Let me get to the punch line here: VRBO/HA has DELISTED ME, when I am paying them $500 per year to be listed, for enforcing my explicit contract terms in deducting from the guest's security deposit.
VRBO/HA has given me the runaround for weeks, lost the documentation several times, not responded in a timely way to anything, sent non-responsive emails over and over again. At the end of the day, VRBO/HA is basically telling me that I cannot enforce a contract that the guest physically SIGNED. VRBO/HA is telling me that guests can come to my house, sabotage a camera and use the hot tub after 10 pm (risking massive HOA fines and further neighborhood movement to ban vacation rentals), flagrantly disregard our no shoes rule, and leave trash outside our bear bin (a huge cardinal sin in our area, again risking huge fines and destruction to people and wildlife), and he doesn't have to pay anything. He totally gets away with it, and in the future he will be an even more horrible guest to the rest of you. Because he now knows that contracts are meaningless and he can make up his own rules even when he signed the contract.
I do not see any path forward renting my house on VRBO/HA.
Background: I've been renting my one house on VRBO/HA since around 2005. I was always a fan of this company until recent years.
As they began making changes to the payment system, I had some skepticism but at first it was okay. Keep in mind, I don't buy the brainwashing about "safety" of the payments. I accepted payment by check for over a decade and never had a bounced one. Checks are a great way to run a business like this, because the guest SHOULD be worried about losing their security deposit and not being able to do a chargeback. That is exactly the kind of leverage an owner needs to encourage responsible and respectful guest behavior.
I was very concerned about VRBO starting to hold on to security deposits a couple of years ago. As far as I'm concerned, VRBO has NOTHING to say about security deposits and owner contracts.
But it wasn't until the change in payment system last year that I started to get very very concerned. Most of my concern arose out of the reckless language and lack of responsiveness we saw from this once first rate company.
Now, I am not seeing any path forward at all. The quality of guests has been diminishing. VRBO/ HA is attempting to act like Airbnb - a terrible idea - but doesn't have the infrastructure to support this change.
After summer of 2019, during which I mostly hosted VRBO/ HA guests, I returned to my house being absolutely FILTHY. It's not just that the carpets were visibly muddy (despite having "shoes off" in the contract and on signs all over the walls). It was filth. I had to steam clean the carpets about 15 times before things even started to feel clean. Even after the carpets had already been cleaned several times, I was having to change the sheets every two days because I was sleeping in grit and feeling grit in my mouth.
It was obvious that our summer guests flagrantly disregarded our contract and posted signs. And every single one of them got their full security deposit back. There was no funding to have the carpets professionally cleaned 15 times, so I did it. It was exhausting, backbreaking labor that went on for weeks. By the end of it, I wasn't sure I ever wanted to rent my house again.
After this nightmare cleaning my house, I got cameras and revised my contract so I could enforce our rules. Given that VRBO/HA and Air are driving rates down, there is no way to absorb any further labor or costs. Guests MUST PAY FOR WHAT THEY DID, or there is no path forward.
Now VRBO/HA is telling me that I cannot enforce my contract despite dozens of videos of these people walking on the carpets with their shoes on. The carpet is designed to hide dirt, and our contract does not require me to show that the carpets look visibly filthy. This is because the carpets don't show on photos how filthy they are. But if you get the carpet cleaner out, it will after many hours of work pull massive amounts of dirt and debris. If you get a white towel and put it over the carpet and have someone walk on it even once, it will have four huge dirty footprints. When a group of 8-12 people walks on it hundreds of times during a stay, it is filthy. And if you let a few more groups do that, even the air in the cabin is not fit to breathe there is so much dirt in the house. I have written our contract to address our ACTUAL CIRCUMSTANCES, not the cluelessness of an offshore "customer service" representative who doesn't understand what it's like living in a wilderness area.
The carpets need to be cleaned EVERY TIME guest violate our rules. This is the only way to be fair to our respectful guests. The guests who violated the rules need to pay for that cleaning. We often cannot get outside contractors on short notice, due to being out in the boonies. As well, contractors in our area are not experienced with making sure photos are taken or documenting what they are doing. We need a very simple enforcement that requires payment for carpet cleaning EVERY time a group disregards the clearly posted rules. Yet if VRBO will not enforce this simple and extremely fair way of handling it, then there is no path forward.
As well, if VRBO/HA will not allow me to forfeit security deposits for trash violations, tampering with cameras, using outdoor areas for gatherings after 10 pm, then there is no path forward. I cannot enforce any of these rules if guests know they won't have to pay anything and can get away with it.
Vacation rentals are in danger of being banned in our community, and already have been banned in South Lake Tahoe, exactly because the online booking platforms don't have a clue about respecting owners, neighbors, and communities.
There will never be a "receipt" for people leaving thick marijuana residue in my house, as happened with my last guests. There will never be a "receipt" for leaving trash where bears can get it, endangering themselves and people. There is not a "receipt" for a neighbor getting increasingly annoyed by my house and seeking to shut it down at the HOA or Town level.
If I cannot enforce the fines and fees in my contract, there is no path forward.