Q: Earlier this year I booked a home on Martha’s Vineyard through VRBO. The owner was happy to accept our payment in full and has taken full advantage of his position. He did not return our calls and then, four months before we were supposed to arrive, he asked us to cut our stay short by one day.
This is a special vacation for three generations. We can’t leave our vacation rental a day early. VRBO hasn’t helped us resolve this. I feel as if VRBO is just a billboard for vacation rentals and doesn’t stand behind its product. Can you help us straighten out this VRBO cancellation problem?
A: Your vacation rental owner shouldn’t have cut your stay short. But since he did, VRBO should have tried to help you fix it.
Once you click the “book” button on VRBO, you have a contract with the owner for the entire stay. If an owner cuts your stay short, or changes the terms of your stay in any way, you’re entitled to a full refund. That would have been your first option.
Another possible fix for this VRBO cancellation problem: working directly with the owner to come up with alternate accommodations for the last night. That would have been difficult since you had a large party. VRBO also has a special rebooking team that can fix a problem like this. I know because late last year, I had a similar problem. An owner canceled my VRBO rental only a week before I was scheduled to arrive in Honolulu. The VRBO rebooking team quickly found a new rental and paid the difference between the less expensive canceled home and the pricier new one.
Of course, your owner should have responded to your phone calls promptly and shouldn’t have tried to abbreviate your stay. (And, for that matter, my Hawaii owner shouldn’t have canceled my stay.) But it happens; these are homes owned by people like you and me. Sometimes, their circumstances change. In my case, the owner needed to sell the home.
VRBO should have taken care of you. But if it didn’t, you can always find executive contacts for VRBO on my consumer-advocacy site, elliott.org.
I reviewed the paper trail among you, the owner and VRBO. It turns out that even though VRBO took your money earlier this year, you still could have asked for, and received, a full refund. That would have been the quickest way to solve this VRBO cancellation problem. But I agree with your assessment — this rental could have gone better.
I contacted VRBO on your behalf. It contacted the owner and he rescinded his request to shorten; however, after communicating with the owner directly, you decided to accept a full refund for the rental.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or e-mail him at email@example.com.