Many people are turning to online rental sites and booking personal condos or homes instead of booking a hotel for your vacation, but with that comes unique risks and less protection if things go wrong.

Mark and Rebecca Mawhinney were enjoying their romantic spring vacation when the Victoria couple encountered a lock problem at their rented Paris flat. The Mawhinneys had unknowingly locked themselves out by leaving a key on the inside of the apartment door, rendering the lock inoperable.

“They didn’t have door knobs and we couldn't open the door," said Mark Mawhinney. 

The suite was booked through, a popular vacation rental website. After calling the landlady for help, the helpless couple discovered she was in South Africa. They then called a locksmith, who ended up breaking the high-security lock and then demanded more than $2,000 to replace it.

"Our passport was in there, both of our passports were in there, a lot of our valuables were in there. So we had no choice, we had to get in," he said.

Feeling stressed and taken advantage of, Mawhinney turned to Airbnb for help, and sent a desperate message to the website's email address. But Mawhinney was not impressed with the response he received. 

"Here we were in France, in a foreign country with a foreign language with my wife, and we were completely abandoned by Airbnb, it was absolutely no support, no backup," said Mawhinney. 

Steele on Your Side reached out to Airbnb on the couple’s behalf. Within 24 hours, Airbnb had reviewed Mawhinney’s file and sent CTV an email to say: "We want the Airbnb experience to be memorable and meaningful, and we've reached out to Mark to fully refund him for this matter."

The experience has soured Mawhinney and his wife on both Paris and Airbnb. 

"When you most need your travel support, when you most need a champion in your corner, I think is when you're going to a foreign country and I’m not sure that I would use them again," said Mawhinney.

For Mawhinney’s next trip, he says he would likely turn to a travel agent because he believes an agent would work on his behalf if he ever ran into trouble again.