms and conditions. In the event of a dispute, for American credit card holders, the Fair Credit Billing Act provides some protection under the Billing Errors "charges for goods and services you didn't accept or that weren't delivered as agreed".
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0219-disputing-credit-card-charges

If you deal directly with the property owner and pay in cash (eg wired transfer) you would be out of luck and totaly dependent on the goodwill of the seller.

Posted by
50 posts

Thank you, Edgar. I will look into this possibility. I am also posting on tourist sites such as Tripadvisor, etc. to warn others. I must say that the petty part of me hopes HA/VRBO gets stung a little bit!

Posted by
50 posts

I so agree with you, thesocialgain! Thank you for the supportive response.

Posted by
1 posts

Interesting discussion - particularly Marcia's coments about how HomeAway/VRBO has evolved since tthe Expedia takeover. We have used HomeAway many times over the past 15 years for rentals in Europe and USA/Canada. All experiences have been good - luckily we never had to cancel. However, our most recent rental in Florida had a new twist. The damage deposit was $3000 (on a $1500 one week rental). The deposit was charged to my credit card (not just a hold). Luckily our credit limit was not exceeded and the timing worked out so that the $3000 was credited back before the monthly statement arrived. Seems that HomeAway/VRBO is pushing us to take their Damage Insurance option at an extra charge of almost $200. I have no problem with reasonable cleaning fees but the exorbitant booking fees and surprise last minute extra charges are making us look for alternative booking "channels".

Posted by
1 posts

I’m two weeks into my own nightmare with HA/VRBO. By mistake I requested bookings on two properties at the same time for the same trip and was surprised the next day to find both auto billed to my credit card. To correct the double booking mistake I requested a cancellation on one of the two units within 3 hours from when the system billed my card. The property owner was very reluctant to approve my cancellation at first fearing penalties from HomeAway. Finally after five days on the phone with HA customer support the owner agreed to canceled the reservation, but now she is refusing to refund my money. HomeAway says there is nothing they can do, I have to work with the property owner. I’ve disputed the charge with my credit card company but fear I’ll have to take the property owner to court to get my money back. This was an honest mistake, and I caught it within 3 hours. I never intended to book two properties for the same trip but both HomeAway and the property owner continue to blame each other and the system saying there is nothing they can do.

Posted by
2953 posts

I’ve had two positive Home Away experiences and one negative one. Sadly, the negative one is the one that stands out most to me and makes me hesitate to use them again. Our rental was quite dirty. The owner offered us a bottle of wine “to make it right.” We wanted partial refund. He agreed, but then without contacting us, he sent the refund to an account we could never access.

You don’t know what you will get until you show up, and then problem resolution depends entirely on the owner.

Posted by
50 posts

eric-burke, this is a perfect example of how HA purports to work for renters only to remove themselves when a problem occurs. In your case, the HA property you canceled gets to possibly "double dip"! They canceled your booking but might keep the money. This way, they could book someone else and take their money, as well. I am greatly saddened that I will never use HA/VRBO again.

Posted by
50 posts

Carol, that is so unfortunate. It appears from prior posts and my own experience, I will either obtain travel insurance (NOT from HA/VRBO) or book at hotels--not through Expedia.

Posted by
2812 posts

Eric-burke, what you describe could not happen with AirBnB, at least if your reservation was more than 2 weeks in the future. Even under the strictest cancellation policy, you get 48 hours to cancel, with a full refund. I guess HA/VRBO is very different. I've used Air BnB many times in several countries; I think I'll steer clear of VRBO in the future.

Posted by
62 posts

I’m so sorry you’re having a frustrating experience, Lindy. Thank you so much for letting us know.

A few years ago, we did rent from VRBO/Homeaway three times and all went well, but it was nerve wracking with terms and security deposits and etc... One vrbo owner wanted us to paypal him the deposit to book and that didn’t make me feel comfortable, so I declined.

We have elderly parents whose health is fragile so I need flexible cancellation up to week of travel, as one never knows. I also always get trip insurance and once had to use claim 24 hours before traveling due to to medical emergency of parent.

Airbnb isn’t perfect, and I’m finding I’m using them less and less because their cancellation policy, even for ‘flexible’ is too restrictive, and they charge way too much for service fees. Also, I had a host cancel on me three days before. But, I still use them about 1/4 - 1/.3 of our bookings—making sure it’s not the host’s primary residence. It makes me feel better that Airbnb hosts won’t get their money until we’ve been there for 24 hours in case upon arrival there’s something off. The only time we had issue with host not responding and had to call Airbnb (a few years ago), we actually talked to a Real Live person who was very helpful. Not sure if we’d get same service now, though.

I know it’s Airbnb and not the homeowners who set some cancellation policy because I’ve found SAME flats on Bookings.com with much better policy and fees.

If it’s hotels, especially in Europe, I do what RS rec. and book directly with them. In Asia, I found hotels were much more responsive if booked through booking.com or agoda.com because you have a ‘third’ party to help you work through issues, as opposed to when I booked directly with some hotels there—they don’t seem to care we didn’t get the rooms we had booked etc...

Posted by
1 posts

As others have said, Home Away is fine if you have reputable owners. The minute you have trouble, Home Away’s process is designed to push you to a more expensive property or put you off until you find another property yourself. Their primary administrative function, in my experience, is to delay the return of your money as long as possible when their “guaranteed booking” doesn’t work out. I paid for a rental for 17 people ( seventeen!) last July and was assured through multiple phone calls that everything was fine, despite the fact that couldn’t get info from the owner. 10 days prior to our trip, she cancelled. I found several properties, as Home Away’s suggestion, but they waited so long to book them for us, that they were already rented. They offered me resorts for 30 people. As 3 times the cost. I ultimately went another route, and it took more than 8 months to get my money back. Their policy of giving control of the money to the owner is either fabricated, or terrible business. It is impossible to talk to the same person more than once, as only the phone bank numbers are available. One is required to tell your entire story each time, and the decision makers are unavailable to the public. Never again. We came within days of filing an internet fraud lawsuit.

Posted by
50 posts

janetfkopec what a horrifying experience! I cannot imagine being responsible for finding housing for 17 individuals only to have self-serving property owners and HomeAway dragging their feet at your literal expense. I only wish that the irresponsible behavior of HomeAway were better known to the public. From here on out, I will check into AirBnB's policies and perhaps work with them around stays independent from the owner's own home. I really liked HomeAway's vast array of flats/homes that we had to ourselves. Then, again, there are always hotels. . .

Posted by
276 posts

Thanks for posting your unfortunate experience as a warning to others. I have rented several places through Airbnb (not HomeAway) and about 50% were great and the other 50% made me wish I had got a hotel room.

Posted by
50 posts

Thank you, Barnstormer. Perhaps the business of renting out homes has become so big that it is out of control. It's unfortunate that many of us who have been burned are coming full circle by feeling more secure staying in hotels.

Posted by
1 posts

We had to cancel 2 long term rentals for next year because of the Covid-19. One was with Airbnd and the second with VRBO. We could not have had 2 more different experiences!

Airbnd accepted our cancellation immediately with an email confirmation within minutes and a refund on our credit card within 5-7 days.

VRBO was a nightmare! The owner wanted us to accept a credit for a future rental, we said no. It took 4 emails to demand a cancellation. Finally the owner refunded our deposit, but was unable to cancel our reservation status on the VRBO website. Finally VRBO was able to fix the glitch and change our status to Canceled, so we could get our refund for the Service Fee (the term service fee is not almost laughable :-). It took 4 weeks and 5 calls -so far - with VRBO to get our Service Fee refunded. As of today, we have yet to receive it.

I prefer hotels for a better experience for accommodations, but long term we have to use these sites. Whenever possible we will always use Airbnb first. You just have to ask if they rent long term and for what price.

Happy trails!

Posted by
50 posts

Thank you Bobvquebec! I'm so sorry to hear of your difficulties with VRBO, but I am not surprised. If we ever are able to travel again, I will definitely take a look at Airbnb first. I think I'm feeling a tiny bit of sweet revenge that HomeAway/VRBO are being hurt by coronavirus. I'm generally not a vengeful person, but. . .