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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