Where is the vacation rental refund I was promised?

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By Christopher Elliott

After Janet Davis cancels her vacation rental, she expects a $360 refund. So why is the owner refusing to return it?


I made a $435 deposit through PayPal on a reservation for two nights in a vacation rental in Two Rivers, Wis., for our 40th wedding anniversary. My husband is disabled and I had to cancel the reservation this spring.

The published refund policy for this vacation rental says I would get a full refund for the deposit, minus a $75 fee. I have contacted the owner five times for my $360, but I’ve received nothing. Can you help? — Janet Davis, Chicago


I’m sorry you had to cancel your plans. In a perfect world, you would have received a full refund for the vacation rental. After all, you couldn’t make your special trip because of a verified medical condition. But if the owner is going to take $75 from you, then at least let it be a prompt refund. By the time you contacted me, more than a month had elapsed since your cancellation. That’s plenty of time to process a refund.

You’re probably wondering if you can apply pressure to PayPal to make this refund move faster. It turns out you can. Much like a credit card, you can dispute a transaction made through PayPal. To do so, just log in to your PayPal account and open a dispute in the Resolution Center within 180 calendar days of your purchase. Here’s more information about disputes and dispute escalation.

Interestingly, I had a similar problem with a missing refund of a vacation rental security deposit. I paid a $500 security deposit and the property didn’t send me a check after I checked out. I waited two months — still nothing. Naturally, if the tables had been turned — in other words, if I’d been late paying my rent — the manager wouldn’t have been as understanding as you’ve been.

Of course, the customer is always wrong.

But my story has a happy ending. Although the manager ignored my emails, I finally texted a sweetly worded message to his cellphone, telling him how much I loved the rental and that I wanted to return soon. (Both of those were true.) He promptly cut me a check. (Related: Is this the worst vacation rental ever?)

International Citizens Insurance helps expats, travelers and anyone far from home find the right insurance plan. Our knowledgeable agents will help you find the best plan at the right price and be your advocate for the life of your policy.

I have more information about common vacation rental problems — and solutions — in my ultimate guide to renting a vacation home.

Here’s the refund for your canceled vacation rental

I think PayPal might have seen this your way. And if it hadn’t, we list the names, numbers and email addresses of all the PayPal customer service managers in the Elliott Advocacy company contacts database. (Related: A reader’s vacation rental is a disaster, and she’s struggling to get her deposit back.)

There’s another path to your refund. You can reach out one more time to the manager — this time with the help of a consumer advocate. That’s exactly what we did. I contacted the vacation rental manager on your behalf and about your missing refund. The manager apologized for the delay, calling it an “oversight,” and issued a full refund plus interest.

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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. He is based in Panamá City.

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