about Non-Refundable Booking Deposits

Questions about Non-Refundable Booking Deposits

We would like to book your home for two weeks next year but are afraid to give such a large deposit with no chance of getting our money back if you do not allow cancellations. Would you consider a smaller deposit because we would be booking almost a year in advance?

Thanks for your message and your interest in our property.

First of all, our normal booking deposit is 20% of the value of the rental, however HomeAway/VRBO does not give us that option. The minimum percentage they will allow is 25%, and unfortunately I can’t do anything about that.

Why aren’t Booking Deposits Refundable?

The purpose of the booking deposit is to hold the dates for you. Essentially, when we receive a booking, we take those dates off the market and commit them to the guest who has booked them. Booking deposits are typically non-refundable, so that guests will not make trivial bookings and take the dates off the market with the expectation that if they change their mind, they can simply cancel and get the deposit back. Making booking deposits simply refundable upon request has lead to guests making bookings for the same dates with multiple properties, and cancelling all but one at the latest possible moment.

Why not allow free Cancellations if the dates are so far away?

For certain periods of the year, our bookings typically come in around nine months ahead of time. Some bookings are made more than a year in advance. The typical booking period for a vacation rental is, in fact, around nine months in advance. This is when many guests are looking to book peak times. If we have accepted a booking for a period like this, and then the guest cancels six months out, we are already three months passed the best time, and the greatest chance that we have, to be able to book the dates with another party.

Guests are competing for available dates

In a similar vein, we have to recognize that ALL of our guests book our home under the same circumstances. We don’t play favourites, or change our terms… lest we open ourselves up to the possibility of being accused of discrimination. In a way, just like we compete with other vacation rentals for guests, our guests compete with each other to book dates in our home first. It is amazing how often two different guests will attempt to book the same dates, often within hours of each other. Over the years we have seen this happen many times.

Given this situation, are we to accept bookings under different terms for different guests? There is no situation in which that can be considered a fair approach. Having different terms for different guests could open us up to accusations of discrimination, which actually has happened when we have had to inform guests that another guest booked the dates they were after first. We protect ourselves by keeping things the same for everyone.

We only have the one home like this to offer

A vacation rental is unique, in that it IS unique. We only have the one home like it available for any given set of dates. It is unlike a hotel room where there will be multiple copies of the same accommodations available, and if one room is booked, there almost always is another one just like it available to sell to the next customer. Once we accept a booking for a set of dates, in a way, we are now out of business for those dates. It is a one shot deal, and that is why we require what we do of our guests.

Trip Cancellation Insurance is the answer

Assuming that a guest truly does want to book our vacation home quite far in advance, with a non-refundable deposit for all of the reasons explained above, there is admittedly some risk that is being taken on by the guest which will appear should something unexpected occur and the need to cancel arise. This risk can be mitigated however, relatively inexpensively with trip insurance, and we encourage all guests to take out trip insurance so that they are protected against a multitude of unforeseen circumstances and possible expenses. This really is the proper way to eliminate the risk in booking our home, and indeed, all of the purchases connected with one’s vacation.

Exceptions to the rule

Finally, while it is our policy that booking deposits are non-refundable, in actual practice we do adjust the enforcement of the policy in order to ensure that we treat people fairly, and in a manner that we would like to see should the positions be reversed. Part of how we evaluate cancellations and deposit refunds is determined by the timing of it.

For example, should a guest cancel a far off booking within a week of making it, we will simply refund the booking deposit completely – no questions asked. The dates haven’t been held off the market for very long, and we think it appropriate to provide anyone with a ‘cooling off’ period upon making a booking with us. We want our guests to enjoy their experience with us, not feel they were taken advantage of.

In some cases, if we can not provide a refund, we will provide the guest with a full or partial credit that they may use against some other dates of our choosing.

There are too many considerations to list here that all go into how we assess refund of a booking deposit, but it is not out of the question. In all cases, we endeavor to be fair, and treat the guest as we ourselves would expect and like to be treated.

Here is what is stated in our Terms and Conditions:

• The Booking Deposit (20% of the Total Rental Charge) is Non-Refundable. In event of cancellation by the guest, a whole or partial refund of the Booking Deposit MAY be provided at the sole discretion of the owners. Alternatively, the owners MAY provide the guest with a non-refundable credit to use for another booking at another time, again solely at the owner’s discretion.
Any cancellation within 8 weeks prior to the Arrival Date will regrettably result in loss of the whole booking fee (not including the security deposit).

Again, our objective is to be as fair and equitable as we can be, taking into account all of the issues at play.

I hope that this detailed explanation satisfies your questions, and demonstrates our commitment to you as our guest to treat all of your concerns and needs with the utmost care and attention.

I look forward to welcoming you to Breezy or Pleasant Oak Villa soon!

Author description

BOV Host

About the author:Rob Peters is the Site Administrator, Blogger and Chief-Touble-Maker on When not online, he is managing his terrific vacation rental properties in Florida, or admiring his three adult kids and loving his wife Donna.