Action 9

‘Unethical behavior’: Canceled vacation rentals cost consumers thousands of dollars

Before you book your next vacation be aware of complaints about an online vacation rental company called Houzlet. Consumers complain Houzlet is cancelling their bookings last minute and costing them thousands of dollars.

Breaking away from the cold of the northeast for some warm Florida sunshine was what Ed and Cynthia Crowley were looking forward to when they booked a vacation condo through Vrbo, one of the most popular vacation rental companies in the country.

Ed Crowley said, “We went to Vrbo and, you know, I wasn’t sure what Houzlet was, but the unit that we picked Houzlet was the host.”

They booked the Houzlet unit in June which was more than six months before they were supposed to make the trip to Florida.  But Ed Crowley said about a month before the trip, they received notice from Houzlet that the place they reserved was no longer available.  Then the company tried to offer them other options.

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“Now most of the places that they offered were at least twice the price, the cheapest one was over $8000. And the highest was about $12,000,” Crowley said.

And the Crowleys were not the only ones with complaints.  The Florida Attorney General’s Office has at least 70 complaints about Houzlet’s practices.

The complaints include these last-minute cancellations and even complaints from property owners and managers who claim Houzlet listed their properties without permission.  They said some of the properties listed weren’t even available to rent.  The Better Business Bureau has issued an alert for a pattern of similar complaints.

Cinthya Lavin with the BBB said, “Well, it’s very concerning because then that means that there is really some unethical behavior going on.”

To make matters worse, consumers complain trying to get a refund from Houzlet has been a nightmare.

Ed Crowley told Action 9, “And the answer I kept getting back from Houzlet is that we no longer deal with the same payment processor. So, we can’t refund your money.”

After weeks of headaches, he did get a refund, but it was from Vrbo, not Houzlet.

According to a news release posted online, in 2022 Vrbo agreed to let Houzlet list long term vacation rentals on the Vrbo site.

When Action 9 Consumer Investigator Jeff Deal reached Vrbo about this issue, it sent a statement that reads in part: “We are no longer working with Houzlet and are not offering their properties on our sites.”

It recommended consumers make a charge back request with their bank to try to get a refund. If unsuccessful, reach back out to Vrbo customer support.

But even if consumers get money back, many have been stuck paying more money to make new, last-minute reservations.

“We’re just glad it’s over. I mean, it was really frustrating. I mean, we’re senior citizens. I’ll be 75. My wife, she’ll be 71 next month. And, you know, we just wonder if they’re trying to scam senior citizens,” said Ed Crowley.

Houzlet has not responded to Action 9 about these complaints and the Better Business Bureau said it hasn’t received a response from Houzlet either.

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal,

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.

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