(WSVN) - When Irma hit, a lot of people who were planning to be here for vacation were not allowed into hotels and flights were cancelled. But does that mean you get your money back? It depends, which is why one woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Say “the Keys,” and this is what people think of: the beaches, the bars, the parties.
Vita Lauberte, Irma ruined vacation: “We were planning a mom-and-daughter as well as aunt trip to go to the Keys and enjoy the stay; they have never been.”
This summer, Vita called and booked a room at a Key West hotel for the middle of September. She put the $612 charge on her credit card.
Vita Lauberte: “We picked a balcony on the second floor that overlooks the Duval Street. We were planning on having some wine and people staring.”
But of course, we all know what happened in September down in the Keys.
Vita Lauberte: “Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma happened.”
Irma ripped through the Keys the week before Vita’s planned vacation, ending any hope of going there.
But even if she wanted to go down to Key West, people were not allowed.
Vita Lauberte: “And the Keys had been closed for tourism until October 2nd.”
Vita first thought about the residents that stayed behind.
Vita Lauberte: “You’re seeing boats on roads that used to be on the water. It’s very frightening. You hope and pray everybody is going to be OK.”
Then realizing her trip to Key West couldn’t happen, she asked the hotel to return her $612.
Vita Lauberte: “And she said, ‘We do not do refunds.'”
Vita countered, “We were not even allowed to go into the Keys, so how could we check into a hotel?”
Vita Lauberte: “The Keys were mandatory evacuated, especially for tourism, and she said, ‘You can take it up with somebody, but you are not going to get your money back.'”
The hotel said they’d give her a credit for another vacation, but Vita didn’t want that. She wants her money back.
Vita Lauberte: “I think it’s only right to give back the money to the people that were never able to go on their vacation. I think it’s unjust that they are holding on to it.”
Well, Howard, if you had booked a room and were not even allowed within 100 miles of the hotel, can they keep your money?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “No, they cannot keep your money. You either get a refund or a credit. On their website, the hotel says, in case of a natural disaster, like Irma, you do not get your money back, just a future credit. But Vita booked on the phone and is not held to that internet policy, so she gets her money back.”
We contacted the Duval House in Key West. They told us they would give Vita a credit for another stay but would not give her money back. However, if she disputed the charge on her credit card, they would not fight that.
We told them she had already done that and they did fight back, blocking her from getting her money. They then gave up and at that point returned Vita’s money to her.
Vita Lauberte: “They returned $612.”
Howard Finkelstein: “Whether it’s a plane flight or a hotel, if a natural disaster hits, you either get your money back or a future credit. If they refuse, take them to small claims court, where you will win, because it is not hard to prove Irma hit Florida.”
Vita Lauberte: “I’m just happy that I involved you guys.”
Irma ruined Vita’s vacation, but now she has some money for her next trip.
Vita Lauberte: “Honestly, without you guys, I wouldn’t have seen my money at all.”
Glad it all worked out. Now, if you book online, you usually have to click “I agree with the terms.” Read that before you click, because their refund terms are probably in there.
If you make your reservations on the phone, like Vita did, they have to tell you. Otherwise it’s not part of the contract. But to be safe, you should ask about their policy so you know.
Hit with a problem that’s become your natural disaster? Ready for someone to storm in and clear things up? Book with us. We know the Keys. You relax, we do the work.
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