Two topics again this week, one on the rental of a holiday cottage, and one from a caller who had something broken by a house cleaner.
And here are my notes:
I contacted the letting agency, Connemara Coastal Cottages, and they came back to me with the following response:
1. This is a true Irish traditional cottage please find link to the page for your info: http://www.cc-cottages.com/english/balc_189.php
2. We were in the property on the morning our clients moved in to note it was torrential rain and continued to rain like this for a couple of days. This always unsettles clients. We found the property to be clean neat and tidy and in good order.
3. Most pictures on the page were taken on that day.
4. We have been a rental agents for more than 20 years and know what to look for in an inspection.
5. When booking a traditional Irish cottage people should not expect it to be totally modernised. We keep a few on our books because people like them. We have plenty of modern properties that can be booked.
6. When we were contacted regarding the property we only had one property that we could move her to and this was refused. This was the middle of peak season. We felt the complaint did not merit a full refund
7. The complaint process was conducted in the correct manor (sic).
The description of the cottage on the website does refer to it as “a traditional Irish stone cottage” and mentions “free standing oil-filled Dimplex electric radiators” rather than any central or storage heating, so the owner can make a reasonable argument that all tenants have advance notice of the kind of place they are renting.
Photographs may be a different matter. They mention that most of the photographs on the site were taken the morning our listener moved in. If so, this means that the photos that our listener saw may have been out of date. If the house was very different from the one depicted on the website when you booked, you may have an argument that you didn’t get what you booked.
However, if, as they claim, you turned down a reasonable replacement, you may have no complaint. Of course this depends on whether the replacement was reasonable – if it was uninhabitable or smaller than your cottage, it probably wasn’t. If you turned it down because you just didn’t like it, then it probably was. Our listener says that they she was offered a replacement elsewhere in Connemara, 35 miles. That’s probably not a reasonable replacement.
As a general rule, where you are not happy with a holiday rental, you should:
Don’t wait until the end of your holiday to complain. You should complain to your accommodation manager, owner or local rep as soon as you realise there’s a problem.
Where possible, put your complaint in writing. The best way to do this is by email, because an email contains a time stamp, so you can prove you sent it in time.
Take photographs – it’s much harder for an owner to claim the premises were in good condition when you have photographs of mould, dirt, broken windows, etc.
In this case, as in any other, the question is how bad was it? There’s a scale that runs from mildly disappointing to completely unfit for purpose, with a lot of grey area in between. The problem with holidays is that even a mild disappointment can ruin the whole holiday. However, in order to have a legal case, you need to be able to say that you didn’t get what you paid for, to such a degree that that there was a breach of contract.
A contract for a holiday letting is completed on your arrival – if you refuse to take occupancy you may be able to walk away from the contract, though you will still need good reason for doing so. However, you may lose any deposit paid.
There’s always an element of unpredictability with holiday lettings, so where possible try to book from sites that allow user reviews, such as trip advisor. These sites often have visitor photos which are often more candid than owner photos, and will give you a better idea of what the place is really like.
The email from the cleaners regarding insurance is a red herring – if they or their staff broke something of yours, they are required to replace it or pay the value. Whether they have insurance or not is no concern of yours.
They seem to have changed their mind about this later because our listener mailed us back as follows:
So this is what happened…
I went into Brown Thomas and told them the story and they very kindly printed me out an insurance valuation receipt which had the cost of the item on it, as it turns out it was €100 not 80 as we had originally thought. (Many thanks to Magda and Anne in Brown Thomas Cork who were lovely and went out of their way to help me!)
I emailed on this to the cleaning guys yesterday and got an email back asking me for photos of the broken item (really!! They broke it so they’ve already seen it!!), I also missed a phonecall from them all immediately after I sent my email. Within a few minutes I then (having not responded to phonecall or email in meantime) received the following text;
I am sorry about broken item.
The cost of cleaning is €90 so we owe you €10. It will be with the invoice.
As of yet we have not received this invoice or €10, the cleaning was done last Friday.
I’m not sure how it would have gone had I not been given the valuation receipt, it would be good to know what my rights are had we not gotten a receipt for them!
This is pretty straightforward – they broke it, they have to pay for it. The receipt isn’t really a factor, except that it’s a way of verifying the cost. You could as easily go online and find the cost there, it shouldn’t make any difference to the cleaning company.
Again, it’s important to complain right away, and to take photographs. Our listener seemed a bit put out at being asked for photos, but remember that the person writing the cheque is not the same as the one who was in your house, and they need to verify that the accident actually happened.
One thing to remember though is that not all cleaners are employees. There are services which have started up recently based on the Uber model – they facilitate cleaners who are operating as sole traders, so there’s also the question of how comfortable you are with taking the money directly from the cleaner rather than the company, and whether you are willing to take them to court over it.