Can this trip be saved? My vacation rental was a dump and I want a refund

When Marcella Knight opened the door to her vacation rental property in Rehoboth Beach, Del., a few weeks ago, she saw a dump. Not only was the unit dirty, but it was also in dire need of maintenance, she says.

So Knight did what any self-respecting traveler would do: She complained to the real estate agent who had rented her the condo. The agent tried to find her alternate accommodations, but couldn’t. She offered to have the home cleaned, but that didn’t address all of the issues.

Knight and her family reluctantly stayed in the shoddy rental one night, then checked out and asked the agent for a full refund.

You can probably guess what the agent told her.

Related: In today’s edition of What’s your problem?, I help fix a possessed refrigerator. Hey, Halloween is only a week away!

Knight wants me to pressure the agent to refund the full amount of the rental. So she sent over a few details about her accommodations.

Let’s go over them.

✓ The TVs were in various states of disrepair. Some only received a few channels. Others didn’t have working remotes.

✓ The high-speed wireless service was not working.

✓ The dresser drawers were so dirty that her 12-year-old son wouldn’t put his clothes in it.

✓ There were holes in the walls, knobs that fell off, the slider doors did not latch and had to be closed with a plank. The one of the bottom floor didn’t close at all.

✓ The front porch was “uninhabitable.” The furniture was filthy, the grounds were worn.

✓ There was mold on the ceiling fans in the downstairs bedroom, and the vents were dirty.

✓ The house smelled of urine, there was dog hair everywhere.

✓ The kitchen had crumbs and ants on the counter and toaster.

✓ The ceilings were in need of repair. Sheetrock tape was peeling off the walls in several places.

“I could go on and on,” she told me. “But don’t feel I should have to.”

Here are a few images.

Two more or less unusable lawn chairs. Break out the 409.

Is that a moldy grate? Ewww.

I get the idea. Let’s see how her real estate agent responded to her litany of complaints.

I am in receipt of your email and have discussed the condition of the rental property with the owner and the cleaning company.

The owner has stated that although she is very sorry that the property was not in perfect condition, as this is August and many guests have been in the property, the issues could have been resolved by sending the cleaning company back and a maintenance person over to handle these problems and would not take more than a half hour to address.

The guest survey before your stay and after your stay reported that the property is in very good condition. I went over and looked at the property as well and as your pictures noted there were items that needed to be addressed but nothing that would constitute you walking away from this rental. I am very sorry but no refund will be given.

In other words, no.

I’m really not sure about this one.

On the one hand, the real estate agent had no business offering this property even if it was the middle of a busy summer. Even if Knight is exaggerating about the condition of the condo, it’s clear that it needed cleaning and maintenance. If it were a hotel, the health department would have probably shut it down a long time ago.

But the real estate agent is correct about one thing. Why not give them the opportunity to address the condition of the rental right then and there? Also, Knight and her family stayed in the unit a night, so a full refund is probably asking for too much.

I’m not sure if the agent handled this one right. She could have offered at least an apology (beyond, “I am very sorry but no refund will be given” which isn’t a real apology) and she could have offered Knight a discount or voucher for a future rental. Instead, she essentially told her to take a hike.

That sucks. Although I can’t advocate for a full refund, which is what Knight wants, I still think this could have been handled better. Do I get involved, and if so, what should I ask the agent for? Or, does Knight’s laundry list of complaints add up to nothing, and should she have just stayed at the property?

(Photo: Not a picture of the actual condo by JA Creative/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • S E Tammela

    I hate to be predictable, but I’m sure I won’t be the only one thinking, “Pics, or it didn’t happen” ?

  • James in Phnom Penh

    I can see how this would be disappointing for the OP. However, (1) I think she loses points by not allowing the cleaning/maintenance to at least happen before she walked out. (2) Was she aware that she most likely would NOT have gotten a refund if she walked out? (3) She doesn’t mention that she read any reviews of the property. Were they misleading? (4) Vacation rentals by their nature are very hit-and-miss. Most people are expecting something like a hotel suite, but in the end, it could be someone’s dirty second home (like in this case). This is a tough one. I think the agent should pressure the owner into giving back a partial refund (50%?) using the leverage of not putting future clients there…

  • BrooklynNOT

    Let’s have a talk with the person who was there just before she left.  The rental agent can claim anyone said anything that makes the unit look better.  No doubt an offer to talk to the previous person will be declined due to privacy issues. 

    And there ought to be a pile of pictures.  With digital cameras, the cost is almost zero while the proof is really compelling.

  • Josh S

    “…as your pictures noted…”
    If Ms. Knight indeed sent photos to the real estate agent, can’t she send them to you as well so that you might decide whether her claim holds merit? Chris, you also mention that the real estate agent offered to have the unit cleaned, but that didn’t address all of the issues. Are you implying that the unit was actually cleaned, and then Ms. Knight was still unsatisfied, or was the offer made but rejected? If the real estate agent sent a cleaning crew once, but the unit was still sub-par after their efforts, then this woman should absolutely be compensated for most, if not all, of the charges. If she refused the cleaning crew in the first place, she may still have a claim, but certainly not for the entire amount.However, I don’t know how any amount of cleaning can take mold off of a fan. I wouldn’t want to stay anywhere where there was visible mold. That stuff can be a huge health hazard.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I’ve added photos. She didn’t have the property cleaned.

    She says, “We opted not to have it cleaned, we had our dog with us, and my sickly stepson, who suffers from severe chronic lyme disease, and did not want to have to deal with having a cleaning crew come in and disrupt our vacation time, nor would that have fixed all of the problems. This placed needed maintenance, not just cleaning.”

  • Tom

    Landlords are scum and getting a refund requires taking the landlord to small claims court. They figure you don’t have the time to take the to court and might even be counting on sympathetic local judges. The real estate business has always been full of low lifes which is why many tenants feel no compunction about trashing a rental.

  • Raven_Altosk

    My first question would be:
    What was the property advertised as and what was the rate? Were there photos of the property or did the OP just blindly find a cheap one online?
    It goes back to the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”

    My second question would be:
    Why not let them clean it? I don’t understand that. If I check into a hotel room and it’s not cleaned to my standards, I at least give them a chance to clean it before I complain to a manager.

    And finally:
    She stayed there for a night. If it was so filthy and gross, why not go to a motel? Assuming she only paid for that one night, I’d say no refund is due.

  • emanon256

    I don’t mean to be a downer to Ms Knight, but those chairs look like my chars when a dust storm comes in overnight. You can just hose them down and they are as good as new. And the grate just looks dusty; all intake grates get dusty and can simply be vacuumed. In fact most hotels and rental houses I have gone to seem to have dust on the intake grates. I clean mine at home regularly, but I don’t think other people do. Either way, it’s an intake, the air that goes through it gets filtered before it’s returned.

    I want to side with Ms Knight, but I am leaning towards no. She should have allowed them the chance to clean things, and with the 2 pictures posted, they look like things that could have bane easily and quickly cleaned. TVs not getting all the channels? Do people really go on vacation so they can watch TV? I find a TV not working in a hotel room from time to time; I’ve never expected a full refund.

    Maybe if there was a picture of the ants, or things that are dirty or broken beyond cleaning, I can be swayed to vote for mediation. But sadly, from the pictures and the fact that Ms Knight didn’t even give them a chance to fix it, and yet she still stayed one night, I am leaning towards Do Not Mediate.

  • sirwired

    Unless she has better pictures, no.

    The picture of the “mold-filled grate” isn’t.  That’s dust and maybe a couple strands of cobweb that have been pulled into the return air grille.  It’s 30 seconds of work with a vacuum, and maybe a new furnace filter.  I suspect the situation with the ceiling fans is similar.

    MY house has peeling sheetrock tape, as I suspect about half the homes in America have one or two spots, especially notoriously humid beach houses.  I’m sure there was some peeling paint too, along with a rusty A/C unit and rusty appliances; happens at every beach place.

    Complaining about some crumbs on the counter?  Seriously?  And ants happen, despite even meticulous cleaning.  A short visit by an exterminator will clear that up.  I’ve had ants in a beach condo before and an exterminator was there the next morning… no more ants.

    The chairs?  That is EXACTLY what white plastic chairs look like after a few rainstorms without, I dunno, five minutes of scrubbing.  I suppose the chairs could also be a little worn… in either case, it’s just a little dirt; it won’t hurt you.

    What kind of pricing was charged for this unit?  Was it a “bargain” rental or a higher-end one? (compared to other units in the surrounding beach)

    In conclusion, I’d push the real estate company for a partial refund, maybe a single night (they are probably the ones in charge of admittedly poor cleaning), but to ask for a full refund was a bit much.  Beach houses get a lot of hard use, and the agency should have had an opportunity to make it right.

  • cjr001

    “Why not give them the opportunity to address the condition of the rental right then and there?”

    Why didn’t the owner address the condition of the rental BEFORE these people arrived to stay there?

    This isn’t a visit by housekeeping we’re talking about here.

  • Anonymous

    When you rent a privately owned property, there are risks involved. If there is a problem, it is incumbent upon you to work with the rental agent to find an amenable solution. If you choose not to do so, then there is nothing that the agent can do. The agent also cannot simply refund the stay. That is something that must be negotiated with the home owner. If the home owner refuses to do so, then their decision is final.

    If you have specific needs or issues to take into consideration, it is always a good idea to view a property before agreeing to rent it. Properties on the beach are more likely to have mildew/dampness problems due to their geography.

  • Sylviaguarino

    I found the results of the survey interesting as most people voted “yes” yet the comments all favor “no”….I voted no myself.  As a vacation rental owner on Sanibel Island, Florida, I can tell you that we keep our places immaculate but outdoor areas are always going to have some surface dirt.  And, the offer was made to have a cleaning crew come to resolve at least the hygiene issues even if some maintenance ones could not be resolved there and then. The OP refused the clean for what I consider dubious reasons.  As I say, over and over to prospective guests, to get your best value on a vacation rental ask lots and lots of questions, look at lots and lots of pictures and read reviews.  MOST importantly, look at “deals” with skepticism.  The bargains out there most often are not bargains at all.  Been there, done that and now know better.

  • Kevin

    Although the post isn’t clear, typically condo rentals like this are paid up front for the entire amount of the rental. In fact, often they’re advertised as weekly rentals – the between-guest turnover cleaning, etc. is just too much for nightly rentals.

  • The Condor

    The strongest concern listed was “ants.”  While most everything else can be addressed by cleaning and maintenance, getting rid of ants is not an easy or quick thing to do.  Depending on the length of time of the rental, this would have required special food storage while the ants were addressed.  Grains and cereals need to be transfered from boxes to ant-proof containers, etc. 

    My condo had an ant problem, it took a year to address properly, and it meant transfering anything bought and stored in a cardboard box or paper container (think bags of flour, sugar, etc) into lucite.

    If the orginal poster had intended to self-cater, then an ant infestation would have rendered the unit unusable.

  • Mahilo 4

    It needed a revisit by housekeeping…that’s it, the OP simply wants
    a free stay…..but she’s not entitled to it. She should stay at a chain
    hotel next time…..oh yea she had a dog with her, that rules out many chain hotels.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I voted YES to mediate, but agree with those commenting that the amount in question should NOT be a full refund.  Ms. Knight refused the cleaning service, refused maintenance, but managed to overcome her disgust and stay one night.  (I personally find it hilarious that she brought a dog and refused cleaning in part because of the dog, but complained of dog hair in the house.)

    “Mediate” automatically does not mean “give one side everything they want”.  I think there’s a middle ground and that Chris Elliott can help find it.

  • Z44212

    I wouldn’t waste your time. Had the OP stuck with a valid complaint or two (broken door for example) then maybe. But TV remote, dirty porch chairs, crumbs in the toaster, dusty return vents? She’s being silly.

  • LadySiren

    I know there are a lot of negative comments and “No” votes, but I’m definitely voting for mediation and here’s why: mold. If I went to a unit and found MOLD in the vents, there is absolutely no way I’d have my family stay there. Do you really want a family, especially children, inhaling this stuff? I mean, really?

    There’s no way the property owner or agent could’ve rectified this in enough time for the family to have felt safe enough to stay in what sounds like a filthy hovel. I definitely think you should mediate, Chris, however, I’d suggest a pro-rated refund (they did stay one night). Gross, gross, gross.

    Also, I hope that the OP gave the rental a negative review in Yelp, Tripadvisor, and any other rating site she could come up with. ICK.

  • Z44212

    If I were renting from you and the plastic porch chairs were dirty, I would take a damp paper towel to them rather than call to complain.

    I wonder how some folks make it through life.

  • rose

    I agree with those who say more photos are needed. All I see is a dusty vent and some dirt on outside chairs that could easily be hosed off — not enough to justify a full refund. I think she should have insisted on a thorough cleaning and perhaps a partial refund for the non-functional TVs and internet. The one thing that might justify not staying there is if one of the doors really did not close at all, as she says — that sounds like a security issue. That being said, I’ve stayed in so many disappointing, run-down, and poorly equipped vacation rentals that I now always opt for a nice hotel when possible.

  • Sylviaguarino

    I think the operative word here is “mold”….was it proven that mold is actually there? We have our properties professionally tested for mold, but I don’t believe the human eye can determine if the condition is mold or simply dust. And where are the photos of  this mold?

  • Sylviaguarino

    Yes! Please rent from me. I love your attitude….

  • Nancy Dickinson

    I don’t know she isn’t due a full refund, in spite of them spending the first night there.

    I worked for a property management/vacation rental company on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for two years while we were stationed at Keesler  AFB.  I can assure you, this is unacceptable for a vacation rental.

    The chairs – yes, these DO get dirty pretty quickly.  However, they are the cheapest on the market and can be easily replaced.  The owners or rental agent should have a stack of them in a shed somewhere so they can be replaced when they start to look like this.

    The vent – this is a health hazard, pure and simple.  One child with asthma + one asthma attack = a big lawsuit.

    Bugs in the house – exterminator visits should be scheduled at least monthly anyway to counter this.  The property managers I worked for had ALL their units done once a month, both the apartments that were rented by the month and the vacation rentals.  The vacation rentals also had roach motels and ant traps in them that were changed between tenants.  This is just common sense.

    Needed cleaning? – The rental agent is remiss on this one.  Whenever a tenant leaves, the cleaning crew is supposed to let them know of anything that was damaged or left a mess by the previous tenants – with photos, if necessary.  This is why places like these are supposed to ask for a minimal cleaning “deposit”.  They obviously didn’t do this.  Either get a new rental agent or get a new cleaning crew or both.

    Yes, they spent the first night there because they didn’t have a choice.  What were they supposed to do?  Spend the first night of their vacation in the car?  I don’t blame her for not wanting the cleaning crew or a maintenance man in there on the first night of her vacation.  They were probably exhausted and wanted nothing more than to settle down.  Traveling with kids, also, means they were probably hyped up after who knows how long in the car.  Course, I’d have kicked mine out the door to run laps on the beach for about an hour…

    Full refund; nothing less.  This place was a mess.

  • Daniel

    I voted yes because it seems a partial refund is in order, but w/o knowing some more details it does seem a no could be reasonable as well.

  • Nancy Dickinson

    I agree with you – dirty chairs, even ones that have the dirt embedded in them as these do – don’t require a call to the landlord or rental agent.  However, I think this was more along the lines of “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

  • Michael K

    why not go to a motel?

    Looks like they explored that avenue: The agent tried to find her alternate accommodations, but couldn’t.

    Popular beach resort in August with kids and a pet?  Not bloody likely to find a last minute room. 

  • Jay Schleifer

    There’s no excuse for presenting the property in this condition, and I sincerely doubt a cleaning company could put it in shape in “a half hour.” The renter has a right to expect a clean property and should get a refund. The owner simply didn’t deliver what was promised.

  • MRaff

    This is exactly right.  My family is going through a similar situation from a rental this summer and has already taken the issue to small claims Court after the owner of the property failed to respond to any correspondence regarding the poor state of his rental.   And, I can say for certainty that good reviews on a rental site do not mean anything.  The place we rented had some glowing reviews and that was one of the most disgusting places I have seen.  I always go shoeless inside, and could not in this place because within two minutes of walking on the floors, the bottoms of our feet would be black.  And, unlike the OP above, the owner of our property wouldn’t respond to our calls and never offered to send a cleaning crew.  I fully sympathize with the OP and hope she able to get some relief.  At the very least I think she deserves a full refund less the one night they opted to stay.

  • Sylviaguarino

    Actually this is a response to both Tom and MRaff as you both obviously have had bad experiences. I’m sincerely sorry that that happened to you.  Those of us in the lodging industry do not want vacationers to have a bad experience, it’s totally against our own best interest. 

    While I don’t think I’ve ever been considered or called a “scum” or “low life” (and I have owned dozens of annual and vacation rentals) I can relate to the frustration of a bad experience as I not only own VR’s, I use them regularly. I also use (generally mid to high level) hotels where experiences have run the gamut from wonderful to just bearable. 

    Now that I do much more digging, the experience in both VR and hotel has improved.  And while there can be good reviews posted on a bad place, there are also bad reviews posted on a good place.  Not all rental guests are honest,  and there is trend currently skewed to “milk” a rental by threatening a bad review.  The best way to use reviews is to read all the postings and come away with an overall impression. 

  • Brooklyn

    Really? They couldn’t have gone to dinner or something for an hour while it was re-cleaned?  Meh, they sound like they wanted 4 star hotel service on a budget.

  • Brooklyn

    Most of these vacation rental landlords do as little maintenance as they can possibly get away with.  And why not – worst case scenario is this.  Someone complains and you tell them to shove it because they’ve already paid.  Hell, people like Chris aren’t even going to call the agent or property out by name for fear of reprisals, so they go along their merry ways. 

  • Sylviaguarino

    That may be true of some Vacation Rental Owners and we have stayed at less than stellar properties where indifference was evident.  But, as I stated before, the VR owner, and speaking as one myself,  has a lot invested in giving a guest a good experience.  Not only do owners  not want a bad review, they do want future returns and future referrals.  A vacation rental is not a one time situation.  A bad review or great experience can cost or bring you business ten fold from one guest’s stay….

  • Sasha

    If these pictures came from this rental, the problems have been existing for a very long time.  People get sick from mold like this.  I am surprised that she stayed even one night, I know I would not.  As far as contacting the cleaning company, this should have been done before the guests arrived and if this is the kind of work that they do, why bother.

  • tomRI

    Sorry but this should be a FULL REFUND.  They gave the agent the opportunity to make it right or to place them elsewhere and they did not correct the situation.  they stayed there only because they had no other place to go.  Call the health dept on them any ways and call the local min housing for renting the place like that.  Then the place can be closed down for good.

  • bc

    It sounds like Mrs Night wanted to move and decided to make a big deal about a few small maintenance/cleaning items. I think her laundry list of items starting with “The TV only gets a few channels” (Oh, the humanity!!!) is very telling. The photo of the chairs shows a quick cleaning with a damp rag would have resolved that problem, and for the so-called “mold” on the air intake vent, that’s clearly cob webs and dust, nothing more. 

    I’m all for providing refunds when expectations are not met, but it seems that there has to be some reasonableness on the part of a guest in these situations as well. Mrs. Knight couldn’t have stepped out for a meal, or do a little shopping for 30 whole minutes while a cleaning was done?  

    Also, using her “sickly grandson” (from a reply by Mr. Elliott on Facebook comments) is just another poor attempt to garner sympathy.

  • Martin

    If the description is true, she’s due a refund. But her photos don’t do her any favors. Those cheap white plastic lawn chairs always look like that when they haven’t been used for a while–they just need to be wiped off. They certainly aren’t “unusable.” The picture of the ceiling grate looks more like dirt than mold to me.
    I’m not excusing the place being dirty, but it seems like she’s exaggerated things. Makes me wonder if her other complaints were similarly exaggerated.

  • Mbods2002

    No WAY would I have stayed there, even if they DID try to fix the problems.  The trust was broken, agreement void as far as I’m concerned. Yuk!  Not a very reputable real estate firm or owner.  They should get a full refund for vacation/property not delivered as promised.  Bet she had to pay a cleaning fee too, right?

  • Martin

    I think the mold is a big “if” in this case. That’s not mold in the picture.  And those chairs are not unusable. Makes me wonder if the entire story was an exaggeration.

  • Martin

    You need to dial down the rhetoric and learn what mold looks like. That vent is dirty/dusty…not moldy.  You can clearly see a cobweb in the photo. That’s how these vents often look. A quick wipedown and it’d be fine. 

    Now if all the doors were broken and some of these other complaints were true, I’d still be on their side. But if pictures are worth a thousand words, these tell me to ignore what they’re saying.

  • BlondieDC

    I think I’d ask for a 50% refund.  They didn’t let the agency address the problems…but the problems never should have been there in the first place.  My family has a rental unit at the oceanfront that is professionally cleaned after each renter.  What a nasty start to a vacation for them!

  • Geoff

    When you rent a home or a condo that is not yours, you somestimes are going to be disappointed, really disappointed, and sometimes HOLY COW I hate this place. You are renting somebody elses place, and using their cleaning crew, and their furniture. Guess what, I value my Myrtle Beach home alot more than you do. I gets me taken care of, but if I rented it, you would be angry – no TV, no internet, no extras – a place to read and relax. The others in the area are just as bad, but rented constanly and complained about constantly. There is no rating for private properties, so if you want 4 or 5 star, stay in a hotel.

  • Timbo

    Interesting read. I have been renting homes in south east Florida for years. My fav company to work with is reviews are worth a lot.  I mean also get the trip cancellation insurance. I always do. It is cheap and if you make a claim they refund you. End of problem. Also, two bad beach thats it? You had a long list there and you show only two beach chairs? I had problems too. AC broke, my girl saw a bug and jumped up and down like a bug. However, I called and get the things resolved. I work with a company like Travelfurnish because I trust them. Better luck next time. Still beats a hotel. right?

  • MikeZ

    Peeling drywall tape and moldy stuff as well as doors in disprepair do not get fixed in even a few hours, or even a day. Stuff like that takes time to properly fix. Was the maintenance guy going to install all new televisions and remotes? Were they going to shampoo the carpets to get rid of the urine smell? And how long before the family can use them since they would be wet?

    The owner and agent botched this one big time. Notification was given as soon as the renter arrived. Just because they stayed a night doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to a full refund.

    BTW, I do maintenance for a living and the stuff pointed out is not repairable in the half hour as mentioned. I would take this to small claims court if mediation doesn’t address the issue.

  • MikeZ

    A list of items as mentioned by the OP is not fixable during “dinner”. No way, no how.

  • web/gadget guru

    I think the person is too picky about their accommodations! A person who is used to 5-star resorts won’t abide by 3-star establishments!
    As a result, I think these people were expecting more than what was delivered and this is not the owner’s fault. I’ve stayed in some “not so perfect” hotel and rental properties…but I wasn’t paying $500/night fares neither!
    One recent house I rented had several problems….closet doors that didn’t close…floors that sloped in weird places…the shower was a “cave”, if you left *ANYTHING* on the kitchen counter, you would get ants.. the outside of the fridge had rust…but you know what? Everything worked good enough, and since I was right on the beach and paid under $1,500 for the week, I didn’t complain…Heck, I barely spend any time in the place…we had our own beach!
    So, it’s the level of expectation…if they paid $5k for their condo, then yeah…they got a bum deal…but if they paid $1k then heck, go out and spend your time *OUTSIDE* your unit!

  • Ann Lamoy

    That vent looks more like it is dirty rather than moldy. However, it isn’t a result of not being cleaned after the last vacationer. It takes more than a week or two to get into that state so I have no doubt that the rental was in pretty bad shape if the vent was in that condition.

    I do think they should have requested that the issues be fixed and a partial refund issued. Also an alternate accomodation found for the night while the issues were addressed and fixed because I doubt they could have been addressed in a half hour. It probably would have taken the better part of the day at least, if not overnight.

  • MikeZ

    On my screen the hue sure looks green. And if the vent is that dusty, I’d hate to see what the ducts and the rest of that place looked like.  Probably haven’t been cleaned in ages. Also, peeling drywall tape is a huge indicator of the presence of moisture.

  • Kevin Mathews

    One of the biggest things that you advise people who have complaints is to NOT make lists because the person then loses all credibility.  It certainly happened here.

    ✓ The TVs were in various states of disrepair. Some only received a few channels. Others didn’t have working remotes.
                How many TV’s do you need?  Even if 1 was working, that should be more then enough.  An a Universal Remote at Walmart or Kmart is only $10-$20…

    ✓ The high-speed wireless service was not working.
                Suck to not have internet, but is that is NOT a valid reason to leave the rental home

    ✓ The dresser drawers were so dirty that her 12-year-old son wouldn’t put his clothes in it.
                 Could’ve been fixed with a cleaning company

    ✓ There were holes in the walls, knobs that fell off, the slider
    doors did not latch and had to be closed with a plank. The one of the
    bottom floor didn’t close at all.
                 Sounds like standard wear and tear on a Beach Rental Property.  Most sliding doors at the beach tend to wear down A LOT faster then away from the beach.

    ✓ The front porch was “uninhabitable.” The furniture was filthy, the grounds were worn.
                  BS.  Those chairs looked fine, simply needed a hose or a bucket of water dumped on them.  and what defines the “Grounds were worn”

    ✓ There was mold on the ceiling fans in the downstairs bedroom, and the vents were dirty.
                   That’s called dust.  Most vents get it and it would’ve been cleaned by the cleaning company

    ✓ The house smelled of urine, there was dog hair everywhere.
                    umm….Given that they had their Dog with them, the place was obviously Pet Friendly.  What did she really expect from a Pet Friendly Beach House?

    ✓ The kitchen had crumbs and ants on the counter and toaster.
                    Cleaning Company would’ve fixed this.

    ✓ The ceilings were in need of repair. Sheetrock tape was peeling off the walls in several places.
                    Tends to happen with Beach Houses.  Worth noting and sending pictures to the owner, but NOT worth leaving over.

    Most of her complaints, while valid in nature, do not constitute leaving their vacation without at least giving the rental company time to make it right.  While I voted Yes because most of these issues should’ve been taken care of BEFORE a guest arrives.  I don’t think they deserve a full refund, but maybe 50% in the form of vouchers for a future rental.

  • Dave

    I vote yes, but certainly not on behalf of a full refund.  After reading the other comments, and adding in my initial impression, I’m left with a few conclusions:

    1.  The condo certainly approached “dump” standards of cleanliness.

    2.  The renter turned down the offer of cleaning, and therefore takes some responsibility.

    3.  Some of the complaints are exaggerated.

    4.  The owner and agent need to do a better job of monitoring the property.

    I do agree with not faulting the renter for staying the one night; an alternate choice more than likely was NOT available at the last minute.

  • pizo

    But should the OP be responsible for replacing remotes for tvs that are not her’s?  If the unit is advertised as having “5 tvs with cable” then it should have 5 WORKING tvs WITH cable.  Same as the internet.  If it’s advertised then it should be there and working.  What if the OP or her husband needed to do some work while they were at the beach house?  Plently of people work from home or at least check in with work while they are away. 

    One of her complaints is that a door didn’t close.  A door on the bottom floor.  I live in a very safe area but I don’t leave my door unlocked at night.  I sure as heck am not going to leave a door unlocked in an area I’m not familiar with. 

    Pet friendly rentals do not usually mean, it smells bad and has hair all over the place.  The rental should have been cleaned in such a way that there was no urine smell or hair. 

    Mold can be toxic and dangerous especially to those with breathing issues.  My Dad and his siblings are trying to sell my granddad’s house and it’s pretty much impossible.  Why?  Because there is mold present.  You can’t smell the mold but it’s there (an inspector found it) and it’s going to cost thousands to get rid of it. 

    Dust, dirt, spider webs, crumbs, ants, dog hair, holes in the wall, dirty funiture….ALL of that should have been taken care of BEFORE the OP and her family arrived.  That is what a rental agency is supposed to do, ensure that one renter leaves the house is good shape, it’s cleaned properly, and the next renter gets it in just as good a shape.  Just because you’re renting towards the end of the season doesn’t mean you should be getting a beat up, dirty house. 

  • Kyle D.

    There’s a pretty major inconsistency between the list of complaints and the photo descriptions.  The list says the mold was confined to the ceiling fans and the vents were simply “dirty” (which is what they appear to be in the photo) yet in the photo captions they’re called “mold filled.”  Which was it?

    If you show me a place with that much mold on vents and I’m out the door because that’s a huge gross factor and a potential health hazard. And if I compile a list of problems, the mold is the first thing mentioned. It does not come after trivial items like missing TV remotes and the lack of an internet connection.  Really, the entire list suffers from that problem. Ants everywhere and reeking of pet urine are far bigger issues than the grounds “being worn” whatever that means. No doubt they weren’t happy with the place, but I suspect it wasn’t nearly as bad as they claim.

  • Guest42

    She’s entitled to a refund for the fact alone that they did not provide her with amenties that were promised (assuming of course, working TVs and internet were items that were listed as amenties).  Also people seem to be overlooking the fact that a door on the bottom floor didn’t close.  Does everyone leave their doors unlocked at home?  I don’t.  Are working tvs important?  Maybe on a beautiful summer’s day they aren’t but on a rainy day when you can’t go to the beach?  Might want to watch something. 

    Internet?  Maybe mom or dad needed to work from home.  I do lots of work from home, internet is a must have for me. 

    And above all safety.  Doors have to close and lock.  The planks of wood as locks I’m ok with, I see them as safer than flimsy sliding door locks, but a door that won’t close at all?  NO WAY am I having my family sleep in a place where anyone can just walk in. 

  • Crissy

    I voted yes, but I don’t think she should get a full refund.  

    I think some of the complaints are laundry list complaints.  No, peeling drywall take isn’t going to get fixed by a cleaning crew, but that doesn’t mean it’s uninhabitable. 

    But other complaints are real complaints, like doors not locking properly.  

    I do think she should have allowed a cleaning crew into unit, then she would have a better argument that the unit wasn’t fit for use even after giving a second chance.  It also wasn’t so bad that she stayed a night.  I know it’s tough to walk away and find a new place same day, but if you want to say the place is so gross and uninhabitable and you deserve a full refund then you kind of need to do that. 

  • Cabo

    I think the whole problem could of been avoided had she used a reputable broker. Paying a little more for a rental is worth it so you have someone you can contact if you were not happy. I agree with you that once she stayed in the house she had established that it was acceptable and the whole rental amount should not be given.

  • Kate

    For those of you claiming that there was no evidence of mold…that urine smell is most likely from mold.  That is what a full blown mold infestation smells like.  If I’m correct, then the place was absolutely not inhabitable and is in fact a health hazard.  Cleaning crews cannot fix mold.

  • sirwired

    The pictures of that vent are of a return air grille.  That’s dust, not mold.  This is what return air grills look like when they are due for a vacuuming.  It’s also what ceiling fans look like when they need cleaning.

    If this is near the kitchen or if cleaning staff uses soap on the floor, the dust will be kind of sticky due to aerosolized grease or soap residue, but it still isn’t harmful.

  • Charles B

    Pic 1 is cheap plastic chairs that haven’t been used recently. A hose and a rag will clean those up like new in 1 minute.

    Pic 2 is a dusty air return. Replace the filter and vacuum the cobwebs, 2 more minutes. Dust does not equal mold.

    All of the really bad complaints have no pics. Peeling drywall tape? That’s an easy picture to get. Grungy drawers too dirty for a kid to use? Another easy pic. Nothing I’ve seen here justifies a full refund. Should have taken the cleaning that it clearly needed. Or taken better pictures to justify the case.

  • Michael K

    Are MikeZ and I the only ones whose monitors show GREEN “dust” in the vent grate picture?  I guess it could be from green carpetting, but that wouldn’t be my first guess…

  • Raven_Altosk

    Seriously, take the kid out for supper while the cleaners are there if he’s so ill he can’t be around cleaning solutions.

    Some people are just babies.

  • davidglass

    she is paying the owner and the real estate agent for a serviceable vacation rental. This means the place should be clean and functional. I’m sure you would love to pay good money for a vacation rental and then spend a good portion of your vacation cleaning. Get real.

    The aggrieved party should sue. There is a good chance they would prevail.

    As previous posters have mentioned, several of the items on the list are impossible to fix properly in a “quick” 1 hour cleaning.

  • Gloria

    Read their list. Even they only called the vents dirty.  The mold line came later when they sent the picture. (That or Chris wrote the caption and misread the original list.)

  • Geordie Wardman

    I think James in PP hit it. Furthermore, did not the OP stay a night anyways? If the conditions were really that bad, she could have left. Now, after the fact, she wants a refund? Dubious, especially since she turned away the cleaning company.

  • y_p_w

    I see the cobwebs, but it’s hard to tell if it’s just dust or if there’s mildew.  I think it very well could be some mold/mildew.  I see spots, and dust typically doesn’t collect in spots, which suggests it may be mold or mildew.

  • y_p_w

    I remember renting a condo in Kona for a single night.  Pretty nice, but they had a serious issue with cockroaches EVERYWHERE.  I asked the desk clerk (the condos had on-site management for rentals) and she just said that cockroaches are a way of life in Kona.  I sort of accepted that one should be careful about food storage.

    This was very different than a typical vacation house rental.  With the on-site management, they had housekeeping go through each unit before it was rented out, and each unit was in pretty good shape.  The only problem I had was that there was one piece of furniture that had been heavily damaged.  All furniture was provided by the owner, so the management couldn’t just replace them like they would replace towels.

  • SoBeSparky

    What about price?  I know accomodations should be inhabitable, but on what basis did Marcella choose this vacation rental?

    Most of this seems to be routine maintenance.  How could a porch be “uninhabitable” because of two dirty chairs?  How much did the renter end up paying somewhere else?

    I wonder if the renter thought she got a bargain and then ended up seeing that she got what she paid for, cheap for cheap.  But we don’t know until we know the price she paid and the market price for peak season. 

  • FTL Vacation Rental

    You probably know this now, but in the future, you really need to check out the place.  Google maps, as for other photos, ask for references.  Or, use a “company” rather than a person.  Look for a smaller company that can offer personalized service.  For example, we at FTL Vacation Rental rental in Fort Lauderdale own all our properties and take care of them all personally.  We always do our best to take care of our guests!  Check our website at

  • Clare

    Assuming that the OP has pictures of the holes in the walls, the doorknobs that fell off, the ants/crumbs, etc. etc., her real estate agent has some explaining to do about this belittling response that all these problems “would not take more than a half hour to address.”  That reply tells me a lot right there!  It’s one thing to offer to have the cleaning people come “back” (even though they very obviously hadn’t been there to begin with); it’s another to assert that they would have very little to do!

    To me, the most serious issue was the sliding door on the first floor that wouldn’t close at all.  That sounds like a first-class SAFETY ISSUE that is absolutely non-negotiable: if you can’t even secure the property, you can’t expect me to stay there overnight, and you CERTAINLY can’t keep my money.  Is the renter really supposed to be okay with that?  Does the owner/real estate agent really want to assume responsibility for what might happen, if some thug enters the property at night through that door?  Rehobeth in the summer is full of all kinds, not just tourist-families!

    I’m trying to remember which famous country/western singer it was, who years back was raped in a hotel room by a man who got in through a faulty sliding door. She rightly sued the hotel straight to hell–but I’ve no doubt she would have preferred that it hadn’t been necessary. 

  • Kathy

    That was a mistake not letting them clean.  She also should have had maintenence come and fix everything and then asked for a nice discount for her inconvienence.   Or was this a case of Renters Remorse where she would not have liked the place even it was clean? 

  • Kathy

    I changed my mind.  She should get a full refund from the rental agency.  Isn’t that why you use a rental agency?  It gives you some recourse if the place turns out to be a dump.  It’s the rental agencies responsibility to make sure the properties it rents are as described.

  • bc

    hyperbolic much?

  • bc

    What about the property owner? Mrs Knight did NOT give them a chance to “make it right”, these are items that could have been dealt with in a simple cleaning. I believe Mrs Knight was upset about not having cable TV for a week and decided to make a big fuss. 

  • Kate

    I did read their list:  ✓ There was mold on the ceiling fans in the downstairs bedroom, and the vents were dirty.

    Chris did label the picture incorrectly.  However, they claimed there was mold on the ceiling fans.

    Moreover, a house that is full of mold (and it doesn’t have to be visible to be there) will smell like urine.

  • Jim Zakany

    You’re judging color from what looks like a cell phone picture?

  • Frost

    If it was that bad, you wouldn’t have stayed there even one night.  You find another hotel room, or stay in the car.

    Seriously.  Been there.  I left.

  • Althea


    You get it, I get it, but many who post here are really cynical.  Urine smells, holes in walls, falling door handles, defective TVs, these are not going to be fixed by a cleaning crew!  This is a creepy ‘slumlord’ rental masquerading as a vacation property.  Pay with a credit card & dispute the charge, if possible.  Otherwise, the renter  has little recurse that does not cost more time and money…

  • Somewoman99

    Clare, you’re thinking of Connie Francis. 

  • kathy

    I’ve been there.  After traveling all day with a baby and arriving late it’s hard to think about finding a new place.  I also dealt with it the next day.

  • simondelao

    If those are the only two photos she submits as “evidence”, tell her to hit the road. 

  • simondelao

    Oh great – now she’s trotting out the “I have a disabled kid” line of BS. Tell her to take off. She’s lucky she found a rental that would accept her dog in the first place.