45 Replies Latest reply: Sep 7, 2012 6:34 PM by magman RSS

    Extortion By Renters

    New Member

      We recently had a renter threaten to place a fraudulent review if we didn't give them money. We asked how much and they would not commit, but we started at $50 which they refused and ended at $300 which they still refused. They were smart enough to not give an amount but we finally refused. their request was completely unwarranted. So they posted the review (I mean nothing in it was true) and then sent an email saying they would not remove it without compensation. I sent all this info to VRBO and they refused to remove it. We have a dozen 5 out of 5 reviews and no bad reviews but this. But the inquiries have stopped and we recieved two cancellations. VRBO won't help. My fear is this extortion will catch on soon and we owners will all be in similar boats if VRBO doesn't change their policy. What do you think? What can we do?

        • Extortion By Renters
          jamaicavilla Contributor

          I had a similar issue with vacationrentals.com, I removed my listing once they told me that they would not remove the misleading reviews.  Some guests want to have a vacation, but not pay for it. I guess we are paying to lose business.

          • Extortion By Renters
            marym Active Contributor

            Do you mean you had concrete proof that they were threatening a negative review in exchange for cash, you made  VRBO aware and they still did nothing?  This may be my last year...that's just not right!

            • Extortion By Renters
              New Member

              I would tell them their names will be submitted to guestchecker, badrenter.com, and any other website you can find.  At least then they might realize they can't do "their scam" anymore.

              • Extortion By Renters
                msdebj Senior Contributor

                VRBO did NOTHING with proof of extortion? Doesn't that make them a party to it?

                • Extortion By Renters
                  anja Senior Contributor

                  Do you have a full written record of the all that was said by the extortionists...the actual threats?  I you do, I am wondering why VRBO will not help? It just seems strange that a paying customer [you] is not being given more support. Isn't  extortion a crime punishable by law in the USA?  I find it hard to believe that VRBO management ignores their *paying* client's plea for help --- *if  you have full details in writing of what was said by those people to you...a verbal threat is hard to prove...unless they left a voice mail threat.  Is there a lawyer in the "Community" that can shed some light on how this can be possible?

                    • Extortion By Renters
                      anja Senior Contributor

                      Have you checked the VRBO  guidelines?  I did and read through their "Traveler Review Guidelines" a few minutes ago. You can find the text yourself, under Reviews/Traveler Review Guidelines, in the FAQ section. Here is an extract of the exact text, in the last section at the bottom of the {long} list of guidelines set out by VRBO.....{I underlined the two lines I want to draw your attention to}:

                       

                      Content Guidelines - No user of this website may contribute any content (including, but not limited to property listings, reviews and responses) which violate the following guidelines:

                       

                      Content may not be posted for the purpose of trying to force a particular response or action from another person in an unlawful, abusive or otherwise inappropriate manner. For example, a traveler may not post a negative review for the purpose of trying to make a property owner return a deposit.

                       

                      When extortion for money is specifically mentioned in their own "traveler review guidelines", I am wondering why, VRBO management is not offering you more support {you are their paying client} regarding the extortion that you informed them about?  I think extortion is a crime punishable by law, if you can prove it. Surely, the owner management of VRBO, i.e. CEO of HomeAway,  would not want to disregard blatant extortion against one of its clients [you] ---.....again, if you can prove the extortion.

                       

                      Is there a lawyer in this Community that could offer a comment on this matter? 

                        • Re: Extortion By Renters
                          marym Active Contributor

                          My goodness - if that's what it says, and the circumstances are as magman has stated, why wouldn't VRBO support it's owner as opposed to a renter???  I don't get their policy at all!!   VRBO/HA - if you're observing (you usually are...)  do you have an official comment about this?

                            • Re: Extortion By Renters
                              anja Senior Contributor

                              I want to believe that VRBO is monitoring this thread....because I also want to believe that VRBO staff are aware that something illegal has happened, i.e. extortion...in this particular case. And,perhaps in other cases. Any good company wants to be on good footing with their paying clients!  They have us, the paying clients, between a rock and a hard place. It is not a solution, by VRBO, to handle this by offering "damage insurance"...which profits them, more.   But, I have to reiterate that I am waiting to hear more from magman who should inform [us all] if "all the infomation"  sent to VRBO"  was actually WRITTEN evidence from the extortionist ...or was it a verbal threat made over the phone? Magman, please tell [us]....and  please let us know if you are pursuing this matter further with VRBO. You stated that you have been a victim of extortion. Please clarify....because it seems that we can all find ourselves in the same situation, at some point, if our "investments in advertising" are not serviced differently by VRBO...and/or with more protections for the paying clients [us].  There seems to be something 'not correct' about a business model which takes advertising money from clients...and then leaves the clients open to extortion, theft, slander, in public next to the advertisement what the client paid for.

                               

                              Magman, please tell us exactly what evidence of extortion you gave to VRBO.

                               

                              P.S. any lawyers out there that can offer a comment, please do.         

                        • Re: Extortion By Renters
                          travis HomeAway Employee

                          Hi magman,

                          I see a member of our Review Team has helped you resolve this issue. If you have further questions, please feel free to let me know.

                          Kind regards,

                          Travis

                          HomeAway Social and Multimedia Specialist

                          • Re: Extortion By Renters
                            msdebj Senior Contributor

                            I surely want to hear the outcome of this and how the REVIEW TEAM resolved this matter.

                            Deb

                            • Extortion By Renters
                              New Member

                              I was out of town for a while. Now I am back.

                               

                              The renter verbally told me that they wanted money or would post a negative review. I refused as the house was perfect. They posted a negative review full of fraud. I emailed them asking them to remove it. They replied via email and I quote, " to expect us to remove this review without recompense is unreasonable." I forwarded this email to VRBO and they responded by saying that this was not considered a direct threat for money in exchange for posting or removing a review. I don't know how this could not be interpreted as a direct demand for money.

                               

                              Even in this thread, VRBO says they have resolved this matter... No they did not. The review is still on the site. Other owners in the area that use VRBO is shocked at their respnse and also very concerned about this new policy. They are familiar with our home and are aware that the review is nothing but fraud. A 1 out of 5 is rediculous. We have several 5 out of 5 reviews and nothing else. This not only could happen to all of you owners out there, it will happen. Once unscrupulous people realize that they can rent from VRBO owners and possibly get all or part of their rent back, you will see it over and over again. Look atthis thread. there are others already. This review policy hasn't been in force very long. Home Away needs to think beyond the end of their nose.

                               

                              I agree that extortion is against the law. Attorneys are expensive. $400 just to write a letter. But the negative review could cost us thousands and have left me no alternative. You are right. All owners could be in this situation with Home Away's review policy. Yes, their policy says that their are restrictions to who and why a review can be posted, but they don't honor that policy.

                               

                              We also belong to Trip Advisor/ Flip Key. Their policy is if any review comes in, good or bad, they contact the owner and tell them that a review has come in. They won't tell you what the review says, but they will give the renter's name. You can allow or disallow the review. That way if you know there is an issue such as extortion, or they caused damage and lost their deposit and just feel they may be out for revenge, you can deny it. They understand how devastating the policy that VRBO has recently adapted can be to owners (their clients) as well as to their business.

                                • Extortion By Renters
                                  Active Contributor

                                  Hi Magman,

                                   

                                  VRBO did remove this review for you. It sounds as if it's still appearing because it's stored in your web browser's cache. Try hitting F5 on your keyboard to refresh the page.

                                   

                                  My view of your listing is that you have 6 reviews - all of which are 5/5 stars.

                                   

                                  Please let us know if you have further questions...

                                   

                                  All the best,

                                  Laura

                                    • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                      New Member

                                      Hi Laura,

                                       

                                      Thank you and all at VRBO for removing this review. This whole thing has 

                                      been very stressful for my wife and I. I hope you can block this lady from 

                                      pulling this kind of stuff in the future. I really hope VRBO changes it's

                                      policy  on reviews. Like I said in the blog, Flip Key sends the name of the

                                      person  writing the review to you without a copy of the review so that if you

                                      have had  an issue with that person (not refunding deposit due to damage or

                                      not cleaning,  or this kind of extortion, or whatever makes you think that

                                      the renter might be  vindictive and not honest) then you have the option of

                                      not allowing the review  to be posted.

                                       

                                      Anyway, thank you for removing the review. I still think VRBO is the  best.

                                       

                                      Brad  Burris

                                       

                                      Home Improvement & Remodeling  Magazine

                                       

                                      P.O.Box 2374

                                      Granite Bay, CA.  95746

                                      (916) 660-1915

                                      (916) 660-9414 Fax

                                      (916) 267-8266 Cell 

                                        • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                          Active Contributor

                                          Thanks for the follow up, Magman.

                                           

                                          Also, I'll convey your feedback regarding FlipKey's Review policy to our Review Team.

                                           

                                          We constantly strive to improve customer experience, and in that regard, your feedback is invaluable!

                                           

                                          Thank you again.

                                           

                                          Kind Regards,

                                          Laura

                                    • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                      Contributor

                                      I was reading this thread in horror! My heart was racing and I could not understand  why VRBO would refuse to remove the negative post.

                                       

                                      So happy to hear that all is well and that VRBO does care about property owners.

                                       

                                      Secondly, if I were in your particular situation I would consult an attorney (sister In law works for a firm) so I would talk to them and see what action can be take, if any..

                                       

                                      People who do things like this to affect others ( financially) should be made to compensate losses.

                                      If there action were of a malicious nature.

                                        • Extortion By Renters
                                          Contributor

                                          I would just site your states specific law regarding extortion, slander, theft of services and let them know that you are entitled to 3x(or whatever it is) the amount that they initially paid.  Their pay checks will be garnished to pay this debt and they will pay all court costs including your "attourney".  

                                           

                                          Folks will back down.  People who pull this kind of stuff are weak willed and trying to pull a fast one.  Unfortunately, it has probably worked on someone else in the past, hence why they think that they can get away with it.

                                           

                                          They don't want confrontation, they are just hopping that you submit.

                                           

                                          They will cave to confrontation especially if you do it right.  You should only have to send one letter.

                                           

                                          Never show emotion, stick to the facts and don't be redundant.  Ask a friend to edit as well as it's easy to get emotional about our own property.  I know that's my weakness.

                                        • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                          Contributor

                                          We have had similar experiences on several occasions and it is infuriating.  We have had to change our policy to not charge for damages at all.  This has cost us thousands of dollars but the loss of business one negative review costs is MUCH higher. 

                                           

                                          We are developing a website to allow Owners to review guests.  If you are interested, please sign up.

                                           

                                          We hope to have it going by the first of the year.  www.DoNotRentList.com

                                           


                                          • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                            New Member

                                            Wow, this is obviously an important topic. It has gone on for over a year with several people having issues over it. Fortunately we haven't had any further major issues, although we have been more leanient on deposits. We had damage to our spa of over $1,000. The renter threatened a bad review, even though they were happy until they received our invoice (which was only $300 of the total cost). We had to give in and waive the entire bill. It is infuriating. It was a year ago that we suggested that VRBO re-eavaluate it's review policy and it has done nothing. I'm surprised. Being a business man, I know how important it is to listen to your customers. Right now VRBO is the best thing going for owners like us. But someone will see these complaints and come up with something better if they don't support their customers. They really need to change the review policy.

                                              • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                anja Senior Contributor

                                                I am surprised, as a small business woman that no response has ever been made...and the poor Moderators are reading all these posts but have not got the power to do more than pass on the message....but I think they long stopped doing that...not one ever "chimes" in, these days....but I don't blame them.  The Corporate folks need to stop ignoring their "advertisers"...that's us, Owners.  It's NOT just about the Traveler...and they are making a hugh mistake with their misguided policy.  It will not change just because we all vent here.  It took one disgruntled Traveler and blogger unhappy with a VRBO Owner... who knew one Journalist... who wrote one critical article about HA which seemed to have influenced The Corporation to "turn on" the review policy in VRBO. This is according to Mendelson's Muse (Google it) and Forbes which are taking "credit" for the public pressure they put on HA about "Traveler Reviews".  Now, after one year of the Owners; and Travelers' dissatisfactions,  with no resolve...with no response even,  I guess it could perhaps take one disgruntled Owner who knows one Journalist to get "the story out" about what the Owner and Traveler *both* experience.  I am just a humble Owner...not a blogger...and not a Journalist.

                                              • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                New Member

                                                Wow, this is obviously an important topic. It has gone on for over a year with several people having issues over it. Fortunately we haven't had any further major issues, although we have been more leanient on deposits. We had damage to our spa of over $1,000. The renter threatened a bad review, even though they were happy until they received our invoice (which was only $300 of the total cost). We had to give in and waive the entire bill. It is infuriating. It was a year ago that we suggested that VRBO re-eavaluate it's review policy and it has done nothing. I'm surprised. Being a business man, I know how important it is to listen to your customers. Right now VRBO is the best thing going for owners like us. But someone will see these complaints and come up with something better if they don't support their customers. They really need to change the review policy.

                                                  • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                    marilyn Active Contributor

                                                    We photograph my homes before and after each tenant. This way we are able to document damage as the photos are dated. My tenants are aware that this is done so there is no question as to who did what.

                                                     

                                                    One complaint that we have had is well the stove was five years old and that is why the door fell off. They never mentioned the huge heave pot they placed on the door which broke off a small piece connecting the door. Even after this happened, they continued abused the stove and eventually the total door broke off. Thankfully the repair was only $100 in parts and $50 labor which my tenant finally agreed to pay. Got  letter from our repairman stating that the stove still had another 5 years of life left and that this should not have happened under ordinary use.

                                                     

                                                    Another instance was that two cantilever umbrellas were broken due to a wind storm. Tenants left the umbrellas open k owing there was due to be a wind storm. Tenant claimed they were not responsible for broken umbrellas. My next door neighbor noticed the open umbrellas, saw my guests outside bringing in their personal possessions into the house. My neighbor assumed tenants would close the umbrellas, otherwise they would have. I related this to my tenants and they offered to pay for one of them in full. Umbrellas were a year old and so I agreed. Umbrellas were $300 each and tenant agreed to this amount.

                                                     

                                                    These are the reasonal ones. Unfortunately we have had the ugly situations as well. We end up eating the danGe so as not to get a bad review which would costs us much more in the long run.

                                                  • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                    Contributor

                                                    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.

                                                      • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                        marilyn Active Contributor

                                                        Unfortunately, bad renters have learned that they can get away with extortion and that  VRBO will side not with the homeowner.  A few times tenants have threatened to leave a bad review and I say go ahead. I have 15 great reviews from tenants who loved and respected my homes, and I cannot believe one bad review will lose a lot of rentals. If we continue to give in, they will continue to extort.

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                                                        • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                          New Member

                                                          You are right.  Thanks for the info.  I use to be extremly honest with my reviews.  I only copied and pasted in comments from REAL and true happy tenants until VRBO adopted their one-sided review policy.  Since they don't care if reviews are true and honest, then why should I continue to be true and honest.  I just got my first bad review from a disgruntled tenant who lost a whopping $38 from their $550 security deposit.  I withheld that because they lost two of the pool table balls and they left the kitchen a huge mess to clean up so the cleaners charged $20 more.  So the totally slammed me on VRBO and there is nothing that I can do about it.  So lets take all my hard work, all my money and time, and sock me with a bad review that is totally false.  I'm going to try flipkey and other places and see how they work.  If I get the same results, I'm out of VRBO because their review policy is terrible.  If they are going to nail us with review from renters, who are notorious liers, then then we should be able to review the travelers just like on Ebay where you can rate the sellers AND buyers.  That way if they want to smear the property owner, we can smear them so that future VRBO owners don't rent to these dishonest indecent people.

                                                            • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                              marilyn Active Contributor

                                                              At the last Homeaway Summit Conference, there was a break out session dealing with setting up a review section for owners to review travelers. After the meeting never hear anything further about this.

                                                               

                                                              Marilyn

                                                              www.hamptonhouseproperties.info

                                                          • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                            New Member

                                                            I think the reason it has dropped out of sight is because i noticed that this discussion was really going strong until about Sept of last year and until recently it died off. So I'm sure our friends at Home Away/VRBO said let's let sleeping dogs lie. What they don't see is the quiet majority. I now know nearly a dozen property owners in various areas, Tahoe, Hawaii, San Francisco, Dillon Beach, that use VRBO at our suggestion, that have had to deal with this. The word is out. Renters know that they can trash your house and hold you hostage to getting all of their deposit back plus. We have had at least 5 instances in the last year where someone has damaged the house or left it a mess and when we tried withholding part of their deposit, the threat of a bad review came out. Twice they actually posted a bad review until we returned their deposit and then they removed the review. In one case the guy said over the phone, "Hey, I know how important the reviews are to you guys, so you better return the deposit." He let the spa run dry and there was about a gallon of sand in the bottom, we had to replace the pump ($700), he was smoking in the house (non smoking house with a fine of $200 if caught smoking) and spilled beer all over the sofa and floor and left it. H left 3 big quarter sized burn holes in our brand new Pergo floor. The damage exceeded $2,000. I told VRBO and they said without a written demand for payment, there is nothing they can do. They said I can sue the renter...right. That's thousands of dollars and even with a judgement, usually not recoverable now a days. This policy is horrible and as soon as there is a better Vacation Rental Website, I am out of here. The problem is VRBO is buying sites. The two largest sites in the world are owned by the same...can you say anti-trust? I think they need to change this policy before it really bites them in the butt. More importantly, they need to think about their customers...the Owners who pay their bills.

                                                              • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                                skiandglee Active Contributor

                                                                I am confused by what owners that bring up the fact that a renter can leave a bad review even if it's unwarranted, would like to see happen?  Is the solution to allow the owner to delete any review he doesn't like and thereby all reviews are 5 star and provide no real user consensus?  Imagine if Amazon did that to the reviews on their products.  We have the ability to leave an owner response to provide the other side of the story already. 

                                                                 

                                                                They are already considering and may have inroads into the implementation of a Traveller review system which I fully endorse.  i.e. They have to register to leave a review of your property and thus we can then leave a review on them ala eBay.  They would need to use credit card verification to establish the traveller's identity.  If they weren't the person on the contract, the owner could request to have the review removed.  This would prevent them from using the review system as a weapon knowing that their ability to rent in the future may be hampered by vacation owners checking them out.

                                                                 

                                                                Rick

                                                                www.vacationrentalhelper.com

                                                                  • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                                    marilyn Active Contributor

                                                                    There were discussions at the last summit conference in Austin about a renter/traveler profile that home owners could access before agreeing to a rental. Not sure what ever happened with this, but would certainly be a huge benefit to all owners. Could give us a heads up on problem tenants.

                                                                • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                                  New Member

                                                                  I think I'm being set up for an extortion attempt.  After 8 years of rentals to more than 100 renters, I have had 3 complaints.  All 3 were related to what I would call "deep cleaning" issues...i.e. things that only get cleaned once or twice a year (i.e. dust on ceiling fan blades).  However, the most recent renter complaints (just left on Wednesday) really gave me pause.  They left a 4 page document listing nitpicky things "wrong" with the place (example: their daugter found a condom and some lube in the nightstand...obviously left by a prior tenant...and somehow this is a major defect in my property).  Some things were not nitpikcy (i.e. they claimed the floors were not cleaned) but are impossible to verify once they've occupied the place. Note that I (perhaps naively) let renters have an option to clean the unit themselves to save the $100 in cleanng fees.  This is one reason why I get a lot of bookings...people appreicate the pricing. I got the distinct impression that these last folks are looking to be compensated, in fact their 4 page letter pretty much states as much.

                                                                     So my question is, do I comp them or not? I feel like their claims are largely unjustfied, and those that are true are very minor. They seem to be looking for a free vaca (I get the feeling they have done this before).  I worry that if I comp them then I am feeding this scam (and yes, I think it is a scam).  The lease does not require me to give them anything, none of the complaints were things that make the unit uninhabitable or constitute false advertising. I do worry they will write a bad review.   Since we have a short rental season, even losing 2 or 3 weeks is the difference between breaking even and losing money, 

                                                                    Advice?  Give in to terrorists or hold the line?  I have thought about pulling the listing as well.

                                                                    • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                                      susaninrehoboth Senior Contributor

                                                                      I don't think a child finding a condom is nitpicky. I think asking people to clean unit themselves is a terrible idea. They at least deserve $100 refund, which you state is what they saved for not having professional cleaning.

                                                                      • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                                        stjvilla Active Contributor

                                                                        You may want to rethink your cleaning policies to avoid problems like this.  Are we to assume that before these guests checked in, the previous guests did the check-out cleaning?  If so, how can you control how clean the house is and look for items left behind?  $100 per week for cleaning doesn't seem that much of a pricing advantage for renters when you consider the possibility your house won't be clean enough.

                                                                         

                                                                        So, our advice: Go with a professional cleaning between guests.

                                                                          • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                                            New Member

                                                                            A few other things I did not mention or make clear.    First, I immediately offered to call in a cleaner to clean the unit, but told them (being honest) that it might be a day or two before I could get anyone over there, because the cleaning services are all booked solid in advance on weekends due to turnovers.  I then offered to comp them $100 for the cleaning.  They weren't satisfied with that, and they left without cleaning and didn't tell me that they were planning to do so.  So that's why I think they are trying for a free vaca.

                                                                             

                                                                            Re" cleaning.  A couple of years ago, based on discussions with another owner in the local market,  I started letting guests have the option to clean the unit themselves, and I actually found that I got no complaints (compared to the several complaints I got with teh cleaning services).  I hold a deposit to insure compliance with cleaning.   I do build in cleaning service into the rent when it is a week or more, but for short stays, it inflates the price to a level that is non-competitive.  They could stay at a fancy hotel or B&B for the same price, and I am not offering that level of service (i.e. maid on call, fresh towels when you want them, etc.)

                                                                             

                                                                            When I began offering short stays, I almost doubled my rents because my bookings skyrocketed.  Because of the extreme seasonality of the local rental market, I have found that I cannot break even without offering this option,because people want to do long weekends during the shoulder season and do not want to stay a whole week.  Plus my price point is always among the lowest.  Yes, that is because people have the option of waiving the cleaning fee.  But my customers really appreciate this.

                                                                             

                                                                            I am going to rethink the cleaning and minimum stay policy.  It worked for a while, but when it doesn't work, it really doesn't work.

                                                                             

                                                                            PS-  the condom was in a wrapper, not used.  This is Provincetown.  If your kid is going to be offended by a condom in a wrapper, god forbid they should see what goes on on Commercial Street.    Not really a kid friendly environment unless that doesn't offend your sense of morals.   And, I have never had housekeeping service that looked thru the drawers to see if people left things, so not sure I could prevent that.  They clean surfaces and leave.  And you are lucky if they even do that.

                                                                              • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                                                harborfields Contributor

                                                                                "I do build in cleaning service into the rent when it is a week or more, but for short stays, it inflates the price to a level that is non-competitive.  They could stay at a fancy hotel or B&B for the same price, and I am not offering that level of service (i.e. maid on call, fresh towels when you want them, etc.)"

                                                                                 

                                                                                No, you are not offering the same service as a hotel or B&B, you are (likely) offering MORE!

                                                                                 

                                                                                Things like privacy, extra space, ability to prepare your own food, etc... are all the hallmarks of a self-catering vacation rental for which people might expect to pay a premium.

                                                                                 

                                                                                Are you really competing directly with hotels and B&B's?

                                                                                • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                                                  carol Premier Contributor

                                                                                  I would never find anything like that left in a drawer -- neither my cleaning crew nor I have time to check every drawer in the house during our quick turnover.   Clearly, that is not a valid complaint.  You, of course, can apologize for it, but don't assume responsibility.  ("I'm so sorry that the prior guest did not clean up")

                                                                                   

                                                                                  But I do agree with the others about the importance of a cleaning service.  I would not let guests clean up themselves unless I could do a walk-through myself after they leave. Is that your practice?   Did the place appear clean when you inspected before they checked in?

                                                                                   

                                                                                  I don't even like guests doing their own laundry any more -- they stuff too much in the washer to properly clean and they don't run the dryer long enough to dry the thick towels. 

                                                                              • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                                                marilyn Active Contributor

                                                                                I have seen many guests come and go and be nit picky. I had one guest insist that we vacuum the outdoor mat before a guest checks in.  I guess some people just expect everything to be super perfect when they rent a home. However, that is not realistic. There are always little things here and there that might bother a guest. The fact that you offered to correct the problem should have shown your guest that you do care about your home and them. The fact that you offered to refund or comp the $100 cleaning fee should have been enough.

                                                                                 

                                                                                My cleaning service absolutely does not have the time to check every drawer. We do try to check the nightstand top drawers to see if people have left anything behind. We check the washer/dryer as well. Have an entire wardrobe of cloths in six different sizes LOL.

                                                                                 

                                                                                We used to offer the clean yourself option. I always found that guests did not launder the sheets and put dirty sheets back on the beds. Found our super fluffy towels the dyed (well at least they now match every color decor). Found trash in the trash cans etc, etc, etc.  Found gummy bears under the beds and so on. We no longer offer this option. We tell our guests this is a vacation and why should you clean at the conclusion of your vacation.

                                                                                 

                                                                                Besides the wrapped condom, there must have been several other issues they complained about to fill four pages? Otherwise, why would a guest take time out from their vacation to write a four page letter. That seems a bit excessive.

                                                                                  • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                                                    New Member

                                                                                    Marilyn,

                                                                                     

                                                                                    Yes there were other issues mentioned but when I arrived after they had left and investigated myself I found them all to be without merit, very minor and/or outside my scope of control, or not something that gets done more than twice a year (i.e. deep cleaning).  For the sake of not boring everyone on this BB to tears, I did not list them all, but if you are interested...here  are the complaints:

                                                                                    -  "Looks like the unit was never cleaned...dirt on floors, a glass in the sink, food left in the refrigerator":  When I arrived, there was dirt/sand on the floors.  However, since the complaining renters did not clean before they left, it's impossible for me to establish "whose dirt it was".  My overall impression was that apart from needing to be swept the unit seemed to be quite clean given that they said they didn't clean it. So I felt that these are probably people who require a higher standard of cleaning.  Regarding dishes, there is a dishwahser, so a single glass left in the sink does not seem like a big deal to me, but I think they took it as a sign that no cleaning had happened.  I asked them what kind of food was in the fridge because I do allow people to leave condiments and non-perishable items like soda, water, or beer when they leave (people fly here and don't want to bring stuff back or waste it).  Most people appreciate not having to spend a lot of money stocking up on ketchup, mustard, soy sauce and the like.  They did not respond to my question and I noticed that teh fridge was devoid of condiments, so that must have bothered them and they must have thrown them away.

                                                                                    -  Glass in the parking lot:  First, this is condo property (not deeded to my unit) and I have no control over it other than thru the condo trustees.  Had I known it was a problem when it happened, I could have called the VP to correct the problem.  Spoke to the VP (who lives in his condo).  He said that he had not noticed any glass in the lot (he is pretty observant).  I looked very carefully in the lot near my unit and found 4 small pieces (about 1/4 inch) of broken plastic, two of which were metallized plastic.  Looks like someone broke a taillight at some point and missed a few pieces when they cleaned it up.  HOnestly never noticed it and never had anyone point it out to me.

                                                                                    -  The unit was hot and never got below 81 degrees, the window a/c unit did not work/could not cool the unit:  The window a/c is in teh bedroom and was on full blast when I got in (they turned it down to 65 F and left it on in spite of instructions to turn it off when they left, so the emplty condo was a/c'ed for three days after they left and before I arrived).  The place felt like a meat locker.  I checked the weather history for the week of their stay.  Outside air temps never exceeded 79 F, my unit is north facing and gets little direct radiation from the sun.  I do advterise that the a/c is a window unit in the bedroom, and depending on whether you shut doors, what you do with the fans, etc. the living room/kicthen may not get cooled by the a/c, but the bedroom is certainly cooled by the a/c unit.  However, this is Provincetown, I've stayed here when temps are in the 90's during the day, and have never felt like I couldn't get comfy, and I am spoiled with central a/c at home.  IN fact, many if not most rentals in PTown do not have a/c at all because many people feel it is unnecessary.

                                                                                    -  Dehumidfier filled up repeatedly and needed to be empty:  I tell people to keep the dehumidfier running and empty it when it fills.  This keeps the humidity manageable (we are near the ocean and it gets humid) and keeps the unit from smelling musty when it is shut up for a few days. 

                                                                                    -  Dehumdifier water collection tank is moldy: This is a deep cleaning issue.  I wiped it out with some bleach because it had accumulated a scummy film over the course of the summer.  Any helpful hints from Heloise on how to easily mitigate this buildup would be appreciated.

                                                                                    -  Neighbors upsatirs were moving furniture around on the weekend and the noise disturbed them:  again, had I known this was an issue, I could have called down to see if I could get them to be less noisy, but the other owners have a right to live in their units, which sometimes involves moving furniture.

                                                                                    -  Courtyard patio did not have chairs and the table was rusty:  This is common area for the condo asscoaiton (clearly stated in my ad).  I don't have full control over the furnshings (they belong to another owner) but I do try to esnure that there is a table and chairs out there.  Some other owner had obviously removed the chairs, so this was a valid complaint, but also very easily remedied.  I would have been happy to comp them for plastic resin chairs that are sold at a hardware store that is 100 yards away from my condo.

                                                                                    -  TV did not work:  I investigated this and found out that Comcast had switched the area to digital 2 weeks ago without notifying owners.  The whole town was in an uproar and owners and property managers were going nuts trying to get ****** off renters their cable TV.  I was unaware of the issue for two weeks because frankly, almost nobody watches TV when they are here (which is why I have only basic cable).  I told the renters they could go to the Comcast place (0.5 miles from condo) to pick up the converter (free) or I would comp them $25 (enough to pay for 2.5 months of cable service).  They said they didn't want to interrupt their vaca to get the converter.  Fair enough. 

                                                                                     

                                                                                    So...I decided to comp them $125, sent a refund to their credit card, and told them I was sorry they were dissatisfied.  I did not call them and get into a negotiation nor discuss the particulars of what I found because I felt there was no way that discussion was not going to disintegrate into an argument and I didn't want them pressuring me for more money than what I feel is fair. If they choose to write a bad review, then so be it.  I'm done worrying about it.

                                                                                • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                                                  New Member

                                                                                  Here's the thing. The idea behind a review is that it is an opinion. Some people's opinion of a perfect place is different than others. And you may get someone who thinks that your place could have been nicer and decides to review it. You can't stop that, nor should you. We have neary 15 reviews now, 14 - 5 star and one 4 star. The 4 star was because their AT&T cell phone service didn't work in some spots, which is stated on our contract. We posted a review response by saying, we are glad our place was perfect for you with the exception of cell service. All's good.

                                                                                   

                                                                                  But what everyone at VRBO is missing is that we have now had 5 instances where people have trashed our home and then threatened to post a bad listing if they did not get their deposit back. Three times they posted a bad review and we had to fight VRBO to remove the listing. Two times VRBO finally (after several weeks) removed the review due to evidence of extortion (You have to get it in writing). The other times we had to return deposits in spite of the fact that we were hundreds, and in one case thousands, of dollars out of pocket to restore the home.

                                                                                   

                                                                                  Lately (within the last 30 days) we have had 2 different guests leave the place a mess, violate the rules (smoking, sand in the spa, loud parties with too many people late at night, parking in neighbors driveways, and then leave the home filthy) and then call us on the phone and tell us they would post a bad review if not fully compensated by the return of the deposit or more. We get fined for this behavior by the home owners assoc. and our contract passes this on to them. But 2 or 3 bad reviews would cost more than the damage, so they know they can get away with it. We take photos, have a professional cleaning company with more than one cleaner, who will testify. It doesn't matter. these people are figuring it out and it has recently started ocurring more frequntly than ever before.

                                                                                   

                                                                                  If VRBO allows this activity to occur without some type of follow up with either the cleaning service or give us the ability to prove otherwise via testimony from cleaners or photos, to rebut the review, then everyone is either going to get bad reviews when unwarranted, or get screwed out of reimbursement for damage which will reflect higher rents on VRBO listed properties. Bottom line is, if we get a couple bad reviews that stick which are unwarranted we will have to pull the listing, because it would become worthless anyway.

                                                                                    • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                                                      New Member

                                                                                      We have never received a bad review (touch wood) on our vacation homes. We have been using VRBO for over 10 years

                                                                                      However I am most disapointed  that VRBO and HomeAway have taken away the owners option to accept or deny a review. It used to be the reviews were sent to the owners and we had the choice of accepting. We are getting more and more concerned about how much owner control is being taken over by the Web site administrators and we are not happy. We agree the web sites have added many features over the past few years and many are good but VRBO used to work just fine 10 years ago when it really was a service to the HOMEOWNERS. We dont get any more renters now than we did then despite all the new bells and whistles on the sites. We are filled back to back throughout the winter and summer seasons with a good smackering in the fall so nothing really to improve on. We know how to handle a vaction rental and dont need to be led by the nose. We simply want a place to list our second homes

                                                                                      Having all the bells and whistles have cost us a lot more in fees and have continually taken more and more control away from us, the homewoner and paying customer base for VRBO and HOmeAway

                                                                                      Anyone else feeling that these sites have forgotten about us - their customers and have taken more and more control away. We would love to hear from other homeowners who feel the same way

                                                                                      K

                                                                                    • Re: Extortion By Renters
                                                                                      New Member

                                                                                      KJM, I couldn't agree with you more. Just last week I had a very upset customer call because she tought that she could book a reservation on the website. She said all the bells and whistles make it confusing. She thought her reservation was made just by sending an inquiry. She never called and when I responded to her (within 25 minutes) that the house had already been rented, she never replied. Three weeks later (yesterday) she called wanting to confirm that the reservation was made. When I told her that we never heard from her and that just sending an inquiry wasn't enough, she was very upset. Her family had all made plans to be at our house that weekend. She said the site is confusing. Some people can book and pay thru VRBO and some can't. I told her that VRBO is supposed to be a classified ad via the web site like Craigs List for home owners to advertise their homes for rent. It's not Expedia. She still needs to work directly with the owners. But you are right, VRBO seems to be trying to evolve it into something else, and I for one do NOT like it. Nor do any of the other members I know. They are hurting their customers (home owners) and making it less desireable. I want to talk directly with the renters before I put my biggest asset out for them to use. We aren't in the hotel business. Most of us are only renting our prized possession to make ends meet. I will never give up that control of talking to and dealing directly with the renters. Now they have this review policy that is killing us. I don't know who is running their store, but he better get a handle on it or it's going to come crashing down.