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Rental issue due to wildfire

WazzuCougFan

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I rented a week I own at a resort that--of course!--became impacted by a wildfire. The resort itself is likely not in danger of from the fire itself but the fire in the mountains blew up overnight and the smoke is settling in the whole Lake Chelan area.

I received a call from my renter this morning who is at the unit right now. He said the smoke is awful, ash is settling on vehicles and coming down through the fireplace into the unit. The webcams at the resort and news articles verify that air quality is awful right now.
http://wapatopoint.com/webcam1.html

He is asking me for a partial refund. He paid $1600 and has used the unit Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. They are still there at the moment (Sunday). The rental period runs from Thursday to Thursday. He has a couple of young children, and they are arranging for a vacation at another resort elsewhere. They are selling their house so apparently can't go home, and he said they can't afford to pay for both resorts.

I don't know what to do! Morally I feel I should give them a partial refund, but legally, I probably wouldn't. I haven't contacted the resort, but they really aren't part of my arrangement. I doubt they have people clamoring to rent suddenly vacant units at a smoky resort. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
 

Passepartout

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This would have been a great time for the renter to have had travel insurance that would have covered costs if the lodging becomes unusable. Or if you'd had insurance to cover loss of income through no fault of your own.

Since it appears there was no insurance on either of your parts, I guess if you were trying to be fair, you should try to share the loss somehow.

Legally though, I don't think you are obligated to refund anything. Possibly, if the resort will credit you somehow for loss of use, you might offer this to the renter as a courtesy.

In the end, though, insurance is designed to cover loss.

Jim
 

sue1947

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I would not refund any. They can go home, they just don't want to. It's annoying to live in a home while it's on the market, but not impossible.
I would not expect an individual owner to refund any of my money under the circumstances. This is what insurance is for and/or sometimes life happens.

Sue
 

WazzuCougFan

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This would have been a great time for the renter to have had travel insurance that would have covered costs if the lodging becomes unusable. Or if you'd had insurance to cover loss of income through no fault of your own.

Since it appears there was no insurance on either of your parts, I guess if you were trying to be fair, you should try to share the loss somehow.

Legally though, I don't think you are obligated to refund anything. Possibly, if the resort will credit you somehow for loss of use, you might offer this to the renter as a courtesy.

In the end, though, insurance is designed to cover loss.

Jim

What insurance would you recommend (i.e., the company and policy). I could at least suggest it when they agree to rent.
 

DeniseM

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The real question is what do your RENTAL TERMS say about refunds and cancellations?
 

WazzuCougFan

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I would not refund any. They can go home, they just don't want to. It's annoying to live in a home while it's on the market, but not impossible.
I would not expect an individual owner to refund any of my money under the circumstances. This is what insurance is for and/or sometimes life happens.

Sue

I think you might be right about that. I imagine they had a vacation planned for a set period of time and will use that time. However, I don't blame them for not wanting to spend it holed up in a smoke-filled condo. lol

From now on I will suggest the renter purchase travel insurance.
 

Bigrob

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Others may disagree with me, but I think you're posting here because you know what you feel like is the right answer. If you don't follow what you feel like is the right answer, I don't think you're going to feel good about it... even though it isn't your fault and goes way beyond what you as the landlord should be responsible for in this instance.

For the future, you may want to change your thinking so you feel better about taking a less accommodating approach; you may also want to change your advertising/listing in such a way as to make clear that circumstances such as these are the responsibility of the renter and they should procure traveler's insurance to cover such circumstances.

However, that is for the future. For the current situation, I think YOU will feel better if you make some accommodation for this guest's loss of use, even though it's not your fault or technically your responsibility. I think you should compensate half for the loss of the unused nights (they are weekdays so are probably worth less than your weekend nights that have already been fully used and enjoyed). Probably something in the $250-300 range. And I would call the resort to see if there is any accommodation that can be made, although frankly I think that is unlikely in this scenario.
 

Bigrob

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What insurance would you recommend (i.e., the company and policy). I could at least suggest it when they agree to rent.

I do not recommend you make a suggestion on specific travel insurance to utilize. It may appear you are marketing for them and it could imply you have a responsibility for the performance of whatever company you recommend.
 

WazzuCougFan

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The real question is what do your RENTAL TERMS say about refunds and cancellations?

The pertinent portion of the rental agreement (I bolded the sentence I thought was most important):
-----------
Rental Amount: $1,600.00

1. Renter agrees to pay the following sums of money to Owner in consideration of this lease:

Balance due:
$1,600.00

Payments:
Mail to Owner address above

Upon payment, Owner agrees to ensure that the vacation time is in the name of the Renter and to notify Renter of this. Renter agrees to confirm the reservation with the management of the property and that it has been made accurately.

2. Renter shall not sublet this lease without Owner’s express written consent.

3. Occupancy shall be no more than 7 persons. Renter agrees to abide by policies set by the management, refrain from loud noise and to return unit in clean sanitary rentable condition or pay costs of same. Renter is responsible for any damages.

4. Renter agrees that no pets shall be allowed in vacation property.

5. Owner is not able to cancel this agreement without reimbursing Renter all out of pocket expenses for arranging this vacation. If Renter cancels this agreement then all monies paid to Owner, thus far, are forfeited.

6. Personal Property and Liability: All personal property kept by Renter in said premises shall be and remain at his/her sole risk and Owner shall not be liable for any damages to, or loss of such personal property ensuing from any acts of negligence of any other persons, nor from any problems with the rental unit from any other cause whatsoever, nor shall Owner be liable for any injury to the Renter or guests of the Tenant in or about the premises. The Renter expressly agrees to save Owner harmless in all such cases.

7. This Lease shall be governed pursuant to the laws of the state of the property; and invalidation of any portion of this Lease shall not invalidate the remainder.

This document contains the entire agreement between the parties, and any changes, amendments, or modifications hereof shall be void unless the same are in writing and signed by the parties hereto. Renter and Owner acknowledge receipt of a true copy of this Short Term Rental Agreement.

The parties below agree to the terms stated above and have read, understand, and agree to the terms of the disclaimer attached to this agreement.
 

davidvel

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I think you might be right about that. I imagine they had a vacation planned for a set period of time and will use that time. However, I don't blame them for not wanting to spend it holed up in a smoke-filled condo. lol

From now on I will suggest the renter purchase travel insurance.
Its a bummer for the renters but I agree with the above. You did not light the wildfire. You have no control over these circumstances (unless you guaranteed a vacation with no natural disasters, no high humidity, no earthquakes, no rain or thunderstorms, etc.)

You provided the usage as agreed. That being said, it certainly helps to specifically declaim anything out of your cause/control. If you recommend insurance, don't refer to a specific company.

If you do offer something be clear you have no obligation to do so as the conditions were out of your control, and that they agree they cannot pursue you for anything more.
 

WazzuCougFan

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I do not recommend you make a suggestion on specific travel insurance to utilize. It may appear you are marketing for them and it could imply you have a responsibility for the performance of whatever company you recommend.

O.k., that makes sense. Thank you!
 

WazzuCougFan

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Others may disagree with me, but I think you're posting here because you know what you feel like is the right answer. If you don't follow what you feel like is the right answer, I don't think you're going to feel good about it... even though it isn't your fault and goes way beyond what you as the landlord should be responsible for in this instance.

For the future, you may want to change your thinking so you feel better about taking a less accommodating approach; you may also want to change your advertising/listing in such a way as to make clear that circumstances such as these are the responsibility of the renter and they should procure traveler's insurance to cover such circumstances.

However, that is for the future. For the current situation, I think YOU will feel better if you make some accommodation for this guest's loss of use, even though it's not your fault or technically your responsibility. I think you should compensate half for the loss of the unused nights (they are weekdays so are probably worth less than your weekend nights that have already been fully used and enjoyed). Probably something in the $250-300 range. And I would call the resort to see if there is any accommodation that can be made, although frankly I think that is unlikely in this scenario.

Yes, bigrob, I think you're right. I would not make a very good cutthroat businessperson. lol I think your suggestion is great. I would feel pretty awful if I didn't do at least something.

I did contact the resort and got this reply:
------
Good Morning,
We are having guests ask for refunds also.
We are not giving refunds do to the fact we cannot control the weather.
I know this sounds harsh, but that is what we are going with.
Wish I could be more helpful.
Have a wonderful day!
 

WazzuCougFan

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Its a bummer for the renters but I agree with the above. You did not light the wildfire. You have no control over these circumstances (unless you guaranteed a vacation with no natural disasters, no high humidity, no earthquakes, no rain or thunderstorms, etc.)

You provided the usage as agreed. That being said, it certainly helps to specifically declaim anything out of your cause/control. If you recommend insurance, don't refer to a specific company.

If you do offer something be clear you have no obligation to do so as the conditions were out of your control, and that they agree they cannot pursue you for anything more.

I will definitely add more to the disclaimer from now on! As well as suggest travel insurance. Thanks! :)
 

Ty1on

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Yes, bigrob, I think you're right. I would not make a very good cutthroat businessperson. lol I think your suggestion is great. I would feel pretty awful if I didn't do at least something.

I did contact the resort and got this reply:
------
Good Morning,
We are having guests ask for refunds also.
We are not giving refunds do to the fact we cannot control the weather.
I know this sounds harsh, but that is what we are going with.
Wish I could be more helpful.
Have a wonderful day!

I wouldn't make a strict landlord, either. Any relief you give him would be from the goodness of your heart, not from obligation.

Big Rob always gives the best, most well thought out advice.

Numbers-wise, you could consider the weekend 40% of the value of the week, and each weekday 12%. So 48% unused. Half of that would be 24%, or ~$400, if you chose to split the unused days with them. Remember, you are taking a loss here too, if you do that, because you might have found renters without young children and who weren't bothered by the smoke, so think Big Rob's range is more than fair.
 

presley

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Maybe you could just imagine yourself as the renter and think what would be fair if you were in that situation.

Personally, I'd tell them you contacted the resort and the resort will not honor any refunds for their guests, but you will personally refund X amount. I'd make it clear that I tried to get some help from the resort and that they refused.
 

Southerngirl528

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What a scary thing to have wildfires so close to your property. And very good advice from some experts here. As an aside, I just read this afternoon that a fireman died in the wildfires in California. Prayers to his family. I hope everything works out well for you and your renter, Wazzucougfan!
 

Ty1on

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What a scary thing to have wildfires so close to your property. And very good advice from some experts here. As an aside, I just read this afternoon that a fireman died in the wildfires in California. Prayers to his family. I hope everything works out well for you and your renter, Wazzucougfan!

Just to convey an understanding how wildfire works, the fires doesn't really have to be dangerously close to you to cover you in a thick blanket of smoke. A couple years ago, we drove from Las Vegas to Lake Tahoe while the Yosemite fires were raging. near lee vining, probably 60 miles from the fire, it was almost blackout conditions from the smoke. When we got to Lake Tahoe, the air was clear. The next day, the wind had shifted and the smoke was very thick on the Tahoe Basin Thick enough to stare straight at the sun without squinting. We were 100 miles due North of the fires, safely out of the danger zone.

Smoke in the Reno air from California wildfires was pretty much an annual ritual when I lived there. We got smoke 200+ miles away.
 

Passepartout

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What a scary thing to have wildfires so close to your property. And very good advice from some experts here. As an aside, I just read this afternoon that a fireman died in the wildfires in California. Prayers to his family. I hope everything works out well for you and your renter, Wazzucougfan!

Fire and smoke is just a fact of life here in the West- especially in light of the current drought. No different than hurricanes in Florida. They just happen. You prepare the best you can.
 

Timeshare Von

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And what would you do if your renter said "Due to (fill in the blank), I couldn't make it to my vacation destination and couldn't stay in the timeshare I rented from you." ?? Would you accommodate them and issue a refund?

My rental agreement is pretty specific . . .

"1.3 The only type of refund that would be allowed is if the this unit is uninhabitable on or before the date the term starts, by reason of flood, fire, storm, or for any other reason, the owner shall refund the rent forthwith and will thereafter have no further liability to renter."

In theory, if you accept responsibility for the situation and make a partial refund, what if they said "now that we can't stay there, we have to fly home early . . . and that will cost us $XXXX to change our flights and you should reimburse us that too." ??

While the smoke and soot are inconveniences and may even have a potential impact on the health of those in the area, I don't think it has made your timeshare totally uninhabitable.
 

DeniseM

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#1 - Yvonne is spot on.

#2 - Speaking of cancellations, Guillermo, a category 1 Hurricane, is 790 miles south-east of Hilo, and if you have renters checking in to Hawaii rentals in the next week or so, you should expect to hear from them, so be prepared...

Last summer we had a similar scenario, and the resorts were not giving refunds, unless the airlines were not flying, and/or the resorts had to shut down. So my response to renters was that I would be happy to give them a refund, if the airline or resort was officially shut down. A few flights were delayed, but no resorts closed.

1365421669763627810.png
 
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Talent312

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A few years ago, I was at a hotel hit by a local thunderstorm which knocked out power for several prime-time hours. We went to the movies. Tongue in cheek, I asked if they'd cover our movie tickets... Nope. Force majeure a/k/a "hell or high water" clause. More recently, Delta declined to offer any compensation when cancelling their last flight out of Newark due to... a storm in Atlanta.

A rental means the lessee owns whatever happens in that time that ain't your fault.
Too bad, so sad.
.
 

famy27

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I've stayed in FL and CA when there were wildfires raging. In FL, we ended up with a little layer of ash on our car and had to wipe it away like we would have done with snow in Chicago. Our hotels remained open and usable. Even though the air quality wasn't the greatest and the ash was a bit of an annoyance, it would never have occurred to me to ask for money back from the hotel. And I have two small children.

As long as the hotel is open and habitable, you owe them nothing at all. The unit isn't unusable. They are just choosing not to use it.

Anything you do for them here would be 100% out of the goodness of your heart. I'd make darn sure you convey that any refund is a goodwill gesture.
 
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theo

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My $0.02 worth...

<snip> For the current situation, I think YOU will feel better if you make some accommodation for this guest's loss of use, even though it's not your fault or technically your responsibility. I think you should compensate half for the loss of the unused nights (they are weekdays so are probably worth less than your weekend nights that have already been fully used and enjoyed). Probably something in the $250-300 range. <snip>

I agree (...mostly, although I personally would not be inclined to split numerical hairs on the value of weekend vs. weekday nights on a full week rental).

OP needs to cover all of maintenance fees and any advertising costs --- that is indisputable. While the conditions on site are neither the OP's fault nor responsibility, a partial refund to the ash-covered tenants would be an admirable goodwill gesture. Think karma; I suspect that deep down the OP already knows the right thing to do.
How much of a refund OP chooses to issue is solely for OP and his conscience to determine, although OP certainly has no legal or contractual responsibility here at all, as Talent 312 has correctly noted already above.

OP: if the roles were reversed and the shoe was on the other foot, what would you regard as a fair and appropriate action by the owner in this particular matter? :ponder:

P.S. Travel insurance is generally a good idea, but would not apply in any situation (like this one) where a facility remains accessible, open and fully operational.
"Personally inconvenienced" or "encountered less than optimal weather and / or other environmental conditions" would certainly never be "covered policy events".
 
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