Travel Troubleshooter: Vrbo host cancels at the last minute, leaves a one-star review

Q: Our Vrbo host canceled our reservation less than 24 hours before our arrival. I had reserved a rental in El Paso, Texas, and paid for it in full. At 9:30 pm the night before my family’s flights to El Paso, I got a message from the host saying: “the house is not available. It’s already been booked.” Then another message that she canceled our reservation and initiated a refund.

I sent her panicked messages saying there must be some mistake – that we booked and paid in full more than six months earlier. She did not respond. No help, no apology, no nothing. I found her phone number and called three times. Each went straight to voice mail.

Vrbo said there were no other rentals available. So instead, they booked us a single night in a double room at a hotel. We were left on our own to find a place for the other two nights. I can not alert other Vrbo renters to the host’s unscrupulous behavior, and I would like a refund for all of the nights we had to stay in a hotel.

A: The host was wrong to cancel just before your arrival, but that’s not the worst of it. It turns out the host also gave you a one-star review, even though you never stayed in the rental. This could affect your ability to rent from Vrbo again.

Vrbo should have found a replacement rental and covered any additional cost. Vrbo has a “book with confidence” guarantee that protects you from last-minute cancellation. It promises rebooking assistance or emergency lodging if your reservation is “wrongfully canceled” at the last minute. It was not immediately clear why Vrbo paid for only one night in the new hotel. You called and emailed the company half a dozen times, but it would not tell you.

I contacted Vrbo. Its records show that Vrbo covered emergency lodging for the first night. “For the rest of his stay, Mr. LoScalzo was asked to book a hotel through one of our sites and submit receipts for reimbursement only if the cost of his hotel stay exceeded the cost of his original booking,” a representative said. “Because the total cost of his hotel reservation did not exceed the cost of his original booking, he is not eligible for reimbursement.”

Still, as a goodwill gesture, Vrbo agreed to refund the $ 299 you paid for your hotel. The host voluntarily removed the listing from Vrbo. “Regarding the negative reviews, property and guest reviews are only permitted for stays that have been completed,” the representative added. Vrbo removed the one-star review.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit consumer organization. Contact him at elliott.org/help or chris@elliott.org.

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