Families fight for vacation rental refunds

Posted at 7:00 PM, Oct 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-13 17:13:21-04

Here in the valley listing your house as a short-term rental can be an easy way to make some extra cash. But, one Cave Creek homeowner is accused of taking several renter's money, and failing to provide the house.

Tom Eaton is one of those renters and last week he came all the way from Washington State to have his day in court.

"I think he's cheated me and he's cheated other people and I did not want him to get away with it," Eaton said.

In December 2015, Eaton was looking for a home to rent while in Arizona for Spring Training games with his buddies. He found one in Cave Creek and contacted owner Bill Muller.

"We agreed on a rental price, sent a deposit check for half and then he never provided anything after that. He cashed my check and didn't provide a contract or even a receipt that he had received my money," Eaton said.

For seven weeks, Eaton says he tried to get Muller to provide him a written contract but it never happened.

"I tried to contact him and he said he would sign a paper saying he owed me the money and he'd pay it back and we agreed to meet at a Starbucks."

That never happened.

Eaton had to rent another place, and sued Muller to get his $2,150 back.

We caught up with Muller just before the hearing where he insisted that the verbal contract with Eaton was enough.

Then there's Tyler Dobbins, we met him earlier this year when and his family came from North Carolina for his wife Lauren's medical procedure.

They paid Muller $7,000 upfront to rent his house. It wasn't ready when they arrived.

Lauren passed away from complications after surgery.  Phoenix Fire Department stepped in to give the family somewhere to stay and while Muller promised to refund the money--even telling us that he overnighted payment to them--months later the Dobbins were still waiting.

Then there's the Minnesota couple who say they paid Muller more than $10,000 to rent his house and still couldn't get in.  They're also suing.

Eaton won a judgment of more than $3,100.

And on his way out of court Muller's attitude changed.

"I'm wrong Joe. I take ownership. I'm gonna take care of it. That's all I can do because I don't wanna be back here again," Muller told me.

He went to say. "I honestly went through a very deep depression. I've reached out to the two other people. I'm working with them they're being repaid. I just spoke with with Mr Eaton after he won his thing there and we're gonna work ok."

But for Eaton it's more than just the money.

"This guy cheated me and I want him to be held accountable for it," he says.

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