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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
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Experience:  Lawyer
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Not sure what type of area this falls into, and the best

Customer Question

Not sure what type of area this falls into, and the best type of lawyer to help me.
I booked a vacation rental home through an online site for a 50th anniversary trip for 10 people.
As I was en route to the location, 30 miles away from arrival, the property owner called and notified me that there had been a fire at the property and it was now inhabitable.
I was forced to find hotel accommodations of 5 rooms to house my guests. This occurred during spring break and March madness in Las Vegas, rooms were at a premium- both cost and availability.
All the meals I was prepared to fix and serve in this rental property for guests were now stuck in the transport cooler in my vehicle, with no options for cooking in the hotel. We had to eat out (furnished meals for 10).
This occurred the week of March 17-20. I am still waiting for a refund of the home rental fees that I paid when booking the property. That was $700. Since then, I have reached out weekly, received a check that bounced and resulted in a charge from my bank of $12. Hesitant to deposit it again and incur more charges.
The online sponsor of this rental is unable to assist- another kink in the situation. When we booked and paid, we paid online at the site for the rental. The homeowner cancelled that booking, and emailed saying he doesn't usually do it that way; took our credit card information. When I contacted the online site for assistance, I was told that despite taking the additional trip insurance, they only guarantee and support when fees are paid through them.
Sorry, I know this is long- this was our first time attempting to do a vacation rental; we had no idea that all our guarantees ore help would be cancelled when we did as the property owner was advising.
Anyway, lesson learned. The party that was originally going to cost me $700 and meals for my 10 guests has finally ended with over $1900 in hotel rooms, and $800 in meals, and a $12 bank charge for the failed owner refund check.
How do I proceed to finally put this nightmare behind me and get our money?
Submitted: 4 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 4 months ago.


I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm very sorry to hear that this happened.

First, if that check was drawn on a bank that also has branches in your area, you can try going into the bank and seeing if they'll cash it on the spot. That gives you a chance at getting your $700 without risking putting the check in your account first. Just know that if the check was returned due to a closed account or a stopped payment, that won't work.

You're legally entitled to the $1,900 you had to pay for hotel rooms due to the property unavailability or the $700 you paid for this place, but not both. That's because he was obligated to give you a place to stay for $700, so you're entitled to a place to stay for $700. You'll also have to be able to prove to the judge that you weren't able to book any hotels that would come with a kitchen when you arrived in Las Vegas. He may want to know whether you specifically searched for those places and how many you called, things like that.

The way to get the money is to file a suit in the Las Vegas Justice Court, which is what they call small claims. I'm sorry to say, you cannot sue the property owner in California unless he happens to live there. You're entitled to a refund of your filing fees, but not the costs of travel to and from court for the trial - keep that in mind. If you have to hire a lawyer to help you with the case, that's also not compensable. These courts are designed so people can sue on their own. Here is more information on the process, including forms:

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Customer: replied 4 months ago.
The property owner does live in California, as do I. The property is located in Las Vegas.
I do not have the original check, the bank kept the original check, and only sent us a copy to use for future attempts.
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 4 months ago.

If the property owner also lives in California, that's good. It'll be easier to try to collect a judgment, and you can sue in the county where he lives. The California courts have forms and instructions online you can use.

The bank may not cash a copy of the check, although you could take it to the bank and try. Or you can sue for the full amount you're out as a result of his cancellation.

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