Bay Area VRBO Vacation Home Renters Targeted by Neighbor Threat and Vandalism After Booking Incident

FAIRFIELD, Calif. (KGO) – It was a nightmare scenario for a group of friends on a recent vacation to the wine country.

The group, who rented a house on VRBO, woke up with their van tires slashed and a threatening message painted on the garage. They soon realized they were caught in the middle of a controversial neighborhood debate over short-term rentals.

“I can’t even believe it’s real, honestly,” Alana Harrison told ABC7 News.

Harrison, from Kansas, said her friend booked their group of 11 a short-term rental in the Green Valley neighborhood of Fairfield. On the third day, they woke up to find a threatening message spray painted on the garage.

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“This is your final warning. The tribe has spoken. Leave this place or else,” a post said over part of the garage.

Scrawled across the garage was, “You have no idea who lives on this mountain.” Don’t underestimate our people!

All four tires on their rental van were also flat.

“I was terrified. Honestly, I thought it was a joke,” Harrison recalls. “I don’t understand why they vandalized our car if they wanted us to leave.”

It was only after this that the group learned that the couple who owned the house did not have a permit for short-term rental. According to Solano County Supervisor James Spering, this was recently denied after a controversial debate and denial from the neighborhood.

“From what I understood, the permit was denied and delayed, so I was surprised to see that there were people staying there,” Spering told ABC7 News.

He explained that short-term rentals are very controversial, especially in Green Valley and some residential areas across the country.

“These are concerns about the impact on your neighborhoods, property values, fire risk. These are the main concerns we hear,” Spering said.

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When ABC7 News visited the home on Monday, new tenants were currently staying at the property.

ABC7 News tried to contact the owners about the incident, their license and the reasons they continue to rent, but they did not respond.

Cliff Neal, a neighbor who lives in the same cul-de-sac as the short-term rental, shared surveillance video from the night of the vandalism which showed a suspect entering the property and shortly after running away . He said he didn’t recognize the suspect.

“No and I hope someone will,” Neal said. “It’s appalling. No one can justify spray painting and pumping tires.”

Yet Neal is also one of the many neighbors who are fed up with this short-term rental. He said he signed a petition with more than 100,000 households asking the county to shut them down.

“They’re packing this house with seven rooms and 10 beds, trying to make it a party house,” he said. “And they were explicitly denied a permit.”

As for Harrison and his friends, they are disturbed by all aspects of this experience: the reaction of the neighborhood, the owners and VRBO.

“The worst for me would be the owners because they are like we keep renting no matter what,” she said. “But VRBO should have policies in place to investigate.”

VRBO did not respond to ABC7 News by the deadline. Harrison said after much pushing, the website appeared to withdraw the rental.

After the incident, the group did not feel comfortable staying in the house and told VRBO that they were planning to leave. But VRBO didn’t help them find a new rental, and they couldn’t find affordable alternatives. They ultimately had no choice but to stay.

At this point, Harrison said they could no longer book through VRBO, so they had to book directly through the owner, who said he could only stay if he paid.

Harrison posted an article about the incident on the “Girl Loves Travel” Facebook group. After her post gained attention online, she said VRBO reimbursed the group for the two nights they ultimately paid for through the rental website. They are still hoping for a refund from the owner. They also had to pay the cost of the flat tires out of their own pockets.

The group are still trying to get reimbursement from the owners and are shocked to learn that they have currently rented it.

For now, Harrison shares their story as a warning.

“I felt compelled to share so that this doesn’t happen to people who use VRBO anymore,” she said. “Just found out, be very diligent in looking at the property you are staying at. Don’t just read the reviews on your own.”

The group has filed a police report and is hoping someone will be arrested and charged.

Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All rights reserved.

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