ANCHORAGE, ALASKA -- BEWARE OF VRBO VACATION PROPERTY RENTALS! My grown son and his wife were visiting us from California. This was their first trip to Alaska. The house was in no condition to stay in. My husband and I even considered cleaning it ourselves, as we had 4 hours before the kids flew in. We decided it was not even possible to get it where someone could stay there. We ended up needing to rent 2 hotel rooms, had the hotel expense, along with the expense of food I had bought to make my son some of his favorite meals.
There was no other rental in Anchorage that would fit our needs. We paid $1600.00 and bought all protection and insurances that was offered. VRBO had HORRIBLE customer service and refused to refund any of our money. 5 days later, we received a refund of only $600.00. BEWARE WHEN BOOKING FROM VRBO! They have horrible customer service and DO NOT protect customers who are paying good money to stay.
I WOULD NEVER RECOMMEND THIS PROPERTY OR ANY PROPERTY RENTED BY VRBO! I will be posting this on every website I can, to protect future travelers from going through what we did. We also wasted the first day of our vacation on the phone with customer service... They had no intention of helping us. We hope this post will help someone not make the same mistake we did by trusting VRBO to enhance our vacation days.
FLORIDA -- We booked a villa in Sterling Oaks, Bonita Springs owned by Michael ** for one week in May 2014 and paid in full plus a security deposit of $500. On our arrival at the entrance to the complex, we had to show our booking form as they were not expecting us. (We subsequently discovered that this was because Mrs. ** had the dates mixed up.)
All was OK with the property except for an old stain on the carpet of one of the bedrooms. We cleaned throughout before leaving and there was definitely no damage or breakage caused by us. On our return we asked for the return of our deposit which was refused because of "an issue with the villa". Many emails and phone calls later to Michael ** and VRBO we have still not received an explanation.
An American friend called Michael on our behalf as he was not responding to us. She was told that "the main problem arose when we checked in as paying guests". Apparently Michael was fined by Sterling Oaks for letting for a period less than 1 month. In no way can we be responsible for this and, as we can get no other explanation from Michael **, VRBO or Holiday Lettings, we can only assume that our deposit is being withheld fraudulently to cover the fine.
FULLERTON, CALIFORNIA -- What a joke! VRBO advertises they guarantee their rentals, but read the fine print, it's all subject to their interpretation, and they completely side with the owner. We rented a house and paid $608 toward the reservation. The owner canceled, and still hasn't refunded us the money. We asked VRBO to take action and refund the money, since it was done through their HomeAway payment system. They said they are only an advertising site and refused to help.
Eventually, they contacted the owner and said he promised to pay us back in 30 days... right, still waiting. They wouldn't provide us with owner information so we could proceed with criminal or civil action. Our only hope is we paid through Visa card and we submitted a billing dispute claim - hopefully we get the money back eventually. Don't rent through VRBO, most of the owners are honest and it's a shame there are some real creeps out there who ruin it for others, but VRBO doesn't stand behind their advertisements.
STOWE, VERMONT -- My family rented VRBO 240500 in Stowe Vermont. We were asked to provide a separate check for the (very large) security deposit of $750. Prior to our arrival I wrote the owner and asked if we could bring our dog. She replied if I was willing to pay for additional cleaning costs. However, I was able to find another place for my dog while we were traveling and did not bring it.
The homeowner met us at the house and took us around for about 30 minutes, telling us to take off our shoes, how to open and close the windows and window coverings, how to work the TV, etc. She could clearly see we did not have a dog with us, did not ask to see a dog, did not ask about a dog, and was there when the rest of the group finished emptying the car.
When it came time to get my security deposit back, she had cashed and KEPT the check, saying she was keeping it because we brought a dog. The terms of the contract say that after the property is found to be in good condition, the deposit would be returned. I have contact the owner, as well as VRBO, but the owner refuses to return the deposit. Further, she has not even documented what her "additional expenses" were, but simply kept the entire amount. VRBO does not stand behind the contracts, and the owner certainly did not comply with hers. In addition, the property was noisy with 3 different construction projects going on around it, starting at 7 AM - 6 days a week.
VRBO are useless when it comes to helping travelers get a refund of charges paid. We booked a condo through VRBO - it was not a cheap condo - and two weeks after we confirmed the booking and paid over $3100 deposit the owner turned around and cancelled the booking on us. They told us we would get a "full refund" but they did not process it.
We called VRBO to ask for help in getting our money back and they basically told us we were on our own and all they could do was "send them an email asking them to refund the money". Eventually, after a lot of hard work, we got a portion of the deposit back, but we are still waiting on $510 which were the "fees" paid (I thought the owner paid the fees, not the traveler, but it seems that the owner is able to pass through the fees to the owner).
In any case, we are still waiting on the fee portion to be refunded. I have initiated complaints with VRBO and have started a chargeback on my credit card. The next step is to file a theft report with the police in the city in which the condo is located. I would not rely on VRBO to be of any help if you have a dispute with the owners of a property. Just be warned that you are on your own. I would NEVER pay for anything like this through PayPal. ALWAYS use a credit card so you have a modicum of protection.
KIRKLAND, WASHINGTON -- Don't rent through VRBO, if you expect any customer service. If you have a problem, you should expect them to side with the owner. Use a credit card to pay - this is the only way that you have any recourse if the owner wants to withhold your deposit. PayPal considers this a service, so they will not give you the time of day. Recently, June 30 - July 15, 2014, I rented a one bedroom condo, rental ID #421106, in Kirkland, WA, $85/night. I have a dispute with the owner about my 'damage' deposit.
The owner has already withheld part of my damage deposit. I ask that my deposit be returned. The gist of the matter is that the owner is withholding a portion of my "damage" deposit, so that she can clean her carpets, in a vain attempt to remove the smell, the mold and mildew smell, that I did not cause. Here is how I found out that she is withhold my deposit:
PayPal note from owner - Note from Sherrie **: Hello David, Because beyond normal cleaning was required to eliminate the odor and mold due to the piled wet towels, I'm holding $100.00 of your damage deposit to cover professional carpet cleaning.
I am a 50 year old man. I don't need the $100.00. It is simply unfair that she is withholding deposit, especially to deal with something that I suffered with my entire stay. I paid the money that I agreed to, for this cheap crappy place. I complained directly to the owner, and not in a review. She is blaming me for the smell. Obvious to anyone who has been in a few old condos in the Pacific Northwest, this smell is from a long term problem. It was there when I arrived, and it will return soon, after she cleans her carpets.
Regarding her complaint about towels on the floor. I used one towel to dry myself my entire visit. I never put it on the floor, until the morning that I was to leave. I left it and two other towels that I had used to cover the couch, before I would not sit on it without a cover, on the floor so that the manager would know which towels I had used. I put dirty my sheets there too. I did not wet the towels, more than by drying myself after my shower and I wouldn't risk leaving something that I was going to use, on my body, on that carpet. It is not reasonable that these towels, left on the bathroom floor that morning, a half hour before I left, caused the mold and mildew smell.
The problem is that there is mold and mildew in her carpets. Among other issues, her bathroom has little ventilation and the shower curtain doesn't prevent water from getting on the carpeted floor. Over time, this has caused the carpets to smell. If she would check, the carpets not only smell in the bathroom, but they also smell in the living room. I didn't cause this. I am simply the messenger. When I was there, I kept the fan on in this place, full-time, to keep the smell down.
This especially irks me, as the owner already takes $200 for cleaning, which is excessive based on charging $85/night. But fine, I had agreed to that. I have no problem, when treated respectfully. The cleaning fee was spelled out in the list of costs. However, to then withhold my damage deposit, when I did no damage, this is unfair.
The place is already overpriced and low rent. When I arrived there was stolen and trashed car in the parking lot. The towels are cheap and worn, the sheets are cheap and the bottom sheet does not fit properly on the mattress. The comforter was made for bargain basement rayon and worn through in several places (manager says that they replaced that). The highest tech in the place is a VCR.
The parking space is so small, if everyone in the building is parked in their spaces, you have to exit the build to get to your door, because you physically cannot get to the back of the garage to get in. I wrote the owner about all of this, except for the part about the stolen car. I asked manager when got my key to report the car. A couple of days later someone hauled it away. But, there was a trash, abandoned car in the parking lot.
Finally, this place had previously received a bad review on the VRBO site, including mentioning the smell. I previewed the place because of that. At that time, in passing, I mentioned to the owner's manager Cecilia that there was a smell. It wasn't overwhelming and this was just one of many other little issues you might find in a crappy place. We agreed that the place was functional. I was already resigned and really stuck, so had no choice but to take it. When I arrived I also signed some kind of paper indicating that the place was in order, down to counting the spoons. It does not mention smell.
Here is the previous review - Title: Not even close to the 2 reviews I used to book this condo. Content: Local channels only on TV. No dishwasher soap, Half a roll of toilet paper, Not very clean, hamper in bathroom is moldy and smells terrible. Stayed April 2014. Submitted April 24, 2014 - Source VRBO.
I do not agree with the owner's assessment that I caused this smell problem, and I am not willing to bear any part of the cost of fixing it. I simply reported it. Besides, why would I report it, if I had caused it? I also called the owner's manager that morning, mentioned the smell and told her that I had sent an email to Sherri. She called later and told me that Sherri had received my email and was not very happy. She mentioned the towels, but she did not say that I was going to get charged for damages. I just ignored it. Again, I put them there for their convenience.
If I had caused the smell, why would I tell them about it? I didn't cause the worn towels or the comforter. They don't charge me for them, because they know that it's not me. I am simply the messenger here. Don't charge the messenger. I want my money back! I want payment for my wasted time. I already paid an agreed upon amount, to stay in this rental. I shouldn't be wasting my time, defending my actions. I did nothing wrong. If anything, I was a great tenant. I was never there. It was too unpleasant. I slept there only.
PARK CITY, UTAH -- We were excited to stay at this rental because the reviews on VRBO all sounded so wonderful. Didn't know at the time that VRBO owners have control over posting their reviews, so potential renters will never see the negative reviews. Our experience turned negative during our stay, and has soured our memories of the trip to the point that we will probably not ever rent another VRBO again.
Two things happened. First, this rental advertises "a secure GARAGE PARKING, which is heated in the winter time, with RESERVED PARKING space (Floor/level 1)". WOW, this is great in theory. The problem we had is that on our 2nd night there, someone else parked in the reserved parking space for our rental. After discussing the situation with the on-site office manager, we were told we could not have a pass to park out in one of the many spaces out front (the easiest solution for all), nor could we park anywhere else BUT our supposedly reserved spot.
She was not very helpful, probably since we were renting from a private condo owner, and the office manager was there to represent condo owners who used HER services to rent their condos vs. VRBO. A towing policy was posted on signs in the parking garage for those who violated, so we had to call a tow truck to remove the offending vehicle, and my husband wasted 2 hours of precious vacation time dealing with the tow truck process so that we could just park our car for the night. The first tow truck was too big to fit through the garage door opening, and we had to wait for a second truck to show up.
Then we had to worry about having damage done to our rental vehicle, keying or whatever, due to an upset owner of the towed vehicle. It cost this guy $250 to get his car back. So lesson here is (1) definitely don't park in anyone else's reserved spot, and (2) heaven forbid that someone else park in your reserved spot as YOU will get stuck wasting your vacation time to arrange for towing just so you can park your car. I'm not personally blaming the condo owners for this incident at all, but just noting it is a "benefit" of this rental that can quickly turn into an undesirable situation for you.
The second thing that happened concerned the king-size master bed. My husband (6' tall, 190 lbs. - normal weight!) went to lie down, by himself, for a short nap on the afternoon of our last full day. After a few seconds, the side board of the bed collapsed. It was made of some type of softwood, with large grain variations and knotholes galore. The sudden drop actually jarred my husband's back. We called the local property manager immediately and waited 1 1/2 hours for him to show up. He looked at it and we all noted that the weak point seemed to have been a rather large knothole right smack in the middle of this sideboard.
We sent the condo owners a cell phone picture of the damaged board. The condo owner husband quickly texted back that he was sorry for the inconvenience, and that it appeared to him as well that the knothole was a weak point AND stated to us that he was a safety inspector for his career. THEN, the real problem started - the tune changed when the condo owner wife got the news. She called me about 2 hours later, and started making accusations that my husband or I must have stood on the side rail to cause it to fail.
I told her we certainly did not. All we did was sleep in the bed during our stay, nothing else, if you get my drift (and I'm 5'6", 128 lbs. - normal weight, just like my husband). She was wanting us to pay for the damages, claiming we had CAUSED the problem. If we had caused any damages, we certainly would have offered to pay up, in a heartbeat - we are honorable, church-going people. But we had done no harm.
If a 190 lb. person lying on a bed results in the bed collapsing on one side, then one has to question the integrity of the bed. When inspecting the bed after the collapse, while the property manager was still there with us, it was noted that the bed had no vertical supports underneath the mattress and that the bed side rail had an inferior quality wood that was used to support the horizontal slats underneath (at the point where they connected to the side rail).
Most of the weight to support this bed was resting on these side rails. Paired with all the knotholes in the wood, it was clearly an accident waiting to happen. I'll save you the long story of the next few days concerning all the phone calls and e-mails from the condo owner wife seeking payment from us. Her husband seemed to be understanding that an accident had occurred, through no fault of ours, but she wanted to place blame and was unreasonable, in our opinion, to talk to.
Bottom line, she deducted the money from our $400 security deposit to repair this obviously faulty bed. We came away from this experience grateful that something more expensive had not failed during our stay - a heater, a refrigerator.... as we surely would have been blamed if it had quit functioning properly during our stay.
So do yourself a favor. Don't assume, like we did, that just because a VRBO has favorable reviews that you will have an enjoyable experience with that rental. Truth be told, if the condo owner wife had been more sympathetic and understanding, we probably would have offered to pay for some or all of the damage of this unstable bed on our own initiative, just out of human kindness.
But she insisted from the start on falsely accusing us of directly CAUSING the damage (stepping on the side rail - which we did not do), and that does not make for a very conducive environment for reaching a settlement. No one likes to be falsely accused. I would not rent this VRBO again, or any other unit, from these owners.
I have been a homeowner member of VRBO/Homeaway for almost 2 years with a property in Wildwood and wasting time writing this. The changes that are being made to paying customers are unbelievable. My plan is to not renew my membership as I have other ways to list without being given grief and aggravation. This was once a great site but no more.
TUCSON, ARIZONA -- Stay away from VRBO rental property #66904 in Tucson, AZ. The owner will demand you sign a contract prohibiting any negative reviews (No wonder he only has all 5-star reviews!). Not only does he not allow negative reviews, but he will fine you $1000 (according to his contract) and threaten you with a lawsuit. Be smart. Spend your vacation dollars elsewhere. You will be glad you did!
LAKE TAHOE, CALIFORNIA -- We just rented this place from Jan 20-26, 2010, and we feel their property description is misleading regarding several features. First, the master bedroom w/ king does not have an energy efficient window and needs a bigger heater vent because the room temp remained slightly chilly even with thermostat set at 78! Also, since we had to keep the temperature set higher, the rest of the house would get uncomfortably warm.
My father was in the other master bedroom and had to close his vent because it would get too hot in there. There was a broken closet knob, missing handle on one of the dresser drawers, one of the toilet handles broke (which we fixed ourselves rather than having to wait for someone to come out), lots of scrapes & scratches on the walls in the dining area, bedroom, bathroom, as well as doors, railings, and wood floors (which leads me to believe the remodel was done quite some time ago, or one of the previous tenants really banged up the place and the owners have not bothered to fix it yet).
Technically it's 1.5 bathrooms, since one has a shower only, which really needs an adjustable showerhead (otherwise the water goes right over your head unless you're over 6 feet tall!). The owners should purchase new pots and pans for the kitchen, as the Teflon is all scratched up and flaking off. We didn't want to use them, but didn't have a choice. Also, note that the rooms with triple bunk beds are VERY small – only big enough to fit the beds, a dresser, and a closet. Lastly, the cabin was not cleaned before our arrival, which meant having to wash sheets/blankets/towels and clean up the kitchen/bathrooms so we could use them during our first night.
The owner refunded our $150 cleaning fee, but pointed out that since we received a discounted rate of $250/night (our original agreement, not because the cabin was dirty), he couldn't take off any more than that. In my opinion, that's not an adequate reason because basically he's saying that since we paid less than the regular rate, it's all right to get a less than satisfactory property! We felt we should have gotten back a little more money for the inconvenience of having to clean it ourselves plus wait while it was cleaned the following day (thus cutting into our skiing/boarding time), as well as the needed repairs/improvements listed above.
After driving through a snowstorm to get to the place, the last thing we wanted to do was clean! The owner did offer a free night on our next stay of 4 or more nights, but why on earth would we want to stay there again after our experience? Especially receiving his response to my complaints: “Thanks for your detailed summary of things we need attention” and “sorry the place wasn't ready when you arrived.” No apology or concern that his place is no longer in the “pristine” condition described in his listing.
This place is definitely NOT worth the regular rate of $300/night -- You can find much nicer places in that area for the same price. We ended up renting this place because we thought we were getting such a great deal. Boy, we were wrong!