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Vrbo promised to cover my $21,014 rental bill in Hawaii. Why won't it?


When Cheryl Mander's Vrbo rental in Hawaii is uninhabitable, the rental platform agrees to cover her new accommodations. But then it backs out. What happened?

My family and I recently rented a house through Vrbo for a vacation stay in Hawaii. When we entered the home, we were immediately hit with a strong smell of mold. Upon further inspection, we took pictures of black mold on the smoke detector, the pictures hanging on the walls, the shower stall, and the windowsills.

One of the members of my party is a 17-year-old who has severe asthma. She has been hospitalized in the past on several occasions for this and continues to be under the direct care of a respiratory specialist.

I immediately contacted the very kind homeowner and suggested that we contact Vrbo for assistance. The homeowner offered to cancel the reservation if we were uncomfortable staying there.

I contacted Vrbo, and a representative assured me we were covered by its "Book With Confidence Guarantee." Vrbo sent us an email authorizing us to spend $15,138 for a new place, which was double what we originally paid. The new place was $21,014. but we had no choice since there was extremely limited inventory available on Oahu for seven people at the last minute. A representative assured me Vrbo would cover the entire amount.

I just received a follow-up email from Vrbo this morning stating that "Upon research into this matter, it has been determined that the requested reimbursement is not available through the Book with Confidence program due to the temporary nature of the cleanliness issues reported." Can you help me get Vrbo to cover the new rental, as promised? -- Cheryl Mander, Surrey, British Columbia

I'm sorry to hear about your moldy rental. Vrbo has no business renting homes that have black mold in them, and it should find a way to screen its rentals before allowing you to rent them. But that's another issue -- and not one we're likely to fix in this column.

You did the right thing by contacting first the owner and then Vrbo. And you really followed the Elliott Method by getting almost everything in writing, including Vrbo's promise to cover you for up to $15,138 in additional lodging expenses. That's a reasonable offer, given that it was a last-minute reservation in Hawaii. (In fact, I was in a similar situation in Oahu not so long ago, and Vrbo also covered my extra costs.)

Vrbo's Book With Confidence Guarantee promises if the property was materially misrepresented in the listing, it will help you book a new reservation. The Vrbo agent with whom you spoke said it would apply to your situation, and I agree.

Unfortunately, you didn't get the second promise -- to cover the additional $5,876 -- in writing. The agent told you that over the phone. So when you sent your expenses to Vrbo and it saw a bill for $21,014, the system most likely rejected it.

Your case is a reminder to always get everything in writing, especially when it comes to promises to cover your extra costs. At a minimum, you could have asked the Vrbo representative to make a notation in your record that you were authorized to spend $21,014.

If Vrbo continued to reject your invoice, you could have reached out to one of the Vrbo executives I list on my consumer advocacy site, In the end, it took an effort by both of us to get this resolved. You wrote to the executives, and I contacted Vrbo separately. The company apologized and agreed to refund you $15,138 plus cover two nights you had to spend in a hotel. You accepted its offer.

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him on his site.

© 2024 Christopher Elliott


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