What to do if you have to cancel your vacation rental due to the Coronavirus

Victoria Pappas
Many of us had exciting vacations planned for summer 2020, but unfortunately the pandemic derailed such plans. 

The fear of contracting the coronavirus from traveling is causing  many people to cancel their vacation plans, which includes cancelling any rental home or hotel reservations. 

Here is what you need to know if you must cancel your vacation rental. 

1. Check the rental company’s cancellation policy.

Many hotels and rental services have updated their cancellation policies due to the coronavirus, giving people more flexibility. 

For example, Hilton issued a statement explaining that reservations made before March 12, 2020 can be cancelled up to 24 hours before your arrival date, but not after August 31, 2020,  with no charge or penalty. 

For reservations booked on or between March 12, 2020 - August 31, 2020 for any future reservation date can be changed or cancelled up to 24 hours before the arrival date with no charge. 

Airbnb issued a similar statement regarding reservations and the coronavirus as well. The company updated its Extenuating Circumstances Policy, allowing  reservations made before March 14, 2020 with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 to August 31, 2020 to be cancelled before check-in. You can either get a refund or credit. 

Unfortunately, reservations made on Airbnb after March 14, 2020 are not eligible for a full refund or credit unless the guest or host is sick with the coronavirus. 

Most rental services have some sort of cancellation policy. Typically, in non-pandemic times, most cancellations do not allow for a refund and may even charge a fee. 

2. Many hotels and rental services have changed their cancellation policies in order to accommodate for the coronavirus.

Check the company’s website or contact your rental host for more information and to find out what your options are.  

Some rental services have not been so forgiving. 

However, a lot of companies and rentals have not been as forgiving with cancellations, which can be a bigger issue if the renter has already paid, in part or in full.

Vrbo, a popular rental company, issued a COVID-19 emergency policy that left some customers unsatisfied. 

The provisions of this policy are “asking” or “strongly encouraging” property owners and managers to offer full credits or refunds for reservations made that are outside of the normal cancellation window. 

The policy doesn’t seem to require property owners and managers to issue refunds or credits because of the coronavirus. So, there is a possibility that those who wish to cancel may lose their money all together. 

One renter in Massachusetts already put a deposit down for a house rental in June, 2020 and wanted to cancel, but did not like any of the options the rental home owner gave them since it would include price increases. Fortunately, after many weeks of negotiations with the homeowner, they agreed to push back the rental agreement to next year, for the same price. 

Do not be discouraged at first if you do not find a cancellation or refund policy that you are satisfied with for your rental. Try to negotiate with the renal owner and come up with a solution that can work for both parties. 
3. Check if the terms of your rental agreement have a force majeure clause. 

A lot of contracts contain a force majeure clause. This is a provision in a contract that relieves both parties from legal liability if they cannot perform their promises in the contract due to extraordinary, unforeseen, uncontrollable circumstances that could not be reasonably avoided. 

These circumstances cannot arise from the actions of either party. Examples of these circumstances include unpredicted natural disasters or other “Acts of God.” 

So, if your reservation does not have a satisfactory cancellation policy you can look for a force majeure clause. It may appear either on the company’s site or on the terms you agreed to when booking your vacation rental. 

You can claim that the coronavirus is a force majeure event that allows you to cancel and possibly get a refund on your reservation.  There has been debate over whether the coronavirus qualifies as a force majeure event. 

Vrbo stated that its force majeure clause does not include the coronavirus. 

Other companies, like Booking.com, stated that the coronavirus is a “Force Majeure/Forced Circumstance.”  Reservations under Force Majeure allow guests to receive a refund, voucher, or change their reservation to a later date. 

What you can do. 

Each company and property owner or manager will have different policies and ways to deal with the coronavirus. The best thing to do is ask them directly about your options for cancellations due to the coronavirus. 

If you are not able to negotiate for a refund, try to come up with a plan to move your reservation to a later date. Rental owners need these reservations as well so they will likely be willing to help find a later date that works for you. This way you can keep your vacation plans for the same price. 

Also try to negotiate for a voucher or credit for the amount you paid. Having a credit at Airbnb, for example, is like having a giftcard in the sense that you can only use they money on their site. 

Vouchers or credit will allow you to book another rental for a different date with the same company. Vouchers and credit can allow more flexibility as you may be able to choose a different house, location, and date with the same company. 

If you are booking a vacation now. 

Make sure to check the cancellation policy before you book. Most companies have issued statements on coronavirus and cancellations. If you book now, you are subject to those cancellation terms and it will be harder to challenge now that we have been living in the pandemic for quite some time. 

You can also purchase insurance. 

Cancel for Any Reason Travel Insurance (CFAR) “is an optional benefit of travel insurance coverage which offers the opportunity to cancel travel plans for reasons other than those listed as ‘covered reasons’ on a policy.” 

Companies themselves can provide you the option for trip insurance when booking your rental. 

However, trip insurance may not always be worth the extra cost or protect you fully. Click here to learn more about times when you should or shouldn’t buy travel insurance.

Be careful when booking a trip during the coronavirus. Many companies or insurances may not allow you to cancel or get a refund for COVID-19 related reasons because the situation was foreseeable. Typically insurance and cancellations with refunds are issued due to unexpected circumstances. 

Because the pandemic has been going on for months, you’re booking with the risk that the virus 
can prevent you from going on your trip. Companies may use that as a reason not to issue complete refunds, so book at your own risk. 


This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.

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