Dead chickens and overflowing trash greet guest at dirty VRBO rental

When Terry Flores checks into her vacation home, she’s greeted by overflowing garbage and dead chickens. After cleaning up the dirty VRBO rental, is she entitled to some kind of refund?

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I recently rented a home from VRBO in Pinetop, Ariz., with a group of friends. The owner gave us permission to check in an hour early because he said the cleaners should be done.

When we arrived at the property, it was not cleaned. Bed linens were still on beds from the previous guests, used towels were on the floor, old food was in the fridge, food debris was strewn throughout the kitchen, and the stovetop and the oven were caked with food. The trash can was brimming with garbage and we found a neglected chicken coop with eight live chickens and the carcasses of three that had been cannibalized by the survivors.

I contacted the owner via text and cell phone. First, he promised the cleaning crew would be out in an hour. They never showed up. We were are a party of 12 and it took over two hours with all of us cleaning to get the place habitable, and we were doing laundry for many, many hours, washing sheets and towels so we could sleep and bathe.

The owner said he was sorry, that this had never happened, and that he would either refund us one night or comp a night for a future stay. The group decided we wanted the refund on this $600-a-night rental because we are not sure we would return.

But when our stay ended, the owner only offered $300 or a comped future night. We asked that he give us a refund of one night and waive the cleaning fee. He has not returned any texts or emails.

We paid for a luxury cabin experience and did not have that when we had to clean significantly, including doing a lot of laundry, dealing with dead animals, and general property neglect. Can you help us get a refund for this dirty VRBO rental? — Terry Flores,Tucson, Ariz.


A property like this should never, ever be rented through VRBO or any reputable vacation rental site. And did you say they claimed this was a “luxury” rental? Will someone please tell that to the dead chickens who greeted you when you checked in?

If anyone ever offers you a one-night refund or to waive a cleaning fee, get it in writing right then and there. (You had the promise as a text message, but an email or a contract might have been more effective.) It looks as if you waited until the end of your stay to inform the owner of your decision about a refund. And by then, he’d had second thoughts about losing $600 and apparently decided to cut his offer in half. The fact that the owner had already broken one promise — “I’ll send the cleaners over right now” — should have been a warning. Of course, you had no written record of any offer, so what does it matter?

Cleaning a dirty VRBO rental on your vacation?

But it does matter. An owner’s word should be like a contract. You shouldn’t have to spend the first few hours of your vacation cleaning your rental property. Good thing you rented through VRBO, which has a “Book With Confidence” guarantee that protects you from a rental disaster, or, in its words, a “material noncompliance.” Problem is, you would need to report the violation and refuse to occupy the unit.

Still, VRBO should be concerned with any property that features chicken carcasses. You might have brought this to the company’s attention in a brief, polite email to a manager. I list the names, numbers and emails of the executives on my consumer advocacy site (VRBO is owned by HomeAway).

I contacted VRBO on your behalf. The owner finally responded to you and agreed to pay for one night of your stay and to refund the cleaning fee.

Would you have cleaned that dirty VRBO rental?

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22 thoughts on “Dead chickens and overflowing trash greet guest at dirty VRBO rental

  1. “(You had the promise as a text message, but an email or a contract might have been more effective.)”

    “Of course, you had no written record of any offer..”

    How is a text message any less of a written offer than an email? Or, how would a customer get such a one-off statement of compensation in “a contract”?

  2. You say no, but if you’re a group of 12 people your last minute options for alternate accommodations are probably going to be limited. Sorry if you’re too good to clean the place, but given the option of trying to find last minute accommodations for a dozen people vs spending a little bit of your vacation time tidying up, this group made the right decision. The owner should absolutely honor their offer for one free night. If not, I would leave that property a scathing review.

    1. LOL! I’m with James…”Too good?” I don’t even know how to respond to that.

      Who in their right mind would consider it even REMOTELY appropriate for vacationers to be forced to clean their own accommodations upon arrival? If you rented a car and the thing died on the road, would you consider someone who doesn’t want to fix it themselves as thinking they are “too good” for such menial work? These people paid to stay in this place – why should they have to do ANY work, at all?

      And “tidying up”? Are you for real? That was not “tidying up”. That was a full-on major cleaning service.

      Wow. Just…wow.

      1. I am not “too good” to clean something but I’m not going to do business with someone who has a place like that. 12 people? Can deal with it.

      2. Nobody said it was appropriate but sometimes you have to make the best of a bad situation. They were offered a $600 discount for cleaning!

        1. Did you NOT read the article???? The owner RETRACTED the $600 offer! I’m disturbed that your idea of a vacation is cleaning trash —- unless, of course, you are on a humanitarian mission to an area devastated by a natural disaster.

          1. One might suggest you read the article before making wrong assumptions. They rescinded the offer AFTER they cleaned. Perhaps you should pay more attention to the article.

        2. And you think anyone wants to be paid to clean someone else’s house while on vacation?? And you think NOT wanting to do means they think they are “too good” for it?

          Again I just say…wow.

          Some of us take vacations to get AWAY from working. And most of us wouldn’t want to clean someone else’s disgusting mess anyway. That doesn’t mean we think we are “above” anything.

          1. There ARE accommodations in the area. They might have had to stay in a motel, but it’s better than staying in a filthy house of horrors with dying livestock in the back yard! Is that what YOU’D choose to do? Stay in an unsanitary place with neglected and dying animals in the back?

            Yeah. Wow.

            Sorry but no vacation is worth that.

    2. Yes, I am “too good” to go on a vacation and spend my first day cleaning a disgusting mess that is the responsibility of the person making $600 a night off me …. it sounds as if you have low self-esteem and little dignity if you are NOT “too good” to clean up dead chicken carcasses …

  3. This story is highly disturbing to me. I raise chickens in a coop in my back yard. The idea of just leaving them to fend for themselves is horrifying. It’s also illegal.

    I’m curious to know what the renters did about the chickens? Did they feed the poor starving things? Or just clean up the carcasses? Were there no provisions made for caring for the chickens at all? Are renters expected to do so? What happened to the poor chickens after these renters left?

    Even without the terrible mess, there is no way I would have stayed at that place just because of the abused and neglected chickens. I’m with Richardll – I would have immediately reported them to the police, gotten out of there fast and immediately availed myself of VRBO’s “book with confidence” guarantee to get a full refund.

    Even if I couldn’t find any other similar accommodations, I STILL wouldn’t have stayed there. I’ve been to Pinetop, AZ…there ARE hotels and lodges, so I’m sure they could have found places to stay, even if it wouldn’t have been the type of vacation they were expecting.

  4. I voted No, although since I don’t consider myself on vacation if I even have to make a bed, I’d never stay in a VRBO or Airbnb property to begin with.

    1. I can’t speak for VRBO (never used them) but Airbnb has been GREAT for me. I’ve used them multiple times now, and had nothing but fabulous experiences.

      I realize it’s not for everyone. If you want a classic hotel experience, with someone cleaning your room and making your bed every morning, you won’t get that. However, if you are interested at all in actually immersing yourself in the place you are visiting, there really is no better way to do it. I’ve stayed in antique-filled farmhouses in Ireland, mountain cottages in the Scottish highlands, restored Victorians in New England, and am about to stay in a beautifully decorated lake house with a private dock in Georgia. And for every one of these, I paid less than I would have for a vanilla motel room. AND I wasn’t stuck having to go out for every meal – full kitchens meant that I could make my own meals when I wanted to.

      But in order to have such success with this type of accommodation, it’s imperative that you do your homework. I’ve had great experiences because I have only selected homes that have multiple fabulous reviews, dozens of photos, and a very communicative owner willing to answer a bunch of questions before I select them. That’s one great thing about Airbnb over the other platforms – it’s very hard to fake a review, as you can only review a property after you’ve stayed there. And the host gets to review you too. 😉

      I don’t know what this VRBO listing looked like, but I have a hard time believing that there had never been problems with it before. Just the neglected chicken coop should have resulted in poor reviews.

      I hate to see the entire rent-by-owner concept discarded just because of the occasional bad experiences. It really can be a great thing, if you use it right.

      1. I’ve used both, and had good experiences. But it requires a minimum of reading ahead… Not knowing what the VRBO listing said, though, it’s hard to judge the due diligence of the OP.

        I do like the idea of calling the cops, but it might get you kicked out too if subletting isn’t legal for some reason.

        1. I absolutely agree that using any of those vacation rental apps (VRBO, Airbnb, Homeaway) requires a minimum of reading…in fact I’d say that in order to be successful you have to do a LOT of reading! Look at all the available places to get a reasonable comparison, read all of the reviews, read the full listing (including the house rules, cancellation policies), etc.

          If the place isn’t legal for subletting, that’s even MORE of a reason to call the cops. The owners should be prevented from doing it. As for getting myself kicked out, that wouldn’t matter – I never would have stayed there anyway the moment I saw the abused chickens (not to mention the horrifying mess!).

  5. Name of the owner and listing on VBRO, please? Why are we hiding facts again? I want to see this place for myself.

    Also, I hope this owner was reported to the authorities for neglecting his livestock.

    1. I agree! The insistence upon naming the aggrieved while hiding the identities of the perpetrators has always been my one main frustration with this site. In this case, I think we definitely need to know who these people are so nobody else rents this cabin. Even a link to the listing or their review would be good. I’m definitely not too good to clean up when I go on vacation, I’ll tidy up my hotel room etc but the idea of touching someone else’s dirty sheets and towels just gives me the heebie-jeebies. And dead animals? That sickens and saddens me.

  6. Did I miss something?!?!? Did I overlook the “First, I filed a report with the police for animal neglect/abuse”?

    Cannibalizing chickens? WTF?!?!? Did the chickens commit suicide? Or just re-enact one of those “Chilean soccer players in the Andes movies”?

    I am being dead serious. Where is the “we informed the police/animal control” part of this story?

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