A Boston woman says she was promised a credit when she had to cancel a California vacation rental last year, but when the property owner refused to honor it and stopped communicating with her, she reached out to NBC10 Boston Responds for help.
With her son and grandchildren living in California, Therese Diecidue visits as often as she can. Last December she planned a five-week stay during the holidays.
"We booked a Vrbo… And I booked it out in September and it was out on the beach in Huntington Beach," she recalled. "We paid a little bit more than was in the budget, but we figured it would be a nice getaway and with 2020 being confined to our apartment, we were looking forward to it."
But when California's governor issued another stay-at-home order in early December, Diecidue cancelled the trip.
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She says the owner of the condo that she had rented initially agreed to a refund but they later settled on a credit, and Diecidue planned to rebook it this Christmas.
"Then come June or July, I said, 'I have to book airfares to get the best deal. I need to know the dates.' And she said, 'I’m not ready,' and the conversation seemed to get aggressive and then she stopped answering me," Diecidue shared. "Finally in September, she sent me a message saying, 'I can no longer accommodate you. We put the unit up for sale.'"
Diecidue was out more than $4,000 and says she discovered the condo was still for rent on Vrbo, under the owner's maiden name.
"The first thing I did was call Vrbo," Diecidu said. "And their response was because we took our conversation out of their network, there was nothing that they could do."
After Diecidue rented the condo, she says the owner asked her to leave the Vrbo app and communicate with her via Facebook Messenger because that was more convenient for her. Diecidue says she had no idea that was not advised.
"Had I known I would never," she said. "I would have stayed within the network and their system."
Diecidue says she started panicking.
"It was a lot of money for us," she said. "The only thing I could think of was to turn to NBC and the consumer line because I’ve seen your shows and I’ve seen how you can help people."
The NBC10 Boston Responds team contacted Vrbo, and after going through the details of Diecidue's situation, the company issued a full refund for her booking.
Vrbo told NBC10 Boston in a statement, "We recommend that guests and hosts always communicate through Vrbo’s messaging platform, which is a secure, private system that can help protect users against phishing and fraud."
Diecidue got her $4,435 back and she's headed west.
"Yes, we’re using that money for this Christmas and we’re staying an extra week because we can and it will be a very Merry Christmas," she said. "Thank you!"
Vrbo offered up some additional tips to protect yourself when booking a rental: pick a listing with multiple reviews and read them thoroughly; look for listings with the premier host badge; and read and understand a property's cancellation policy before booking.
NBC10 Boston Responds has helped dozens of viewers who were struggling to get their refunds. And we can try to help you. Reach out to us about your consumer problems by calling us at 1-888-521-NEWS or visiting https://www.nbcboston.com/consumer-form/.
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