Q: I booked a vacation rental in Paris through VRBO. VRBO charged $863 to my credit card. A day later, the owner contacted me, saying the house was not available. He said that we should have contacted him before booking. A day later, he canceled the reservation through VRBO.

After many e-mails and texts, I received a $665 refund two months later. I asked the owner to pay the $198 difference. He refused, because we did not contact him before booking. He said the $665 refund was all the money he received from VRBO.

In my view, it is very unfair that I didn’t receive a full refund. I did not cancel the reservation — the owner did. Can you help me get the rest of my refund, please?

A: Well, you’re entitled to a full and fast refund, of course. I’ve seen so many new international cases lately, thanks to the Travel Troubleshooter’s expanding online reach. It’s a privilege to help a reader from the Netherlands. (It’s a first!)

The part of you having to contact the owner beforehand — that’s nonsense. VRBO lists available vacation rental inventory. If the system says it’s available, and if you can make the booking, you should have a booking.

I can’t stand it when people make up their own rules. People like that give the travel industry a bad name — and people like you a bad vacation.

If an owner cancels, don’t just accept it. Contact VRBO and let them know that the owner canceled. The company will either find a way to get the owner to honor the reservation or book you in a comparable property at the same rate.

You decided to take the refund, assuming that you would get all of your money back. But then the property owner decided to remove his home from VRBO. That means VRBO is essentially out of the picture. The owner sent a refund directly to your bank, minus VRBO’s booking fee. See the problem? The owner would lose money if he sent you $198. The money you want is with VRBO, but the property no longer exists, according to the site. Very confusing.

Someone at VRBO should have been able to review your case and figure out how to process a refund. I know because I’ve invoked VRBO’s “Book With Confidence” guarantee twice in the past. In one case, the owner sold a condo in Oahu before my scheduled stay. In another, an electrical problem with an apartment in Lisbon left my family without heat in January. When you run into complicated issues like this, VRBO’s team of experienced agents can help.

I contacted VRBO and asked it to take another look. “We’ve looked into Mr. Sollman’s case and confirmed that he will be refunded,” a representative told me.


Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit consumer organization. Contact him at elliott.org/help or chris@elliott.org.