COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A sudden and unexpected cancellation left one local woman scrambling to find another short-term vacation rental, weeks before her scheduled trip. She called Better Call 4 with a warning for other potential travelers. 

Ready for a getaway, Michelle Austing and her family started planning in February for a trip to Hawaii in early May, booking flights, rental cars and vacation homes, through VRBO, an online vacation rental marketplace. 

“We’ve used them in the past, and never had a problem before,” said Austing. 

On February 22, Austing booked a rental for the last leg of the trip, May 13 through the 17. Everything was set, until Austing said she got a message from the property owner, on March 27. 

“He emailed us, saying… so, five weeks later… that it’s a timeshare,” said Austing. “And, first off, he’s telling us that he doesn’t have the timeshare for the Friday and Saturday. His timeshare starts on the Sunday. But then he’s also talking about that they do regular cleaning monthly on a Friday and Saturday night, at this apartment complex, and it has to be vacated.” 

In short, the property owner canceled Austing’s reservation. Austing said he offered an alternative, but with no flexibility on dates because of the family’s flight schedule, Austing called VRBO for help. 

“There’s no help for us. They said, ‘You have plenty of time to rebook something else.’ I just, I expected more help from them,” Austing said. 

Austing did get a refund from the owner of the property, but no explanation as to why it took him so long to cancel, and no additional help from VRBO. 

Better Call 4 reached out to the company about Austing’s ordeal. A representative sent this statement: 

We’re sorry that Michelle didn’t have a good experience with her booking. We looked into this for you. In this situation, the host had to cancel Michelle’s booking because the property was undergoing scheduled maintenance for the building and was not available for her stay dates. Michelle was refunded in full for the cancelled booking. 

While we expect hosts to honor their bookings, sometimes cancellations are inevitable due to reasons outside of the hosts’ control, such as unexpected damage to their property or the effects of a natural disaster. When hosts cancel due to reasons under their control, those cancellations negatively impact the host’s listing performance and visibility to other travelers on the site, and cancelling too frequently could result in removal from our platform. 

Additionally, with our Book With Confidence Guarantee, when hosts cancel a booking within 30 days of check-in, our 24/7 customer support team can provide rebooking assistance to help guests find another comparable vacation rental. In this case, Michelle unfortunately did not qualify for rebooking assistance as her booking was cancelled by the host outside of this time frame.” 

Austing said she was able to find other accommodations at a higher price, but has a message for anyone watching, planning to book vacation rentals.  

“Viewers beware! Any of them can do this to you and leave you in the lurch a few weeks before you travel,” said Austing. 

Austing said she did use VRBO to book another rental, and had a good experience, but it did cost an additional $300.