LOS ANGELES & SAN JOSE—Although renting a home for your next vacation is a great way to have your own space and feel more comfortable, it comes with additional risk. Last year consumers filed more than 1,100 complaints with Better Business Bureau (BBB) about vacation rental companies. The most common issue was an inability to get a refund, but consumers also complained about poor service and deceptive sales.
Here’s how you can avoid problems and find a relaxing place to call home during your next trip:
- Check BBB. Whenever you’re interacting with an unfamiliar business it’s smart to check bbb.org, where you’ll find a business’ rating, complaint history and reviews from past customers. Make sure to do your research and keep an eye out for red flags like unanswered complaints or false advertising.
- Steer clear of rental scams. Nearly 350 rental scams were reported to BBB Scam Tracker by consumers nationwide last year. About 40% involved losing money, and the median loss was $350! Rental scams go something like this: you find a great place online and you prepay, but when you arrive, the property either isn’t available or doesn’t even exist! Only rent from trustworthy companies and reputable home sharing websites, and steer clear of properties advertised by individuals on classifieds sites. Use a credit card, which offers more protections than debit and prepaid cards. For more tips on avoiding rental scams, visit bbb.org/rentalscam.
- Be careful booking through a third-party site. It’s usually safer to book your rental directly through a rental company, but you may be tempted to use a third-party booking site that’s advertising the best deals. Do your research. Of the 7,000 complaints about travel agents and bureaus that BBB received last year, more than 2,300 were against online travel agencies. Don’t go near unprofessional looking sites, consider using a trustworthy BBB Accredited Business and always read the contract and refund policies carefully.
- Considering a timeshare? In a timeshare, individual units are divided into time interval ownership plans which you can then buy. It may feel good to own your vacation home, but be careful. Last year nearly 2,400 complaints were filed against vacation timeshare companies. The majority of complaints (54%) were about sales. Many complaints involve false advertising and aggressive sales tactics. Consumers frequently complain about attending a lengthy timeshare presentation in exchange for a “free” vacation but in the end are charged a lot of money for the trip. Check out the company on bbb.org, read the contract thoroughly and don’t feel pressured when talking to a sales person.
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is! If you receive an unsolicited email, letter or phone call claiming that you won a free vacation, don’t believe it! You’ll never have to pay upfront to receive a free prize, and never wire money to someone you don’t know. Learn more at bbb.org/prizescam and bbb.org/travelscam.
If you encounter a travel, rental or prize scam make sure to report it BBB Scam Tracker to help warn others! After your trip, let BBB know about your rental experience by writing a Customer Review on bbb.org.