Protecting yourself while renting "by-owner" 

VRBO, Vacation Rentals by Owner, is supplying the following information to help you determine if renting directly from the owner is an option you wish to pursue. By following a few simple suggestions, we believe that you to can reap the benefits of renting directly, while minimizing your exposure to risk.

First, we must remind you that VRBO operates strictly as an advertising medium - please fully read our disclaimer.

VRBO lists tens of thousands of properties all over the world. By far the vast majority of properties you will encounter on the Internet (especially those listed on services such as VRBO) are indeed legitimate.   Nevertheless, we do recommend that you reduce your risk by using judgment and caution. Remember that these suggestions apply when dealing with anyone you don't personally know, whether a business entity or an individual.

It is very unusual that an owner will reserve a property for you without a deposit and typically they will expect full payment BEFORE YOU ARRIVE. Remember that the owner is turning over to you property that is typically worth hundreds of times the weekly rental rate. Since they normally only have one, or maybe a few properties to rent, when they reserve it for your use, they will most likely have to turn away other renters wanting to rent during the same time period. The owner needs to ensure that you intend to occupy the property during the time interval you are reserving. This is the reason they ask for your deposit.

We recommend that you verify a vacation home owner’s legitimacy PRIOR TO SUBMITTING YOUR DEPOSIT. Here are some suggestions on how to verify ownership.

1. Ask the owners for referrals from previous renters.

2. If the property is a part of a homeowners association, contact the association to verify that the person you are corresponding with is indeed an owner.

3. Ask for the name of the company who does the maintenance or cleaning and contact them for verification. You might also wish to inquire regarding the condition of the property.

4. Ask for references from anyone else who services the property. For example, pool service, snow removal, etc...

5. Many of our listings include reviews of the vacation rental. These reviews can be posted by both the owner and/or past renters of the property. By referencing these reviews, you can get a better sense of the vacation rental and its amenities. To view reviews, please refer to the "Traveler Reviews" section below the listing.

6. Remember the old saying, "if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is." If a listing has beautiful photos but the price is much lower than their competitors, you should wonder why. If a listing is much bigger than properties in the same area, you should wonder why. Make sure the amenities seem "normal" for the area where the property is located.

7. Prior to sending any money to an owner or providing a credit card number, ALWAYS request and receive a completed rental agreement or contract. Be sure it specifies the dates you will be staying in the property, the cost of the rental, any deposits, taxes, cleaning fees, and the cancellation and refund policies.  Without a signed rental agreement DO NOT consider the rental to be yours. If you do and something unforeseen happens, you may have little recourse in getting your funds returned. If an owner prefers not to use a contract or written agreement, find one that will.

8. Your best protection can come by working with property owners that accept credit cards.  First, there are certain protections that the banks put in place and not everyone qualifies to accept credit cards.  Secondly, using your credit card does provide you with certain remedies that are unavailable via other forms of payment. Note, paying via PayPal may not provide you the same level of protection that paying directly via credit card provides. Avoid listings that demand quick payment via a wire service like Western Union or bank transfer.

9. If you provide us with the listing number of the property in question, we will be happy to provide you with the date that the owner listed the property with our service. You can also find this information at the bottom of each listing, below the last picture. The longer someone has been with our service, the more likely that they are indeed legitimate.

10. Protect yourself by registering your trip with our Carefree Rental Guarantee. This provides up to $10,000 coverage if the rental home is in foreclosure or bankruptcy, if the owner double-books the rental or if the property is misrepresented.

By following the above recommendations, you can protect yourself and ensure your family has a unique and affordable vacation experience.

Happy Travels!!!