Chicagoans fight to get refunds from vacation rentals

WGN Investigates

The COVID-19 crisis scuttled Stacey Zilz’s plan for a perfect celebration for her husband 40th birthday. 

The couple rented a home in Napa Valley through the popular vacation home rental site VRBO. But as the outbreak grounded travel, their efforts to get a refund hit a snag. 

“We ended up canceling,” Zilz said. “And we kept going around with [the property owner] and he basically said ‘I’m keeping your money.’”

VRBO acts as a middle-man in these transactions. 

Erin Dufner works for the Better Business Bureau in Austin, Texas, where VRBO is based. 

She said she’s heard similar complaints 

 “VRBO is working directly with the property owners as well as consumers to get them communicating so they can work it out,” she said.  “Some property owners may be able to be more flexible than others it just depends on timing, what the deposit is, travel insurance.  There are just a lot of different moving parts.”

 Duffner notes VRBO is now returning fees it makes off each booking

The company is now “strongly encouraging” property owners and managers to issue refunds, but ultimately it’s their choice.    

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