How Home Exchange Services Are Dealing with COVID-19

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Countries across the globe have locked their borders, and countless cities and states are ordering residents to either “shelter in place” or self-quarantine in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of industries, travel is arguably one of the hardest hit by these ever-changing mandates and the understandable collective panic the public’s experiencing. Travel companies are reacting in real-time to abide by these new mandates, keep people safe, and to ease the financial ramifications of cancellations. Homeshare services—such as Airbnb, VRBO, and Home Away—have each issued their own protocols. We’ve outlined what you can expect if you have to cancel an upcoming trip.

Airbnb

Airbnb’s COVID-19 statement says that reservations made on or before March 14, 2020—with a check-in date between March 14 and June 30, 2020—are covered by its “extenuating circumstances policy.” This means that those who cancel before check-in will receive a full refund, and also that hosts can cancel without any impact, either. Unlike typical cancellations, this includes a refund of all Airbnb’s service fees. To be protected by this policy, you may have to provide proof of extenuating circumstances. It’s important that you go to your account and cancel the reservation yourself, particularly if the host has not already canceled. Once canceled, you will receive a refund within 15 business days.

If you booked a stay before March 14 for travel that takes place after May 31—a likely scenario if you’re a Type A planner—you are unfortunately not covered by Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy at this time. You can still cancel your reservation and will receive a partial, full, or half refund according to the host’s specific policy. Hosts may be more flexible amid this pandemic, but not a given. You will not receive a refund of Airbnb’s service fees. There’s a speculated possibility that Airbnb’s policy may be updated to include affected bookings for after May 31, 2020. TripSavvy reached out for comment about this and have yet to receive a response.

If you booked travel after March 14, you are also not covered by Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy. This is “because COVID-19 and its consequences are no longer unforeseen or unexpected.” You can still cancel your reservation and will receive a partial, full, or half refund according to the host’s specific police. You will not receive a refund of Airbnb’s service fees.

Read the full Airbnb COVID-19 cancellation policy here.

Vrbo

Vrbo’s COVID-19 statement says that reservations booked before March 13—with a stay between March 13 and April 30—have two options. The first is to request a flexible credit you can apply to future bookings at the same property within the next year at no additional cost. This is something you need to arrange with the host. The second option is to request a full or partial refund in cases where flexible credit doesn’t make sense for you. Again, this is something you need to speak to the host about, though Vrbo is “strongly encouraging” their property owners and managers to accommodate these requests. In either case, you will receive a refund of Vrbo’s service fees.

“The vast majority—more than 95 percent—of owners and property managers are offering credits with flexible dates or refunds to travelers. Many travelers are accepting the credits and working with vacation homeowners and property managers on agreements that work for both parties,” Vrbo’s Alison Kwong tells TripSavvy. “For example, there are property managers offering credits for the full amount of the stay that never expire and the credits can be applied to any vacation home in their portfolio—not just the property or destination the traveler originally booked. Though this situation is tough for everybody, our customers have appreciated the flexibility.”

If you booked a stay before March 13 for reservations that takes place after April 30, you are unfortunately not covered by Vrbo’s existing policy. The company encourages you to review the booking’s cancellation policy and to take action during your cancellation window. However, at this point, you will not receive a refund of service fees. The company also encourages people in this scenario to purchase travel insurance in the case they are diagnosed with COVID-19. However, it’s important to note that most travel insurance does not cover a travel ban, quarantine, or “fear of travel.”

If you booked travel after March 14, you are also not covered by Vrbo’s policy since the risk was already known. You can still cancel your reservation and receive a potential refund according to the host’s specific policy. You will not receive a service fee refund from the company.

Read the full Vrbo COVID-19 cancellation policy here.

Home Away

Vrbo and Home Away are owned by the same parent company and therefore the policies are identical.

Refer to the information above, and read the full Home Away COVID-19 cancellation policy here.

Flipkey

Flipkey's COVID-19 statement says that reservations that start on or before June 30, 2020, have two options. The first is to request an alternative reservation date, which can only be achieved by contacting the host. The second option is to cancel your reservation, which must be done through your account under "manage my booking." Given the extenuating circumstances, the policy states that cancellations will be overridden and a full refund will be granted. (Note that the policy doesn't care when you made the reservation; it only matters when the booking is).

It’s currently unclear how those with bookings on or after July 1 will be affected by COVID-19. Now, the website states, “As this unpredictable situation develops, the health and safety of our customers is our highest priority and we’ll update this as soon as possible. Rest assured, if you are still unable to travel due to Covid-19 restrictions nearer the time of your booking start date, your booking will be refunded in full."

Read the full Flipkey COVID-19 cancellation policy here.

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