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Vacation Rental Not As Advertised, Leading To Costly Mistake

Vacation Rental Not As Advertised, Leading To Costly MistakeVacation Rental Not As Advertised, Leading To Costly Mistake

Article from the Charlotte Sun
Author: David Morris is the Sun’s consumer advocate. Contact him c/o the Sun, 23170 Harborview Road, Charlotte Harbor, FL 33980; email dmorris@sun-herald.com; or leave a message at 941-206-1114

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Sandra and Larry Taylor have many enjoyable memories over the last eight years traveling south from Ontario, Canada, for three months every winter.

This year, the couple picked Venice because of its “small-town atmosphere.” However, the visit was a memory they’d soon like to forget.

The Taylors found a good-looking property online at VRBO.com. When Larry made a booking request, the owner called back offering a discount of $1,500 if they booked directly with him, rather than through the VRBOsite. Considering the savings“substantial,” Larry mailed a $2,900 check for the first month’s rent. It turned out to be a costly mistake.

That’s because upon arrival, Larry described the conditions as “despicable,” including malfunctioning water taps, sticky floors and roaches. He said they had no choice but to leave, not paying the $5,800 balance owed. The owner refuses to refund them any money. VRBO is part of the HomeAway vacation rental platform, which also includes VacationRentals.

com. HomeAway, in turn, is part of the Expedia family of brands,including Trivago, Hotels.com, Travelocity and Orbitz. HomeAway claims its three sites represent some 1.2 million rental property listings worldwide. Property owners and renters each pay fees to HomeAway to use the platform. It appears the nonpayment of those fees — by circumventing the VRBO site — substantially comprised the Taylor’s offered “discount.”

Unfortunately, by not booking and checking out through VRBO, the Taylors became ineligible for HomeAway’s promised “Book with Confidence Guarantee.”

It protects against listing fraud, denied entry or significant property misrepresentation, along with providing rebooking assistance and help in recovering wrongfully withheld security deposits.

“While we strongly discourage against travelers and owners from paying outside of the HomeAway system for numerous reasons, it’s not a violation of a policy that would make a traveler eligible for protection or reimbursement,” explained HomeAway’s Jordan Hoefar, who forwarded the complaint for review.

However, even if the Taylors had booked through the VRBO site, the property misrepresentation protection guarantee isn’t absolute. Reading the fine print discloses it doesn’t include refusal to take possession on the grounds of cleanliness, or minor or temporary defects. And all claims are decided on a caseby- case basis.

The takeaway here is best summed up by the Federal Trade Commission: “When you’re looking for a rental, it’s caveat renter — renter beware.”

“Some scammers hijack a real rental listing by changing the email address or other contact information, and placing the modified ad on another site,” warns the FTC. “In other cases, scammers have hijacked the email accounts of property owners on reputable vacation rental websites. Other rip-off artists make up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist, and try to lure you in with the promise of low rent, or great amenities. Their goal is to get your money before you find out.”

The best advice? Don’t rely solely on provided photos, which can bedated or doctored.

Consider asking the property owner for a live tour using Apple’s FaceTime app or Skype.

Read property reviews.

Get a copy of the rental agreement before making a payment. And don’t wire money or send a check. Use a credit card, which allows you to dispute a charge.

Finally, remember, travel insurance policies don’t normally cover vacation rental fraud.

David Morris is the Sun’s consumer advocate. Contact him c/o the Sun, 23170 Harborview Road, Charlotte Harbor, FL 33980; email dmorris@sun-herald.com; or leave a message at 941-206-1114.

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Is Your Home Properley Insured | Airbnb, HomeAway or FlipkeyVacation Rental Insurance article of interest:

New Exclusions Could Make Your Insurance Policy Worthless If You List Your Home Online | Airbnb, HomeAway, Flipkey

Renting out your property to seasonal guests can be a great way to earn additional income, but there are several pitfalls you must avoid to make it successful. Let Vacation Rental Insurance

New Exclusions Could Make Your Insurance Policy Worthless If You List Your Home Online | Airbnb, HomeAway, Flipkey

Is Your Home Properley Insured | Airbnb, HomeAway or Flipkey

New Exclusions Could Make Your Insurance Policy Worthless If You List Your Home Online | Airbnb, HomeAway, Flipkey

Renting out your property to seasonal guests can be a great way to earn additional income, but there are several pitfalls you must avoid to make it successful.

Before charging guests to stay in your home, you should consider the risks associated with it. For example, if a renter damages your property or if someone gets hurt during their stay, who is going to bear the legal and financial liability? More importantly am I covered if I list my property online on sites like Airbnb, HomeAway, or Flipkey?

Vacation Rental Insurance Agency Recommends, you speak with an insurance professional to find out what your current homeowner’s policy actually covers. In the last past year the Florida Department of Insurance Regulations approved policy language that has allowed one of Florida’s largest insurers to exclude coverage if your home is listed on a home sharing site. Other companies can now very easily add this language to their policies and it could have devastating consequences to you if you have a loss.

Q: If my home is listed on Airbnb, HomeAway or Flipkey how does this new exclusion affect me?
A: The exclusion that was added that excludes damage under section 1 of your policy state the following:
Home Sharing/Bed and Breakfast, including covered losses, on homes or condos or any part thereof, arising out of participation in home sharing or bed and breakfast program such as Airbnb, Flipkey, Homeaway, where homes/condos are rented for days, weeks or months.

In basic terms this mean that once your home is listed on one of these sites you know longer have coverage if your house burns down is damaged or someone is hurt or injured on your property.

Q: What coverage do I have if I only rent out my property for a single occasion?
A: Under the new exclusions your property is listed on Airbnb, HomeAway, or Flipkey or any other home sharing site you probably don’t have coverage regardless of how many times you rent it. VRI Agency has partnered with a select group of companies who don’t have this exclusion and will provide coverage for this type of activity.

Q: What happens if a paying guest steals my property or damages the home during their stay?
A: Once again, you are probably not covered. Most policies have exceptions for theft when the theft takes place in the part of a residence that is being rented to a paying guest. Additionally, because most homeowners and renters policies exclude property damage to a rental property, the paying guest may not have coverage through their own homeowners or renters insurance if they damage your property. You would want to make sure the paying guests have the capacity to pay for any damage they may cause to your property and collect an adequate deposit.

Q: Am I covered if my guest injures somebody or causes damage to an adjacent property?
A: Your personal liability coverage most likely will not extend to a guest, so you may be legally obligated to pay for another person’s injuries or for damage to their property. Once again, the guest would have to rely on their own policy if they have one.

Q: How can I ensure the rental process goes smoothly?
A: Once you have thoroughly discussed your policy with Vacation Rental Insurance Agency and are satisfied with your coverage, conduct a thorough interview of any potential guests before they arrive. Have a screening service provide an overview of a candidate’s background. Ask for identification, do reference checks, and ask for a deposit (much like you would do when taking on a rental tenant as a landlord).