Declaring Victory – VRBO / Home Away Changes Their Review Policies

 

Recently, I posted about how I believed VRBO’s online reviews were worthless in that they allowed landlords to manipulate renter feedback.  My article was picked up and expanded upon in a column by Maureen Farrell in Forbes.

There were literally hundreds and hundreds of link backs, retweets and comments regarding my blog.   What came to light was that I was not alone.  There were many people who shared similar stories about dissatisfaction about the transparency of the reviews.  I found interesting that many landlords commented saying they agreed with my assessment of the problem.  (Reason: Quality landlords want quality reviews).

Today, I was sent an email today from a friend informing me that VRBO / Home Away is changing its review policies.  From a VRBO / Yahoo Group forum:

“After considerable thought, we changed our policy in December 2010.  We no longer offer members the option to “opt out” and there is no longer an “opt out” button on your administration page. New members can no longer choose to opt out of the Reviews system either. We understand that some of our members have their own view as to the value of Reviews. We realize that this decision, which will be announced within the coming weeks, may disappoint some of our members. While we can no longer opt your listing out of the Reviews system, we will do what we can to satisfy you.”

(After this statement, there was a fair amount of chatter from landlords threatening to take down their listings, just proving the point that the ability to hide from transparent feedback was indeed a selling point).

I declare victory.

I tried my best to get VRBO to pay attention to the issue, but the best that I got directly from them was a Twitter mention telling me that if I had issues with their reviews, to check out their FAQ page.  (er… Thanks)

But clearly they heard me and more importantly YOU – the folks who took the time to read, share and comment on the earlier post.  A special thanks go out to Maureen Farrell and Erika Napoletano who helped amplify my original message.

Congrats everyone. Social media works.  Sometimes the little guy can influence policy at a large company.  Thank you.

 

  • Happy to have helped call bullshit on questionable practices from an online behemoth. Your original post caused me to look elsewhere for digs in London for an upcoming trip. Glad to know what was going on!

    • Jane

      What most of you all do NOT understand is that VRBO and HomeAway are incapable of vetting reviews for veracity. There are two types of scams going on…one is that renters who do damage to owner property are averse to having money deducted from their security and retaliate by posting bad reviews. The second is that renters who may not do damage and who actually may have had a good experience are extorting money from owners by threatening to post a bad rview unless they are paid off. When owners do not pay they post the review. Untill such time that VRBO or HomeAway insitutes a policy of vetting out the outliers (inconsistent reviews) and the extortionists.the traveler will not be getting a true picture. In life it is always buyer beware and counting on the veraity of a review is not the way to go. The parrties being harmed by the inability to block a liar or scammer from posting a bad review are both the owner and the renter. Without a proper check and balance there are no winners!

      • Caveat Emptor

        Like Lemmings to the sea. All those posters are feeling vindicated that big evil VRBO has been exposed and has gotten it’s comeuppance. They were almost going to use VRBO but then found out that one bad review was not posted oh my. It’s all very silly. So where are they going to find their next vacation rental – from private management companies that don’t post reviews as policy? From a TV ad? From another review source with similar problems? First of all VRBO has always had a policy prior to drop any owner that they got complaints from. Also their policy has always been to either have the owner show ALL their reviews or none, they could not choose selectively. That’s not good enough – well sorry it’s an advertisement paid for by vacation rental owners. I wonder how all these gripers would feel if tomorrow they found out in whatever business they were in and had paid for ad’s in – they were being reviewed publicly and specifically had someone that had already harmed them with an axe to grind use that forum to get at that them with untruths. What if their business was ruined by this? Or they lost a big account? All of these same johnny come lately’s would be up in arms!

        • Boundpress

          And let’s not forget the people who write bad reviews to EXTORT MONEY FROM US!

          • VRBO Advertiser

            I just had a rental client depart my VRBO listed home and they trashed the home. They rented for just 2 nights !!! Garbage all over, broken vases and even robbed the telephone. I can’t charge them for the damage and broken items much less all the hours of extra cleaning since they will post a NEGATIVE Review.

          • JoeBruno

            Dear VRBO Advertiser, Boundpress uses the the “US” as if there were two species here. We are all “us” and I think it is important to keep that in mind. A divide that separates those with property to rent and those who rent it does nothing to contribute to a solution. Addressing the unfortunate incident that you just experienced it is only logical to conclude that the number of rotten apples among us is evenly distributed–some have property and some rent it. Perhaps, just as on EBay where parties to transactions are rated by the users, there should be a mechanism to rate tenants? A list of destructive tenants would protect others from their disrespectful ways.

  • CV

    Egypt and now VBRO. Congrats.

  • Congrats Jason. The vacation housing market is safe from scoundrels.

  • Cherokee Trace

    As both a a rental home owner and a frequent vacation/traveler I see both sides of the argument. In my heart of hearts I believe if you pay for an AD yes an AD it should not have mandatory reviews ( and I have four stars btw) as there are enough sites that are critiquing that do not charge the company as this is their purpose – to critique travel and accommodations. I have used those others review sites to assist in deciding on travel accommodations and also benefited and fell victim to them. Also the guests most motivated to write a review are those with an ax to grind or weren’t even guests but are using this forum as extortion to gain something. If someone is satisfied you are ten times as likely to NOT hear from them than an unhappy one. Very small properties are unfairly disadvantaged with a bad review over larger ones since they don’t have as many guests to even counter it. In my mind VRBO has two choices – 1) To continue charging for listings and write a disclaimer that it is not a travel review site etc It is an AD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!or 2) Make reviews mandatory on the part of owners but do not have the nerve to charge for the privilege.

    • Boundpress

      Please join us by logging into your account on VRBO and voice out your opinion.

    • Kat

      How, then, do you propose an individual looking for a rental assess the property via the web? How am I to match up TripAdvisor (or others) ratings with properties listed on vrbo? What are property owners so afraid of? I’ve been looking for a place for this summer and have been reading reviews. I’m savvy enough to weigh the odd bad review against positive reviews. I am smart enough to recognize trivial complaints over legitimate ones. nnSure, you pay for the ad. But then again, its your revenue from your rental which pays for the ad. Your renters are helping you pay for the ad. Why shouldn’t they have the benefit of being able to see legitimate reviews – both the good and the bad?nnI’m looking for a two week rental for this summer. I am not even bothering to consider properties with less than six reviews. If a property has 6 or more I am discounting the ones with full star ratings on all reviews. I am also taking care in reading the reviews to ensure they are not being planted by the property owners. nnYes, you pay for the ads – but without the ads you’d be hard pressed to find someone to rent your property. Its a cost of doing business and, frankly, I wouldn’t want to rent from anyone who doesn’t believe that the consumer should have a voice.

      • Sherryl Haverhals

        I have 11 reviews that have all 5 Stars..why, if I work so hard to make sure my people are happy would you discount the full star’d property? I’ve been doing business since 2010…and work like mad bending over double to make sure that I do everything in my power to make people feel safe, secure and that the house is in pristine condition. That’s just wierd to say “the ones with full star ratings” are to be “discounted”..:(((((

  • Jason ~ I am happy to see this. I even brought up the reviews issue (from a renter’s perspective) when a VRBO rep called me last week asking me to renew my listing. nnI do agree with Cherokee’s comment below that unfortunately the happy people aren’t always ones to leave reviews but as an owner we need to do what we can to encourage reviews from the happy people.

  • Tahoebeth

    I have 6 properties, have been in business for 7 years and have never had a negative review. Yet I believe this new VRBO policy change is the devil. The list of things wrong with it is long. Vacation rental websites are ads. Paid for by property owners. We pay VRBO’s bills, not the travelers. There are standards for listing and representations made and if a guest finds a property advertisement misleading or fraudulent, they should pursue their options. (I believe most of the major Home Away companies even have some sort of rental guarantee that a traveler can sign up for.) Don’t rent without a rental agreement and understand your rights and responsibilities as laid out in that agreement, and, if it comes to it, state law. The place where a business advertises is not the place to do it, particularly when the sole purpose of the review is to cause financial harm to the owner. As an owner, I’ve been told there is no way for me to put a guest on a “black list”. Why is that? Why can a guest lamblast an owner in public but owners cannot do the same and warn other homeowners? I think a solution would be to have a prescribed format – check the box, what have you – for guests to evaluate or provide feedback and a prescribed place for owner feedback. Keep it plain and simple and stop allowing it to get so personal. And, give owners the ability to opt out. You can simply note that on the listing if that’s the case. As far as the comment of “we need to do what we can to encourage reviews from the happy people” goes – it is pie in the sky. Most people can’t be bothered. I have several guests that come back year after year. Do they write reviews every year! No way! They can’t be bothered and I don’t blame them. I just believe VRBO needed to think this through a little more thoroughly, soliciting feedback from a wide variety of constituents. Particularly those that pay their bills.

    • Boundpress

      Tahoebeth – Please voice out your opinion by logging into your account and locating the forum with our information on there. We would like to hear what you have to say!

    • betsy robins

      Good post.

      It would seem that a lot of the problems are stemming from a misunderstanding of just what VRBO?HA are. They are NOTHING more than exposure for us owners and a shoping guide for potential guests
      Keeping that in mind, they should be appreciated in that limited capacity.

      Too many of you seem to be giving them credit for more than they are entitled.

      This year, they have blown any support I might have had for them. They aren’t even sending inquiries to me yet are docking me for not responding to inquiries not received……go figure. Love their response rating (not)

      They are not the vrbo/ha group of even last year. I’ve sent many inquiries/comments on my listings and have never received a response, so I’m thinking that the idea the owners are in the pockets would be mute.

      Keeping my disgust in mind, I would take exception to the blanket statements to ignore all VRBO/HA listings

      They really do not represent us owners, and should not be given more power. than they have, legally.

      What they have represented to owners is exposure and contact information. In my case they are not delivering….there’s the rub, legally.

      For guests: Having been on both sides I do understand the problems of arriving in some location and finding the house sucked and realizing there is no place else to go. I’ve experienced that in time share transfers, private homes and even hotel chains overseas.

      Travel’s an adventure!

      My thoughts on protecting yourself:

      Rent only through an Agent..

      You’ll pay the same price.

      Get the owners name and address: check with the local clerk of the court office for liens, judgements, back taxes. It’ll give you a “flavor”

      Check the Agency to ensure they are licensed to offer what they are.

      DPBA is the place to go in Florida. Again, they are most helpful in preventative measures.

      I do not accept payments directly as what you are doing is contracting with an individual and taking significant risk in doing so.

      It’s not always the owner’s fault. I’ve found my home listed in Craig’s List for 1/10 the going rate by someone who had no right to do so.

      Verify, but utilizing VRBO/HA as a means of shopping and exposure does present the best option at this point. I’d love to see them face some competition.

  • Boundpress

    Any homewoners who would like to join a class action suit against VRBO for their new – no opt out – policies, please sign into your VRBO homeowners account and find information there under ” Reviews Policy – No Opt Options”. We are seeking support! We will listen to what you have to say.

    • Genny

      I would like to join you in class action suit. VRBO custumers service was not supportive at all.

  • Boundpress

    Please be made aware – ALL VRBO HOMEOWNERS! – You may opt out of VRBO completely and receive a wonderful prorated amount back of your listing. Hit Carl where it hurts!! His wallet! He is more concerned about becoming “Tripadvisor” then taking care of the company’s true paying customers, us the homeowners. As such, join vacationhomerentals.com and be done with VRBO! Cancel and get your prorated amount today.

  • Joe Bruno

    Dear Owners and Renters, I use VBRO once or twice a year & have had many positive experiences–give or take minor inconveniences. Many comments here, posted by owners, deal with scamming, angry or vindictive renters–and I am sure there are many. And there is no doubt that the dissatisfied customers–with legitimate complaints or not–are the ones most likely to write. nnHowever, last month I faced the ugly situation of having rented a property that was appallingly maintained. I paid for a week but left after 3 nights–rodents and their droppings were more than I could accept. The owner asked what went wrong but when I told him his wife took over and told me that all the conditions I found in their property were “part of the experience” and that they were insulted by my having pointed them out. I wrote a review on Home Away but now they are trying to get it taken down and they have threatened me with legal action as well. In the meantime they have gotten previous renters to post similarly worded reviews to supersede mine and to refute it. None of the posts I see here offers a solution to this kind of mess. nnGood and responsible owners should welcome honestly and transparency. Such policies tend to drive away the disreputable and thus maintain and enhance the credibility on the site and their own ads.

    • Jane

      Giving you the benefit of the doubt, Mr. Bruno, that you have told the truth about your experience….then you must have photos, emails back and forth with the owner and proof that you left early as a result of the adverse conditions. VRBO I believe should vet all reviews and if neither the owner nor the renter can produce any real proof of their claims or if the evidence does not allow for a clear picture then the review should NOT be published…for the benefit of the traveler renter and the owner and the greater public. The owner would be hard pressed to sue you and VRBO would be protected as well if your review was published and you had the evidence. Overstating the value of a property is just as bad as understating the value of a property. In any case as it stands now the review process is a complete mess with little credibility on either side….and until such time that appropriate vetting methods are put into place by VRBO reviews should not be posted on travel websites period…. especially where owners are paying for ads. If you find a place to rent in a newspaper, the newspaper is not responsible for reviewing the property or placing reviews on it….all it is is an ad. A renter can ask the owner for references if they are concerned. They can contact a reference and ask lots of questions and if it is important enough they can even visit the property before making a commitment. Buyer beware is the motto when purchasing real estate and it should be the motto in rentals as well….but if VRBO cannot properly vet reviews they must be dropped ….because by virtue of having a compromised vetting process or none at all… ALL reviews are compromised – so the entire thing is a joke and it is doing more harm than good as it stands right now. nnnnn

    • Jane

      Giving you the benefit of the doubt, Mr. Bruno, that you have told the truth about your experience….then you must have photos, emails back and forth with the owner and proof that you left early as a result of the adverse conditions. VRBO I believe should vet all reviews and if neither the owner nor the renter can produce any real proof of their claims or if the evidence does not allow for a clear picture then the review should NOT be published…for the benefit of the traveler renter and the owner and the greater public. The owner would be hard pressed to sue you and VRBO would be protected as well if your review was published and you had the evidence. Overstating the value of a property is just as bad as understating the value of a property. In any case as it stands now the review process is a complete mess with little credibility on either side….and until such time that appropriate vetting methods are put into place by VRBO reviews should not be posted on travel websites period…. especially where owners are paying for ads. If you find a place to rent in a newspaper, the newspaper is not responsible for reviewing the property or placing reviews on it….all it is is an ad. A renter can ask the owner for references if they are concerned. They can contact a reference and ask lots of questions and if it is important enough they can even visit the property before making a commitment. Buyer beware is the motto when purchasing real estate and it should be the motto in rentals as well….but if VRBO cannot properly vet reviews they must be dropped ….because by virtue of having a compromised vetting process or none at all… ALL reviews are compromised – so the entire thing is a joke and it is doing more harm than good as it stands right now. nnnnn

    • Jane

      Giving you the benefit of the doubt, Mr. Bruno, that you have told the truth about your experience….then you must have photos, emails back and forth with the owner and proof that you left early as a result of the adverse conditions. VRBO I believe should vet all reviews and if neither the owner nor the renter can produce any real proof of their claims or if the evidence does not allow for a clear picture then the review should NOT be published…for the benefit of the traveler renter and the owner and the greater public. The owner would be hard pressed to sue you and VRBO would be protected as well if your review was published and you had the evidence. Overstating the value of a property is just as bad as understating the value of a property. In any case as it stands now the review process is a complete mess with little credibility on either side….and until such time that appropriate vetting methods are put into place by VRBO reviews should not be posted on travel websites period…. especially where owners are paying for ads. If you find a place to rent in a newspaper, the newspaper is not responsible for reviewing the property or placing reviews on it….all it is is an ad. A renter can ask the owner for references if they are concerned. They can contact a reference and ask lots of questions and if it is important enough they can even visit the property before making a commitment. Buyer beware is the motto when purchasing real estate and it should be the motto in rentals as well….but if VRBO cannot properly vet reviews they must be dropped ….because by virtue of having a compromised vetting process or none at all… ALL reviews are compromised – so the entire thing is a joke and it is doing more harm than good as it stands right now. nnnnn

    • Jane

      Giving you the benefit of the doubt, Mr. Bruno, that you have told the truth about your experience….then you must have photos, emails back and forth with the owner and proof that you left early as a result of the adverse conditions. VRBO I believe should vet all reviews and if neither the owner nor the renter can produce any real proof of their claims or if the evidence does not allow for a clear picture then the review should NOT be published…for the benefit of the traveler renter and the owner and the greater public. The owner would be hard pressed to sue you and VRBO would be protected as well if your review was published and you had the evidence. Overstating the value of a property is just as bad as understating the value of a property. In any case as it stands now the review process is a complete mess with little credibility on either side….and until such time that appropriate vetting methods are put into place by VRBO reviews should not be posted on travel websites period…. especially where owners are paying for ads. If you find a place to rent in a newspaper, the newspaper is not responsible for reviewing the property or placing reviews on it….all it is is an ad. A renter can ask the owner for references if they are concerned. They can contact a reference and ask lots of questions and if it is important enough they can even visit the property before making a commitment. Buyer beware is the motto when purchasing real estate and it should be the motto in rentals as well….but if VRBO cannot properly vet reviews they must be dropped ….because by virtue of having a compromised vetting process or none at all… ALL reviews are compromised – so the entire thing is a joke and it is doing more harm than good as it stands right now. nnnnn

    • Jane

      Giving you the benefit of the doubt, Mr. Bruno, that you have told the truth about your experience….then you must have photos, emails back and forth with the owner and proof that you left early as a result of the adverse conditions. VRBO I believe should vet all reviews and if neither the owner nor the renter can produce any real proof of their claims or if the evidence does not allow for a clear picture then the review should NOT be published…for the benefit of the traveler renter and the owner and the greater public. The owner would be hard pressed to sue you and VRBO would be protected as well if your review was published and you had the evidence. Overstating the value of a property is just as bad as understating the value of a property. In any case as it stands now the review process is a complete mess with little credibility on either side….and until such time that appropriate vetting methods are put into place by VRBO reviews should not be posted on travel websites period…. especially where owners are paying for ads. If you find a place to rent in a newspaper, the newspaper is not responsible for reviewing the property or placing reviews on it….all it is is an ad. A renter can ask the owner for references if they are concerned. They can contact a reference and ask lots of questions and if it is important enough they can even visit the property before making a commitment. Buyer beware is the motto when purchasing real estate and it should be the motto in rentals as well….but if VRBO cannot properly vet reviews they must be dropped ….because by virtue of having a compromised vetting process or none at all… ALL reviews are compromised – so the entire thing is a joke and it is doing more harm than good as it stands right now. nnnnn

    • Jane

      Giving you the benefit of the doubt, Mr. Bruno, that you have told the truth about your experience….then you must have photos, emails back and forth with the owner and proof that you left early as a result of the adverse conditions. VRBO I believe should vet all reviews and if neither the owner nor the renter can produce any real proof of their claims or if the evidence does not allow for a clear picture then the review should NOT be published…for the benefit of the traveler renter and the owner and the greater public. The owner would be hard pressed to sue you and VRBO would be protected as well if your review was published and you had the evidence. Overstating the value of a property is just as bad as understating the value of a property. In any case as it stands now the review process is a complete mess with little credibility on either side….and until such time that appropriate vetting methods are put into place by VRBO reviews should not be posted on travel websites period…. especially where owners are paying for ads. If you find a place to rent in a newspaper, the newspaper is not responsible for reviewing the property or placing reviews on it….all it is is an ad. A renter can ask the owner for references if they are concerned. They can contact a reference and ask lots of questions and if it is important enough they can even visit the property before making a commitment. Buyer beware is the motto when purchasing real estate and it should be the motto in rentals as well….but if VRBO cannot properly vet reviews they must be dropped ….because by virtue of having a compromised vetting process or none at all… ALL reviews are compromised – so the entire thing is a joke and it is doing more harm than good as it stands right now. nnnnn

    • Cherokee Trace

      So let me get this straight. You are complaining that the homeowner wants to sue you for defamation (they have a right to do so) because you posted a negative review – that was your choice to do that. You are also complaining because other happy guests utilized the same vehicle which you were hoping to do what with….. let me guess – get your trip refunded and didn’t. So you have your review posted – trust me it is harming them rightfully or not it is. So what is your gripe???

      • Joe Bruno

        What is my gripe? You mean other than what I wrote–the condition of property, etc? Is there something that I did not make clear Mr. Trace?

      • Msmith46

        A landlord fails to keep his rental from being a health hazard, tried to bully with lawyers the tenant who told them of the hazard and then arranged to post fraudulent positive reviews to counter a truthful review.nnnNope. No gripes there.n

        • Joeybruno

          Thank you Msmith-46. To update Mr Trace and the other Blue Meanies running around this page the landlord did, after cooling off, offer me a partial refund of my rent. I have not accepted the offer. I believe I would have at the outset, but after the insults and abuse–on top of what we endured in their property–I have no interest in permitting them an opportunity to assuage their culpability. n

  • Taylor McLemore

    Jason, Maureen and Erika: Congrats! I think it is great that you all pushed VRBO in a more accurate direction. Interesting comments below…Transparency can be scary for some people, but in the end when something is being sold better services and products emerge from improved and accurate information.

    • Jane

      Taylor you are totally misinformed and naive. Why you would think unvetted exaggerated comments from (1) extortionists and (2) disgruntled renters that legitimately lost some of their security creates transparency…..I cannot imagine? If in fact a real study was done whereby all reviews were carefully checked and vetted for validity you would most likely find that for every one true and credible review …positive or negative – there will be 20 exaggerated reviews that are not credible in either direction. How does this possibly help the public? If you have an answer we would all love to hear it.

      • Larry Nardolillo

        Jane, Why so angry? Also, why are there only two classes of renters. Why don’t you include a solution for renters who have been duped, cheated, scammed, or swindled by home ownwers? What is our avenue for restitution?

        • Jane

          Here is the solution. Buyer Beware! Every person who rents a place has the right to request references from past renters. When you arrive you must take your own photos and document in writing the condition of the property and mail it or email it to the owner….with proof of mailing. You can also learn on line weather that owner has been sued in the past by renters. In the end if you can show by photos the condition of the property when you arrived as well as the condition it was in when you left…..if the owner has falsely charged you for damages that you did not cause you can file suit. Well meaning owners should not be punichsed for the few that are dishonest. There are many more well meaning owners that are being harmed by rougue renters than there are rougue owners being harmed by well meaning renters. That is the problem. Unless VRBO has a reliable means to vet reviews NO ONE and I mean NO ONE should be allowed to post them. nnJane

          • jane

            oops…meant to write the word whether not weather!!!! It is very late…..

  • Unfortunately, in this case the homeowner is the little guy. We are controlled by the Homeaway monopoly and many of us have had entire businesses wiped out by unreasonable negative comments such as AVOID THIS HOUSE because of a chipped tile – and because the renter wanted his security back – not given as they left the house a bloody mess. My only negative review in 12 years!!! However, due to this RIDICULOUS measure of removing OPT OUT – homeowners are now at the mercy of our renters. I for one lost thousands of dollares until the reviewer agreed to remove his post when Ir eturned his security. Extortion simply put. We are commencing a class action against Homeaway on several grounds. Let Forbes post that. If you are among the hundreds of homeowners that want to FIGHT HOMEAWAY – restore OPT OUT and REKMOVE outliers (rogue reviews with unreasonable negative sentiment) Please contact Ken 917 741 3377 to add to our growing list homeawayfree is our new website open shortly!

    • Larry Nardolillo

      Hi Ken, nnhow do you handle renters with legitimate complaints against homeowners who keep security deposits so they can perform routine maintenance on their property? I have rented 3 houses from VRBO, and left them all in the same shape I found them. However, one of the owners stiffed me for screen repair by their pool. I am burning inside because VRBO would not let me post a “buyer beware” message.

  • ruth

    If you believe the new HomeAway and VRBO policy of denying owners the right to “opt out of reviews” is unreasonable (as liars (renters who are sour grapes for having monies deducted from security for damages they caused) and extortionist renters are not being vetted by these companies) please phone 917 741 3377 to add your name to our growing list or look for homeawayfree our new website to open shortly. We intend to seek remedies through a class action law suit. Please join us.

  • Joannewiley

    I need to make a major compaint about the house we rented through vrbo last Aug.It was a nightmare.nWho do I contact??

    • Larry Nardolillo

      Your question will go unanswered, because there is no recourse for renters who have a bad experience. You can write a review to VRBO, but it won’t get posted. You will spend days going back and forth with an anonymous VRBO person who will tell you to go to their website and “read their guidelines”. It’s a no win situation because in America, if you pay the bills you decide what happens. The owners pay VRBO. That puts you and other renters, like me, on the short end of the stick. You lose Joanne. I lost and I am still bad about it. I keep finding sites and posting my review with the owners name and location property ID and address. My owners took my security deposit for routine maintenance. Very disappointing. VRBO is a bully and so are some homeowners!!

      • Kat

        Here’s what I’d recommend considering the nasty tone of some of the owners here….nnCheck out their property with the State/County Permit/Compliance branch…. do they have a legitimate – LEGAL – rental? My guess, from looking and finding that roughly 90% of the vrbo’s we’re looking at this summer are illegal, is that it probably isn’t. I’d be contacting the authorities to ensure they, first of all, have a legal rental (and would do so *before* renting). No point in contacting the BBB if they aren’t running a legitimate business.nnThis is what I’m seeing:nnHomeowners who want the freedom to rent unscrupulously without any checks and balances in place. They seem to want the best of both worlds… many (not all) are renting properties that do not comply with standards as a legitimate rental property. Why not? My guess is because then they have to follow and comply with code and it costs to legitimize their property. I’m taking a shot in the dark to say that its likely that the most vehemently vocal we’re seeing responding here have illegitimate rentals and are likely skewing their property advertisements. Why else would they be afraid of a transparent system which *should* benefit both them and potential renters?nnThey can reply to a negative review. I’m smart enough to weed out the chronic complainers from the legitimate reviews (both good and bad). Its insulting that some of these property owners want your hard earned dollars for the precious little time most people get for vacation but don’t want you to be able to make a fully informed decision.nnShame on them.

  • Larry Nardolillo

    I went through the same “challenges” to write a negative review after a stay in Florida. Finally, I got my review posted. Then, just 6 days ago (5 months after my review was posted), I received an email from VRBO Customer Service saying that my review would be taken down because I didn’t meet their standards. To my surprise, I got an email yesterday that said my review was removed. I was glad to find your article, but I think VRBO is still not posting negative reviews.

  • Keith Briggs

    We have several properties too. Almost 1000 customers and about 10 bad eggs which more than spoils the bunch. The game has certainly changed. We’re not happy but we’re adapting. nnBTW, the extortion can be initiated from a competitor too. “Hey, Linda, go stay at their house – we’re going to screw them over.”nnWe’re now screening guests HEAVILY and rejecting over a 1/3 of our inquiries. If they ask, we tell them its due to VRBO policy changes. (without the details). I wish vacationrentals411.com had a better interface.

  • Keith Briggs

    Addendum/suggestons: (tidbits from the war-manual) delete your listing and recreate on same or other website eg. vrbo to homeaway. Only put your home on VRBO that nobody has stayed at invite inquiries and redirect them to your Vacation homes (flickr, facebook or also-ran pay sites). Sadly, every other website is in decline (quantcast). All but vr411 want too much $ for the traffic they get. We lock bedrooms and tell them up front – a couple only gets the master. Naughty rentors don’t like to be caught and surprised. Avoid groups of singles unless they are near retirement age. Have them fax their DL. Have an agreement on everyone. Scare the naughty ones away. Take a large enough deposit and only take a check for the deposit. Zillow everyone. Avoid non-homeowners. We have more issues with both ends of the $ spectrum. Those that live in a 60k home likely do not know that pillow shams are dry clean only. The very rich could care less about a $400 deposit. Increase your rates to cover the little things and offer incentives to those who treat your home well.

  • Keith Briggs

    Folks just left today from one of our homes. Paid for 3 but had 5. Due to changes, we wont charge them for the extra people – don’t want to invoke a guestbook entry. That’s the good news for them. The bad news for them is they can never come back to one of our homes. We won’t tell them that because they would just book under a different name. The single guy had to sleep on the day bed in the basement since BR3 was locked. It worked for them but was not ideal. Heating the 3rd level costs about $5/day but neither VRBO nor these renters care about that. nnanother tidbit: pipl.com everyone. a good way to find their age and family structure.

  • West of Weden

    Mr. Mendelson, Hooray for your efforts to give consumers more meaningful information about vacation rentals. I have my own horror story which I won’t make you suffer through. But, from my experience, I think one of the problems with vacation rentals is that the owner often holds all of the consumer’s money (rent + tax + cleaning fee + security deposit). In addition, the contract is often heavily skewed towards the owner, leaving the consumer with few options. In my case, I filed a dispute with American Express. They ruled in favor of the owner without even asking for my side of the dispute. I appealed and finally got a chance to air my experience. Again they ruled in favor of the owner, saying,”As this is a contract between you and the merchant, AMEX can neither nullify nor negotiate the contract on your behalf. The merchant provided the copy of the signed rental agreement; which indicates that the rental deposit is non refundable. The rental agreement also informs that the merchant is not responsible for adverse conditions or malfunctions caused by forces beyond their control, included, but not limited to interruption of utilities or acts of God.nnI salute your huge victory. If your story still has legs, and you think my experience might be a warning to other consumers, you can respond here, and I’ll email you my miserable story.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks much for your comment. I’m happy with how this turned out and thinkrnthat we (as consumers) are all set. Thanks for your support

  • Foolsgold

    Mendelsohn is a self aggrandizing opportunist that isn’t really successful as anything. Couldn’t make it as a lawyer or drummer or anything else he proclaims. He won’t post negative reviews about himself or at least has not in the past – hypocrite.

    • JoeBruno

      Jesus! What acrimony! Hardly a good state of being you are cultivating for yourself Foolsgold.

    • Genius Envy

      My guess, Mr. Foolsgold, is that you’re a VRBO advertiser and vacation property homeowner. If so, I’m sure that you have encountered your share of renters who have been hard to please or demanding or careless with your property. But learning how to deal with such “guests” is the goal of a properly-trained hospitality host. Learning how to respond to negative feedback is a skill that will serve you well in the hospitality industry. Some hospitality businesses even learn and grow from honest feedback. Maybe you should take a break from hosting vacationers and reassess your life skills.

      • JoeBruno

        Pithy, Mr. Envy, and like as not on point as well.

      • Foolsgoldsupporter

        Whatever you say Mr. Mendelson – opps I mean Genius Envy – and at least you know you should be envious of others both in their genius and the freudian double entendre as well ( spoke with those in the “know’) I agree Fools Gold should reassess and by doing so will find you squarely in the middle ( re ass ess)

        • Genius Envy

          I’m not Mr Mendelson. However, I totally sympathize with anyone who endures an adverse condition in a VRBO rental, with an unprofessional response from the owner. I am scratching my head at the venom coming from the VRBO homeowners. Why do you hate your guests? Maybe the new VRBO policy of displaying both PROs and CONs in the reviews will really help vacationers find hosts with a history of welcoming and satisfying their guests. Choice is a wonderful thing, especially in vacation lodging, where we went to have a positive memory and leave with a smile. Vacations are optional – I fear that your attitudes are poisoning your relationship with your guests.

          • Joeybruno

            Mr Envy, This is terrible. The level of this—what? we certainly can’t call it discussion—is undignified. I am here, as you may know, because I am one of those who, as you wrote, endured an adverse condition in a VRBO rental and then suffered an unprofessional response from the property owner. Mice in the cupboards (their turds all over the silverware) was only one of the conditions I encountered and the reply to that one charge was that conditions like that “come with the experience” of a Tahoe Cabin. But these fiery exchanges with Fools and his chums are futile. Nothing is being discussed. They billy us with bile and gall, attack people for whatever personal faults they suspect them of having and display no more than a paucity of wit at their wiles, yet the real issues around which we come together here Mendelson’s page are never touched. I suggest that chaps like Fools be ignored until the level of their contributions begins to have some applicability to the concerns of either or both parties here. At the end of it all it’s not about homeowners nor is it about tenants, some of each of whom are undoubtedly unscrupulous at probably the same rate as the general population. This is about, as I see it, an attempt to develop a process whereby the unscrupulous and the just plain careless can be weeded out. I have owned property all my life and were I to consider using an online store window like VRBO I would welcome the knowledge that my product was displayed in a window people trusted. I cannot imagine that people would trust a window where only nice things could be said about the products but unflattering things could be censored. Perhaps no comments or reviews at all is the way to go? I wonder how everyone would feel about that? No comments or reviews by renters on the rental site, but a mandatory list of all renters with the possibility of contacting them through the site for referrals. When we do business with strangers, when we hire people, when we extend credit, we always ask for references. Why would we not do the same with vacation rentals? These are not cheap things, many cost 5 to 10 thousand dollars for a brief period of time, and in many cases the renter has little power as he has made payment in advance. Another way would be a rating agency. That’s how we travel by hotel. We have stars. Something similar can be done for vacation properties. It would read like “this property is Vacation Star certified with three stars” or some such accreditation. A serious appraisal done by such an agency, with ongoing reinspections, would do a lot to avoiding many of these problems. (I know if I had read that I’d found mice in my Tahoe Cabin I’d not have rented it). When we buy and sell online at Ebay we also employ a rating process. Sellers are often rated by buyers as to service, credibility, reliability, etc. There is no reason why vacation properties should be exempt and neither is such exempting good for business. When too many people talk about having gotten burnt renting a vacation home online the entire process will be called into question and it will die off just as quickly as it took off not too long ago. I hope these suggestions will be useful in starting a true dialogue in lie of the elementary school level at which this has proceeded thus far.

  • Ca2deal

    We have vacation rental with all happy customers until someone just tried to use your article to get money back from us, claiming our rental had fraudulent reviews with attachment of your article. Our next clients read his review and were frightened to come. I meet them and had them walk through our home and yard. All I could hear was “Wow, this is great.” The renters were very pleased and plan to write another 5 star rating. In the mean time the scam renter has poor review posted with lies about our vacation home. Reviews can work both ways!!!

  • That’s great. But VRBO does little to make sure the reviews are really reviews. We stayed at a place that was a real dump and submitted reviews and photos that proved it. VRBO posted the reviews but would not post links to the photos. nnIn addition, since the reviews were negative, the owner had his friends post fake reviews none of which could have been true based on the photos we submitted. They all showed up on the same day and VRBO posted them. nnVRBO should allow renters to post photos of their own. This would really help renters tell the difference between frauds and real places to stay. But VRBO does not seem to be interested in letting renters see the horrors that can really be out there. NOR will they allow anyone who rents to be contacted by potential renters.

  • In my opinion as a customer I don’t trust 100% positive reviews of an accommodation. HomeAway is not publishing negative reviews anymore since the owners are fighting it. Can’t blame HomeAway because they don’t want to loose their income of the home owners. I had 2 very unpleasant experiences with accommodation via HomeAway in June. One in London whose owner acknowledged her fault immediate and gave a full refund of the money, but we had to find accommodation during Wimbledon and had to pay double the price in the end. And a stay in the Netherlands for 6 nights which was cancelled last minute by the owner, while he had our deposit. I wrote a review about the Netherlands a week ago but still nothing has been published. Anyway for us who travel really a lot HomeAway is no option anymore. I rely on Tripadvisor for the future, we have used it before and it was always fantastic. So no more adventure for us with HomeAway.

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  • Interesting, but there are still problems. A close family member submitted a balanced yet somewhat negative review on a property he had stayed in via VRBO just a few weeks ago. There is still the 7 day delay between review submission and posting. Within that time frame my family member heard from the owner offering compensation for the parts of their stay they found unsavory. But only if the review was changed first. Happy to get a little money back on their stay, they adjusted some of the language of the review, but the star level rated remained the same. The owner rejected the revised review to be sufficient to warrant the compensation and in the end my family member rejected the compensation and kept their review true to their opinions. If owners can “bribe” tenants to provide positive reviews then VRBO still has major problems on their review system.

  • I see both sides of this issue. I very much appreciate the REVIEWS, but I’ve heard several stories about renters “blackmailing” rental owners that if they don’t refund their money, or whatever, they’ll write a negative review! I think that VRBO’s policy of giving owners a chance to respond is a great compromise. Its often easy to see that a renter is just a picky, hard-to-please complainer, and an honest response from the owner can do wonders to bring out the truth. In my opinion, the more reviews, the better. If there are 10 and they’re all negative, well…..I’d watch out! But if both pluses and minuses are pointed out in honest reviews, I can decide what is important for me and what isn’t. And a personal phone call to the owner can also be very helpful.

  • I see both sides of this issue. I very much appreciate the REVIEWS, but I’ve heard several stories about renters “blackmailing” rental owners that if they don’t refund their money, or whatever, they’ll write a negative review! I think that VRBO’s policy of giving owners a chance to respond is a great compromise. Its often easy to see that a renter is just a picky, hard-to-please complainer, and an honest response from the owner can do wonders to bring out the truth. In my opinion, the more reviews, the better. If there are 10 and they’re all negative, well…..I’d watch out! But if both pluses and minuses are pointed out in honest reviews, I can decide what is important for me and what isn’t. And a personal phone call to the owner can also be very helpful.

  • We are currently in a VRBO house and it is crappy.  Totally misled by the photos and by reviews the landlord posted “for the guests”.  I’d like my money back but don’t know how to get it.  We’d paid up front and couldn’t afford to leave the property for a hotel.  We’ll see.  Called the landlord and he got very defensive…right away. 

  • Anonymous

    I am also sick of VRBO and Homeaway but I am trying to do something about it. With your feedback I hope to make a website.  I just posted my first blog on a new website following this journey.  Its titled, “CAN I TAKE VACATION RENTAL OWNER FEEDBACK, USE PAT FLYNN’s TIPS AND TURN IT INTO THE ULTIMATE VACATION RENTALS WEBSITE?”
     
    Follow my adventure and post feedback at www.VacationWebsiteReviews.com. I need all the feedback I can get.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Jason,
     
    Your supposed victory over the policies of HomeAway (reviews) is incorrect. My own experience is that HomeAway still fends reviews of their website. During the past few months I tried to post a review after a scandalous misleading ad from a landlord in Lucca / Italy. My review was first presented to the homeowner, but he denied that I was his customer. HomeAway then asked me to provide proof of my stay. I met this request with a signed contract, proof of payment, photos and emails. An overwhelming amount of evidence. Nevertheless, they refused the very correct review.  A written complaint was not responded.
    Perhaps you are in a position to report my story to an influential person within HomeAway.Anyway I will not give up to fight this policy of HomeAway anywhere on the internet.I like to hear your comment on this.
     
    Sincerely
     
    Henk van der Leer
    The Netherelands

  • Great now one of our competing rental properties was able to post
    negative reviews on our listing, which we now have no control over…Since you
    are so keen on honest reviews here’s to your Great Victory Idiot

    • Maybe they did (post negative reviews to lure renters away from your property and toward their own property).  And maybe they didn’t and you are making the whole thing up.  Who knows?  The only thing we do know for sure is that you came on here and started calling people names. “Idiot.”  What I think is that no matter what happened, only an idiot would believe you.

  • 8a2d7xyz

    We recently had a terrible experience with a rental on Kauai, Hale Makai Beach Cottages on the north coast.  The weather prevented us from reaching the cottage for two days, but the owner said he we didn’t have the right to any refund–when I asked–even though the electrical was also out and the cottage was only cleaned on the day we arrived.  Then when we finally did reach the cottage on the beach, the weather turned bad again with high winds, thunder and lightening, and torrential rain.  When the electrical went out , we decided we couldn’t stay without electricity, so we rented another hotel room for two days.  The owner did not respond to my emails about a refund until we had returned home to California and I sent him a reminder.  I had asked that he refund us what we paid for the four nights that we didn’t stay.  He said I was bullying him but out of “courtesy” he would  pay for the hotel room for the two days we had to rent when we could not reach the property and the electrical was out; the hotel was about half the cost of the beach cottage.  I tried to post this review of VRBO but it hasn’t shown up yet.  The testimonials about thie property are indeed misleading.  

    • Your experience, if true, is unfortunate, but it is not clear that the cottage owner did anything wrong.  The question of the weather is, pardon to pun, up in the air.  Who has to pay when the weather keeps us from arriving at a planned and prepaid destination may be arguable but the owner’s refusal to help doesn’t seem an indictment of his honesty or the quality of his property or the honesty of his representations with respect thereto.

      Regarding the cleaning: If you could not get there then what does it matter to you if the cleaning staff could not either?  It was clean when you got  there, and that is what counts.

      Finally, yours and everyone else’s claims would be much more believable  if you identified both the VRBO listing and yourselves.  But sorry to hear about your bad experience, Hawaii is such a cool place.

      • Ireland43

        Joe:   Well, you may be right that legally the owner didn’t do anything wrong and, of course,  the weather is not his fault.  But when a property is not habitable–as when the electrical goes out–a reasonable owner would, at the very least, offer some compensation to the renter.   On the property I described on Kauai, the electrical was out on the property on two occasions.  After I wrote twice to the owner, he grudgingly did offer to pay for our hotel room in Lihue for the two days when we couldn’t get to the property and the electrical was out, but not for the other two days when the electrical again went out.  

        Others on the island were more understanding.  One hotel in Lihue, the Beach Resort, gave a refund to their guests when their electrical went out.  And the Marriott where we stayed for two days gave a special rate to those who had come from the Beach Resort.  

         I mentioned that the cottage had not being cleaned until we arrived because the owner said we could have come to the property the day before when the electrical was still out and the Hanalei bridge was closed.   The VRBO listing is under the Hale Makai Beach Cottages located in Ha’ena (www.halemakaicottages.com); we were in cottage #3. And my name is Alan Lamson.   

        • I understand your pain Alan but this thread has been about the honesty of VRBO advertisers, the transparency of the site itself and the ability of renters to access each others’ comments and reviews–both negative and positive.  What other property owners do or have done in cases of storms, etc, does not bear on the issue that has driven this lengthy and often bitter series of exchanges.  However, now that you’ve brought it up, it should serve to alert other renters who perhaps might wish to inquire of the property owner’s policies and to have some catastrophe clause in the rental agreement.   Best, Joe

  • Congratulations Jason.  However, why would they allow the owner to respond & personally attack the renter for their review.
    I was appalled just recently to see that the owner identified me, & stated that my remarks were untruthful & exaggerated.
    And she still lists wifi being included in her condo which it is not.
    I am appalled & do not appreciate VRBO permitting this owner to publicly berate me.