A Virginia woman says she was excited to go to the 2020 Democratic National Convention as soon as it was announced it would take place in her hometown of Milwaukee, and she started making plans immediately, but she says those plans were put on hold when the home rental reservation she made was canceled.
Tammy Nemeth decided to surprise her friends with a free place to stay, but hotels in the city were either booked or too expensive, she said.
“This was within an hour of the announcement,” she said. “I wasn't finding anything on the hotel sites.”
Nemeth searched the home rental website VRBO and found a house available for $259 per night.
She called her friends, and they started booking flights.
But about an hour after getting confirmation, she said the VRBO host emailed her.
“And it said, 'I'm really sorry, but this property is not available on your dates, please cancel it,'” Nemeth said.
The hosts said their "calendar was not supposed to accept automatic bookings."
Panicked, Nemeth started searching for other properties but said the only listings left cost hundreds of dollars more per night.
Not wanting to cancel without another reservation lined up, Nemeth contacted VRBO, which assured her they'd look into her complaint and sent her a list of what they called "comparable properties."
“I think there were about four or five, and when I clicked on their listings, all but two, I believe, were gone already, and the two remaining were $1,000 a night and I think one was maybe $7,000 a night,” she said.
Nemeth made one last emotional plea to the hosts to honor her confirmed reservation.
In an email, the host told her: "We r not booking anything for the dnc at this time.
"Guess u r choosing to have me cancel the reservation then. That will take a much greater amount of time. Will get to it when I can. But the reservation is cancelled on my books, so you need to find other arrangments."
When NBC4 Responds checked VRBO three weeks after Nemeth's reservation was canceled, the same listing had DNC dates available at $950 per night.
“I think it's obvious from the bookings what happened,” Nemeth said. “That they are booking, that they want to make quite a premium on their properties for the DNC stay.”
"We encourage owners to avoid canceling a traveler's reservation whenever possible,” VRBO told News4. “Owners with a repeat history of cancellations can have their property's performance impacted and may even be removed from our site."
The hosts didn’t respond to a request for comment.
When using sites like VRBO or Airbnb, know that the companies have limited power over the hosts.