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Vacation Rental Nightmares: How Can Travel Insurance Help?

Vacation Rental Nightmare
Allianz - Vacation Rental Nightmare

Broken locks. Moldy bathrooms. Dirty sheets. Rowdy neighbors. Unsafe structures. And bugs, bugs, bugs.

Vacation rentals that look absolutely perfect in photos — and even those that boast dozens of five-star reviews — sometimes turn out to be total disasters. If this happens to you, what should you do? Can travel insurance come to the rescue?

Often, it can; but that depends on the details. Read on for advice on what to do in four common vacation disaster scenarios. And if you have a trip on the horizon, don’t wait to buy travel insurance! Get a free quote in seconds.

Vacation rental nightmare: The place you’ve booked is uninhabitable.

At last, your long-awaited summer vacation is beginning! You booked a river house for your family, and you’re looking forward to sunny days on the boat and warm evenings on the deck. Except it rains. And rains. It rains so much that the river overflows its banks and floods the first floor. All the water overloads the septic system, so the toilets stop working. This is not the vacation you’d pictured, but your host won’t give you a refund.

Can travel insurance help? Yes, if your plan includes trip interruption benefits. If your vacation rental is uninhabitable, that’s a covered reason for interrupting your trip (or canceling it). “Uninhabitable,” as defined in your travel insurance plan, means “a natural disaster, fire, flood, burglary, or vandalism has caused enough damage (including extended loss of power, gas, or water) to make a reasonable person find their home or destination inaccessible or unfit for use.”

In a situation like this, you should document the damage, as well as your communications with your host. Then you can file a claim to get reimbursed for your nonrefundable, unused, prepaid trip costs.

Note that bad weather alone, or a minor inconvenience with your rental, isn’t a covered reason for interrupting a trip. If your rental is dirty; has a bad smell, mold or an insect infestation; or has another problem, document the issue and contact your vacation rental company as soon as possible. 

Vacation rental nightmare: The rental amenities are not as advertised.

Now that your office has decided to stay remote, you do something you’ve always dreamed of: You book a seaside cottage in Turks and Caicos for a full month. You’ll work during the day, then spend your evenings and weekends snorkeling and fishing. Except when you arrive, you discover that the promised high-speed Wi-Fi connection isn’t strong enough for email, let alone Zoom meetings. Not only that, but the advertised “fully equipped kitchen” is just a hot plate and a microwave.

Can travel insurance help? Not in this instance. You’re better off contacting your vacation rental company, which has policies in place to help when a rental is technically habitable but lacks promised amenities.

First, reach out to the rental owner or host to alert them to the problem and ask for a solution. Make sure your communications are in writing, via email, text or the vacation rental company’s message platform. Also, be sure to take screenshots of the original rental description! This will protect you in case the host alters the listing to remove the mentions of Wi-Fi and a kitchen.

If the host is unwilling or unable to fix the issue, then report it to your rental company as soon as possible and ask them to make things right. In the case of one traveler who faced a no-Wi-Fi situation, Airbnb rebooked her in a new, more expensive rental and paid for the price difference.

Vacation rental nightmare: You’re the victim of a crime.

You and your best friend rent an apartment in a quiet neighborhood in Prague. When you return from dinner one evening, you find someone broke into your vacation rental. Your laptop, a watch and some clothing have been taken — and worst of all, your passports are missing.

Can travel insurance help? Yes. The baggage loss/theft benefits in your travel insurance plan can pay you the lowest of the following, up to the maximum benefit listed in your plan:

  • The actual cash value of the baggage
  • The cost to repair damaged baggage
  • The cost to replace the lost, damaged, or stolen baggage.

The baggage benefits section of your plan explains what’s covered and what’s excluded. High-value items (such as jewelry or electronic equipment) are covered up to the maximum benefit for high-value items shown in your plan documents. For your loss to be covered, you must file a police report and notify the vacation rental company within 24 hours of discovering the loss.

What about the passports? Contact 24-hour assistance by using the TravelSmart app or by calling. Our assistance team can help expedite the process of replacing lost or stolen travel documents.

Vacation rental nightmare: You get seriously ill or injured at your vacation rental.

You’ve booked a special place for your honeymoon in Costa Rica: a luxury treehouse in the Monteverde cloud forest. It’s absolutely magical, with incredible views of the canopy. As your wife walks out on the deck to get a closer look at a hummingbird, her foot goes through a rotten board. When you pull her free, there’s a deep gash in her leg. She needs medical attention right away. Help!

Can travel insurance help? Yes. Your emergency medical benefits and emergency transportation benefits may be the most important part of your travel insurance protection, because they can assist you in crises like these.

Call local emergency services to get medical attention for your wife. The free TravelSmart app can help connect you with emergency services when you’re overseas. Then, contact 24-hour assistance — or — as soon as you can safely do so. We can arrange payment for emergency medical care and monitor your wife’s condition. Emergency transportation benefits can pay for pre-approved, medically necessary transportation to the nearest appropriate hospital or other facility, if needed.

Your trip interruption benefits can also pay for your accommodations while your wife receives emergency medical care, as well as your transportation home, and reimburse you for the unused part of your vacation. That way, you can book a new honeymoon once your wife has recovered — and maybe this time, your vacation rental will be everything you dreamed.

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