PHOENIX — Millions of Americans continue to cancel their travel plans due to the novel coronavirus. Vacation rental platforms like Vrbo are dealing with the fallout as many customers are having a hard time getting refunds and homeowners are struggling to take care of their properties.
“After a Maine winter, all of us like to get out of Dodge when we can," said Marnie Dean, who recently booked a trip to Page, Arizona through HomeAway, which owns the vacation rental platform. Dean's husband has cancer and after speaking with his oncologist was told not to travel during the pandemic.
Marnie reached out to the homeowner to inquire about a refund, but the owner was unwilling to accommodate since she had not signed up for travel insurance.
"He said we had 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 would not get a refund," said Dean.
12 News spoke to the homeowner, who declined an interview on camera but told us he was also feeling the economic impact due to the virus.
Vrbo is a third-party site between homeowners and renters. The site identifies COVID-19 travel restrictions and recommends checking in with health officials and local orders.
The company's website lists options for renters such as requesting a flexible 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 guests to cancel a reservation due to the pandemic.
Marnie knows both sides of the argument as she also rents her home through HomeAway and says she will honor people's refund requests if the coronavirus changes their travel plans.