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Travel Troubleshooter: 'Luxury' condo, shabby treatment

  • Article by: CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT
  • September 13, 2013 - 1:04 PM

Q: We just had a frustrating experience with HomeAway and I need your help. I recently rented a condo in Laconia, N.H., that we found through the site. It was advertised as a “luxury” condo, and we paid $1,886, which included $49 for HomeAway’s “Carefree Guarantee Rental” program.

When we arrived, we found the exterior was in bad disrepair. We did not even feel safe climbing the stairs to find our unit. The unit was clean but shabby and clearly not luxurious.

We felt so uncomfortable we did not take occupancy. We called HomeAway immediately to advise them the unit was misrepresented. The service rep advised us to find other lodging. The following morning we e-mailed photos to substantiate our claim that the advertiser misrepresented his condo and we requested a refund based on the guarantee program.

We have made three attempts to collect from HomeAway; all have been denied. The reason? HomeAway says the photos we took are “insufficient” proof of the property’s misrepresentation. I’ve also contacted the owner, to no avail. Can you help?

 

A: If you rented a luxury condo, you should have received one. But how do you define “luxury”? Unfortunately, there’s no commonly agreed-upon definition that I’m aware of.

A better measure would be comparing the property’s listing on HomeAway against your photos. Based on the images you sent to HomeAway, I don’t think anyone’s going to take that property for a “luxury” condo — let alone spend $1,886 on it. HomeAway should have stepped up and sent you a refund.

HomeAway sees itself as a listing service for vacation rentals, but that’s not how consumers view it. When you book through the site, you view HomeAway as a trusted intermediary that vets the listings and that you can lean on when something goes wrong. In my experience, HomeAway has done little to dispel that perception. HomeAway shouldn’t just stand behind your rental — it should stand behind all of its rentals.

Your next step would be to either dispute the payment or take the property owner to small-claims court. However, I contacted HomeAway and asked it to review your claim a fourth time. After taking another look at your photos, it decided to honor its rental guarantee.

 

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips at elliott.org, or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org.

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