NBC 6 Responds Helps Get Refund After Irma Damages Rental

A woman tries to get a refund after a rental home in the Florida Keys was destroyed during Hurricane Irma. NBC 6 Responds' Alina Machado reports.

(Published Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018)

What to Know

  • A woman called NBC 6 Responds after seeing our story about a couple who lost money after Hurricane Irma.

  • The previous story damaged a Keys home where the couple planned to marry.

  • The woman who called said she was also owed money by the same property owner.

It was supposed to be yet another adventure for a group of friends that often travels together.

“We have a friend that’ll be turning 50 soon so we’re all going on a trip and we decided we wanted to go to the Keys,” said Judi Wheeler.

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So when Wheeler came across an online listing to rent a large house in Marathon, she thought she had found the perfect place.

“We need some place that was big enough for everybody,” she said. “The price was decent per person so we booked it.”

The group paid last June about $6,400 for a 7-night stay in Spring 2018. Then Hurricane Irma happened.

“We were really worried about that,” she said. “We contacted Aaron, the owner, and asked him about the damage,” she said.

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The damage, it turns out, was extensive. Jessica and Alexander Arteaga, who had signed a $3,900 contract with the same person to have their September 9th wedding at the house, snapped pictures and took video showing the property after the storm.

“It’s pretty obvious we’re not going to have the wedding there,” said Jessica Arteaga.

The couple reached out to NBC 6 Responds for help, after they say the man who rented them the property –Aaron Hernandez – stopped responding to them and their promised refund never arrived.

“Literally just stringing us along, stringing us along for a long time and then completely blowing us off,” Jessica Arteaga said.

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Wheeler, meanwhile, said the owner stopped communicating with her, too.

But unlike Jessica and Alexander, who signed a separate contract with Hernandez and took the transaction out of the Airbnb site, Wheeler stayed within the platform.

“I think that by following all of the rules that they set up, that we were safer there,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler decided to cancel the reservation and got half of what she paid. She then reached out to Airbnb to ask for the rest of her money. Her request was at first denied. A customer service representative explained to Wheeler in an email: “Being that you cancelled the reservation, prior to reaching out to Airbnb, we would not be able to process a refund without Aaron’s consent. As we have already attempted to ask that Aaaron refund you, and he has declined, we will have to uphold his cancellation policy.”

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“It was just really disappointing,” Wheeler said.

After NBC 6 Responds contacted Airbnb on Wheeler’s behalf, she received another message apologizing for it taking longer than anticipated to reach an “amicable outcome” and explaining that once she cancelled the reservation, “…the host’s Strict cancellation policy was implemented” and that Airbnb “…may ultimately override a host’s cancellation policy and make refund decisions” but that they “…must receive notification of your concerns prior to the reservation being cancelled in order to issue a decision.” The message goes on to say that Airbnb decided to issue a refund for the remaining cost of the reservation as a one-time courtesy.

“I’m so thankful for that,” Wheeler said. “I really am.”

Wheeler’s group found another house in the Keys to rent for their trip in March.

NBC 6 Responds was unable to reach Aaron Hernandez about the issues with both reservations.