How to keep your dream vacation from becoming a nightmare – WHIO TV 7 and WHIO Radio

DAYTON — A Florida couple claims they have lost thousands of dollars renting a luxury vacation home. They said the conditions were so bad they had to move out.

The demand for vacation homes has soared since COVID, but so have the complaints about the rental nightmares.

Kim and Paul Walz though they found their dream vacation home in Cocoa Beach. “Had a beautiful view of the pool, view of the ocean,” Paul Walz said.

The pictures of the vacation home found on VRBO were amazing and it had glowing reviews. VRBO is a popular for rent by owner website.

The Walz’ paid $12,000 up front for three months, never expecting the nightmare they found behind the front door.

“I’m thinking I paid this, and this is what I’m getting. All the sheets were soiled and ripped,” Paul Walz said.

The couple claimed there were broken toilets, panels fell off the front door, along with rusty pots and pans. There was also busted furniture, they had an old paint can supporting one corner of the bed.

“A paint can. The slats had broken, and this man thought the easiest fix was using a paint can,” Paul Walz said.

The couple told our sister station WFTV in Orlando that all attempts to have the home cleaned and repaired failed – since the homeowner did not respond to them or the rental company VRBO.

“They were not able to contact the owner, so it was pretty much put to bed,” Paul Walz said.

The situation was so bad that Walz left one month early and lost $4,000.

“We thought it was going to be heaven and it was hell,” Paul Walz said.

The nightmares start online. Most vacation renters have not seen the property themselves and make reservations based on the pictures and reviews they can see.

“We see this beautiful Florida home. This house really stuck out to use as a luxury home,” Paul Walz said,

Tim, who did not want his last name used, and his wife rented for a property management company handling homes for private owners in a central Florida resort community.

“It was sort of immediate, you see tears and stains on the furniture,” Tim said.

He claimed the pool was not the one pictured online and the promised baby crib was nowhere to be found. And, when they complained – “No one called back for a full 24 hours,” Tim said.

Both couples who contacted WFTV made their decisions after preparing very positive online reviews – but said they won’t make that mistake again.

According to Kim and Paul Walz, they wrote a very critical review of the VRBO-listed property, but the rental company never posted it.

These families both complained to Florida’s Division of Consumer Services and the state Attorney General but say so far it has not helped.

Consumer experts said the best defense is uncovering the nightmare before you book and pay. They said critically review pictures on large screens, ask for photograph dates and request referrals you can call.

WFTV contacted VRBO and said Kim and Paul Walz waited a month to complain so they were not eligible for rebooking and their review violated company guidelines, so it was not posted.

Both families said they will never book vacation homes again sight unseen.

Consumer experts say ask for the physical address of the property before making the reservation. Search multiple browsers for pictures and reviews posted by actual renters who have a real story to tell.

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