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We had two people inquire about renting the same week. Person A inquired and we e-mailed her a quote. Person B called the next day and we gave her a quote on the phone. We explained that the house is not booked until the contract and payment are received. She asked for a contract and we e-mailed the contract to her. That same day, Person A called and said she was ready to book. She mailed a check overnight and scanned an e-mailed a copy of the signed contract and her check. Within just a few minutes, Person B e-mailed and said she would be mailing a check and contract that morning. We e-mailed back and told her the house had just been booked by a person who had inquired before her. Person B is furious. She claims we had a verbal contract and that she had sent us an e-mail saying she accepted our offer. She says we are in breech of the verbal contract. Our written contract clearly states that the house is not reserved until payment and a signed contract are received. Did we do anything wrong? Are we legally within our rights? We have now added this "No agreement to rent exists until our written contract and payment have been received and confirmed. Verbal and electronic communications do not constitute an agreement or contract."
If you say you don't have an agreement until a signed contract and payment are received, then you don't have an agreement. They might be angry, but they'll cool shortly. I'm not certain what your concerns are...that you'll be sued? What would their damages be? Disappointment? Failure to provide a vacation? Since you don't have their money, I would perhaps just send a brief apology, remind them that you alerted them to the other request and include your wishes that they're able to make alternate arrangements
Yes! What you did was wrong. You actually issued a contract to Person B. At this point in time, you are committing to renting the week to Person B. It was unethical and inconsiderate of you not to give Person B a chance to complete the transaction. I personally put a time limit on it of five days, but you can decide what time limit works best for you. You have to give it a chance though!
Once you actually issue a contract, you are committed to Person B for a reasonable period of time, to give Person B a chance to complete the contract.
When Person A called and emailed, it would be OK to follow up with Person B at this point - to make sure that they intend to complete the transaction.
But bottom line - you don't have two contracts for the same time period bopping around out there simultaneously. That is just bad business.
I should have clarified...I sent Party A and B both a blank contract that they must complete and send back with the deposit before the booking is confirmed. We make it clear in our contract that there is no agreement/no reservation until the initialled, signed, completed contract and check for the deposit are received. I have had too many people promise to send the contract and check and then never follow through and I end up losing bookings waiting. In this case, Person A scanned the check and contract and sent the check overnight mail. Person B replied that she was prepared to put the contract in the mail the next day, but Person A had already sent the scanned documents and mailed the check. Either way, someone was going to feel they were treated unfairly. How else could it be done so no one gets upset?
I'm with you on this one iopbeachhouse - I can't tell you how many times I've taken the time to get a contract ready, sent it with a bunch of other information only to have people sit on it with no indication as to what their plans are, or tell me they've made other arrangements. I used to mark my calendar as "occupied" when I sent out a contract, would turn down subsequent inquiries, and then have the original inquiry fall by the wayside. No more - I always tell people we operate on a first come, first serve basis. Someone was bound to be disappointed. I'm thinking for the amount of money that might have been at issue, there would be no "verbal contract". They would have to have had a written contract to enforce, and there was no payment made yet. So they're out nothing except for being disappointed.
I word it as 1st come 1st served...I'll send out a dozen booking forms for the same date...it is whoever gets it back gets the booking - I tell everyone who enquires if there is a booking form already out for that week...if anyone is really serious they get it back pronto....it's all we can do, that is, do business with folk that mean business!
This is always a difficult call, but in order to avoid this very situation. When I issue the lease agreement, I indicate that as a courtesy I will place a temporary hold on their dates for a specific length of time - if it is during high season, it is the end of the next business day. But, if it is low season and I don't have as many inquiries then I will give up to 48 or 72 hours. I basically say that if I don't hear back from them by the specified date, it is implied that they are no longer interested in the property and I open the dates for booking again. If I get an inquiry during this grey time, I am always up front and indicate that there is a potential contract pending but if they are interested I will contract them if the reservation falls through. This approach has really served me well and it is a very rare instance that I have been left "holding the bag". Anyone who comes back at the end of the time limit wanting an extension is politely given the reason why it isn't possible (other people waiting to book etc).
I think we've all had this situation at one time or another. I had it happen to me just last month and what made me feel bad was that it was a return guest - a family that would have vacationed with us for the third year. I sent out a contract on 2/14. In my cover sheet, I always tell our guests that as a courtesy to them, we block off the time in question on our VRBO calendar, but that if we don't hear from them within a reasonable period of time, we will assume they're not interested and make the week available again on our calendar. I waited 3 weeks, and when I didn't hear anything, sent a follow up e-mail. Was told the check/contract would be in the mail that week. I waited 10 more days and sent another follow up e-mail. Was told the check would be in the mail that week. I wanted another 10 days, and finally pulled the plug on the whole arrangement and withdrew our offer to rent after waiting 6 weeks! Don't you know that I get a response about how disappointed THEY are that I've decided with withdraw our offer; that the family had all made arrangements to take the week in question off and now their vacation was ruined. Seriously, I don't get it. I sent back a response that I was running a business and didn't think I should have to chase down a contract and the deposit. I told them that if it was salvageable, they could express mail the contract/check so that it would get here by the weekend. Heard nothing of course. I'll never understand why you have to guess about people's intention when a signed contract and deposit remove all doubt...!
I guess I've been lucky. Never had a contract completely disappear into the abyss. As a precaution I include the following line just under the title of my contract. "This offer to rent expires 15 days after date of receipt unless returned with payment." When the arrival date is six months or more out I'll make it 21 days. I think it helps them concentrate on making sure they get the thing signed and sent out with a check. Also if it does not go out it says right on top that the offer expired.
Nice to hear of others that have this same frustration! AND, isn't it funny that they don't expect for companies to wait, like expedia, or any other travel sites. If they don't book immediately, they could lose out. BUT, for us they "expect" something completely different.