Every owner of a holiday home or homestay, must have encountered guests who ask for refunding the booking amount. However before I go into what you as the owner of a vacation rental should do when renters ask for a refund let us first look at the likely situations when he might ask for a refund.
1. NOT GETTING WHAT WAS PROMISED: Renters ideally book an accommodation based on the images they see in your holiday home listing or those in your website. Plus, they see the list of the amenities/ facilities you are offering. Based on these criteria they get an idea of what they will get in the property. But in many cases the photographs and the reality is quite different. The photographs may have been taken when the property was absolutely new and now after years of occupancy it is not the same. The owner never bothered to update the photographs or maintain the property. There are other things which guests ideally complain when they find that the facilities/ amenities mentioned in the website or listing do not match those that are really available in the property.
2. TRAVEL AGENT MADE FALSE PROMISES: This is a very common situation. Travel agents by and large are very aggressive in getting renters. So they might make false promises about the facilities/ amenities you have in your property, saying yes to everything the renter asks. Is there a barbeque, because I want to have a poolside barbeque with my family? The travel agent might say yes whether you have a barbeque or not, leave alone a swimming pool.
3. LEAVING EARLY: Many renters have booked for a week but after a couple of days they decide to explore another destination. They might bum into a couple of friends and decide to stay with them instead. Many guests after staying for a day or two might say that they were not happy with the property so they want their money back.
4. CANCELLING BOOKING ON THE DAY OF ARRIVAL: Owners might encounter such situations where the guests have booked your property and on the day of their arrival when you are done with preparing the property for their arrival, you get a phone call from them, saying there were some change of plan and asks for a refund.
So what do you do? I’m assuming that you had already signed a rental agreement with the guests wherein the cancellation and refund policies have been clearly stated. This will make things easy for you when you get unreasonable demands of refund of the booking amount from guests.
To do away with guests asking for refunds because the photographs and facilities given in the listing did not match those actually are, update your photographs regularly, preferably every season. Make the changes in the facilities as and when something is added or removed. However never do things like doing away the stain on a wall using Paintbrush or Photoshop.
In the second case where the travel agent made false promises; these situations can be easily avoided. All you need to do is prepare a list of the facilities you have in your property and ask the travel agent to have the guests read and sign it. Only after the signed copy of this reaches you that you should confirm the booking.
Meanwhile, leaving early doesn’t account for any refund. While a clause regarding this must be inserted in the rental agreement, if you face such situations tell the guests politely but firmly that that will not be possible because you will not be able to get guests on such a short notice. The same goes for cancelling on the day of arrival. Tell guests that you have already made arrangements for their stay and have already turned down guests who had earlier wanted to rent for the same dates.