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We have rented a few times through VRBO. The last time we rented a cabin at Grand Lake for 4th of July. We put down a security deposit and didn't get it back right away even though we left the place in perfect condition (I even cleaned the windows as there was a lake view and the windows were dirty). The owner wouldn't e-mail me back when I asked what the status was. I finally had to file a grievence at VRBO to get our money back and it came about 8 weeks after we stayed there.

I confess I experienced something similar one time. The lack of uniformity in VRs is both it's attraction, in that you have endless options, and it's weakness. Your type experience is why I try to rent only from places that accept credit cards for payments. In fact, the Homeaway group, which includes VRBO, is going to be providing credit card payment access to all who list with them, which should make it easier for all VRs to take credit cards. It can be quite expensive for a small business owner to set themselves up as a credit card merchant.

In my case we had a new owner of a VR, who was out of the country when we rented. The flood alarm went off, in the middle of a drought, and I wasted the better part of the day hanging outside with the dog waiting for their handyman to show up to fix the situation. Then the well pump died, and with two days remaining to our stay we were told we had to leave as it could not be fixed over the weekend. I understood, things happen, and I absolutely would not trade the occasional issue for a cookie cutter crammed to the rafters hotel.

We later negotiated 2 1/2 days rebate to our bill when the owners returned. Time dragged on, phone calls and emails to the owners were ignored, and I finally emailed and called them to let them know that if they didn't get in touch with me by a certain time that day, I was having the Master Card charges reversed. That finally got it addressed and resolved. In all honesty, I think they were just overwhelmed and over their head. From the reviews of this property, they seem to have gotten their act together.

The clean factor can absolutely be an issue as well. Asking the owner questions about who cleans the property can help you separate the clean from the dirty. One owner I talked to told me the $100 cleaning fee was non-negotiable, because no matter how well we thought we cleaned, she would come in afterwards and pretty much sterilize everything. The place was immaculate, almost obsessively so. In owner managed properties, I have found a very strong link between clean properties and significant cleaning fees. Not so much so if the property is managed by a third party.

Our worst rental was one where our dog was savaged by fleas. We had no idea what they were, and only figured it out after bringing him home and infesting the house, which took 6 months to get rid of. NOT A NICE SOUVENIR. While most properties insist that you treat your dog with anti flea and tick meds 3 days before they come, this guy didn't care one bit. He used the cabin quite a bit and it was probably his dogs that had left the fleas!

So yes, as in any transaction, there are ways you can improve your chances of having a good experience. Use your credit card, ask questions of the owner, and check reviews. VRBO is no longer letting owners opt out of reviews, which means they can't block negative reviews. Trust me the owners are worried that people they rent to will trash them with a review if they don't return a security deposit that should be retained for damage.

The local news did a story about vacation rental rip-offs - basically someone would offer a place for rent on Craig's list that they don't own, then take pocket a deposit for it and disappear.

I'll get into the fraud issues in a separate thread, as there are ways to protect yourself there as well. Unfortunately, scammers attack both sides of the transaction, and it's something owners are screening their prospective clients for as well.

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