AUSTIN (KXAN) — Short-term rental company Vrbo is facing another lawsuit involving a Hill Country property where law enforcement says the owner secretly recorded guests with an undisclosed camera.
The property called Cielito Lindo Ranch is located off Saddle Wood Trail in Comfort, Texas, which is about two hours west of Austin.
The new lawsuit was filed Friday in Travis County by two couples, or four people, who make up the plaintiffs.
According to the document, one couple stayed at the property in May 2021 and received a call from the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office a few months later in November 2021. Law enforcement told the couple “they had been watched and recorded during their stay.”
The lawsuit said the couple identified themselves in over 40 images deputies showed them, including photos of the couple in “various stages of undress, and engaged in intimate activities together.”
The lawsuit said the couple was “humiliated and embarrassed” and has suffered damages because of the incident.
The second couple in the lawsuit stayed on the property in November 2020, the document stated. This couple actually looked into booking the ranch again for their anniversary the next year, in October 2021, but they couldn’t find the listing on Vrbo.
Then, in December 2021, the lawsuit said they also got a call from the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office telling them about the hidden camera and possible invasion of their privacy. The couple was “shocked, appalled, and worried about pictures of them in private and sensitive moments; possibly being broadcasted and watched by strangers.”
The lawsuit claims Vrbo was deceptive, saying the company “misrepresented the safety and privacy of the property.” The couples also said the company was negligent in that it “had a duty to exercise ordinary care as a hosting website” as well as manage its landlords’ properties.
KXAN has reached out to Vrbo for a response to this lawsuit. We will update this story once a response is received. In regard to the previous lawsuit about the ranch property filed earlier in July, Vrbo said it has a “strict, long-standing policy” against surveillance devices that violate the privacy and security of guests.
“Surveillance devices capturing the inside of a property are never allowed in listings on our platform. Surveillance devices outside a property, such as external security cameras or smart doorbells, are only allowed under specific rules and the host must always disclose their presence on the property listing page,” Vrbo’s statement said. “Although these occurrences are rare, our trust and safety team actively investigates any complaints about bad actors and takes action accordingly, including permanently removing any host in violation of our policies.”
The lawsuit said the plaintiffs are seeking monetary relief of more than $1 million.
Last November, Kendall County authorities filed charges against homeowner Jay Allee for improper photography. Authorities confirmed Monday the investigation is ongoing. The new lawsuit said a law enforcement search of Allee’s electronics found over 300 photos of guests.
Vrbo’s corporate headquarters are in downtown Austin.