Brand new to renting out our cabin, we had our first guests who reserved for a 3 night stay in late August. Brief facts:
1. We live on the property in a garden level apartment, separate outside exit and entrance. Guests have 2 story cabin, with keyed entrance. Only shared space is driveway.
This information is listed in the description of the property, as well as in the rental agreement. We specifically state that guests must acknowledge that homeowner lives on property. (rarely if ever have we seen or engaged in anyway with guests since this first renter. We respect their privacy, and appreciate their respecting ours)
2. This was a last minute reservation and they received and acknowledged via email the rental agreement (24 hours prior to the day of arriving) was received, and they would sign it. However they did not sign and return, and still arrived for their stay. Because they were our first guests, and we didn't want a bad review, we didn't pursue getting the rental agreement back. (I take full responsibility for not saying you can't have the key code until you hand me the renters agreement.)
3. The couple stayed two of the three nights and left the morning of the third day, sending me an e-mail stating they they had left the night before (which they had not) due to hearing someone clear their throat, and possible low level talking, and they "were in fear of their lives", and "this was the nightmare from hell".
4. They acknowledge that they knew we lived on the property in a garden level apartment, but assumed it was a residence in the garage. (Our garage is a one story, one car garage and our two vehicles were parked in front of it. Part of the house rules is that when guests need to take out their trash, it goes in the recycling bins inside the garage, and no key is necessary to access the garage)
5. Guests describe being "outraged" to discover where we resided, and felt it was a violation of privacy to learn we lived in the garden level below the cabin. They opt to contact VRBO and pursue getting the charges stopped with their bank so that no money will be paid for their entire stay via their credit card. We learned about this from an email VRBO forwarded us of the guests email to VRBO saying they wanted a full refund.
We have been booked almost solid since this late August stay and have had 5 star ratings, and personally are completely enjoying the "host experience". However I was devastated to read the email the first guest sent to VRBO about their abbreviated stay with us. I immediately called VRBO and asked what to do, and they kept me on the phone for one hour reviewing our listing and the customer service person stated that our rental unit clearly states we live on the property and the only shared access point is the driveway. She was very considerate with us and explained about Yapstone, and the 3 month process that it would take for us to get paid, and said from this point on, it was out of their hands.
Our interpretation from that conversation was that HomeAway wants to be the vehicle through which homeowners make reservations and for that they get a service fee, but they have surgically removed themselves from the payment process to the homeowner via the guests by using Yapstone as a collection service. So, even though we think we are in a business relationship with one company, they hire a collection agency with no relationship to us as homeowners, to do the dirty work, should any problem arise after a transaction is made.
We have gone back and forth with Yapstone trying to figure out what their role with VRBO is. We are not completely ignorant of how businesses do business. My husband has a Phd in management and finance, so we "get it'. My PhD is in psychology, and from my position, the system seems to be set up so that you never really have direct contact with the people who process payments from the guest to the hosts. We get e-mails from Yapstone, but you can't call Yapstone and communicate with the people who sent you the emails. The people you can talk to by phone have regurgitated answers in response to our questions that have no relevance to the questions we are asking. We have provided significant certified documentation that the guests received the house rules, and rental agreement the same day they did an automatic reservation. We have pictures of their arrival and exit of two of the 3 days the guests were here.
We have never received any notification back via e-mail or hard copy of written notification that Yapstone has made a decision either way, and it has now been well over 3 months. We decided this week we would call, and Yapstone says they have already agreed to give a full refund back to the guest. When asked how that decision was based, Yapstone said VRBO and HomeAway have a policy of property owners not living on the same property as the guests. In preparation for their answer, I had 15 examples in our same state of VRBO rentals where homeowners live on the same property. We have several acres, and can and do have guests without ever seeing them unless they seek us out. More to the point, I had a reservation to stay in one such rental unit this coming week, and provided that information to the person on the other end of the line with Yapstone. Their response was: "VRBO and HomeAway have a policy of homeowners not living on the same property as guests!"
Because that is blatantly false, and I provided evidence of every location's unit number as proof of my point, I am clueless how to proceed. Can anyone on this forum tell me how to deal with Yapstone and or VRBO/HomeAway about their policy, when there are so many illustrations of people living in one condo, while they rent out a second condo to Homeaway.... Last year we rented one level of a ski-in-ski-pout unit, with the other lower half of the penthouse was rented by someone else. Or in my case of where I am staying this week, the family lives in one end of the house, and I have rented a basement apartment with a complete separate entrance. I don't want to call the people at HomeAway or Yapstone liars, or be confrontational, but is there no one at either of the businesses who can provide logical instruction as to how this decision was made? When someone stays two out of the three days at a 2,300 square ft. cabin in the mountains of Colorado-- I think it's reasonable to assume they should not receive a full refund for their 3 day stay based on discovering sight unseen "others" live on the property.
I have no idea where to turn, and can't get a straight answer to logical question by phone. Any guidance from this forum would be very welcomed on our end.
I am literally clueless in Colorado.