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Issues with a rental through VRBO - any advice would be appreciated

Issues with a rental through VRBO - any advice would be appreciated

Old Apr 2nd, 2011, 05:51 PM
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Issues with a rental through VRBO - any advice would be appreciated

Hi everyone. I've been planning my dream vacation to Europe for the past two years. The first stop is a week in London. Last year after much research and debate I selected what I thought was the perfect rental in London. The owners were very responsive, the unit had good feedback, etc. I signed a rental agreement and paid for 25% of the total rental price to hold the unit.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. The remaining 75% of the rental price was due April 1st so I contacted them two weeks ago to confirm their e-mail address for the Paypal payment. They didn't reply. I had to send them a total of 3 messages to get a response from them, in which they told me that the unit was no longer available but that they had another one that was. It wasn't as nice as the first one but I agreed to the swap, pending their response to a couple of questions I had. It turns out that the other unit isn't theirs, but belongs to a friend. And per VRBO, it's not available for 1/2 of the time that I'm going to be in London. Naturally I contacted the people I was dealing with about this. And, no surprise, they stopped replying to me.

It's now been 5 days, during which I've sent 4 messages with no response. I've told them that I want a refund of the payment I sent them and they've ignored me. The trip was not registered with VRBO's guarantee program because it wasn't paid for in full yet and because I don't leave for another 6 weeks. I'm not one to just let people steal money from me, though, and I'm more than willing to file complaints/legal action with any applicable agency, including the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The unit is in London but the owners are in Australia so I'm not 100% sure which police department (maybe both?) to make a theft/fraud report with.

Have any of you dealt with something like this before? How did you handle it? Did you get your money back? Thanks in advance for any advice/tips - they're greatly appreciated.
tru_echo is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2011, 09:15 AM
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If you paid the deposit through Paypal I would contact them, and if it was made through Paypal using your credit card, then I would contact your credit card company and put in a dispute for the amount.
Sherrala is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2011, 09:18 AM
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I will not use any of the Homeway Group of companies in future. Over the years must have rented over 50 houses for holidays. Clearly, over the years you have ups and downs but our 3 really negative experiences have been through Homeaway.

In each case the house was totally misrepresented by the owner and Homeaway do not pre-vet rentals to ensure a correct representaion. On two occasions I complained to Homeaway, ually they actually edited out most of my review on their website and were very protective of the owners.

We now always use local agents we local knowledge.

It is simply down to Homeaway's business model being an advertising shell with little control over what is advertised by their owners.
humptynumpty is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2011, 09:36 AM
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tru, sorry for this added stress.

I think Sherrala had some good advice - how did you pay through paypal ?

Honestly, it may just be money lost, in which case, I'm sure you are thankful that it was only 25%. Unfortunately, I'm hearing more and more of problems with Homeaway (and vrbo) than in the past.
surfmom is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2011, 11:19 PM
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Start with http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/advice/index.cfm to find the local trading standards office for the flat in question.

But if I'm right in understanding that both you and the owners are Australian, then obviously it would be worth taking it up through whatever local trading standards or small claims procedures you have.
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Old Apr 7th, 2011, 05:14 PM
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Do you have any type of rental agreement? If so, is there anything about legal action or anything like that? If you're renting directly from the owners, who are in Australia, you'll probably have to file a complaint in Australia.

I would definitely speak with VRBO.com directly. They'll want to know because they will terminate this persons listing account if they treat potential guests this way, it ruins the credibility of the website.

The business model with HomeAway if perfectly fine. It's just like anything you buy sight unseen, you have to do your homework and ask questions, then ask more. It's not right if they edited unfavorable reviews.

Let us know how this unfolds.
dreboogie is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2011, 08:24 PM
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My point about the business models is one that they represent the difference bewteen all that is wrong about society and all that was right about society.

Homeaway form an agents role but offer very little in the way of service to the renter and indeed the owner. They offer a shell advertising service onto which the owner is able to post unvetted information. There is no after sales service for the renter.

Compare this to the role of a local agent who may know the owner personally, who will have vetted the property and who frequently offers an "above and beyond" service to the renter.

One is the old school and right way of doing business. The other is where the internet has taken us with trans-border companies offering little service, with relatively low overheads which take huge revenues and squeeze those who work hard for their crust.

No, I am not a local agent but I have used many in the past who have worked hard their life to build up a personal service only to see income drying up due to "developments" like Homeaway.

If you do see a property advertised on Homeaway, check whether a local agent also acts. If so use them. The rent is usually the same but the service to you as a renter will be hugely better.

Reason for my rant? I am one of those small business people who battle daily with huge companies which enjoy huge buying powers and economies which make competing with them very difficult.

The way we win? (and we do, we close multi nationaal outlets down!) Personal service.
humptynumpty is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2011, 04:29 AM
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I can't address your question better than the posters who suggested you contact vrbo and paypal. I do want to speak up for vrbo though. I have stayed with them a half dozen times and have always my expectations exceeded.

In the UK I stayed at three rental units. I made arrangements with the first without an intermediary. The unit was featured through the local tourist board. It was pricy but nice. The second unit I rented through a local rental agent. Not as nice as expected. Poor service when the heat was difficult to start. The third was through VRBO. It was a mansion in a great neighborhood. I rented the four bedroom unit for less than the others cost. The real winner was we forgot a suitcase in our haste to leave. The owner of the unit found it and raced to the airport. When we were at the Delta counter, she delivered it. I couldn't have received better service if I was at the Ritz.

Please know when you deal with vrbo there is variability, but do not cross them off of your list automatically.
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Old Apr 8th, 2011, 08:23 AM
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But that's the point, pp. VRBO exists merely as a listing board for owners. The kind of experience you have depends entirely on that owner. And the reviews listed have been vetted by the owner, so any negative reviews can be omitted.

VRBO makes some effort to remove listings that are fraudulent, as so they should or be open to fraud charges themselves. And they offer insurance. But insurance won't return my hard-earned vacation time.

That said, I've used VRBO. But first I made a search to find independent reviews of the rental.
Mimar is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2011, 09:00 AM
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I honestly don't see the big issue.

VRBO vs. local/full service agencies is similar to the way things have always been.

Years ago - if one was buying a car, or looking for a job, or renting a house you either used private party ads in the newspaper classifieds, or you used a middleman (Car dealer/Employment agency/Realtor)

vrbo = private want ads; full-service agency = more service/vetting

There is a place for both and there is nothing wrong w/ vrbo's business model. (Now I would NEVER use Craigslist myself -- they are more like the want ads in the back of 'life style' magazines )
janisj is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2011, 09:14 AM
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Oh - to clarify -- I wasn't talking about tru_echo's problem. I don't have a solution to that.

I was addressing Humptynumpty's posts about vrbo/homeaway.
janisj is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2011, 09:34 AM
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I think this is unfortunate, but VRBO is just private want ads, so it isn't accurate to say you "stayed with them" as an entity. It's the want ads like Craiglist or the local papaer, that's all. I wouldn't ever rent that way, but lots of people do.

I would hope you get your money back, this doesn't sound normal. I suspect VRBO/Homeaway won't give it to you, though, if the owner doesn't.

I don't know about legalities, but am not sure a police dept. would handle issues revolving things you bought online that you didn't get what you paid for.

Of course there are plenty of nice, legitimate units on VRBO but anyone renting that way is taking above-normal risks and has to accept that is what they are doing and figure out how they will handle such problems, just as you would from renting from any want ad you saw in the paper.

It is possible they are jsut having to extended internet communication problems, I suppose. I certainly would be ringing them up, not just relying on email. I can't imagine why that wasn't tried yet. I certainly hope no one sent off lots of money to someone without having any contact info for them other than email. Even if I rented through VRBO, I would want a real name, address and phone number before giving anyone money.
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Old Apr 8th, 2011, 11:00 AM
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"I honestly don't see the big issue"

Course there is a big issue. When you have money taken off you on trust and find the product is of a far lower value than was advertised.

VRBO make huge amounts for adding very little value to a transaction. They freely allow themselves to be used by landlord committing fraud. The risk involved in using local agents is far lower. In one of our cases Homeaway actively protected a landlord who had deceived us.

There is absolutely no comparison between a purchasing a holiday which is an instantly consumable product and purchasing a car which you will physically appraise following an advert but prior to purchase.

Things have not "always been this way". Global non vetted advertising is a function of the internet. Travel agents previously performed an far more involved service for the same price.

Many rentals are listed both on VRBO and local agents for the same price. The return to the owner is lower using a local agent. ie why use VRBO in those cases when you, as a renter pay the same price.
humptynumpty is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2011, 11:02 AM
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We are looking to rent a place (for 2 adults and 4 kids) in London for the end of August. Who do you suggest or where do you suggest we look. I was looking through homeaway. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
dobsonde is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2011, 11:30 AM
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That is terrible.

I think it might help your case if you post the link to the specific house.

Might shame VRBO into helping a bit.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2011, 11:51 AM
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Post the link to the house as ekscrunchy suggests. Nothing worse for a fraudfeasor than being outed as such.

I've never had problems with VRBO, but I've only used it for US rentals and one in Japan (which worked out quite well). For international, I agree that using a more local approach (and this doesn't just mean a mom-and-pop shop, but there are ton(ne)s of agencies in the UK with good reputations) would work better.
BigRuss is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2011, 04:09 PM
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humptynumpty: Did you purposely mis-read my posts? I clearly said my comment was NOT about this specific problem. My comment was about you venting that vrbo/homeaway's >>business models is one that they represent the difference bewteen all that is wrong about society and all that was right about society.
janisj is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2011, 09:37 AM
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"Did you purposely mis-read my posts"

No I think you are the one that has the repeat post to make yourself clear.

I am clearly not referring to the OP.

If you can't see that difference between planning a instantly consumable holiday and planning to fully appraise a car purchase in repsonse to an advert, then I am wating my keystrokes.

I think most other posters would be able to make understand the differentiation. Please let me know if you would like a more detailed explanation.
humptynumpty is offline  
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