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3067 Views 8 Replies Latest reply: Mar 30, 2012 10:31 AM by kimbo RSS
New Member 5 posts since
Mar 21, 2012
Currently Being Moderated

Mar 21, 2012 2:36 PM

Ethics and trusting rental owners, need input

I need some insights and guidance in how to trust rental owners and whether my expectations are wrong. I signed a rental contract directly with the owner and sent a deposit check. Within 24 hrs of the receipt of the check and about total 4 days of receipt of the contract, the rest of my traveling party had to cancel, forcing me to cancel. In the few days that transpired, nowhere in that time did the property's availability calendar say it was 'booked', so any other interested party could still send inquiries. I feel I did no harm to the owner and expected some understanding on his part. Instead I got hostility, anger and threats and I had to pay the nonrefunable deposit. I understand that the contract protects the owner and I respect that, but since so very little time had passed I expected more understanding. I would like to get other owners or renters insights as to whether I am wrong to be upset. I feel I can't trust how owners present themselves on the 'sale' end as this one did a 180 in attitude. And, he also knew going into this that we had different families coming and one had backed out before the contract was signed so he knew we could have issues going into this. Thanks in advance everyone! I really like the concept of VRBO but am now ready to only use a travel agent.

  • sophie Senior Contributor 963 posts since
    Mar 4, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 21, 2012 3:17 PM (in response to kimbo)
    Re: Ethics and trusting rental owners, need input

    kimbo,

     

    Unfortunately if you had a signed contract and the money had already changed hands, the owner was well within his contractual rights to hold any and all money that was in the contract. Time doesn't matter. It can be 1 minute, 1 month or 1 year.

     

    You have no idea if he turned other renters down just by looking at his calendar. He may have turned down an even more lucrative rental the night you booked.

     

    As an owner, when we have gone through the effort of booking the rental, writing the contract, setting aside the days, talking on the phone, answering emails we are normally not very happy when someone up and cancels on us because of the time we have already spent on the transaction.

     

    kimbo wrote "And, he also knew going into this that we had different families coming and one had backed out before the contract was signed so he knew we could have issues going into this."

     

    This makes absolutely no difference what-so-ever! You signed the contract. If you knew this could have been a problem, it would have been on you, NOT him to take responsibility for it. You rolled the dice and lost because clearly you knew it was an issue also.  The contract never should have been signed.

     

    So, at the end of the day, I do believe that your expecations are wrong.  Renting someones home is completely different that staying in a hotel. It's a whole different animal and there are rules that owners must implement to protect themselves and this is what this owner has chosen to do

      • sophie Senior Contributor 963 posts since
        Mar 4, 2011
        Currently Being Moderated
        Mar 21, 2012 5:24 PM (in response to kimbo)
        Re: Ethics and trusting rental owners, need input

        kimbo,

         

        In no way was I yelling at you and I'm sorry you took it that way. You asked a question and I answered it. I don't know the details of how far out the booking was, how many nights it was for or what you paid. I also am unaware of the correspondence you had with him or who said what.  I only know what you shared.

         

        I'm sorry that I didn't give you the answer you were looking for. From what you said, I said that he was correct contractually. I didn't say that if it was me that I probably would have just let it go because it was so soon....but the story goes both ways. He may have taken something you said offensive and that is why he decided not to refund or he may have been burned before and was angry with people canceling.  The reasons are numerous of which neither you or I know.

         

        This owner just chose not to give grace, that doesn't mean that all owners won't give grace. Bottom line, he didn't have to be "fair" outside the contract and chose not to.

  • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
    Aug 9, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 23, 2012 4:52 PM (in response to kimbo)
    Re: Ethics and trusting rental owners, need input

    Hi Kimbo. First, I want to stay that you would be wrong to relate and pile this experience onto all owners --- but you are correct in that you do need to feel "trust" ...and you need to be certain that all rental terms, including the cancellation policy, is acceptable for you...before you sign a contract. Perhaps you should consider buying travel insurance before you book any rental ...especially from a private owner directly.  It's true...you do not know in advance what the owner is like...and the owner does not know you.  It's a business deal...between strangers. That's why a thorough contract is important.  You had bad experience with this one person.  It's not all owners that are "uncompassonate"...but we also have "issues" in having to deal with many, many "travelers" over the course of our experiences.   I hope you always have success in your rental experiences, truly, in the future. Always be a diligent reader of all terms - thoroughly and do not rent if terms are not agreeable for you.    But, owners have just as great a trust and ethics issue with giving the keys to "strangers in our homes" as travelers have who seek a good rental from a "stranger" owner. Both owners and renters share "trust" and "ethics" issues with each other. So, understand this:  rental owners sometimes have lousy guest experiences...really bad guests!  Yet, they continue to rent their homes to "strangers"....{how can we trust them in our homes?}...owners continue to deal with everyone on a case-by-case basis -- all along the way -- from the inquiry to the end of the stay---- and it's about trust and ethical behaviour of both parties.  That's what I want to stress here. Because, it's so easy for a traveler to critique an owner...but there are always two sides of every story. {And...I have to say that there are some owners who do not do a good job of "managing" either...I have to be fair...some owners are not "great at what they do"!}   Second, your question is about "ethics" -- presumably did he have the right to keep your deposit...and should he have been more ethical and compassionate for your situation? The answer is yes...he has the right....the other question is for him to decide and to live with! If the contract stated a clear cancellation policy, then he did.   Should he have - morally?  It's not my call to judge...but if the contract stated it...then it was his legal right and ethical choice.     There are ethics and legality to consider on both sides --- for both partiesA contract was signed. It is legally binding.  Keep in mind that we, here, have few details. Without knowing all the details...from both you and the owners....and without knowing what the contract contained...without knowing the cancellation policy terms, etc., all I can determine is that you signed a rental contract and then you cancelled it,  e.g. you broke the contract. Was that unethical?   For whatever reasons you had to cancel, it was you who broke the contract --- it was you who may have caused suffering of the owner - especially if he turned away other business while you were planning your vacation at his place. It is possible he suffered financially by your cancellation. Over the course of one single day, I get more than one inquiry --- I'm always turning people away.  What we do not know is what that owner's "cancellation" policy states ... how that owner "manages cancellations" when they happen --- were there stipulations e.g. the amount he refunds vis-a-vis the number of days a cancellation hapens in advance of arrival..---whatever. But, hopefully there was a good, detailed cancellation policy in the contract -- that you were able to read before you paid. And, it will be legally binding.   One thing: owners often do suffer from cancellations  --or--  maybe not if they have a chance {it's just luck} to book the same period, again, once they get a cancellation.

     

    Example:  I just got a cancellation of 16 nights...the woman cancelled the day before she was to arrive! Over the course of 5 months, I turned away so many inquirers for March because I "upheld my contract with her"...and kept my place reserved for her. Everything was great until the day before...her reason for cancelling was not even important to me....it's her personal life issue.  My handling of the last-minute cancellation was clearly stated in my "cancellation policy" --- which, I have to add, is MY CHOICE to uphold or NOT to ENFORCE.  It's my business to run...it's my contract terms.  I can hold all monies, legally, ethically, if someone cancels within the time period that I clearly set out in my contract terms.  I can always give a compassionate response and decide to refund only a portion ...or even refund all payment -- contrary to my policy -- or refund NOTHING -- as long as I've been clear in my contract -- that we both signed, in advance of the payment!

     

    But, I'm human -- I can be sympathic and compassionate.  It was impossible for me to rebook those 16 nights with absolutely --No Advance Notice---  that she was about to break our contract.   My cancellation policy is very clearly set out --- it's very fair to both me and to my "guests".  It just so happened that she did read it...she did understand...and we did resolve it.   Did I have the right, and ethics, to keep all her money -- yes -- according to what is stated in my contract.  I can tell you that we resolved it so we were both appeased. That's because I was interested in working it out for both her and for me. She was a good person who was sincere with me all the way from the inquiry to the cancellation.  We had a good discourse and I was sorry that she cancelled -- and so was she.  I suggested that I'd  keep her money ...holding it for a later booking...to occur at the end of the year -- with the agreement that if I raise my rates for that season, she would pay the difference. I gave her 3 months to decide and to give me new dates... or no refund {the deadline is stated}. If she doesn't or can not come later in the year, then no refund --- and with no extension of time {it's stated}. We talked it over and we both agreed to those "specially amended" terms for her! She wants to vacation at my place. I would like to welcome her.   I sent her a Letter Of Agreement that we both signed.  I will uphold my end if she upholds hers. I think we have trust with each other.   The reason I did that was because we had a good "relationship" during several months of communicating. I felt it was in my interest to try to keep the booking "active" although it would be for a later time. I did this only one other time, a few years ago, and it worked out --- and the guest actually extended the later stay for a longer duration!

     

    So, perhaps I'm more compassionate as an individual vacation rental owner than 'your' owner --- but I just want to stress that it's entirely up to individuals how they manage their business --- how they do their contracting, how they settle disputes, etc..as long as they are not "cheating" anyone.

     

    Here's where it would be unethical: the owner would be WRONG if he cancelled your signed contract only because he got a better offer! That is not only unethical, you'd probably be able to raise a claim or even a civil suit if a lot of money was involved, and it would probably be in your favor.

    But, he would have to reimburse you in full, regardless, in that situation.

    The owners are bound to "hold a contract and a reservation" paid by deposit... and so they take their home off the  market so they should not be trying to get more money from anyone in a  more lucrative deal.  The owner has their cancellation policy to protect themselves  from people who book their homes and then cancel.

     

    The online rental calendar is not an indication of whether there was occupancy or not. Some owners are not diligent about updating their calendar...some owners intentionally leave the calendar blank {a blank calender is a marketing strategy used to attrack business!...If it's blank then there must be availability...this strategy is used often if an owner has more than one rental unit to fill}. So, his calendar was blank. It doesn't matter for your situation.  If you broke my contract, no matter when you did it, no matter why you did it -- would I be more compassionate and empathetic than this owner?   It depends on the circumstance.  I usually try to work it out so it's a win-win for both parties --- it's not always possible, though.

      • anja Senior Contributor 1,555 posts since
        Aug 9, 2011
        Currently Being Moderated
        Mar 23, 2012 4:47 PM (in response to kimbo)
        Re: Ethics and trusting rental owners, need input

        Kimbo:   I believe, from your posts here, that you tried to "foster trust" with this owner by speaking directly with him.    And, it is my opinion, that this owner's over reaction was extreme and wrong.  Yes, there was a contract. But, the drama of hostility, anger and threats from the owner because of a cancellation makes me, as an owner, "cringe" because of his behaviour towards you.  That is no way to deal with a cancellation and treat a customer.  Regardless!

         

        How can you be sure, next time, that you can trust the owner?  Well...we're both in the same boat -- the Owner/Traveler relationship from inquiry to the "post visit review" is fragile. Anything can go wrong...and anything can go right!  It depends upon how people on both sides hold to their agreements and behave towards each other.  All you can do:  when dealing with private rental properties, read everything in the offer, on the website, and the contract you receive. Ask questions.  And..make sure there is a clear cancellation policy --- in the best case scenario the cancellation would set out the consequences of the Traveler cancelling a reservation AND the consequences of the Owner canceling the reservation. If you are not comfortable with the cancellation policy, do not sign the contract. Move on to find another place...even if you have to spend a bit more on the rental...make sure that the Owner's policies are acceptable.  You'll find compassion and understanding from many...but you'll never know how a person will actually deal with things that go wrong, in advance.  [Owners need to cancel too ....I had to do this twice in my "rental career" .  My cancellation policy sets out the compensation that I will give, whether I would find the Traveler a comparable accommodation, or an immediate full refund, with a nice discount for a future rebooking, or other scenario.  My personal aim is to always leave my customer feeling compensated --- I try to find a way to appease us both. It's my business and my reputation I am looking out for as well...especially if it is I who has to initiate the cancellation!]   So...just read everything....ask questions....use email to get statements in writing ....phoning is good to connect and to personalize the business between you.. but get answers to questions in writing.   Most vacation rental owners are good people but there is no formal training for this "trade"...and some people are better suited to deal with "customers" than others. Most of us highly regard the rules of business and stretch to make our guests happy. We want our guests to return the respect for what we do, what we provide, our business practice, and of course our personal property we share. Regardless,  I'm very sorry you had that experience with that owner. I know that I would have dealt with this differently...and definitely without the emotion.  We both, Owners and  Travellers, have a lot to live up to.

  • wiffle Contributor 217 posts since
    Feb 23, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    Mar 28, 2012 6:44 PM (in response to kimbo)
    Re: Ethics and trusting rental owners, need input

    Hi Kimbo,

     

    I am both a VRBO owner and a somewhat frequent renter.

     

    The person with whom you entered the agreement did not break the agreement, is that correct? You broke the agreement. Yet, you are saying that you will now have an issue trusting owners.

     

    As an owner, I have a no rufunds policy, and I require 100% payment in full by check to even reserve dates. I understand that this arrangement doesn't work for everyone, but I have found it is the easiest way to weed out flaky people (notice I did not say you were flaky). Now, all that said, I have never kept a dime of a traveler's money if they've canceled with decent notice. Of course, with my strict policy, I don't have many cancellations, only two in several years. My agreement does state that I will refund if I can re-rent, but I haven't waited to re-rent. What I do, I do out of grace and not obligation.

     

    We, as renters, have sent money for VRBO trips that could have been canceled or moved on our end. It makes me think long and hard before I send that check, especially since my husband has a very demanding work schedule. We know that there is a risk that a trip might not happen and that the money might be lost. We do not expect the owner to change their policy though. So far, we have never lost any money in our VRBO travels. Something about "no refunds" makes it easier to push back when employers try to change vacation schedules!

     

    I don't know how a good rapport goes directly to "I'll sue you". It sounds like there is another side to the story here. What would the owner tell us?

     

    Perhaps the owner has had a bad experience in the past with cancellations. Maybe he has just had a bunch of interactions with flaky people or discount hagglers. Maybe he has had people do chargebacks on him. Maybe there was a heated exchange with threats on your side as well as his. I don't know. Maybe he is off his meds. Maybe he is just a "by the rules" kind of guy.

     

    On the other hand, I have seen lately more of a business dealing sort of mentality among owners. Instead of renting out a second home, people are running their properties like big business. Yes, they are businesses, but not big business. Owners should have a heart, as they are dealing with vacationers, and often not the rich vacationers who can afford a week at the Ritz Carlton! But, people are buying second homes with the expectation of making big bucks, rather than buying second homes for the joy.

     

    Kimbo, if most of your party canceled, I think you should look to them to help offset the loss of your deposit. Split it up accordingly.

     

    Somewhat related: We recently had to turn around on our spring break road trip. We didn't cancel one of our hotels with 24 hour notice, and were charged a one-night cancelation fee. Not even the discounted rate we were quoted as a returning guest, but the full rate! Such is life, crap happens and it was on our end. They were probably able to re-rent the suite, but it was what was agreed. I could be sore about it, but I'm not, and I intend to stay there again later this year. I made an agreement!

     

    Oh and P.S.  As an owner, if you told me that you were planning a surprise trip, I would have been happy to extend some different terms to you. Did you ask for different terms? You simply must not sign an agreement if the terms are not a good fit. If you already had a cancellation, it was on you to gauge the risk for additional cancellations. Why would that be on the owner? That makes no sense at all, and makes you seem irresponsible.

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