VRBO Security Deposit Taken due to False Damage Claim

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Dec 4, 2019
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We need some help. We rented a VRBO and after the rental, they keep the security deposit because they said we dented their refridgerator. We definitely did not - and we have pictures of the kitchen including the ridge as we arrived that show the exact same condition of the fridge in their post-stay pictures. We provided this to VRBO and they are saying they cannot do anything. This VRBO owner is still renting the property and it seems there is no consequence. The transcripts are below.


We rented a vacation home through VRBO for June 23-30, 2019. After the stay, we received this message from the owner:
Dear Joel and Shelby, These situations are always difficult for both owners and guests. We take no pleasure in reporting damage to guests particularly when the guest may be unaware of the damage. The fact is that the stainless steel refrigerator surface both top and bottom were dented and damaged. My wife cleans and polishes the refrigerator for every guest party. There was no damage to the exterior surface of the refrigerator prior to your arrival. She noted significant denting at the lower (freezer) portion of the refrigerator encompassing nearly the entire panel as well as lesser denting at the upper right hand (refrigerator) panel. I will provide you with the five pictures we took Sunday afternoon via iPhone. (sent 5 pics 7/2/19) That said, We will not be returning your entire damage deposit (300.00) in hopes I can replace at least the bottom shroud of the refrigerator to start. You should know that my wife and I have booked nearly 350 parties since 2012. We also clean and maintain our two rentals ourselves. We have only reported damage on 5 or 6 occasions and usually in the amounts less than $100.00. Charging folks for damage is not a money making endeavor and it is just business. We hope you understand. Our goal is to have guests return year after year and we have many guests that do. It is unfortunate but we know things happen. We are sorry that things did not work out perfectly this time. Certainly if you have questions or concerns please call me any time. Sincerely Mike and Judy Whalen


We did not cause any damage and took very good care of the property. The following is our response to VRBO:
Regarding the disputed claim for damage:

We arrived on Jun 24 late in the day - we can show this by our phone logs. We were introduced to the property by Mike Whalen. We took pictures around the home. You can see the picture 20190624_1751531.jpg shows the refrigerator as we arrived.

Mike Whalen sent us the attached remaining pictures claiming damage. You can see that there is no difference in the pictures.

We did not damage the refrigerator in any way. We do not have small children to cause damage. We took great care in the house and have a spotless record with many rentals.

Shelby


The following is the VRBO response:

We have provided the vacation rental owner or property manager an opportunity to resolve the dispute by sending them the details of your complaint.


Upon request for an update from VRBO, we received this:
Dear Shelby,
This is Josephine with Vrbo Trust and Safety.

We understand your frustration regarding the events you experienced with this vacation rental property. We are sorry to hear that your vacation plans did not go as expected. We take complaints very seriously and truly appreciate you taking the time to contact us.

When we receive complaints, we encourage both parties to work toward a mutual resolution. We have provided the vacation rental owner or property manager an opportunity to resolve the dispute by sending them the details of your complaint. Our procedure is to note both sides of the situation and closely monitor accounts that have had a complaint filed.

If a resolution cannot be reached after efforts to contact the advertiser regarding the situation, you may need to consider other avenues. We cannot advise you on how you should proceed and apologize that this dispute has not yet been resolved to your satisfaction.

We want to assure you that we have taken appropriate action on this advertisers account. Please note that due to privacy laws, we are not permitted to disclose any action taken regarding this situation.

Once again, we appreciate you taking the time and effort to let us know about this situation. We wish you the best in your efforts and sincerely hope a mutual resolution is reached shortly.

Our response to VRBO:
So you have no control over the security deposit? That seems crazy. Any owner can basically take it without any oversight?

From VRBO:
Dear Shelby,
We are a self service site. The owner is responsible for authorizing refunds. We can not legally remove funds without the owners consent to do so as we do not own the properties and did not generate the funds from our resources.

Again we want to assure you that we have taken appropriate action on this advertisers account. Again please note that due to privacy laws, we are not permitted to disclose any action taken on the owners account regarding this situation.

Again if a resolution cannot be reached after efforts to contact the advertiser regarding the situation, you may need to consider other avenues. We cannot advise you on how you should proceed and apologize that this dispute has not yet been resolved to your satisfaction.
 

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BittyBoo

Jul 30, 2018
444
1,240
93
50
This is terrible! VRBO and other similar vacation rental websites are merely "classified ads" and therefore literally anyone can list a dwelling for rent. They do no sort of vetting of the properties and the owners who advertise them.

I am inclined to agree with Neil: you should research small claims court.
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
3,346
5,226
113
Maui Hawaii
We need some help. We rented a VRBO and after the rental, they keep the security deposit because they said we dented their refridgerator. We definitely did not - and we have pictures of the kitchen including the ridge as we arrived that show the exact same condition of the fridge in their post-stay pictures. We provided this to VRBO and they are saying they cannot do anything. This VRBO owner is still renting the property and it seems there is no consequence. The transcripts are below.


We rented a vacation home through VRBO for June 23-30, 2019. After the stay, we received this message from the owner:
Dear Joel and Shelby, These situations are always difficult for both owners and guests. We take no pleasure in reporting damage to guests particularly when the guest may be unaware of the damage. The fact is that the stainless steel refrigerator surface both top and bottom were dented and damaged. My wife cleans and polishes the refrigerator for every guest party. There was no damage to the exterior surface of the refrigerator prior to your arrival. She noted significant denting at the lower (freezer) portion of the refrigerator encompassing nearly the entire panel as well as lesser denting at the upper right hand (refrigerator) panel. I will provide you with the five pictures we took Sunday afternoon via iPhone. (sent 5 pics 7/2/19) That said, We will not be returning your entire damage deposit (300.00) in hopes I can replace at least the bottom shroud of the refrigerator to start. You should know that my wife and I have booked nearly 350 parties since 2012. We also clean and maintain our two rentals ourselves. We have only reported damage on 5 or 6 occasions and usually in the amounts less than $100.00. Charging folks for damage is not a money making endeavor and it is just business. We hope you understand. Our goal is to have guests return year after year and we have many guests that do. It is unfortunate but we know things happen. We are sorry that things did not work out perfectly this time. Certainly if you have questions or concerns please call me any time. Sincerely Mike and Judy Whalen


We did not cause any damage and took very good care of the property. The following is our response to VRBO:
Regarding the disputed claim for damage:

We arrived on Jun 24 late in the day - we can show this by our phone logs. We were introduced to the property by Mike Whalen. We took pictures around the home. You can see the picture 20190624_1751531.jpg shows the refrigerator as we arrived.

Mike Whalen sent us the attached remaining pictures claiming damage. You can see that there is no difference in the pictures.

We did not damage the refrigerator in any way. We do not have small children to cause damage. We took great care in the house and have a spotless record with many rentals.

Shelby


The following is the VRBO response:

We have provided the vacation rental owner or property manager an opportunity to resolve the dispute by sending them the details of your complaint.


Upon request for an update from VRBO, we received this:
Dear Shelby,
This is Josephine with Vrbo Trust and Safety.

We understand your frustration regarding the events you experienced with this vacation rental property. We are sorry to hear that your vacation plans did not go as expected. We take complaints very seriously and truly appreciate you taking the time to contact us.

When we receive complaints, we encourage both parties to work toward a mutual resolution. We have provided the vacation rental owner or property manager an opportunity to resolve the dispute by sending them the details of your complaint. Our procedure is to note both sides of the situation and closely monitor accounts that have had a complaint filed.

If a resolution cannot be reached after efforts to contact the advertiser regarding the situation, you may need to consider other avenues. We cannot advise you on how you should proceed and apologize that this dispute has not yet been resolved to your satisfaction.

We want to assure you that we have taken appropriate action on this advertisers account. Please note that due to privacy laws, we are not permitted to disclose any action taken regarding this situation.

Once again, we appreciate you taking the time and effort to let us know about this situation. We wish you the best in your efforts and sincerely hope a mutual resolution is reached shortly.

Our response to VRBO:
So you have no control over the security deposit? That seems crazy. Any owner can basically take it without any oversight?

From VRBO:
Dear Shelby,
We are a self service site. The owner is responsible for authorizing refunds. We can not legally remove funds without the owners consent to do so as we do not own the properties and did not generate the funds from our resources.

Again we want to assure you that we have taken appropriate action on this advertisers account. Again please note that due to privacy laws, we are not permitted to disclose any action taken on the owners account regarding this situation.

Again if a resolution cannot be reached after efforts to contact the advertiser regarding the situation, you may need to consider other avenues. We cannot advise you on how you should proceed and apologize that this dispute has not yet been resolved to your satisfaction.
This sounds very similar to the common rental car scam where the renter is charged for damage that is pre-existing, the damage is not repaired, and the next renter is charged for the same damage, and so on. Easy way to make a few $100.
 
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Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
25,670
28,413
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
Make sure you leave an appropriate review about this. You might find others that have had the same problem - then you will have more ammunition for small claims court and to go back to VRBO with.

We also have company contacts for VRBO. You might have more luck going further then Customer Service.

 
Jan 11, 2019
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Maybe I missed it, but are the pictures you took timestamped from the day you took them? If they are, then you definitely have a case to get your deposit back. If not, then it will be a lot harder because you won't have proof of pre-existing damage, only that you took a lot of pics of a damaged refrigerator. Taking photos is a great idea if you take them the day you arrive and the day you leave.. Good luck to you.
 
Dec 4, 2019
4
1
3
47
Maybe I missed it, but are the pictures you took timestamped from the day you took them? If they are, then you definitely have a case to get your deposit back. If not, then it will be a lot harder because you won't have proof of pre-existing damage, only that you took a lot of pics of a damaged refrigerator. Taking photos is a great idea if you take them the day you arrive and the day you leave.. Good luck to you.
Yes they are timestamped. Actually, there is also their clock in the background showing the time of our picture.

I am trying to find a way to avoid small claims court because this places over 4 hours away, thus the court jurisdiction would be a long drive for us.
 
Dec 4, 2019
4
1
3
47
Make sure you leave an appropriate review about this. You might find others that have had the same problem - then you will have more ammunition for small claims court and to go back to VRBO with.

We also have company contacts for VRBO. You might have more luck going further then Customer Service.

Thanks for the advice. We have left a review stating what happened. It was even more frustrating that they left a reply to the review doubling down on their lie about the fridge - and claiming we did not protest it, which we very much did.

I have written to the VRBO main contact per the above. Let's see what happens.
 
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Dec 4, 2019
4
1
3
47
Make sure you leave an appropriate review about this. You might find others that have had the same problem - then you will have more ammunition for small claims court and to go back to VRBO with.

We also have company contacts for VRBO. You might have more luck going further then Customer Service.

I contacted VRBO via this link and they said the same. They cannot force the owner to refund the deposit.
 

Teri Bergin

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Mar 12, 2016
54
99
18
Orlando, Florida
I contacted VRBO via this link and they said the same. They cannot force the owner to refund the deposit.
Check out the instructions for sending a letter and forward your letter to the next person on the list. If VRBO has any type of "rent with confidence guarantee", I would cite it in your letter. If not, I would say something along the lines of how confident you were making a reservation using the VRBO site since they are such a respected company.
 
Jun 24, 2019
1,010
2,149
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If you go on the VRBO website, you will find the book with confidence guarantee, which includes:

Protecting your damage deposit
If the owner or manager wrongfully withholds your damage deposit after your stay, we’ll help you get it back.

Now that's not a promise of much, but it's clear from the quoted comments of our OP that all VRBO did was to act as a forwarding service.
 
Dec 19, 2014
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3
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WOW! " We take no pleasure in reporting damage to guests particularly when the guest may be unaware of the damage. ......... There was no damage to the exterior surface of the refrigerator prior to your arrival. " I am impressed. Are stainless steel refrigerators that fragile? OR is that a flexible plastic refrigerator, similar to car bumpers that sustain damage internal in the foam and then pop back out? Aside from any time stamps, This amount of damage is truly remarkable, truly noticeable, and that line " may be unaware" disturbs me. It is significant damage and would require a massive drop, a punch by ????? (a rubber mallet??? a frozen gallon of milk??) but certainly not a body/hand to cause such damage. I wonder HOW the owners of the VRBO claim such damage was sustained. Could it be that you had attempted to remove the refrigerator and dropped it down the stairs, then returned it to the kitchen when you saw how much it was damaged and thus not worth removing??? (sarcasm here, my friends) A refrigerator with this much external damage would result in a 50% discount on the NEW MSRP at Lowe's in the discount aisle here in Niles, MI. YES it would!! THIS is truly curiouser and curiouser. IF refrigerators are so fragile, I would be glad to be made 'aware' of it.
 
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