Aspen rental commission dispute ‘traumatic’ shows paper trail matters


Aspen’s luxury rental company termination letter to an employee has come back to haunt its founder.

The favorable court ruling for a former contract employee of Aspen Luxury Vacation Rentals (ALVR) did not end with the March 11 order of Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely. Instead, it provided the springboard for more fights between ex-broker Victoria Cooke and Tricia McIntyre, who started The Aspen Agency Inc. and ALVR in the mid-2000s, for a commission payout of 7,250. $.

Cooke was fired from her brokerage position at ALVR on October 21, 2020, having started her job three weeks earlier on September 30. After his dismissal, McIntyre accused Cooke of quitting his job with a desktop computer and rental leads that weren’t his.

Yet it was Cooke who triumphed in small claims court over his former boss, McIntyre, winning a judgment of $ 7,305 for commission and unpaid interest following a trial in February. McIntyre also failed in his attempt to appeal the order.

McIntyre said Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely’s March 11 ruling was rooted in a lack of understanding of how commission agreements work in the vacation rental industry. McIntyre also said she plans to challenge District Judge Anne Norrdin’s refusal to listen to her appeal.

Cooke and another former employee, Sarah Thompson, “traumatized me and I seriously mean it,” McIntyre said. “And I was so shocked by Judge Ely’s ruling that I don’t even trust the court system.”

While Cooke took legal action against McIntyre and his company, Thompson did not. Thompson, however, testified in favor of Cooke in the February trial and said she also had difficulty receiving the commission she was owed.

According to the two ex-employees, McIntyre misled them about their commission and denied them full payment for as long as she could. McIntyre said they were not entitled to their commission because they were working poorly and failed to meet their rental commitments.

“I know where the flaws were in my business and I fixed them,” McIntyre said. “It was traumatic for me, all of it.”

Cooke and Thompson said it was they who were traumatized – whether it was their continued efforts to be fully compensated or the difficulty they had to pay personal bills like rent as a result.

McIntyre also made them the catalysts of the dispute as she was the one to force their hand into action, they said.

“She has to be held responsible, and I don’t want her to keep doing this to people,” Thompson said. “It’s not a good look for this city.”

Where it started

Cooke sued McIntyre individually in Pitkin County Small Claims Court in December, asking for $ 7,250 for a 10% payout deal, or commission, for his work brokering a $ 72,500 vacation rental. as a contract employee for Aspen Luxury Vacation Rentals.

Cooke’s one-page complaint was straightforward and based on what she claimed was owed: “$ 7,250 is my commission check which I did not receive,” said the lawsuit, which Cooke said. filed without a lawyer.

McIntyre’s formal response to the complaint, filed in February, was also terse. “A transaction was not made, we did not have a formal signed agreement,” was the only line of defense in his response.

After hearing both sides argue their case in a virtual lawsuit in February, Fernandez-Ely decided that although Cooke had not had in writing from McIntyre or ALVR that she would receive a 10% commission for the brokerage. vacation rental, it “relied on representation. and provided the lease for the business.

The judge’s order also said that a termination email dated October 21, 2020 from Aspen Luxury Vacation Rentals was sufficient to prove that Cooke owed a commission. The email read: “Please send me a mailing address or a place where I can send your commission.”

Still, McIntyre, writing in a March 29 brief appealing the judge’s ruling, said the court failed to understand the commission structure which called for half of the 10% commission to be paid to the broker in rental at the time of signing the rental agreement, and the remaining half after the client’s departure.

Cooke was fired before guests at the East Cooper Avenue rental she negotiated completed their stay in Aspen, and McIntrye said she took care of most of the details of the vacation rental. .

“Tricia (owner of ALVR) completed the rest of the rental requirements, from drafting the rental agreement, obtaining the required signatures, welcoming the client, fundraising, preparing the rental of the property. house, meeting guest needs during their stay, a departure inspection, returning the guest’s security deposit, among the many requirements necessary to earn full commission on a rental. A draft rental agent job description is given to all new agents and given to the court. Victoria understood what was needed to earn a commission as she admitted to reading the contract, ”said McIntyre’s appeal brief, noting that Cooke also refused to sign an all-you-can-eat agreement to work for Aspen Luxury Vacation Rentals .

“Victoria refused to sign the ALVR deal, despite numerous attempts and reminders asking her to do so. Despite this, Victoria started working on tracks, even though she was not officially an ALVR representative, ”the file says.

McIntyre also argued that Fernandez-Ely based his order on incorrect information that was inadvertently attached to an email sent to the court and then submitted as evidence.

Thompson eventually settled out of court with McIntyre on the commission. Thompson worked with ALVR from August 4, 2020 to November 2, 2020, and said the company withheld paying her the remaining half of her commission for the bookings she made because she fired her before the guests left. .

“Refusing to pay agents their full commission is a predatory business practice if employers can simply fire employees without cause just before guests arrive,” Thompson wrote in an email summarizing his experience with the business.

Meanwhile, McIntyre’s appeal was unsuccessful in court as it was filed after the 14-day deadline.

“Here, the notice of appeal was filed on March 29, 2021, or 18 days after the entry into force of the judgment that occurred on March 11, 2021 – so it was 4 days late,” Norrdin wrote in a rejection of August 31. the call. “The filing was accompanied by a letter signed by Trisha McIntyre, a complainant who appears to be the representative of the other complainant, Aspen Luxury Vacation Rentals, Inc. The letter purports to explain what it calls a 2 day late filing based on ‘unforeseen emergencies with business and health.’ The letter lacks specifics on emergencies. It also ignores the fact that the appeal was filed 4 days late. “

The order became official on September 28 when Norrdin released the appeal bail of $ 250.

Theft allegations

Cooke and McIntyre have also accused each other of criminal acts.

McIntyre’s claim that Cooke left with a work computer after being fired has failed. Cooke returned the computer two days later, saying it had been taken by mistake.

Cooke, meanwhile, asked the Aspen Police Department to investigate a bank transaction after the judge’s order in March. Aspen Luxury Vacation Rentals deposited $ 7,305 into its post-judgment account on March 24, but somehow took $ 7,305 from Cooke’s account the next day, March 25.

For now, Cooke has said the case is being handled civil and that she plans to sue ALVR for triple damages on money allegedly taken from her bank account. She claims he was caught by an act of forgery; McIntyre said it was a clerical error resulting in a reverse charge.

In the meantime, ALVR paid him the $ 7,305 after withdrawing the money, but it was not until mid-September.

“The weather,” Cooke said, discussing the issue with police and the Wells Fargo Fraud Department, “I think it’s fair enough to say that I have to be paid for this pain and suffering.”

McIntyre said his reputation was tainted by two vindictive employees who did not understand the company.

“The way she made me feel, that I did something terribly wrong to try and fuck these girls,” McIntyre said.

McIntyre said she will ensure brokers understand in the future that they only receive the full commission after the client has completed and paid for their stay.

“Looking back, we didn’t get it in writing,” she said. “I am not a litigious person. I don’t make a living fighting people in court. My job is to give people a happy vacation. I did not go into it for this drama.

For their part, Cooke and Thompson said it’s impossible to get the full commission when you’re fired before the guest’s vacation you negotiated is over.

“She knew what she was doing,” Cooke said. “The judge tells you to do one thing, and you decide to do something delicate the next day.”

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About Michael B. Billingsley

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