As vacation rental cancellations mount, some say they’re not getting refunds

Advice for those having trouble with Honolulu's new vacation rental law

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the city’s new vacation rental law causes more cancellations, some visitors say they’re not getting their money back.

Texas visitor Kelly Williams says she's planning to come to Oahu in September to visit her son and her grandchildren.

She usually stays at the same Waikiki hotel. But this year, she says she wanted to give Airbnb a try.

After her reservation was booked, she learned about Honolulu's new law.

"I got really nervous about my Airbnb reservation rental there," said Williams. "I didn't even know if I was going to get to Hawaii and have a reservation still available to me."

Williams says when she called her host, he admitted he was operating illegally under the new law. But she says he still tried to convince her to keep her reservation.

"He didn't think there were going to be any problems. He said and informed me he was going to continue to do this, continue running these properties until he got caught," said Williams.

For better peace of mind, Williams says she canceled the reservation and booked her usual hotel.

But she says the host refused to refund her deposit of $418.

"The host and Airbnb both told me that they would not refund my money because of what I signed when I went through online and checked all the boxes for the agreement," she said.

A spokesman for Airbnb says when a host cancels on a guest, the guest is entitled to a full refund.

But when a guest cancels on a host, he says it depends on the cancellation policy of that specific host.

The Better Business Bureau has advice for travelers stuck in similar situations.

“Depending on how the payment was made, if it was made with a credit card or PayPal where you can put a dispute in, try that first,” said Lisa Nakao, Hawaii office manager for BBB.

Nakao says you can also file a complaint with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, as well as the BBB.

"We would help the business and the consumer understand the issue a little bit better. Airbnb might have questions about (the new law) and we're happy to supply information they need to assess the situation," Nakao said.

One consumer attorney told Hawaii News Now by doing business without permits, the rental operators may be violating the state’s law against unfair and deceptive practices.

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