DEAR TROUBLESHOOTER: I recently rented an apartment in London via HomeAway. When we arrived there was no hot water. I called the property management company. A representative promised to send a plumber, but no one showed up on time. Christopher Elliott, the travel troubleshooter I called the property management company again and a representative said that the boiler was broken and needed a part. But how could they have known? No one had yet come to examine the problem. It lasted three days. I was in an apartment with a 7 year old child, a 9 year old child and no hot water. Finally, the HomeAway reservation team approved a hotel for the remainder of our stay. After submitting our receipts, HomeAway only paid for two of the nights. It’s been months. I just want to get my money back. But I am also worried. I think HomeAway and the owner had plenty of time to redirect us to another property before we arrived. Why not? – Wayne Morse, Livingston, New Jersey ANSWER: If HomeAway (now Vrbo) promised to reimburse you for three nights in a hotel, you should have received a refund for your stay in a hotel room for three nights. And you had that promise in writing. Nice work by keeping a paper trail, by the way! But perhaps more disturbingly, it seems that the owner knew that the boiler in your apartment was flashing. I would like to give the owner the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the boiler was operating intermittently and the owner intended to replace it after your stay. Sometimes vacation rental owners or their management companies will schedule maintenance when there are no guests in the unit, to avoid disruption. But by the time the water has cooled in your apartment, the owner should have jumped in. Instead of giving you quick help, they suspended you for three days while you were probably having cold showers. So much for your vacation. You are covered by Vrbo’s Book With Confidence Guarantee, which assists customers when a property is “not at all as described.” No hot water is a breaking factor. Vrbo promises to re-let you in another property or another hotel, which he did. But he seems to not have covered your expenses – again – for no apparent reason. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Vrbo customer service executives on my consumer advocacy site. A short and polite email to one of them could have helped you get a quick refund. You have followed all the steps for a successful resolution. You quickly contacted Vrbo (you must contact customer support within the first 12 hours of the event). You kept a written record and all of your requests to Vrbo were cordial. This should have been resolved quickly. I contacted Vrbo on your behalf. It turns out that for some reason he did not receive your claim forms. Vrbo refunded your last night’s stay.
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