Angela Hall finds cameras pointed at the bed in her Hawaii vacation rental. She checks out and Vrbo offers to refund her for a hotel and the remainder of her stay. But it never does. What’s going on?
On the first night of our vacation rental in Hawaii, I found cameras pointing directly at the bed in our master bedroom. I immediately contacted Vrbo and cited their surveillance policy, which says cameras and audio recorders can’t be used inside a property.
A Vrbo representative offered limited guidance and asked for more information and pictures. I left the following morning and found a hotel. Vrbo directed me to file a police report. I returned to the property and filed a report with the Hilo police.
Vrbo agreed to cover our hotel stay for the next two nights. But so far, I’ve received nothing from Vrbo. I’m looking for a refund of the hotel plus the remaining balance of $1,095. I successfully disputed the second half of my Vrbo payment on my credit card. Can you help me get the rest? — Angela Hall, Raleigh, N.C.
You’re not the first vacation rental guest to find a camera in a home. But aimed at the bed in the master bedroom — that’s a new one.
I would have checked out immediately. I’m impressed that you found Vrbo’s surveillance policy and cited it. Most guests would have left and simply asked for a refund without doing any research. Vrbo recommends contacting the company directly instead of taking the matter up with your host, which you did.
Vacation rental owners have the right to protect their property with cameras and other surveillance equipment outside of their homes. Technically, your vacation rental owner was following the rules. The cameras were outside the home. But they were pointed directly through the bedroom window to the bed, and there were no curtains to close. This led to a disagreement between you and the vacation rental platform.
You kept the paper trail of correspondence between you and Vrbo, in which it agreed to reimburse you for the hotel and the rental. So you should have seen a refund within a few weeks of your stay on the Big Island. Why didn’t you?
According to the emails you received from Vrbo after I asked about your case, there was a small “discrepancy” between the amount you sought from the company and the amount it thought it should pay. But I think there may be a simpler and more plausible explanation. You disputed the second charge for your rental on your credit card. In my experience, credit card disputes can stop any refund the company may have been planning to issue. Chargebacks vastly complicate the process and can lead to long waits.
You couldn’t have known that when you tried to claw back the money for your ill-fated vacation rental. When weeks became months, you could have sent a brief, polite email to one of the executive contacts for Vrbo that I list on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.
I contacted Vrbo on your behalf, and it refunded you for the rest of the rental and hotel, as promised.