I nearly froze in my Florida VRBO rental! Can I get a refund?

No heat and a rookie VRBO rental mistake.

When an unexpected cold-snap threatened Nora Allen’s plans for a semitropical getaway, she tried to make the best of it. That is until she discovered the nonfunctional heating system in her VRBO rental. She tolerated the plummeting indoor temperature for several days before she finally abandoned the condo. So why won’t VRBO refund her money?

Allen’s unfortunate tale is one that underscores the importance of reading and familiarizing yourself with all the terms and conditions of a VRBO rental contract before you book your rental. When problems arise, there are clear steps that you must take to qualify for a VRBO refund and, unfortunately, you can’t apply those steps retroactively.

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An unheated VRBO rental

“VRBO listed this rental as having heat,” Allen told me. “But there was no operational heating system in the house. It was so cold that we were forced to leave. I would like half of the rental fee returned to me.”

What a disappointment to fly to Florida looking for a warm midwinter getaway and then to find the outdoor and indoor temperatures at the destination cold and unpleasant.

High temperatures in Bonita Springs in January average around 74 degrees. And, even at night, the temperatures rarely dip below 60 degrees.

But unfortunately the week Allen arrived, so did a cold front. Mother Nature threw a wrench into her warm-weather plans.

That week, the average temperature, although not frosty, was significantly cooler than the week prior or the week after.

During the night, however, the temperatures began to approach the freezing point.

How very un-Florida like!

Making a rookie VRBO rental mistake

Although Allen had been corresponding with the manager of the property throughout the week, she never registered a complaint with VRBO.

The manager of this VRBO rental had provided Allen with two heavy-duty space heaters.

However, when Allen and her niece woke up on the sixth day of their vacation to a weather report of even colder weather, they packed up and left. Allen never alerted VRBO to any problem.

Why won't VRBO refund Allen's rental fee?
Bonita Springs temperatures — January 2018.

Not calling VRBO was a mistake.

VRBO rentals come with a Book with Confidence Guarantee. But that guarantee comes with extensive terms and conditions. And if you want to protect your vacation investment, it’s important that you review all of these terms before your VRBO rental begins.

Allen had never used VRBO before, and so she was not familiar with the specifics of the VRBO resolution process. However, as many of our past articles point out, to receive a VRBO refund, it’s imperative that you follow those guidelines.

The cardinal rule that Allen had broken? She didn’t alert the VRBO team of her predicament until some time after she arrived home.

VRBO requires that it be notified of a problem within 12 hours of discovering the issue. The VRBO resolution team will then try to correct the problem or re-accommodate the renter.

Instead of asking VRBO for assistance, Allen says she spent the week haggling with the manager about the missing central heat.

And then Allen made another VRBO rental mistake.

One more rookie VRBO rental mistake

Once Allen arrived home, she posted a one-star, negative review under this VRBO rental listing and then contacted our advocacy team.

It’s too bad Allen did not contact our team first.

If you are hoping to negotiate a positive resolution, rushing to post a negative review of your experience is never advisable. This aggressive move makes any advocacy efforts extremely difficult.

As one can imagine, those reviews can directly affect the success of a specific rental. And once Allen placed the one-star review under the property, the management company likely lost any incentive to consider a further gesture of goodwill.

The manager responded to Allen’s review and pointed out that he had delivered two space heaters and offered her a variety of discounts.

The management of this property responds

La Playa Casita has been remodeled in 2017 with new bathroom and more. New (2018) HVAC system with AC & HEAT all new duct work, compressor, new thermostat You were given a $730 discount on the Holiday season weekly rate. I have offered you a large discount to return. VRBO website says AC/ Heat. With 48 hours of your issue with heat, service call occurred and within 4 hours of finding out parts were not available two infrared heaters each capable of heating 1,000 square (La Playa Casita is less than 1,000 square feet) were delivered / installed and working. The unusually cold weather is out of my control. We have been more than fair in our offer.

Any chance for a VRBO refund?

I admit that I didn’t see Allen’s one-star review until I had already reached out to VRBO on her behalf to ask for special consideration. But with this last misstep, I was rather certain where this case was headed.

As I suspected, the news from VRBO wasn’t good. Because Allen had never reported any problem during her VRBO rental and had stayed at the property most of the week, VRBO declined any compensation.

And this is the final word from our VRBO executive contact concerning Allen’s experience:

Unfortunately, we are unable to further help Nora. As indicated in the case description, the property does have central heating, so it was not false advertising. It seems that the system simply wasn’t working. We regret that it caused an unpleasant experience. The owner did take steps to try and rectify the situation by attempting repairs, providing heaters and even offering a discounted stay if Nora wished to remain. He also gave her the option to come back for a discounted stay in the future. Had Nora contacted us during her stay we could have explored rebooking her in an alternative property.

And so, this case ends in the Case Dismissed file. And for Allen’s part, she says, from here on in she’ll be sticking with hotels where heat and air conditioning are standard.

Addendum: Our VRBO executive contact emphasizes that a renter’s legitimate review of a property has no impact on whether the VRBO resolution team provides reimbursement to the traveler.

Should VRBO have refunded Allen's rental fee?

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