My situation is a little unusual. I had a couple tell me they wanted to rent my house for 8 weeks this summer. I was dealing with the woman and I told her it was $2400 a week (based on them taking it for 8 weeks, normal is $3500/wk.) and subsequently showed them the house. I told them I take 50% down to hold it. Well the money trickled in, first $1k, then she texted saying she was sending another $1400. I texted back a couple days later asking about the remaining balance. She then called and said that is the full deposit. She apparently thought I was renting it to her for $2400/mo! My wife heard me tell her on the first phone call it was $2400/wk. The weird thing is they own a large inn in the area that rents rooms at $150+ a night. How they thought they were going to rent my house with 4+ bedrooms for $80 a night is beyond me. I never received the $1400 check she said she was sending, so all I have deposited is the $1k. From showing them the house till this last phone call with her took about 3-4 weeks in April when I had been getting 3+ inquires a day from two different website I am on. I had to turn down a number of people I had been talking with and two that were about to send deposits in on a $3500 week stay. Now I have opened the availability calendars on both the websites and am getting maybe 1 every other day looking for a week (meaning a lot of have lined up their summer vacations already in my part of the country). Normally I tell people if they ask, I refund their deposit in full 90 days out or if less than that only if I can get it rented for the same week being cancelled. We did not have a signed rental agreement and they never asked what my deposit policy was. What should I do with their $1k deposit??
Ouch. I would never take money without a signed contract in hand first. I know that doesn't help now.....If it wasn't in writing they may have a case...but I would tell her per your cancellation policy that they lose the deposit and go from there. Why in the world were they renting your home if they are local and own an inn? Something doesn't seem right. Also, it might not hurt to go back to everyone that inquired and tell them the property has become available. Maybe you can catch some that haven't found anything yet. Good luck!
Our policy states that"in order to secure my home, we require a non-refundable deposit (part of the total rental fee) of $1000". We ask our guests to be very sure that they wish to rent my home as the deposit is never refunded. That is not to say that we have not refunded on a few occassions. Young couple lost their jobs 3 weeks apart and could no longer afford to rent, a father who was the sole support of a family dies unexpectedly, etc.
Make sure this is stated on the Homeaway site as well as your own wesite. That way if you do not receive a signed contract back, they were informed.
Refund the $1000 in full with a cover letter explaining that their reservation has been canceled and you are sorry that they did not understand that the rental rate is $2400 per week (is the $3500 normal rate published anywhere? If so, include a printout of it with the letter).
Even if they want to question the amount you verbally you agreed on - arguing that it should be $2400 for the month - your position is pretty strong, in that you did not even receive the 50% of that amount (i.e., $1200).