16 Replies Latest reply: Apr 17, 2019 7:51 PM by sunsetsinmaui RSS

    Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!

    sunsetsinmaui Contributor

      I am hoping to get some feedback from the community.  I have omitted some of the details in order to not get too long winded....

       

      2 days prior to the guests arrival I receive a phone call from the guest (who by the way I could not get a response from in the previous 3 months) that his wife is in the hospital and they will not be able to travel.  After telling him that he is way outside of receiving a refund  (mine is set as strict) I advised him to check if he purchased trip insurance.  Couple text messages exchanged.

       

      The next morning, 1 day before his arrival, I received a guest initiated cancellation which I accepted.  The next day I receive a message asking for a refund of the cleaning fee since he did not come, which I promptly returned.  I did all of this thinking that he must have had trip insurance otherwise why cancel at all.  Then the following day I receive a message that he is going to send his daughter and family the next day for them to enjoy the vacation.  I was not prepared for them to show since they cancelled and after speaking to VRBO CS on the phone I was advised to tell him that his reservation has been cancelled and therefore no one is to show up at the property. Once cancelled there is no re-instating a reservation through VRBO.  There was no security deposit, the damage insurance had been cancelled and fee returned, cleaning fee already returned and no "liability insurance" through VRBO if I was to welcome the guests family now. 

       

      My "acknowledged" rental agreement reiterates the cancellation policy and also asks for the guests names.  He never forwarded this information.  How would I know who he was sending?  It could have been anyone since he did not supply the names of his guests and I would have no way to verify.  Additionally for 3 months I tried to reach him and he never returned an e-mail.  I live over 2,500 miles away so there was no way for me to greet them and check.  I was already uneasy with the guest because of the lack of response, and with the suggestion of sending others my gut reaction was this could only mean trouble.

       

      Today I received the notice that the guest has done a chargeback.  I have already formulated my rebuttal letter but I thought I should ask if anyone else has had any experience with this and any recommendations for things I should definitely include in the letter.  I feel bad that his wife was in the hospital but it should have been his responsibility to protect his $5,0000 vacation not mine.  I feel like I have one shot at getting back my income so any advice/experience is appreciated.

        • Re: Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!
          u0999 Premier Contributor

          for the future, you should start using e-signature service for signing your rental agreements (including  initialing important paragraphs like cancellation) because that "acknowledged" click will likely not help you in case of charge back.

          Other than that I do not have any suggestions, looks like you have everything covered. 

          • Re: Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!
            hmmmm Senior Contributor

            This is where Homeaway should be helping you. 

            • Re: Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!
              feibus Senior Contributor

              You have two shots.  The first you'll likely lose.  The second -- if you have all your ducks in a row -- you'll likely win.

               

              The problem is: you don't have all your ducks in a row.  You don't have a signed (or e-signed) agreement.  That "acknowledged" rental agreement is not a signed agreement with guest initials next to the cancellation policy.  Credit card companies do not accept checkbox agreement "acknowledgements" as being a valid legal signed agreement.  Because they're not going to hold up in court.

               

              So, yes, you're likely going to need to get HA to help enforce their own web site's software acknowledgements and rules.

              • Re: Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!
                sunsetsinmaui Contributor

                I will go back to Homeaway today to see if I can get someone else to help me.  Yesterday when I called and asked for specific documentation to include in my rebuttal and to back up what CS told me that day; I received a bunch of forwarded documents but nothing useable.  I had asked for something in their documentation that states (1) once cancelled there is no reinstating, (2) something more complete that would explain to a guest what a cancellation means (3) more information on the "liability insurance" .  If not allowing the family to come after the cancellation because there was no liability insurance since there was no reservation then there should be some documentation to back up how that would effect a host & guest.  (4) Is there somewhere that states that the person who makes the reservation has to be present.  (5) Was there is something on guests side when they hit cancel that there is an explanation of what that means.  Yesterdays call was a waste of time.

                 

                Now wouldn't it be great if HA helped guide me through this process instead of forwarding a generic letter stating there was a chargeback and I need to produce X,Y & Z.  Since it was well within their policy, shouldn't they help me with the rebuttal so the right information goes in there?  If I loose, they loose their service fee too.  I know on the flip side that had I tried to keep any portion of of a guests payment that falls outside of my cancellation policy on the listing that I would not be able to do it (even if a guest had agreed!)

                  • Re: Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!
                    wildiris Active Contributor

                    I don't have anything to offer you regarding this traveler, but I can offer some suggestions going forward.  First, as feibus said, you should have a well-drafted rental agreement that is signed by your guests - either electronically via a service such as docu-sign or by hand and scanned back to you.  (It doesn't sound as though you have that.)  The rental agreement should include the names of all members of the rental party.  I give travelers 48 hours to sign and return the rental agreement to me.  I explain in my listing and my initial correspondence with potential guests that their reservation is tentative unless and until I receive the signed rental agreement from them.  I also require not only an email address for the person signing the contract but phone numbers as well - both cell and landline (if they still have a landline).


                    For three months this fellow ignored your emails asking for the names of the rental party.  Lesson learned - this reservation should have been cancelled by you shortly after it was made for failure to complete and return your rental agreement.

                      • Re: Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!
                        lisarenee New Member

                        Wildiris,

                        Would you or someone please share with me how your rental agreement looks and works - the one requiring signatures? I need protection as well. And describe the wording on your VRBO listing that makes it "tentative" until signatures are received. When the agreement is signed, do you send it through the VRBO email portal so VRBO has documentation as well? Or a private email address? Do you accept each reservation individually? I'm fairly new to this and there is no "owners manual". Instead of "live and learn", I'd rather learn then live" in this case.

                        Thank you in advance!

                          • Re: Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!
                            wildiris Active Contributor

                            I think the best advice that I can give you is to have an attorney draft your rental agreement for you.  In your "House Rules" section for your listing just include similar language to "All reservations are tentative and not confirmed until guest signs and returns the rental agreement."  The HomeAway platform doesn't have a way for guests to SIGN and return a rental agreement, so this must be done outside the HomeAway platform.  Yes, each reservation must be accepted individually and a rental agreement prepared for that guest.  There are lots of threads in the Community about rental agreements.  For starters, take a look at the current thread -Please help, is this a scam?

                              • Re: Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!
                                sunsetsinmaui Contributor

                                One of the questions that I had since it has been brought up on other threads, is if we are only given 24 hours to accept or decline a reservation how are you working in the 48 hours to return the contract?  Are you accepting the reservation with the language that they have 48 hours to sign?  If that is correct, then if they do not sign you could cancel but you would be penalized since I have also read that CS will not cancel based on rules.

                                 

                                Your process here would be much appreciated!

                                  • Re: Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!
                                    wildiris Active Contributor

                                    I start my 48-hour clock running from the time that I email the PDF version of my rental agreement to the guest.  For example, If I send that email at 6:00 pm on a Tuesday, I specify in the body of the email that the guest has until 6:00 pm on Thursday to sign and return the rental agreement to me. 

                                    This is the email I send -

                                     

                                    "Dear [guest's name]:

                                    I enjoyed speaking with you on the phone earlier today.  I am so pleased that you and [names of other members of the rental party] will be staying at [name of my vacation rental].  Thank you very much.  I am attaching the booking confirmation letter and rental agreement for your rental from [check-in date] to [check-out date].  Please print out a copy of the rental agreement, initial, sign and date where indicated, scan the signed rental agreement and return it to me as an email attachment.  Please email it to me at [my personal email address].  When I receive your signed rental agreement, I will also sign it and return a scanned copy to you via email.  I have accepted your reservation on the Vrbo website.  Your reservation will be cancelled, however, if I do not receive the signed rental agreement from you by [X:XX p.m. - 48 hours after the time I send the email] on [day of the week and date].  The payments will all be processed through the Vrbo.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email or call me at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.

                                    I hope that you have a wonderful vacation in XXX this summer!

                                    Very truly yours,"

                                     

                                    So far, I've never had a guest fail to return the signed rental agreement to me in a timely fashion.  They have either returned it within the 48 hours or emailed me to let me know that they are having a problem with their scanner and will send it from work the next day, etc.  I'm sure at some point in time I'll have a guest who isn't responsive.  When that happens, I will email him and remind him that he is past the deadline and give him another 24 hours to return the signed rental agreement to me.  If he is still non-compliant, I'll tell him that his reservation is cancelled and that if he wishes to receive a refund of his deposit he will have to initiate a cancellation request through Vrbo.  I will point out that although I have a "no refunds" policy on Vrbo that I will grant his cancellation request and authorize a refund.  If the non-compliant guest doesn't initiate the cancellation, I will cancel the reservation myself, keep his reservation deposit (which is 50% of the rent and sales tax) and take the "hit" from HomeAway.  I have learned from experience that if there is a problem with a guest initially there will likely be some other problem with that guest during their stay.  I don't like having to choose between being "dinged" by HomeAway for a cancellation or protecting my vacation rental from non-compliant  guests, but I'll choose protecting me and my vacation rental over HomeAway's ranking metrics every time.

                                • Re: Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!
                                  green_mango Active Contributor

                                  I found a real estate/rental attorney in my state to fine tune my contract.  I have it as a word doc and for each guest I add their dates of stay, price, and then I send a pdf version to them via the digisigner website (e-sign legally binding) - the guest adds their contact info (address) & completes the guest list (names of adults and ages of kids) & they initial each page and sign the final page.  I accept the booking first and then I have the guest's email to follow up with sending them the contract.  They have 24 hours to return, or due same day if booking is less than two weeks away.  ID also.  VRBO and Airbnb house rules say the contract & ID are requirements of booking and reservation won't be confirmed until they are returned. On airbnb I can cancel penalty free.  VRBO you can ask for a cancellation waiver, but no guarantee it'll be granted.  You could ask the guest to initiate cancellation on their end if they don't sign the contract.  sunsetsinmaui

                                    • Re: Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!
                                      sunsetsinmaui Contributor

                                      Thank you for such a detailed explanation, it helps a lot.  Why reinvent the wheel when someone is willing to share .  It is really too bad that there is not a way to just look at each others listings when something like this comes up.  It would make it a lot easier then having to type in all of the information.  Working on revamping my contract after this experience. 

                                • Re: Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!
                                  hmmmm Senior Contributor

                                  Yes, do, I had a very unprofessional experience myself yesterday with CS which has been rare.
                                  Today I braved it out and called back and received a wonderfully professional and helpful CS.

                                  Yes call for a new CS

                                • Re: Guest initiated cancellation - now a chargeback!
                                  green_mango Active Contributor

                                  Sorry - crappy guest. 


                                  Best advice I can offer is to provide the listing cancellation policy that the guest agreed to upon booking, and all of the correspondence showing that they cancelled the reservation.  I would also include the fact that you refunded the cleaning fee to the guest.  Just stick to the facts - don't get dragged into the wife in the hospital tale as it may not even be true and isn't relevant anyway.