Would-be travelers who were forced to cancel vacations because of the coronavirus lockdown are now up in arms over Vrbo’s refund policy, which allows the owners of rental properties to decide whether or not to fully reimburse customers. It's a decision that does not sit well with customers.
“So what they've now created is a war zone between homeowners and renters,” Danielle Dittus told NBC 5 Responds.
The Hinsdale mother of two said she planned a family getaway to Florida. Like so many others, the trip was canceled due to the coronavirus. Dittus rented a house from Vrbo in Delray Beach – something she now regrets -- after asking the homeowner for a refund.
“This is not my problem; this is your problem. Vrbo is not mandating that I do anything for you,” Dittus said.
The unexpected words were followed by this jarring text: “I am not cancelling you and now not offering dates later in year. Not required to do either.”
A similar war of words was seen between Deena Talano and the owner of a Fort Lauderdale Vrbo rental she rented to celebrate of her daughter’s senior spring break.
When the Edison Park mom said she pleaded for a full refund she was shut down.
Her frustration was evident in an email to NBC 5 Responds: “We have contacted the owner of the property and Vrbo numerous times to no avail. The owners are incredibly ignorant and rude. Vrbo is doing nothing to help anybody that has rented from them.”
At the heart of this controversy is Vrbo’s current policy which leaves the decision-making to the property owners, asking its partners to “handle cancellations.” If they can’t accommodate a full refund, Vrbo says it “expects partners to provide at least a 50% refund or a credit for full value within the next year.”
Compare that to competitor Airbnb’s policy, which allows guests who cancel visits booked between “March 14, 2020 and May 31, 2020 to choose between a “travel credit or a full cash refund.”
NBC 5 Responds asked Vrbo why it isn't stepping up to protect customers.
In a statement the company defended its decision, saying “in this situation, there is no perfect solution,” adding “the vast majority of our partners are … offering credits for future travel or refunds to travelers given these extreme circumstances."
That doesn't ring true to either Chicago family. Talano is out $3,200, and Dittus is still on the hook for $1,400 -- and done with Vrbo.
“I’m not going to go with Vrbo. They didn't take care of their customers. I don't have the confidence that they will going forward,” Dittus said.
At our request, Vrbo looked into both cases and sided with the property owners. Dittus said contrary to the company's public stance, she was never offered any refund or credit. And while Talano was eventually offered a 50% refund, she's still waiting for most of that money.