COVID-19 impacts vacation rental platforms, Vrbo and Airbnb

PHOENIX – Millions of Americans continue to cancel travel plans due to the novel coronavirus. Vacation rental platforms like Vrbo are dealing with the fallout as many customers struggle to get refunds and landlords struggle to take care of their properties.

“After a winter in Maine, we all like to get out of Dodge when we can,” said Marnie Dean, who recently booked a trip to Page, Ariz., through vacation rental platform owner HomeAway. Dean’s husband has cancer and after speaking with his oncologist was told not to travel during the pandemic.

Marnie contacted the owner to request a refund, but the owner was unwilling to accommodate as she had not taken out travel insurance.

“He said we signed a contract and he intended to hold us to that contract. He had a 90-day cancellation policy and we were within that window, so we wouldn’t get a refund,” Dean said.

12 News spoke to the owner, who declined an on-camera interview but told us he was also feeling the economic impact due to the virus.

Vrbo is a third party site between landlords and tenants. The site identifies travel restrictions related to COVID-19 and recommends checking with local health authorities and orders.

The company’s website lists options for renters, such as applying for flex credit or requesting a refund, but Vrbo has no authority to require owners to comply with either. However, Airbnb has policies in place that allow customers to cancel a reservation due to the pandemic.

Marnie knows both sides of the argument as she also rents out her home through HomeAway and says she will honor people’s refund requests if the coronavirus changes their travel plans.

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