Vrbo refund problem: The company owes me $21,014 for my replacement rental in Hawaii!

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By Christopher Elliott

When Cheryl Mander’s rental in Hawaii is uninhabitable, Vrbo agrees pay her $21,014 for her replacement. Now she has a Vrbo refund problem, because it won’t pay up.

Question

My family and I recently rented a house through Vrbo for a vacation stay in Hawaii. The place smelled like mold the moment we walked in. Upon further inspection, we noted and took pictures of black mold located on the smoke detector, the pictures hanging on the walls, the shower stall, and the windowsills. 

One of the members of my party is a 17-year-old who has severe asthma. She has been hospitalized in the past on several occasions for this and continues to be under the direct care of a respiratory specialist.

I immediately contacted the homeowner, who was very kind, and suggested that we get in touch with Vrbo for assistance. The homeowner offered to cancel the reservation if we did not feel comfortable staying there. 

I contacted Vrbo, and a representative assured me that we its “Book With Confidence Guarantee” would cover us. Vrbo sent us an email authorizing us to spend $15,138 for a new place, which was double what we originally paid. The new place was $21,014. We had to book it there was extremely limited inventory available on Oahu for seven people at the last minute. A representative assured me Vrbo would cover the entire amount.

I just received a follow-up email from Vrbo this morning stating that “Upon research into this matter, it has been determined that the requested reimbursement is not available through the Book with Confidence program due to the temporary nature of the cleanliness issues reported.” Can you help me get Vrbo to cover the new rental, as promised? — Cheryl Mander, Surrey, British Columbia

Answer

I’m sorry to hear about your moldy rental. Vrbo has no business renting homes that have black mold in them, and it should find a way to screen its rentals before allowing you to rent them. But that’s another issue — and not one we’re likely to fix in this column.

You did the right thing by contacting first the owner and then Vrbo. And you really followed the Elliott Method by getting almost everything in writing, including Vrbo’s promise to cover you for up to $15,138 in additional lodging expenses. That’s a reasonable offer, given that it was a last-minute reservation in Hawaii. (In fact, I was in a similar situation in Oahu not so long ago, and Vrbo also covered my extra costs.)

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Vrbo’s Book With Confidence Guarantee promises if a host misrepresents a property in the listing, it will help you book a new reservation. The Vrbo agent with whom you spoke said it would apply to your situation, and I agree. (Related: She left her “unsafe” Vrbo rental. Can she get her money back?)

Unfortunately, you didn’t get the second promise — to cover the additional $5,876 — in writing. The agent told you that over the phone. So when you sent your expenses to Vrbo and it saw a bill for $21,014, the system most likely rejected it. 

How to expedite a refund from Vrbo

Vrbo can take forever to issue a refund. The reason: In most cases, Vrbo acts as a facilitator, and the property owner is ultimately responsible for issuing the refund.

But there are ways to speed up the process.

Understand the process

The speed of your refund depends on the cancellation policy chosen by the host for your specific listing. Be familiar with the terms before booking. Here’s my complete guide to getting a refund for your vacation rental.

Take action

By communicating with the owner and Vrbo promptly, you’ll get the wheels turning for a refund. Timely communication results in a timely refund. Don’t forget to document all communication with the owner, including dates, times, and any agreements reached. If the host doesn’t respond, appeal to a Vrbo executive in writing.

Know your rights

Typically, Vrbo will promise a refund within 30 days or two credit card billing cycles. If it doesn’t, you can dispute the charges on your credit card bill. If you have a written promise of a refund, your bank may consider that a credit memo and you will win the dispute. (Related: My vacation rental had cameras in the bedroom. Can I get a refund?)

While Vrbo refunds can take time, proactive communication, clear documentation, and understanding your options can expedite the process. Remember, a calm and assertive approach can help you secure a faster resolution and minimize the financial inconvenience of a canceled Vrbo stay.

Remember: Get everything in writing!

Your case is a reminder to get everything in writing. That’s especially true when it comes to promises to cover your extra costs. At a minimum, you could have asked the Vrbo representative to make a notation in your record that you were authorized to spend  $21,014.

If Vrbo continued to reject your invoice, you could have reached out to one of the Vrbo executives on this site. In the end, it took an effort by both of us to get this resolved. You wrote to the executives, and I contacted Vrbo separately. The company apologized and agreed to refund you $15,138 plus cover two nights you had to spend in a hotel. You accepted its offer.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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