7 Replies Latest reply: Jul 11, 2019 9:27 PM by feibus RSS

    Can a renter sue a property owner?

    evitawylie New Member

      Hi everyone - I'm a new member here and have a question I am hoping someone can answer. I had a renter book my property (for 30+ days), and as soon as he entered the property, he claimed that the condo was dirty and contained mold. He immediately left the property and filed a formal complaint against me via VRBO. I quickly resolved the issue with VRBO since I had photo evidence disproving the renter's claims (the unit was cleaned immediately before his stay, and I had photos of the unit before and after he arrived) and the alleged mold was removed. The renter had accepted my rental agreement via VRBO and tried to threaten me by wanting a full refund and then some. My question: is he able to attempt to sue? He has not returned to the condo since the first day so the condo is vacant.at the moment.


      My rental agreement does state that the property is in "as-is" condition and that I would attempt to fix anything that isn't working. I did refund the renter for the days where I was investigating the alleged uncleanliness and mold issues. I let him know that the condo is clean and that I out of goodwill, I refunded him for a the time I was taking action to resolve his complaint.


      Thanks in advance!

        • Re: Can a renter sue a property owner?
          ashevillelookout Senior Contributor

          Please ask the advice of a good attorney.  It is worth the consultation fee to know what your rights are.


          The red flag on your rental - more than 30 days.  That length of stay generally negates the vacation rental description and may cause you to fall under the regular long term rental laws for your state.  Check with the attorney.


          As to a lawsuit, anybody can sue anybody....

          • Re: Can a renter sue a property owner?
            bonesxxx Active Contributor

            Yup, the groups discussed this a week or so ago.


            Don't take reservations longer than 14 days (to play it safe).  Longer stays create tenant rights which the STR agreements and platforms are not equipped to handle.


            There are scammers who prey on those who don't know this and will stay in your condo for up to six months (for free) as you try to evict them.

            • Re: Can a renter sue a property owner?
              linky17 Active Contributor

              Indeed, ashevillelookout's cautionary: "Please ask the advice of a good attorney," is optimally wise.  And?  While you're at it?  Ask that same JD -- one that is fluent with the laws of + licensed in the state where your VR is located = important -- to review your rental agreement, as well.  To include what parameters are on the books to constitute short-term versus tenancy/ rights and protections.  (Probably, you've already done this.)


              You've mentioned that "the alleged mold was removed."  Best to be prepared to defend how it is that 'alleged' anything was removed?


              Hoping, too, that this Renter is unable to re-enter your property?


              If you're to be in further contact with him, DO restrict any back-and-forth to writing.

              • Re: Can a renter sue a property owner?
                margaret CommunityAmbassador

                Anyone can sue anyone, can they win a lawsuit is the question.

                • Re: Can a renter sue a property owner?
                  green_mango Active Contributor

                  Yep, a guest/renter can sue a host/owner.  As said above, anyone can sue anyone - the question is do they have a valid claim?  Accepting a rental agreement through VRBO is too easy - guests can just click a box without reading anything.  I require a digital signature which has more oomph in court etc.... I'd have an attorney review your agreement and make sure it's legally enforceable.  Sorry this happened - good luck!

                  • Re: Can a renter sue a property owner?
                    sage Senior Contributor

                    They can sue you, you can sue them. Keep in mind that you are operating your VR as a business and should not expect your guests to treat you as a valued friend.


                    The advice not to rent for 30 days, or 14 days, may be good advice in some places, but not everywhere. You need to know what your local laws say regarding rights of renters and obligations of owners, and how those may vary depending on length of stay and other locally determined factors. In my area the length of stay makes no difference and a guest renting for one night generally has the same rights as a tenant on a year-long lease.


                    As linky17 mentioned, the reference to the "alleged mold" was a red flag for me. Depending on local laws and the extent of suspected mold, this may raise issues of whether the property was habitable.


                    You indicate that you refunded the payment for "the time [you were] taking action to resolve his complaint" but apparently have not refunded the balance. Consider that this guest vacated the property while you performed your cleaning, during which time the guest presumably had to obtain alternate lodging. Unless it was clearly understood how the issues with your property were going to be resolved, and how long it would take, the guest might have deemed it necessary to book into other accommodations for the entire period. If the alternate accommodations cost more than the amount you were charging, and were comparable to your property, it could be found that you owed not only a full refund for the payment to you, but also any additional amount paid by the guest for the other accommodations plus any incidental expenses incurred in the change. These would be compensatory damages for breach of contract. Whether your "as-is" clause would excuse any obligation to provide a lodging that was clean and free of mold would be a matter for the court to decide.


                    Unless you are able to conduct your own legal research and evaluate the facts objectively, heed the advice to consult an attorney. And consider that unless this dispute is resolved amicably, there is a good chance that the guest would file a chargeback for any portion of the payment that has not been refunded. Unless you are confident you would prevail in such a dispute, be aware that you risk losing not only the payment you received, but also fees imposed on merchants when a customer prevails on a chargeback. You say that the guest wants "a full refund and then some." Consider that it would be more likely that the guest would follow through with a lawsuit if the amount in dispute is the "full refund and then some" than if it is the lesser "then some."


                    As a final comment, be aware that depending on local laws and your contract terms it might be possible for the guest to make a claim for attorney fees incurred in litigation in addition to damages.Include this on the list of questions to ask your attorney.


                    Welcome to the fun and exciting world of VR operations, the easy and risk-free way to vast wealth.

                    • Re: Can a renter sue a property owner?
                      feibus Senior Contributor

                      The renter had accepted my rental agreement via VRBO and tried to threaten me by wanting a full refund and then some

                      Vrbo does not facilitate a signed agreement.  Do you have a signed agreement?  Agreeing to your agreement on the Vrbo platform is akin to hand waving and throwing confetti in the air when it comes time to enforce the agreement in court.

                      It does sound like you need to review your booking processes and documents with an attorney who is local to where your VR is located.