Tamburino Talks Law: Coronavirus and Vacation Rental Refunds

The Coronavirus crisis has affected every aspect of our lives including our plans for vacations. Many people have had to cancel their vacations and specifically they’ve had to cancel their paid reservations for short-term rentals with businesses like Airbnb, VRBO, and Direct Rental. So, people are wondering – what, if any, recourse do they have to get a refund?

In order to answer that we need to look at four issues.

First, look at the individual contracts with the short-term rentals. When you reserve a short-term rental you form a contract with them, and the contract may have provisions for refunds or provisions for refunds due to “acts of God” or “force majeure” which means a superior force (hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods, or pandemics) that cause the rental to be voided. If your contract includes such provisions, you may be eligible for a refund.

Second, look at the provider’s current updates on their websites. For example, Airbnb and VRBO have updated their websites with new information concerning cancellations due to the Covid-19 crisis. Airbnb is giving refunds for reservations on dates between March 14th through May 31st that were cancelled because of the virus. On the other hand, VRBO is strongly encouraging their providers to give vouchers and/or partial refunds for reservations on dates between March 13th and April 30th that were cancelled because of the virus.

Third, look at the executive orders issued in the state where you planned on vacationing. For example, Gov. DeSantis of Florida has issued an executive order which has prohibited short-term rentals until April 30th. He defined short-term rentals to include all rentals that are less than 30 days, which basically covers almost all of Airbnb’s and VRBO’s rentals. Therefore, anyone who rented a place for a couple of weeks in Orlando in April, will have to cancel their plans.

Lastly, review the particular state’s attorney general’s website. Here in Minnesota, our attorney general, Keith Ellison, is accepting emails and comments from citizens who wish to report that a business has treated them unfairly. So, anyone could email our attorney general and submit a complaint regarding their negative experience with a short-term rental provider.

All of this means that you may be eligible for a refund for your cancellation. You should review all of the above to determine what your options are.

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