PORTLAND, Ore. — An unknown, apparently large number of home share travelers booking through Vrbo are upset. Many have not been able to receive refunds or credits for stays that had to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus global pandemic and resulting travel restrictions. Vrbo’s posted policy suggests home owners or “hosts” should be working with travelers to offer 50% refunds for stays booked between dates that were affected by travel restrictions. This is not a mandate from Vrbo, it is only a suggestion which appears to be being largely ignored.
Meanwhile, Vrbo home share competitors Air B&B came out with a policy that gave travelers 100% refunds if they booked within the affected dates. This was great news for those travelers. But, many hosts for Air B&B made complaints.
After taking to social media and other consumer sites, KXL noticed slews of complaints by Vrbo travelers. So, we put out the request for a story and within 48 hours heard from people in 11 states and Canada. We ended up interviewing 7 different people and producing stories on the long-running weekly show Beyond the Headlines. and a shorter version during Portland’s Afternoon News. More complaints continued to come in, but were simply documented and are not in this story. Attempts for comment from the Vrbo PR department were eventually received. They declined a recorded interview, but did reply to an email saying in part:
“We’ve heard from countless property managers that, while they never want to disappoint travelers, they have been forced to make difficult decisions that take guests, homeowners and employees into account. If homeowners and property management companies assume the entire financial burden of refunding all canceled outside-of-policy bookings, it will lead to more layoffs or owners defaulting on their mortgages. Despite that, more than 95% are providing refunds or credits.”
Based on KXL’s reporting from social media platforms, other consumer related websites and actual responses, that claim of 95% refunds or credits claim is in dispute. A Vrbo spokesperson did mention she actually booked a through her own company and was able to negotiate a full credit for a future stay. She also said she would be happy to try and get other owners connected with travelers.
It appears thousands of would be travelers across the U.S. and beyond are losing thousands of dollars for vacation home rental stays they could not use if they wanted to. And a great number of people have been frustrated further by impossible wait times for Vrbo help lines, non-existent chat support and unreturned emails. Some reported owners that were either completely unavailable or unsympathetic. If you have found yourself in this situation and would like to contribute to this ongoing story, emails can be sent to: [email protected]