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VRBO – broken furniture, who pays?
Please help, fellow travelers! We are very frequent travelers, accustomed to staying in hotels, and a situation arose last week on our first VRBO experience for which I desperately need some advice. We were staying in a licensed rental apartment in Italy and my husband was sitting on a bar stool (normally, nothing inappropriate or reckless about his use), when the chair broke, a corner of it snapping off and he fell to the floor. (I should mention that my husband is of average size and weight, 175 lbs.)
We informed the owner, who is now demanding that we pay to replace the chair. The home was not a luxury one, by any stretch, and most of the furniture was dingy, old and damaged, but this piece was “very expensive” according to her and she is threatening to involve the local police.
She did not ask for, nor did we pay, a security deposit. The apartment rental was pre-paid via bank transfer. The only “contract” we have, per VRBO, is the “Rental Agreement” she sent us, which in no way mentions damage to the property. It certainly does not say that it is the renter’s responsibility.
I view this sort of incident as something that comes along with wear and continued use, and part of the cost of doing business when one turns their holiday home into a business. If the water heater or another appliance had broken during our stay, would we be responsible for paying to fix it? Of course not. Nor would your Uber breaking down while you are a passenger mean you would be on the hook for repairs, simply because you had the misfortune of being the one sitting in it while it broke. How is this any different? And, as a licensed business, does she not have insurance to pay for this sort of occurrence, which is bound to happen?
I contacted VRBO and, aside from being unpleasant to deal with, they did not say much beyond opining that I should feel compelled to pay for it if I put myself in the owner’s shoes. Well–if I rented my house out, I would probably expect that some things may experience more wear and tear with increased usage.
I’ve lived in Italy off and on for several years and I can’t imagine a scenario in which the local police would (agree to)“get involved” to strong-arm a tourist for paying damages under such circumstances. I wouldn’t continue to discuss the situation with her and when your time there is up, just leave without paying. And as for VBRO’s behavior, I would never use them again.