Today I was browsing through one of the vacation rental owner groups I’m part of, and I came across one person’s heart-wrenching encounter with CSA Travel Protection. For those of you that don’t know, CSA Travel Protection is a renter’s insurance that guests purchase to “protect themselves from additional expenses should accidental damage occur to a rental property during their stay.” It’s the weirdest thing I’ve seen because property owners can’t file a claim against it. Only the guest can. Say what!? Here is the experience this individual had. It has been posted with their permission:
1/24/2017 7:28am – Let me tell you about my latest problem with VRBO. We joined the VRBO company 6 years ago when we purchased our vacation property. Loved the idea of what we thought, was like a management company online. Taking care of insurance, online payments (credit card/eCheck), Rental Agreements, and all communications with the renters kept as a record, right there online. We bought into everything. We required our guests to buy CSA Insurance, required online booking, damage deposits. They have made quite a bit of money off of us. Earlier this year, we struggled with the new “service fees”. We didn’t want to charge our guests more money and VRBO so kindly suggested that we just subtract that amount from our rental rate. We did not. This fall, we had a guest damage a $3000.00 leather sleigh bed. At VRBO’s suggestion we had required our guests to purchase $59 CSA Insurance. While the $1500 of coverage was not going to be able to replace the bed, we assumed that in the least it would pay for part of it. Turns out CSA does not work for the Property Owners. If you renter denies damage, YOU are not covered and will NOT receive any claim. In addition, if your renter were to claim responsibility for the bed and state that it was damaged on purpose maliciously….YOU as a property owner are NOT covered and will not receive a claim. In addition to the CSA Insurance really not covering anything, we had required our guests to pay a refundable damage deposit of $500. We had installed a brand-new refrigerator in our kitchen only to have the very next guests damage both the refrigerator door and the tile floor below. We immediately contact the guest following check-out to inquire about the damage. Not only did they deny it (not allowing us CSA coverage) but the guest then went on to contact VISA and dispute that she had allowed us to keep the additional $500 refundable damage deposit. VISA pulled the charges from our account and placed in an escrow pending our dispute. I then provided the required documentation; Renter agreeing to the Rental Agreement on the day of payment, a copy of the Rental Agreement that was uploaded to the VRBO site since the day we began with them, and all of the correspondence between the renter and myself. At some point (likely during a website upgrade), I guess that our actual Rental Agreement had been removed from the VRBO site. How would I know this? Did I know that I needed to double check every reservation? I had mistakenly assumed that once I uploaded the document, it would remain there until I removed it. Our guest checked the box acknowledging the Rental Agreement (even though it apparently wasn’t there) and moved on with her booking. Not only was she able to pull the $500 refundable damage deposit back out of our account, VISA themselves pulled an additional $500 for the time reviewing the case. The only advice that I received from VRBO was “from now on we suggest that you have your guests sign a written Rental Agreement form for you to keep in your files”. Well that’s convenient VRBO and hindsight is 20/20 I guess. We’re out $1000 and we will be looking for a new site to advertise on. Done!!! (sorry for the ramble…..it has been one of those days) 🙁
I feel so sorry for this individual. Here they are trying to rent out their property, and they have some unscrupulous guest jacking up the place. As the person above says, “hindsight is 20/20”. I want to make the situation better than that. First of all if you are an owner I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, and secondly I want the person who wrote this to actually profit from their situation. So here’s what I would do in a situation like this:
1.) Dear Renter, that CSA Travel Protection isn’t going to help you because I don’t accept it. – Perhaps some of you have gotten an email from VRBO congratulating you that the guest purchased travel insurance to protect your property. When I get this message I email the guest immediately and let them know they have purchased something valueless that I don’t accept (and most of the time the guest calls and cancels the insurance). I also advise them that I have done research on CSA Travel Protection, and they should too. I tell the guest how, as of the date of this writing, CSA Travel Protection has 100% negative consumer response according to the BBB. More specifically, there are 128 complaints and reviews about CSA Travel Protection on BBB, with 100% of them negative! Don’t believe me? Have a look at this screenshot I took earlier today. I couldn’t help but notice BBB is giving this company an A+ rating despite the negative reviews. BBB is a sham in my opinion, but that discussion is for another article:
2.) Take a security deposit. – The most ideal situation would be to take a security deposit in the form of a check. This would help offset the owner’s expenses somewhat. However, most people these days like paying with a credit card or some reversible form of payment so they can take their money back from you if they feel a reason to. In the owner’s situation above, the guest used the chargeback process afforded her from her visa card. If you are going to accept a security deposit on a credit card, please do so as a totally separate authorization. You need to have a separate form that’s titled “Credit Card Authorization for Damage Security Deposit”. The form needs to say that the the credit card will be authorized for the security deposit amount. In the event of damage the owner, at his sole discretion has the right to capture the amount sufficient to cover the damages. Are you with me on that? If you’re going to take a security deposit with a credit card then have a separate agreement for only the security deposit. You’ll have a much higher chance of defeating a chargeback if you do this. Why do you think hotels make you sign a separate paper about smoking in the hotel room or bringing a pet into the room? They know this already.
3.) Require the guest purchase renter’s insurance (real renter’s insurance) – Most people’s homeowner’s insurance policies aren’t going to cover damage to your vacation rental. However, people’s homeowner’s insurance usually has a renter’s insurance endorsement that can be purchased for renting your property. Make sure that the renter’s insurance amount is up to the value of your property and it has you listed as the beneficiary / interested party. This way you can actually file a claim on their insurance yourself without having to ask them to do it.
4.) Be your own insurance – If you are the owner of the property that is being rented then why not require your own insurance? In addition to the refundable security deposit require your guest to pay insurance to you. I require my guests pay $50 insurance fee that covers them for up to $5000 in damages to my property. It’s my property and I agree to forgive up to $5000 in accidental damages.
I hope my two cents will help make sure something like this doesn’t happen to you. I’m always cheering in the corner of the small guy. I’m sick of how Walmart and Amazon have taken over nearly all retail business and put small business out of business. Likewise, as many of you know, I’m deeply concerned with the actions of the VRBO/HomeAway websites over the past couple of years. They’ve went from being a great lead generation service to acting like some sort of travel agency with a bank. Their level of greed has made them start shaking guests down for a valueless service fee (all about that, here). We all know that VRBO/Homeaway should stay out of the business of taking credit people’s credit cards since they are known to have been hacked (proof of that here). And of course let’s not forget the big crock of bullshit called “Book With Confidence Guarantee” (more about that here).
Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, and I am not offering legal advice here nor anywhere. I am merely a battle-hardened veteran of this industry and offering my two cents gained through nearly twenty years of rental experience.