My name is Rui Bandeira and I am the owner of the company Apartments Unlimited, which raised a discussion on this forum. We intermediate reservations between owners of properties and the customers, people who want to rent those properties. We manage everything concerning the reservation procedure and help the owners to welcome their guest with the most friendly and at the same time professional way.
The charge of the deposit of 50% at the time of the reservation and the balance on arrival is pretty much common of the short-stay business. This doesn't mean that you lose the whole deposit in case of cancellation: it depends on when you do that.
Of course there are other companies who charges differently: less or even more (some require 100% in advance).
In the past we have worked with 25% deposit, but we had many cancellations and empty properties. Customers who pay 50% deposit are much more like not to cancel a reservation. Of course situations can happen that you don't have another choice. That's why we advise a good travel insurance and in many cases we give credit to our customers to book another period, or we don't charge the cancellation fee at all (when the reservation is pretty much in advance, for instance).
Our payment and cancellation policy are printed on our website at:
As you may know, vacation rentals are not like hotels with walk-ins the whole day, as the houseboats, apartments and studios don't have a reception. That's why hotels have much more flexible booking conditions. Also, short stays properties are unique: once they are booked, we cannot offer the same property as hotels can offer another bedroom.
If you need reference about our company, you can check the reviews at FlipKey (company connected to TripAdvisor): we won a Top rental manager badge in 2011 and 2012.
I can assure that you are in good hands with us, because above all, we are very honest people. But in order to run a successful company we must set clear rules. If you don't want to accept them, we can recommend other companies that we know.
Please let me know if you have any questions.