Action News Troubleshooters: Vacation Rental Refunds and Advice

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- With the rising number of COVID-19 cases in certain spots around the country, many people are now cancelling their summer vacations once again and looking for refunds.

This is such a tough situation for consumers and businesses as well as homeowners who rent out their properties. But many companies are stepping up and offering refunds and credits, many saying not only is it the right thing to do, it's good for their success long term.

Newlyweds Andrew Rejmaniak and Sarah Kolojejchick of Magnolia, New Jersey planned to honeymoon at Walt Disney World this week.

"So we were really excited," said Kolojejchick.

But then Florida issued an order requiring that visitors from New Jersey quarantine upon arrival for two weeks.

"So that would have meant that if we were still to go on this trip and go to Florida, we would be confined to our hotel room the entirety of our vacation," she said.

So the newlyweds cancelled their trip.

"We had rented what's called Disney Vacation Club points from a third party company," said Rejmaniak.

The DVC Rental Store acts as an intermediary between timeshare owners and consumers who rent them. It is not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company.

The couple paid the DVC Rental Store $3,000 for a nonrefundable resort stay.

"This is not a typical situation so we were kind of hoping for them to be a little bit understanding and to work with us," said Kolojejchick.

DVC Rental Store told the Troubleshooters while it has to protect both guests and their members who own the timeshares it was able to re-sell the couple's reservation and has now issued the newlyweds a credit for $2,720, good for the next 24 months and part of that credit includes change fees the company is picking up.

"It's really not fair for the consumer to be on the short end of the leash.. the business has to absorb the loss," said consumer attorney Craig Kimmel of Kimmel and Silverman.

Meantime, there are businesses doing right by their customers even at their own expense.

"If we aren't able to change the dates for them and flip them over to next year, we typically will refund their money," said Liza Theimer. "Because we want people to come back and we understand the circumstances they're under."

Theimer is the innkeeper for 931 Beach Guest House in Cape May.

"Everyone cannot do that, I understand that. But that's how we operate," she said.

Troubleshooter tips: If you are booking a trip now, ask about refund policies, consider paying extra for a refundable booking, and find out about any protection or insurance available. For instance, Kolojejchick and Rejmaniak opted out of the DVC Rental Store's "Point protection program," which the company tells me has provided 2-point-5-million-dollars in refunds since the pandemic began. Also consider booking directly with a hotel or resort right now because you're more likely to get a refund than through a third party.

Full Statement from The DVC Rental Store:

As the Intermediary for reservations through DVC Members, we are obligated to protect both Guest and Member based on the terms of the Rental Agreement which make all reservations non refundable for any situation, unless the Guest did not opt out of the Cancel for any Reason Point Protection Plan. This has been very unfortunate for many of our Guests as, for many good reasons some of our Guests can not, or choose not to travel due to the COVID crisis. As the Intermediary we are still obligated to pay the Member what was agreed upon in the rental agreement. We have been trying diligently to help our Guests transfer, or sell to another Guest who is willing to purchase the reservation(s) in order to recover a Credit for the affected Guests. In this case we were able to recapture $2,720 in credit of the $3,158 that was received from the Guest for their reservations, these credits are good for use up to 24 months. The DVC Rental Store does not receive any additional compensation whatsoever for these efforts, in this case The DVC Rental Store also incurred the change fee expenses to the Member of $200 on behalf of this Guest as well to maximize their Credit. Although we are not always successful in transferring or re selling reservations on behalf of our affected Guests, we were pleased that we were able to have success in this particular case. We will continue to work with our other affected Guests through this unprecedented time and look forward to getting back to the Magic for all.
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