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Charlotte woman books cabin in Boone through Airbnb, property manager goes missing after large deposit paid

WBTV Investigates: A records request revealed 15 separate complaints against the company from property owners
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 4:31 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 4, 2021 at 4:34 PM EDT
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BOONE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Charlotte woman turned to the WBTV Investigates team for help after her attempts to get a refund from Airbnb got her nowhere.

The property she rented was managed by a company that is under investigation by the North Carolina Real Estate Commission and, despite loads of evidence, Airbnb was slow in resolving the issue.

Susan Tondreau used Airbnb to book a mountain cabin near Boone with her friends from college for mid-November.

Like many homes on the platform, the rental of the property was managed by a company, this one called High Country Vacation Homes.

But a little more than a month before her trip, Tondreau received a call from the owner of the home.

“The owner went on to tell me that High Country Vacation Homes is being investigated for many, many complaints,” Tondreau said.

WBTV Investigates reached out to the North Carolina Real Estate Commission and confirmed High Country Vacation Homes is being investigated by the commission.

A records request revealed 15 separate complaints against the company from property owners claiming that High Country hasn’t paid them rental income in months.

WBTV tried calling the owner of High Country Vacation Homes and even went by the office location but never received a response.

Despite the known issues with the property management company, Trondeau said she received little help from Airbnb.

“My reservation is through Airbnb, which the host is High Country Vacation Homes. So I have asked Airbnb to get involved to help me to verify the host,” Tondreau said.

Tondreau was going to try and rent the home directly through the owner but had already paid AirBnB a deposit of $1,200, and the rest was due on November 1.

“If I cancel I get back less than $200,” Tondreau said.

But Tondreau said Airbnb’s customer service was sorely lacking as she started receiving excuses from AirBnB on their message portal.

“We have a high volume of requests. I’m forwarding your inquiry to a member of our team who could better assist you. My shift is about to end I will get back to you in two days and there still has been nobody that has,” Tondreau said about the excuses she received.

Asher Fergusson, a travel blogger who has written extensively about Airbnb issues, told WBTV the problems Tondreau encountered are common.

“It’s almost like a black hole and this was our personal experience trying to get refunds for our Paris nightmare and it’s almost like they want to wear you down,” Fergusson said. “People turn to Twitter or Facebook or the media trying to get it in the public domain, trying to put the public pressure in order to get the refund.”

Pressure from WBTV seemed to help Tondreau.

After WBTV Investigates reached out to Airbnb, Tondreau received a full refund and High Country Vacation Homes has been suspended and is being investigated.

Tondreau also received a coupon for $450 for her next stay.

“We’ve cancelled Ms. Tondreau’s reservation and fully refunded her, and we sincerely apologize for the delay. We have suspended this listing and host as we investigate further,” a Airbnb spokesperson wrote in an email.

However, Trondeau said the experience will stick with her.

“I’m appalled with the service that I have gotten,” Tondreau said. “It’s sad to say that, you know when my reservation comes and goes, will another person end up in the same spot that I did?”

Fergusson provided some advice for people looking to book their next vacation:

- Always use a credit card when booking.

- Book from a reputable company, preferably with onsite customer service.

- If you have booked through Airbnb and run into an issue, be persistent and continually hounding Airbnb for a resolution.

- Never book a place with zero reviews on Airbnb and only book a place with a 4.85 average star rating or higher.

- Use the search field and search for keywords that might be an issue for you, like bugs or mold.

- Only stay with hosts who have a verified government ID.

- Try to avoid professional Airbnb landlords who have dozens or maybe hundreds of properties.

- Document anything that goes wrong with photo and video evidence

More blogs about Airbnb by Asher Fergusson:

If you have a tip or complaint that you want WBTV to investigate, email our team at investigates@wbtv.com.

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