Hey VRBO, where’s my vacation rental?

After John Duncan pays for his vacation rental, the owner goes into radio silence. He doesn’t think he’ll have anywhere to stay. Can he get a refund before his vacation is ruined?

Question: I reserved a vacation rental in San Antonio, Texas, through VRBO this spring and paid my deposit and fees. I made the final payment in July. I attempted to contact the owner to arrange access. But several emails and phone messages went unanswered.

I Contacted VRBO by email, phone and certified letter. Today, I was told by phone that in order to receive a refund, I must show up in San Antonio and find that I cannot access the property. Since there is no response from the owner, I can’t risk traveling there with my family and small grandchildren, when there’s a possibility we won’t have anywhere to stay.

I called back today and asked to speak with a supervisor, but was told there is no supervisor. My vacation has been ruined. I’d like to get a full and immediate refund for my vacation rental. Can you help me? — John Duncan, Longwood, Fla.

Answer: If you don’t have a vacation rental then VRBO should offer a full refund without making you show up in San Antonio.

VRBO offers a Book With Confidence Guarantee that, as the name implies, is supposed to assure you that your rental will be available when you arrive. But read the fine print: The guarantee only applies if you’re wrongfully denied access to the subject property at the start of or during the rental term “as the result of the intentional and/or wrongful act of the advertiser” and your deposit is not refunded.

Related story:   Worst. Vacation. Rental. Ever.

That’s a lot of “ifs.”

Technically, VRBO was correct in telling you to show up and get denied. But that wasn’t a reasonable request, since you were traveling to San Antonio with your entire family. What would have happened if the owner had maintained radio silence?

Oh, and that business about there being no supervisor to talk to? That’s nonsense, too. I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the key VRBO executives (it’s owned by HomeAway) on my consumer advocacy site.

I notice that a lot of your communication with VRBO was by phone. While you recorded the conversations — good for you! — it would probably have been more efficient to stick to writing. That creates a nice paper trail that can easily be forwarded to a company executive, or to me.

After I brought your problem to VRBO’s attention, it not only refunded the $4,015 you’d spent, but also covered the cost of a new rental. It turns out your original rental had been tied up with some unexpected litigation — an understandable reason to deny your rental, but still no excuse to remain quiet.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org.

  • Annie M

    So this gentleman did everything right- booked and paid the way VRBO advises- and he had to come here for help – no one would assist? That’s terrible customer service.

  • jim6555

    Good work. I’m glad that the LW got his money back and a free rental. It should not have taken the efforts of a consumer advocate to get VRBO to acknowledge the situation and act on it, but once Chris Elliott got involved, they came through in grand style.

  • El Dorado Hills

    It is only common sense to check with your VRBO unit’s owner before you start your trip – you don’t want to make a trip (and possibly with your family) hoping that everything is OK with the rental when you arrive. VRBO has a responsibility to assist the renter (it’s client!) to confirm rental and contact status before one starts their trip. Telling the client he/she has to show up first to find out whether or not they have a rental speaks volumes about doing business with VBRO.

  • Chris Johnson

    Yet another VRBO horror story. I know many people have stayed in places they booked through VRBO without any problems but I think I’ll stick with plain old boring hotels for my vacations. I don’t need this kind of drama.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I was just in San Antonio, at a Best Western on the riverwalk. While the rooms would have been small for a family, you probably could have gotten 4 rooms for the price he paid for the VRBO and had free breakfast to boot.

  • Travelnut

    To my knowledge, most of the hotels in the Riverwalk area are pretty nice and you can’t go too wrong (I live in San Antonio – recognized the Riverwalk in the picture before I read the article). I’m happy the VRBO was straightened out. I hope the OP will be here at Christmastime, the river is beautifully lit.

  • pauletteb

    And you don’t have to make your own bed!

  • Jenny Zopa

    Amazing that people think staying in a hotel is in any way comparable to having the family stay together in a single family residence. Nowhere to congregate/socialize comfortably. Unsecure hallways require adults to shuttle grandkids from room to room. No facilities to cook family meals.

  • wilcoxon

    Makes it even more clear that the recent large fee (usually something like $125-150 in my experience) added to VRBO/HomeAway is just a cash-grab as it doesn’t seem to actually add anything.

  • joycexyz

    Add another one to my “do not do business with” list. It’s getting pretty long.

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