Navigating Your Vacation Rental Cancellation Policy

One Massachusetts native living in Florida had hoped to move his June Nantucket rental to next year due to the coronavirus pandemic

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Many people who booked their summer rentals long before the coronavirus pandemic are now facing challenges trying to cancel contracts or rebook.

Tom Jones, a Massachusetts native living in Florida, had booked a Nantucket rental with friends, for two weeks, beginning June 13. They had already made initial payments of more than $13,000 when the pandemic hit. 

"When it got about five weeks out, we reached out proactively to our real estate agent and said, 'we're nervous about traveling to Nantucket, and as of right now, the Governor still has a ban on short term rentals for all of Massachusetts,'" Jones recalled.

Jones said he asked about his options. He had hoped to push the rental, and his deposit to June 2021, but said they could not come to an agreement with the homeowner. 

"We've been given a few options, but in all cases, the options they just weren't reasonable," Jones said. "They required us having to pay more money to rent the house in different time frames, whether it be later this summer or even next year." 

After weeks of back and forth, they finally agreed to move the rental to next year at the same rate.

"It's been high anxiety for sure," Jones said. "We're trying to find a middle ground that everybody can live with, and take a terrible situation, and turn it into something we can all move forward with."

The real estate agency handling the rental, J Pepper Frazier, told NBC10 Boston Responds they have "been working overtime to bring rental cancellations and re-bookings to satisfactory outcomes for both landlords and tenants. Most landlords and tenants understand we are in unprecedented and uncharted waters and are working together to accommodate any change of plans."

Realtor Lisa Winn with Maury People Sotheby’s International Realty on Nantucket said her office has moved the majority of their rentals to next year and was able to provide some refunds. She said phones are finally ringing again with the Phase 2 of Gov. Charlie Baker's reopening plan. To ease the concerns of potential renters, realtors have added a COVID-19 addendum to lease agreements. 

"That means that we are going to hold all the money in escrow until ten days before the rentals begin, and if there's been any change in what the Governor is allowing us to do, we can then have the money on hand so it will be easy for us to cancel the leases and send the money back," Winn said. "That has been a saving grace for us, because tenants wanted to book, but were worried about their funds." 

Under the Phase 2 safety protocols, lodging operators must inform guests of the state's policy, urging travelers to self- quarantine for 14 days when arriving from out of state. The Governor's office said it will be the responsibility of travelers to self-enforce quarantine guidelines. 

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