PIGEON FORGE (WATE) – A popular cabin rental company in Pigeon Forge appears to have closed its doors leaving renters with no place to stay and cabin owners wondering where their money is.
Some of them contacted WATE 6 On Your Side looking for answers saying they have not been able to get in touch with anyone at Sunset Cottage for several days.
A family member of the owner of Sunset Cottage Rentals says she’s been in the hospital unable to run her business, but that still leaves a lot of renters and cabin owners wondering where the rest of the employees are. WATE 6 On Your Side hasn’t been able to reach anyone who can say what the future of this business may be.
Sunset Cottage took down its website Thursday night, leaving only a message that says, “We are closed. We are sorry for any convenience.”
Sunset Cottage manages and maintains about 250 rental cabins in Sevier County.
“I called Monday and everything went to voicemail, the maintenance office, everywhere. It said go to our website if you’d like to make reservations. You can’t do that if they’re not taking anybody,” said Violet Lawhorn.
Lawhorn owns a cabin on Sunset Cottage’s rental program but says she has not been paid for last month’s rentals and cannot find any way to contact them. She drove up from Georgia to get her cabin’s locks changed and find answers, but the doors are Sunset Cottage are locked with no one inside. Phone calls to the company go to voicemail.
“This is my first time and I’ve been using these people for like five years,” said Lawhorn. “It’s not right. You don’t do somebody like that. You don’t run a business that way.”
Sunset Cottage is a member of The Smoky Mountain Vacation Lodging Association, but they say they have not heard anything from the company and they have only seen something like this happen a few times before.
“It hasn’t happened often and hopefully it won’t. These individuals have been in business quite some time so we wouldn’t expect this kind of thing, but we just don’t truly know what’s going on,” said SMVLA President Brad Ivens.
Ivens says the SMVLA has been contacted by people arriving in town who cannot get into their cabins, and they are prepared to give them a new place to stay without anymore charges if they already paid Sunset Cottage.
“Try to take care of them in the best way possible so they have a good time, good stay, because we want them to come back to Pigeon Forge,” he said.
Anyone who rented a cabin from Sunset Cottage and cannot get in can contact the SMVLA at 1-866-744-5926 or firstname.lastname@example.org. They suggest the cabin owners contact legal counsel. The lodging association says they would expect cabin rental companies to notify owners and anyone with reservations ahead of time if they plan on closing.
Other cabin companies step in to help
Other cabin companies are now offering to take in renters who don’t have any way to get into the cabins they booked.
Rented.com CEO Andrew McConnell says cabin owners can list their cabins on the website letting other property managers come to them without the fear of a company shutting down. He says it’s not unheard of for rental companies to close unexpectedly, but it’s not common practice either.
“It’s happened before but it is more the exception than the rule. Most management companies really do care about their owners and really do want to do right by them,” said McConnell.
McConnell says his company connects cabin owners with managers in an auction and all managers go through a certification process with background checks.
More online: Rented.com