Our VRBO rental was dirty and a “lady” tried to crawl in our window

By | June 16th, 2017

When Carrie Martin and her family arrive to their latest VRBO rental they are initially put off by the lack of cleanliness of the unit. That concern is quickly replaced when they hear a disturbance outside their bedroom window. Through the darkness they see someone on a ladder trying to get in. The police take care of that problem, but will VRBO take care of Martin’s refund?

Question: I would like help in receiving a refund for our two night VRBO rental. The listing was clearly fraudulent. The pictures were fake and the amenities were non-existent.

The place was filthy, and we were forced to leave early in the morning after checking in the previous night. We were awakened at 5 a.m. to the sound of a drunk woman on a ladder banging on the window and shining her flashlight in our room, yelling for “Lex” to let her in. We believe she may have been a prostitute.

We were all very frightened, and I called the number on the wall to contact someone from the hotel. They sent the police, who handled the situation. Obviously we did not sleep that night, and we left soon after.

But the hotel will not refund our money and VRBO/HomeAway takes no responsibility for fraudulent listings on their site. My credit card company will not even help us because we did stay there one night.

I am at my wit’s end, and this experience ruined our family trip last week! I have seen that you have had success in these types of cases. Can you help me, too? Carrie Martin, Orlando, Fla.

Answer:What a frightening experience. Of course, when you book a VRBO rental you should be able to assume that it will be clean, secure and somewhat similar to the photos on the listing. In this instance, it doesn’t seem that those expectations were met.

Related story:   She wasn't on Virgin Atlantic's "Guest List" -- so how about a refund?

I was surprised when you told me that VRBO had not been willing to resolve your problem.

Typically, the consumers who contact us with unresolved VRBO problems have circumvented the VRBO payment center in order to save a few dollars. In these situations, VRBO then has no direct involvement and will not assist.

But you had used the VRBO’s payment system, so its refusal to help you was puzzling.

Because you had booked the rental and paid through the VRBO system, you thought that you would be protected by the Book with Confidence Guarantee.

But what is exactly is this guarantee? You wanted to know — since it did not seem to be helping you in this case.

The official definition on VRBO’s website says:

“The Book with Confidence Guarantee is to help travelers feel confident booking on HomeAway, reducing booking hesitation that in turn supports our homeowners.”

OK, but what does it really mean?

It’s a lengthy document with extensive legalese. I think it is safe to assume that most VRBO/HomeAway users have not read this complete tome.

But they should — if read carefully, it isn’t clear to me that this guarantee would induce “confidence” in a renter.

In fact, I know that you did not read it, because among other things this guarantee requires a renter to make their complaint known to VRBO within 12 hours of arrival to the unacceptable accommodation.

You didn’t do that. After your first disastrous night at this apartment, you packed up and drove home. It was two days before you alerted VRBO of your family’s exodus. Unfortunately, with that misstep you officially disqualified yourself from any refund eligibility.

Related story:   The Travel Troubleshooter: There's no such thing as a free cruise

Further review of the “Book with Confidence Guarantee” reveals that there are a variety of situations that are, surprisingly, not considered valid reasons to reject a property outright. Among them are:

(i) The cleanliness of the rental property; (ii) Minor or immaterial defects of the subject property in relation to the description in the listing including, without limitation, differences to the extent of: (1) the actual orientation of the subject property; (2) the actual overall habitable surface area of the subject property being immaterially different than the description the in the listing; and (3) a temporary defect of or within the subject property or attached services (such as failure of the air conditioning, internet, phone service, grill, hot tub, or swimming pool).

So if you rent a house with a beautiful pool, but you arrive there and it is “temporarily” drained or otherwise unavailable — according to these terms that isn’t a reason to reject the property. Or, if your rental is in the middle of the desert and the air conditioning breaks — also not a reason to press the eject button.

This paragraph had me hard-pressed to think of a situation that would be included..

Additionally, the guarantee makes clear that it isn’t a first line of defense in a rental dispute. In fact, it clarifies that you must initiate a chargeback and lose before you can even attempt to utilize this “Book with Confidence Guarantee.”

When I reviewed your complaint, I noted that you were focused on the fact that the unit was dirty when requesting your refund. However, the above exclusions point out that the state of cleanliness of a rental is not a valid reason for immediate rejection.

Related story:   Overcharged for seat upgrades by United

Your second complaint; however, was far more serious. You had your young daughter with you and you felt unsafe.

Although VRBO does not specifically address whether a possible prostitute on a ladder trying to climb in your window while yelling for “Lex” is covered as a reason to reject a property, I noted that it wasn’t on the list of exclusions. And I thought it was worth an inquiry.

I contacted VRBO on your behalf and relayed the account of your awful evening at this apartment. Since you had also found some Yelp reviews of the property in which other guests had similar experiences and complaints, I forwarded this information, as well.

As suspected, our contact pointed out that you did not follow the proper protocol to qualify for a refund. While this is true, I countered with the fact that you had been a loyal customer of VRBO/Homeaway and had never had a problem before. Thus, were unfamiliar with the steps needed to obtain a refund. And this certainly was an unusual situation.

The VRBO resolution team reconsidered your case and agreed to refund the one night that you did not stay at the apartment.

Although you were not completely satisfied with this outcome, you have accepted that, given the circumstances, this is the best resolution that can be expected. And we agree with that assessment.

We are pleased that, ultimately, VRBO returned half of your money — because they did not have to do so, as per the terms of your rental.

Remember that when booking a hotel or other accommodation it is important to know all of the policies and terms, so that if trouble should arise you can take the proper steps to protect your investment — and yourself.

  • finance_tony

    “We were all very frightened, and I called the number on the wall to contact someone from the hotel.”

    “But the hotel will not refund our money..”

    What hotel?

  • Kerr

    So many questions….
    * He booked through VRBO yet stayed at a hotel? Why didn’t the hotel handle the cleanliness and security situations? Isn’t that their responsibility?

  • Altosk

    Pertinent information is once again missing…link to this rental? I mean, come on. You guys have gone totally downhill in naming and shaming lately. I remember when this site would actually post the links of the offending listings. Step your game back up.

  • AJPeabody

    Did VRBO delist the property?

  • John Keahey

    So many questions; not enough answers.

  • Rebecca

    To be fair, a random drunk person banging on the doors can happen anywhere. I was once sitting in a friends living room and a drunk guy literally just walked in his sliding glass door. It turned out he went in the backyard intending too pee, and somehow made it across 4 fenced backyards. He meant no harm, he was just that drunk. Some people are just stupid drunks.

    And in college towns I can assume this happens every Friday and Saturday night all over the place. At least at the fun colleges.

  • PsyGuy

    Why would the LW even stay one night if there was a hotel available?

  • PsyGuy

    I don’t know any drunk people who are smart? They might “think” they are, but they aren’t, funny, but not smart.

    More like Thursday nights, which is typically ladies night.

  • Lee

    Confused re: hotel being mentioned not refunding money. Also: if someone were trying to break into my house or anywhere I was staying, the first call I would make is to the police. Why call the number on the wall first if worried about one’s safety? Not doubting they were frightened but am curious about this choice.

    Good you got one night back for them but the hotel thing is still a mystery to me.

  • Rebecca

    I meant some people get particularly stupid when they’re drunk, more so than just average drunk and stupid. Like there’s angry drunks, those are the stupid drunks.

  • ChelseaGirl

    Even if she had let them know right away, it sounds as though they would have rejected her claim anyway because their “guarantee” is BS. After reading their terms, I would not rent through them.

  • joycexyz

    Yeah. I don’t get that part either. And if a place were dirty, I wouldn’t stay 2 minutes. I’d rather sleep in my car. After reading VRBO’s disclaimers, they sound like a company to steer clear of. They won’t refund if a place isn’t clean??? Puh-leaze!

  • Annie M

    If she knew enough to review ratings of the place after she had a problem, why didn’t she read them before she booked to see if it had problems before she clicked the book button.

  • jsn55

    So Lex’s drunken friend tried to get in the window. You call the cops. Who is responsible for this invasion of your privacy other than the drunk? The rental agency has no control over Lex’s friends, but the police do. “Very frightened” and tried to contact “someone from the hotel”. This makes little sense.

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.