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12073 Views 23 Replies Latest reply: Jun 29, 2012 3:31 AM by anja RSS
New Member 1 posts since
Mar 9, 2011
Currently Being Moderated

Mar 9, 2011 11:54 AM

How do you handle a bad review written to avoid paying for rental

I have two Guests (a couple) who manufactured issues (filthy interior, ants, dirty furniture, gross misrepresentations etc) as a means of attempting to avoid paying for their reserved Villa. They paid their deposit with a credit card that expired just before their arrival and we now have no way of recouping our two week rental loss during peak season on Sanibel Island, FL. To add insult to injury, they threatened me (the Owner) with a lawsuit  and bad reviews on every site they could locate if, I did not refund all of their deposit. Within 5 days! Below is the actual text from one of their extortive emails to me:


“We are requesting immediate refund of the money we have spent and, if it is received in the next five days, we will consider this just a horrible experience. If not, we will take all steps possible to ensure that no one else is subjected to this including, but not limited to, writing about this on our travel blog, posting reviews on all applicable travel sites, a lawsuit seeking not only the refund, but all damages including, but not limited to, monies spent for allergy problems incurred by the dust in your unit, travel expenses, expenses for hotel, and any other deemed recovered. Because you chose to do business over the Internet, we will initiate any legal action in Pennsylvania and require you to come to Pennsylvania to defend said litigation.”


How can I defend myself from dishonest Guests reviews?

Doesn’t VRBO & HomeAway have policies against this sort of scam behavior? Can I request VRBO & HomeAway not publish this bad review given the clear extortive nature of it?




PS only 3 days had expired prior to this bad VRBO review

  • Contributor 33 posts since
    Mar 8, 2011

    I am so sorry! I know how upset I would be!!!  Have you tried writing and offering a compromise?  Certainly they can't expect to have everything returned since they chose to stay there.  Did they notify you of any problems?  If not maybe you need to say you were unaware of what they are mentioning and offer a reduced rate- in a conciliatory tone.  If they chose to stay the whole time with such obvious dirty furniture on arrival, why are they compaining now after the fact - they should have said something right away.  I guess you need to talk to a lawyer and find out what rights you have and what your chances would be if going to court. Maybe if you say, you would be more than happy to defend yourself in any court they choose, because you know you are legally right, they would back down. They are blackmailing you, but if you turn the tables and say I will fight you, perhaps they back down?  


    Then again, perhaps better to offer them a very low rate for the week since the accomodations were not to their standards and take the loss and get them off your back. But who knows, maybe they will come back in a month and say give me a little more or I will post. Take the emails and see a lawyer. One bad review probably won't hurt, especially if they go off the deep end. Others might see them as cuckcoos.

    Good Luck,

  • tyann Contributor 223 posts since
    Dec 28, 2010

    Our experience has been that the claim must be filed in the county where the transaction took place - thus the county where the vacation rental is located. But talk to your lawyer to verify this is the case for your state. You may want to sue them in small claims court (depending on the amount) for the rent they did not pay since they stayed the whole time.


    Tyann Marcink

  • Contributor 25 posts since
    Dec 16, 2010

    It is my understanding that they did not pay you, due to a bad credit card.  They are threatening you.  My best guess would be because they know that they gave  you a bad credit card and they are weary that you will pursue them.

    Unless you want to go through the collection process ... I would let it go and chalk it up as a learning experience.

    People like them are far and few between.  Perhaps you need to get full payment resovled withing 30 to 45 days before your guests arrive.  That at least, will solve one of the problems that you may face in the future.

    I would guess again, that they will do nothing.  I would not respond.  I would keep all E-Mails and their credit card information, in case they continue to harrass you and you have no choice but to  sue them.


  • Thanks for raising this important issue.  If you’ve had a renter threaten you in writing with a bad review for their own monetary gain, you should contact the Support staff of the site that you use to advertise your property.  If a negative review about your property has already been submitted on HomeAway or VRBO, it’s not too late. You should still contact HomeAway or VRBO Support for assistance. FYI, you’ll be asked to supply the following:


    • Proof of extortion in print. This can be a forwarded email with full email headers, scanned copies of emails or letter, or faxed copies of emails or letter. 
    • Proof of extortion must clearly show an intent to use our reviews platform as leverage for monetary gain.


    If the documentation is adequate to prove extortion, then we will remove the Review from your listing. 

    You can contact the Support staff at Homeaway here and the Support staff at VRBO here .


    I hope this helps. And if you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reply in this discussion thread, or contact us directly.


    All the best,


    Support Manager

    • New Member 3 posts since
      May 16, 2011

      Good luck to any owner trying to get VRBO to agree that a bad review is to coerce the owner into a refund or a refund of a damage deposit

      We had a bad renter and withheld the damage deposit of $250

      When we asked for an explanation of items that were missing etc she told us she would write a review on VRBO.

      We had that in writing

      We told VRBO it was extortion - attempt to have damage deposit refunded but they did not accept this, despite us sending them a copy of the e mail and they refused to remove the bad review.


      This is givng a very dangerous message to all the unscupulous renters out there and is putting homeowners at risk of having no recourse when a renter damages a property or is in breach of the vacation rental contract.


      VRBO needs to seriously re think this policy.

      • marilyn Active Contributor 459 posts since
        Nov 9, 2011

        I try to document everything in written. I try to get the tenant to spell out what we did wrong. Then I ask them to tell me what would be a fair resolution to the matter. Then we email before and after pictures and ask them to comment on the pictures. By documenting everything, we are able to prove our point.



        • anja Senior Contributor 1,560 posts since
          Aug 9, 2011

          Marilyn, I've recently come to appreciate something that I consciously knew was smart, but I was hesistating doing it myself. I've been dulled into thinking that "it won't happen to me" because I'm so "careful" in all of my communications with inquirers and guests staying.


          But, I think that you are very wise to take those "before and after" photos.  I self manage and make certain that every detail I describe in my ads is accurate...and  my photos are always recent {if I change a piece of furniture...or add something new...even change the color of wall paint...I re-take the photos so what a "searcher" sees online is what they "see" when arrive}.


          I've never had anyone dispute us.  I do not let anyone down...but I also think that the calibre of my guests do not have that "mindset" to "cheat me".  But, I can still be "very thorough", "very careful" and still get a "bad egg of a guest.  We know, there are two sides to every story but there are some very obvious attempts, IMO, by some travellers to cheat and I base that opinion on some of the situations a few owners in this Community are dealing with.  True, I haven't seen the properties 'for my own eyes', and true we usually only get one side of the story in this forum...the person burdened on the receiving end of the problem.


          I haven't had anything near to the situations that some owners are dealing with.

          But, I know that I should not be naive or over confident.   I know that I could get hit by a "chronic complainer" or a "cheater" too. It seems that no one is immune, regardless of how nice a property is. At some point, someone will try to "harm" me...for their own gain.   So, I've awakened and decided to make a small change.


          I'm going to follow Marilyn's example starting with my next set of guests, coming tomorrow. I'm going to photograph the place before they check in...zeroing in on the most sensitive "areas" people seem to complain about most, and then after they leave {just in case,  and before I am caught "off my guard" by a "cheater"}.


          It seems that, the only resolve is hard "evidence"....and evidence is within my reach so, I'm asking myself, why not "possess the evidence", {photos} as a precaution [?].


          Photos are important for another reason, I recently learned, again from another owner here.  I recall a very recent post by "sophie" who enlightened us about the importance of taking photos of ourselves {when we are guests} inside the places we rent.  Her story highlighted the fact that VRBO first refused to post her 'less than 5-star' guest review because the owner "denied" the problem existed and even tried to deny that sophie stayed in the condo (!).  And, without a copy of the signed contract VRBO would not publish sophie's negative review....not until sophie submitted PHOTOS of her family actually inside the rental - thus showing the owner was lying !!.


          It seems that photos are the undisputable evidence that HA/VRBO accepts, in disputes.

          • trish Contributor 151 posts since
            Feb 24, 2011

            These are great ideas. about time consuming!!! I have a full time job and my cleaner doesn't have time to get in there and take photos before a new guest arrives. She works a solid 3-4 hours during a turn around day just to have everything ready when new guests check in. I can't take off work and drive home to take before/after photos. And as weird as some people are, what's to stop a real cheater to say "you just took photos of the house when it's clean. But it wasn't THAT clean when WE arrived."  or...."that photo is of damage that was done by someone else".  We really can't prove when we took the photos unless we have a date/time on our camera, which I guess would be the only option.

            And ironically, VRBO didn't want to post the womans' less than 5 review and believed that she was being dishonest, but how many of US as renters have tried to prove that a guest is trying to extort for a refund and VRBO refuses to believe, even in the face of a lot of evidence? Holy's like you can't win no matter what.

            Again....I think the photos are a great idea, but I can still see people trying to say the photos were taken before or after they were there and not the day the owner claims they took the photos.

            • anja Senior Contributor 1,560 posts since
              Aug 9, 2011

              Hi trish,

              trish wrote:


              We really can't prove when we took the photos unless we have a date/time on our camera, which I guess would be the only option.



              Yes...the photos are date & time stamped...they would have to be to evidence the before / after.


              I had guests arriving the day after I wrote that post, so I wanted to see how much of a hassle it would be.

              Before I took the first lot, I jotted down a short list of the most sensitive areas that I've read others' bad reviews about, to save me time.


              After the cleaning and resetting up was done....I had  about a half hour before the guests were expected, at 6pm, direct from the airport.  Checking off from my list, it took me 10 minutes in all to walk through the space, snapping, both inside and outside {incl. the deck:  BBQ, deck dining set...and the beach equipment which is easy to see}. I knew where and it really was done quickly. I did the beach equipment because that is what has been damaged the most, in the past, when we had teens in the mix with parents.


              -------cute sidebar---------

              They arrived ...and I still had my camera when the guests pulled into the driveway.  For some reason, they got the idea  that it was our welcome practice to photograph guests on arrival  !!! I just played along and took their photo standing in front of the cottage, wearing their airport leis. They got busy having vacation...and we all forgot about the photo....until I was  emailing them, with my "thank you", after they I attached their arrival photo.  They said it will be their next Christmas card!   [Maybe I should make it a welcome amenity.]

              -------end cute sidebar----


              When the guests checked out, I didn't need to take a set of photos...but I did it anyway to complete the "task" ...{ we had nice rental experience with those guests, but I thought I should do it, to get into the habit}.  They left my place more than reasonably clean, wrote nicely in our guestbook....and she volunteered to write an online review as they were leaving {she actually asked me which website I'd like it on} I knew that I wasn't going to need photo evidence for that couple.   But, the exercise was worth my 10 minutes.


              I've since been taking before/after photos. The experiences with subsequent guests have all been good...haven't needed the photos  [touch wood].



              I'm with's something that does take that little bit of extra time.  Not everyone will be able to do this. And, I share your frustation with the "review issue"....ref. extortion!

      • New Member 2 posts since
        Jun 28, 2012

        You are right.  They are figuring out that they can threaten a bad review over minor issues and blackmail the owner out of a refund, not just the damage deposit.

    • tsvr Contributor 220 posts since
      Feb 28, 2011

      vrogers wrote:


      Thanks for raising this important issue.  If you’ve had a renter threaten you in writing with a bad review for their own monetary gain, you should contact the Support staff of the site that you use to advertise your property.  If a negative review about your property has already been submitted on HomeAway or VRBO, it’s not too late. You should still contact HomeAway or VRBO Support for assistance. FYI, you’ll be asked to supply the following:

      • Proof of extortion in print. This can be a forwarded email with full email headers, scanned copies of emails or letter, or faxed copies of emails or letter.
      • Proof of extortion must clearly show an intent to use our reviews platform as leverage for monetary gain.

      If the documentation is adequate to prove extortion, then we will remove the Review from your listing.

      You can contact the Support staff at Homeaway here and the Support staff at VRBO here .

      I hope this helps. And if you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reply in this discussion thread, or contact us directly.

      All the best,


      Support Manager

      Valarie, from what I have read on this discussion and others like it...owners have an issue with the way VRBO handles this issue. So while you have been kind enough to list what an owner should do in this situation and ones like seems that the owners are not getting any help from VRBO. Why is this?

      • sophie Senior Contributor 970 posts since
        Mar 4, 2011

        I'll be waiting with bated breath also to hear the answer to this because you are correct, you can give them tons of documentation and they still won't remove an extortion review.

      • anja Senior Contributor 1,560 posts since
        Aug 9, 2011

        This is an old "OP", but the problem keeps arising, so the issue is always "current".

        HomeAway / Vrogers:   I, too, am waiting with bated breath to hear the answer to  tsvr's  question....and I'd bet there are many other owners waiting, as well.  Why, even after getting a lot of  'documentation' from an owner that they are being harrassed by a "guest', does a negative review still 'go live'?

        How is it determined, by what criteria, that a traveller is just expressing an "opinion" the face of what is seemingly a threat {extortion}?

    • New Member 5 posts since
      Jun 2, 2011

      This happened to me and when I was notified the review that about to post on my website I immediately called HomeAway/VRBO and told them I had proof of the extortion.  They said the only thing I could do was to reply because a review is an "opinion".  To state to future renters that we had no heat, no hot water, unusuable kitchen and contaminated pool is not an "opinion" when our pool maintenance company and electrician can verify those were lies and I have emails from the renter demanding money because of a family emergency she had to leave 2 days early.  When I offered a partial refund, she demanded more.  When I processed the partial refund she held to her threat and posted the false review.  I also have emails from her stating the heat worked she just throught we should have turned the switch from off to on for her .  The department that handles the reviews wouldn't call me back so the review is now on my site with my reply.  When the renter saw my reply (which took a lot of self control to keep it professional and factual) she filed a formal complaint in retaliation with HomeAway/VRBO.  The only thing that stopped the continued harrassment of this renter was to inform her that I was consulting with an attorney and turning over all of her emails and review to him.  But my experience with HomeAway/VRBO being open to looking at these emails or considering to remove the review or even calling me back was not very good.  This just happend in April 2012. 

  • trish Contributor 151 posts since
    Feb 24, 2011

    Holy sounds like the Needy family I just posted about in another post!!!! I am wondering if these people I am dealing with are trying to get something for free or a reduced rate? It made me wonder, but I think when I told them I would refund their money over night if they left, the figured I wasn't going to be bullied into allowing them to stay and complain and then give them a discount.


    I am so sorry you are going through this and VERY happy to read that Homeaway and VRBO have some sort of recourse to remove the bad reviews when it has been posted to extort you.

    Good luck and keep us posted on these idiots.

  • New Member 2 posts since
    Feb 17, 2011

    Unfortunately these people make our lives miserable but its part of the business.  What does everyone think about including a Non-Disparagement clause in our contracts?  What that hold up in court and would the vacation rental websites accept that and pull down a bad review?

    • Contributor 145 posts since
      May 12, 2011

      What a brilliant idea to add a Non-Disparagement clause to the rental agreement. Not sure it will hold up in court but it sure would help with unethical renters that use the review process for undeserved refunds.  I would think if you have a signed agreement with the Non-Disparagement clause and can prove who the renter was that the listing site would be legally bound to take the review off.  Thanks Catskillgetaways we are going to add this clause to our rental agreement.

  • Contributor 45 posts since
    Mar 17, 2011

    What horrid people. Emotionally, my advice would be: try your best not to take it personally.  Easier said than done, for sure, but these people are either completely insane (literally) or "workers," and you are only their most recent target.


    My first thought as to how to prevent this situation: simply arrange things so that no one EVER enters the property until payment is made in full, including security/damage deposit.  Anyone who has a problem with this offers a major "red flag," because people acting in good faith generally have no problem with the timing of payment; they fully expect to pay.


    I'm not sure I understand the importance of the expired credit card, but I'm inferring you believed you had a card "on file" for these rats and that turned out not to be the case.  That detail is not the point, here: whether its credit, PayPal, money order, or what have you, make sure that valid payment is in hand before they have used your services and, worst of all, robbed you of your precious time and peace of mind.


    I sometimes Google names (or stated telephone numbers) of people inquiring, which can be useful.  An even sharper and effective tool is , through which you can check out not only names, but email addresses, "user names" (such as eBay or PayPal, etc.), and more.


    Don't get me wrong: it's not my practice to Google everybody, because I have neither the interest nor the time.  And, I do honor people's right to privacy, generally.  But I do "go with the gut" on this, and whenever something feels a little "off," it very well might be. So I invest 2 or 3 minutes and see what might be out there.


    Part of my point here, wkd125, is that you might be helping yourself and others by seeing whether this extortion might be part of a larger pattern.  If so, the additional knowledge can only help.


    I wish you all the best, and most of all hope that these losers don't take some of the shine off your faith in people.  In my experience and observation, the laws of karma are absolutely exact, so I try to never even worry about "getting even."  They will get theirs.


    So you just keep on doing your thing, keep on smiling, and tend to business. Think about it: for you, this is simply your path crossing with theirs.  Imagine walking their paths...On second thought, don't.


    But you get my point.  Hang in there--

    • Contributor 25 posts since
      Dec 16, 2010

      I agree with Paul and had stated previously, similar  thought.   I also use the Internet to check on people when my intuition deems necessary. 

      I noticed that VRBO had responded after what I had previously, stated.  hopefully, they have have stepped up to the plate and helped you resovle this sour experience.

      It is my understanding that we pay them not only for our listings, but for their support.


  • tsvr Contributor 220 posts since
    Feb 28, 2011

    wkd225...what a horrid experience!

    Unfortunately, in the type of business we are in, there is always going to be a possibility of some variance of this type of issue.

    I think Paul's advice is very good advice, never let a renter into the property until they are paid in full. If that means you need to stop taking a credit card and accept only checks and set up a payment schedule that will allow plenty of time for the checks to clear, then maybe that is what you should do. (That is what we do and we only accept credit cards when there is no way around it.) I also Google potential renters, if I have a funny "gut" feeling about them.


    The question you asked was about "reviews" and not really about payment or anything so my reply to that is that I would do what vrogers from HomeAway suggested. I would also post a rebuttal to the renters review (if they have or do write one) and not be overly concerned. I doubt that this renters review is the only one that you have and I believe that your other reviews will stand for your property.

    I also agree with Gin, that these people think they can bully you and you will do what they want so that you don't have to deal with the hassle. It seems to me from your post that they started out in the wrong by giving you (or not notifying you) of a canceled or renewed credit card. I think this would be enough to threaten them with if they insist on pushing the issue. Basically, I am saying I wouldn't back down even if you are unable to

    collect what they owe you, I certainly would not give them anything back to them (unless you feel that any of their issues were valid).


    Good Luck!

  • terirusso Contributor 101 posts since
    Mar 30, 2011

    This is one of the worse stories I have heard. But I am curious why you do not require final payment at least 30 prior to occupancy. I have had to tell renters that I am putting their time period back on as available because of non payment, they always make sure that I have funds with in 24 hours, cash or money order, when I tell them this. We are all so afraid that a bad review is going to ruin our business that we take this kind of abuse from people who are just looking for a frebee. I know it only takes one of these to make us crazy, but I would turn around and have my lawyer write a letter threatening counter suit for non payment, harassment, and extortion. In the mean time put their name on so no one else ever has to deal with them again.

  • Contributor 38 posts since
    Sep 23, 2011

    We have a previous guest that booked on our cabins and paid half of the total to reserve it.  29 days before their arrival they call to cancel because they couldn't make it.  If it is within 30 days of check-in we can't refund them anything but I was nice and decided to give them a 25% refund which I told them was about $100, no problem they said.  The guest wanted to take the 25% as credit for a future stay so I told them to call me or email when they decide on their dates and I would send them a quote with the 25% credit included. 


    When I sent their quote they were furious because they decided to take 25% of the total amount instead of what they already paid then use the cancellation policy guidelines on our faqs page to try and shake me down for more money.  They felt that their refund should have been closer to $300 because that was 25% of their total.   At this point I thought you know what I am going to refund your money and be done with it.  Then the calls began and the emails.  Unfortunately the emails have no threats what so ever but the phone calls..I don't even pick up anymore.  


    We've already been hit with one bad review because a guest broke our TV so we kept the $100 deposit, the guests then wrote a horrible review in retaliation, this guest even went so far as to say in an email: ...[return my deposit] or I will take matters into my own hands.  After providing VRBO/HA aka Nadia with all of our correspondence she concluded that the guest just wants their deposit back and since the words "I will right a bad review if your don't pay" weren't evident, there was nothing VRBO could do, the review stayed.


    I decided to take a preemptive strike, I emailed VRBO to let them know what was happening. I got a long canned response back telling me that I'm basically SOL unless this person in an email states “I will write a bad review if you don't pay me”. So I decided to share my knowledge with the community encase this happened to anyone else.

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