I slammed my Kona condo online and now it’s keeping my deposit

Write a bad review, lose your deposit? / Photo by Ken Lund - Flickr
With its dramatic black volcanic rock, stunning seascapes, and impossibly tasty coffee, Kona, Hawaii is one of the world’s most unexpected destinations. And when Lynn Regan booked a condo there last year, she was looking forward to experiencing the Big Island’s differentness.

She didn’t expect to get a different condo than the one she’d reserved – but that’s exactly what she says happened.

Although her story touches on a lot of current consumer travel problems with vacation rentals, such as reputation management, user-generated reviews and product consistency, it all comes down to a single question: Should I try to help this aggrieved customer?

Back in April 2011, she says she began looking for vacation rentals in Hawaii. She found the condos at the Royal Kahili, and did her due diligence. She read the reviews on VRBO.com, looked up the property on Google Street View, contacted the owner and then, after reviewing the contract carefully, sent a deposit.

When she checked in last December, here’s what she found:

The linens were badly stained and needed replacement, including a bloodstained bedspread which really needed a wash.

There was a great deal of corrosion everywhere, which meant that screens and windows and sliders were sometimes working or only partially working and showerheads barely worked.

The toilet in one bathroom ran a small amount of water constantly, the other toilet was not bolted down at all.

The kitchen and bathrooms were unrenovated and would be the originals from the 1970s. However, they were reasonably clean; there was a new fridge, and a new large flat screen TV, and some decent living room furniture.

And that wasn’t all. Other items included stained ceilings, and grubby patches on the carpets, including a big cut and paste carpet patch in the master bedroom. There were new living room curtains and rods, but the old rods hadn’t been taken down, giving a distinctly tacky feel.

Most important, it looked nothing like to advertised room. But Regan tried not to let her get it down.

“Certainly we made do while we were there,” she says. “I washed stuff and vacuumed, and decided not to let it bug me while I was on vacation.”

She brought up the problems with the condo manager, but it did her no good. Under Hawaii law, every owner must have a local representative, and that person couldn’t be found. Another condo manager tried to help her, but his options were limited.

Why not do a little research online or make a few phone calls?

Regan says she couldn’t. She’s Canadian, she was worried that spending a lot of time online would rack up a big cellular bill. So she let it slide until she returned home, which is when she decided to write a review on VRBO.com.

That’s when she discovered she wasn’t alone, and that others had experienced trouble with the same resort.

Then the owner responded to her complaint with a rebuttal:

Our unit is priced according to the fact that yes, the kitchen counters need an upgrade as do the bathrooms. Our kitchen features new appliances such as a fridge and dishwasher.

However, this is the first I’ve been told that there are problems with the bed linens and a toilet needing to be bolted in properly from any guests.

Had these issues been presented to me during their stay like their signed rental agreement states, they would have been addressed immediately.

These issues have already been taken care of. We did a thorough check of the unit with our maintenance and everything is up to par.

She also withheld Regan’s deposit.

“I guess I should have waited a little while before I spoke up,” she says.

Regan believes the owner is pocketing the deposit because of her write-up. Sound familiar?

She also dug further and found that the owner was involved in some basic reputation management maneuvers, which included creating a Facebook page, blog, and selling rooms through AirBnB – activities she says are meant to “minimize” the negative reviews.

Nothing illegal about that, though.

She wrote a letter to the owner and heard back from Cynthia Leporte, a reservations manager, who said under the terms of her contract, Regan was required to report any problems with the condo within 24 hours of arrival.

“Since the conditions of the rental agreement were not followed,” she wrote, “the refund is void.”

What a strange case.

As I review all the correspondence between Regan and the condo representative, I’m really torn. Clearly, Regan didn’t get the accommodations she was expecting. But whatever happened during her rental, she also didn’t report it to the right person. That makes me wonder if I’m getting the entire story.

At the same time, the condo owner’s actions make me suspicious. I believe Regan when she says the unit didn’t look right, and while I don’t have a problem with reputation management that is honest, the condo owner’s efforts seem more promotional.

I think she’s entitled to an explanation for why the deposit is being withheld. But beyond that, I’m not sure if I can — or should — push for a partial refund of her stay.

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 chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Michelle C

    If it is in the contract to report the problems within 24 hrs then the phone number and contact person should be published in the contract. I don’t blame her for not calling many phone numbers.   There should be ONE number, and ONE contact person.    It isn’t her job to spend time searching the internet hoping to find the right person.  If she made an attempt to locate the local representative, which it sounds like she did because that is the only way to determine they were not available, then she should either demand her deposit back or take them to court.  Though I do not know if it is harder to sue because she is Canadian.   I’m assuming it is possible.   I think you should mediate and I hope she gets her deposit back.    I also hope she took pictures.

  • LeeAnneClark

    ABSOLUTELY mediate this one!  Something smells very fishy here, and I think it’s the condo owners.  This renter got screwed in more ways than one – she got a substandard unit compared to what was promised, and they are keeping her deposit for no legitimate reason.  I don’t even see how they can do that!  If she didn’t do any damage to the property, or anything else that would cost the condo owner money, how can they keep her deposit?

    A customer has a right to decide whether or not to take time out of her vacation to report problems – she shouldn’t be financially penalized because she chose to live with them.  I look forward to hearing from the lawyers in here:  how can they put something in the contract that demands that a customer do something that may not even be to her benefit (there’s no guarantee they would have fixed those issues during her stay), and then when she doesn’t, CHARGE her for it?  Is that legal?

    Fight this one, Christopher.  Those of us who rely on honest online reviews to make our travel decisions don’t want to see yet another honest customer screwed for speaking up.  It renders the entire travel review system void if we can get financially penalized for reporting our experiences.


  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    I don’t understand why she found bad reviews after her stay and not before. That doesn’t make sense.

    Since the owner sounds fishy, I doubt she’ll get anything from the rental cost (did she ask for a refund? It’s not mentioned in her story, only in the rebuttal from the manager). The deposit is another matter. If they’re keeping that out of spite, that would be totally illegal. They’d better pay up and soon otherwise face punitive damages.

  • emanon256

    Chris, you should mediate.  Most states have very specific laws requiring the return of a deposit unless the landlord can prove the actual cost of any damages, and then only the actual cost can be deducted.  Saying they didn’t follow the rental agreement by not calling and leaving a bad review is not legal grounds to withhold.  Perhaps this is different in Hawaii, but I doubt it.  Also, it sounds like they did try to contact the owner, but were unsuccessful, so they gave up.  While I think some of the OPs claims are a little petty (Tacky extra curtain rods). I think it’s illegal and wrong for the owner to withhold the deposit, especially when the owner did not respond or have anyone local to help.
    I read some of the owners responses to reviews (http://www.vrbo.com/306875) and wow, they are a piece of work, they simply blame all of their guests for problems and take to responsibility for their condo and blame everyone but themselves.  It sounds like they are completely absentee and expect the tenants to do everything, and then blame them for “Not following policy” as an excuse for everything.  If they want to own a condo and rent it out, they need to be a little more proactive in its management.  I bet after enough bad reviews or when they get kicked off VRBO, they will simply re-list it like the last VRBO site Chris mentioned.

  • sdir

    What “refund” was the reservations manager referring to?  Did the LW demand a refund of her stay or was this rejection in regards to the deposit?  We are clearly missing part of the story here.  As it reads, the owner is refusing to return the deposit on the grounds the LW didn’t file a complaint to the proper person withing 24 hours.  That isn’t a reason to keep a deposit and I’m curious why Chris is even asking whether he should mediate the case.  Sounds like the LW is getting scammed, I say mediate her case.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I voted yes, since under Hawaii law, there must be a local rep and clearly there was not one available. 

    Just read some of the owner’s responses to guest reviews and wow, they sound like real douchebags.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    I don’t see in the article where she is asking for a refund, partial or otherwise. 

    As far as the deposit if concerned, she is entitled to that back, no and ifs or butts.  Thats a no brainer.  I hope she sues the property.

  • Raven_Altosk

    YUP! Back in the day, when I lived in a horrible apartment with a real jerk of a landlord, he tried to withhold my security illegally. State law was he had 30 days to send me WRITTEN notice why he was keeping it.

    I took his butt to small claims court and won DOUBLE my deposit. I was only 19, but I wasn’t gonna let that clown push me around.

  • MikeInCtown

    This is how I read it as well. She isn’t asking for any sort of refund for the property even though it doesn’t appear as nice as it does in the on line photos. She merely wants her deposit back. The owner has no right to keep it, considering they appeared to have broken the law by not having a local representative. (and another local representative was contacted and was of no help)

  • john4868

    I say mediate to get the whole story if nothing else. If the owner’s local rep wasn’t available after the OP made a reasonable effort to contact them, that is the owner’s issue not the OPs.

    Unless the OP did damage to the condo, I don’t see a legal justification to keep the deposit.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/AYZX3BKA5PMB54ZMAWCCKJSCTU AnnA

    Yes – she isn’t asking for a refund; she’s asking for her security deposit back. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/TT4M2NNUTWII2G4LCTMTICYRRA len

    I’m glad to hear that the owner now feels that the unit is “up to par.”  My question now, if I was trying to rent that unit, is “What is par for that hole?”

  • SoBeSparky

    The VRBO and airbnb problems are getting pretty repetitive, aren’t they?

    Best advice to these people who are always trying to get something better for a cheaper price:  stick to conventional travel agencies (on-line or local) and use TripAdvisor and other sites which try to filter out fake owner-posted reviews.

  • TonyA_says

    But Hawaii has a law that prohibits short term rentals less than 30 days. The house must stay empty the rest of the 30 days if someone rents it less than a month. If many rental owners don’t even bother to comply with Hawaii laws then why should they be honest with you – the renter? Makes me wonder if these peer-to-peer apartment/condo/rental thing is just one big illegal scheme that goes around regulations and tax laws.


  • andrelot

    I found it extremely problematic that somebody is keeping a deposit for a negative review whose underlying issue hadn’t been brought up within 24h. Deposits are meant to guarantee the owner against physical damage or even no-show. So I found it extremely abusive for the owner to keep the deposit as “punishment” for bad reviews.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Dervin/1299140134 Michael Dervin

    The owner is stealing from the customer. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Dervin/1299140134 Michael Dervin

    The owner is straight up stealing from the customer. The only reason to keep the deposit is for customer related damage. 

  • Cybrsk8r

    I always try to find a realtor who handles rentals when I vacation in FL.   That way, you’ve got a bona fide contact in the event of a problem.   I’ve never gone wrong that way.

  • GradUT

    It’s not clear from the story what Ms. Regan wants.  The whole story seems to revolve around a request for the return of the security deposit.  But then Chris throws in, “push for a partial refund of her stay”, which is not mentioned anywhere else in the article.

    If Ms. Regan wants Chris’s help in getting her deposit returned, I would vote “Yes” because there does not appear to be any evidence that Ms. Regan damaged anything in the rental apartment.  

    If Ms Regan wants Chris’s help in getting a partial refund of what she paid for the rental property, then I would vote “No”.  It might not be as new and shiny as she was expecting or would have liked, but it sounds like the important things worked (e.g. toilet and refrigerator) and that she dealt with the minor stuff (dirty linens) just fine.

  • Rosered7033

    Interesting case, and I voted for mediation if only to clear the air.  How is this rental up to par/what is par, if everything the OP said is true?  WHY is the deposit not being returned?  Why was the contact name not given, if it is written in the contract that this person be contacted within 24 hrs?  I would have done what the OP did, after some investigation upon arrival, try to make the best of the situation and not burn up any more of my vacation time pursuing the obvious problems.  This is actually a pet peeve of mine – having to pursue something that is supposed to be included in a price, but turns out to be a horrible time-waster to obtain.

  • john4868

    @tonya_says    According to the link you sent, your interpretation of Honolulu law is incorrect. You require a permit if you wish to rent for less than 30 days regardless of the amount of time the property goes vacant. So a homeowner can’t get around it for renting for less than 30 days but leaving it vacant until the 30 days is up. The article specifically points out that the President’s rental was illegal because he stayed less than 30 days and the homeowner did not have the permit. The fact that he left the property vacant for the rest of the 30 days is not relevant. It still violates the ordinance because the rental was less than 30 days.

    It also isn’t on point because the link states that it’s a Honolulu land use ordinance and not HI law. This occurred on a different island.

    Kona might have a similar ordinance but that isn’t stated in the link you sent.

  • http://twitter.com/flashj flash jervis

    “every owner must have a local representative, and that person couldn’t be found.” Sounds like an easy dodge for the owner, all he has to do is lay low and he’s home free.  Surely the other rep can vouch for her actions as due diligence?

  • emanon256

    Interesting, I never knew.  I have stayed in condos on Maui and the Big Island a few times, all less than 30 days, I hope the owners had permits for that.  We usually stay 3-4 days per condo and hop around.  I actually found them through my old travel agent; the one I mentioned a few times on here before who sadly passed away.  All of the condos she found us were quite well maintained and while slightly dated, didn’t have a single problem worth complaining about.  They were also very inexpensive. 

  • Asiansm Dan

    Hawaiian Condos usually not up to Mainland standard. When I were in Hawaii, on site, I tried to rent condos in Hawaii and visit some condos on Oahu and Big Island. Most of them are not beautiful as advertise: old furniture, old drapes and stain carpet, mold in the room and bathroom, and blinds not functional and loud air-conditionning, not all imperfection in the same condo but you can encounter at least 2 in a condo. Fortunately, I didn’t rent any, just visiting. Unless your are in 5 stars Hotel, condos are like 2 stars on Mainland. I gave up the idea of renting condos in Hawaii and stick to Hotels. I am at the 40th vacations in Hawaii and can find hotel rooms at the same price at better services and conditions.

  • Nasty_Fresh

     If it weren’t for those damn customers life would be good for them!

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Wow…  Just – wow.  If I’m reading this correctly, the OP DID try to find the manager/owner/local representative and had no luck doing so.  Rather than lose more of her vacation time to chasing down this con artist, she chose to enjoy what was left of her time there.  Good decision, IMHO.

    This is one that definitely needs your intervention because they “voided the contract” when the OP posted a negative review and not because she committed any damage.  

    This sounds like some kind of shell game, pure and simple, and God only knows how many other people they’ve pulled this on.  Travelers shouldn’t have to roll the dice as to whether or not they get their deposit back.

    I’d be tempted to contact an attorney in Hawaii about this, if not the local police in Kona.

  • Alan Gore

    If you’re going to complain about a rental online, always wait until you get your deposit back first. If you don’t get it back, then you have something to add to the complaint.

  • lorcha

    I voted no, but only because she probably needs a real attorney at this point. I don’t know Hawaii law, but in every state that I am familiar with, the law regarding holding security deposits and paying for damages from a security deposit gets pretty specific. 

    If the security deposit was held improperly (typically in a separate, non-interest-bearing account), or withheld improperly (typically, security deposits may be used to pay for property damage that the renter caused or for failure to pay for the rental), then the owner and/or manager could be in violation of state law and may owe the renter double or even treble damages. The manager could also be in violation of Hawaii real estate board regulations, and if so, could face sanction for that.

    So I think that the LW probably needs a real attorney at this point. Nothing you can publish about them will shame them into acting properly, but a judge could easily make this right if the owner or manager violated state law, which they very potentially did.

  • cjr001

    This sounds more like a case of outright theft and blackmail by keeping her deposit.

  • Sherry K

    These days you pretty much have to wait until you receive your deposit to leave feedback.  I know that I did this for a rental in Panama City Beach that was particularly unclean and had loose electrical outlet covers, a balcony door that didn’t latch, etc. I contacted the owner the first night we checked in, and he was very rude and unhelpful. Since we couldn’t get a refund on the remaining nights, we chose to stay and “make the best of it.”  I waited until we got home to get our deposit back and post an honest review of the place.  The owner then lashed out about how I waited to leave feedback, was difficult, etc.  Oh, well. I just wanted the truth out there, and I worried that he, like this owner, might try to inflict additional punishment by keeping the deposit. 

  • S363

    Someone please correct me if I’m wrong (need I ask, on the internet?) but my understanding is that people listing on vrbo can take down negative reviews.  If that is so, reviews there are worthless.  

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Clearly she’s owed her deposit back, so Chris should absolutely mediate.

    Hindsight’s 20/20, but blasting somebody in a review when they’ve still got your money is a risky move. Waiting just a bit would have possibly kept this problem from happening…assuming the owner ever had an intention of giving the deposit back.

    And this section below totally confused me. Can anybody clarify?

    “Why not do a little research online or make a few phone calls?
    Regan says she couldn’t. She’s Canadian, she was worried that spending a lot of time online would rack up a big cellular bill. ”
    What’s being Canadian have to to do with anything?  And that reads like she didn’t even email the owner or try to contact them through VRBO, which seems really strange.

  • sanibelsyl

    I voted no with the minority on this.  My reason was that the OP needs to have the rental manager/owner tell her directly  and exactly why her refund was with held.  She should be able to push for an answer.  Was it because the owner is implying that she, the rental guest, was responsible for the damage? Was it because the rental guest signed a non-desparagement clause that is not being mentioned now?  Was it because the guest threatened a bad review looking for some compensation not to write it?  As asked earlier, how did the guest “miss” the other negative reviews?  

    The other thing I would want to know is what did she, the OP,  pay and what would have been the rate on a better kept property?  The problem with the review system is that it comes off as black and white.  If the guest would have been paying double for a nicer property, then the rate charged to her was probably due to the issues present as the owner stated. 

    Generally, and I say this repeatedly to my own potential guests, you get what you pay for.  If some one is giving you a price that is half of what I charge, I can guarantee that they will not be as well maintained.  Let the buyer beware.

  • Joe Farrell

    What does the contract say about the Refund?

    What does Hawaii law say about the refund?  What does Hawaii law say about a rental refund and occupancy rules on bolted down toilets – if the law says the toilet needs to be bolted down [code enforcement here] then perhaps they did not have the legal right to rent the unit meaning they entire rental is void – that would be my counter argument – make them think that if I sued them that they would lose the entire rent.  I’m not sayind that is going to happen but a good offense is the best defense.   Hawaii has the laws since they have so much tourist rental activity.  Last  time I checked it was skewed in favor of the landlords.

    I think that given what I have heard, not reporting problems is not grounds for withholding a refund of a deposit.   A deposit exists to repay for damage – not for reporting defects late in the property. 

    Plus – did they verify the issues with the linens and non-bolted down toilet?

     If so – then they don’t stand a chance and refusing to refund a deposit without receipts and other proof of loss – often generation double and treble damages plus attorneys fees. . .

  • Michael__K

    If she made her deposit in April 2011, she wouldn’t have seen any bad reviews posted after that point.

    Looking at the listing, there is only one bad review currently visible other than the OP’s, and it was posted 12 days AFTER the OP’s review….

    So no chance she would have seen that…


  • Joe Farrell

     if you go to Hawaii that often it would to buy your own condo unit and maintain it to your standards and buy your own furniture-  at least you know what you are getting then!

  • Joe Farrell

     I’m not sure that a temporary guest can wear down linens to such a point that they need to be replaced – and – the thought that a guest would unbolt a toilet strains the bounds of credulity. . .

  • Chasmosaur

    Yep.  And note a few reviews above hers, one of the commenters has explicitly stated the owner asked him to review the property.  I’m thinking the owner is trying to bolster the positive reviews.

  • Chasmosaur

    Even if the whole story isn’t being presented, the lack of a local representative – or even a contact list, as apparently the OP had to look around to find someone to help her – is problematic.  And they should not be allowed to withhold the deposit, especially if the OP had to launder all the linens.  

    She’s not asking for a refund of any kind – she concedes she used the property.  What she is asking for is the return of her deposit, since she didn’t appear to have caused damage on her own.  That is a legitimate issue that obviously needs some mediation.  Far more so than some of the other people here who think they deserve a refund (the cruise with a lack of pool for 2 out of 4 days springs to mind).

  • SBsuz

    Guests shouldn’t ever be punished for writing a review. Lynn just wants her deposit back and it absolutely should be returned. They cannot hold a deposit because they do not like her review. It isn’t her responsibility to report issues – that is what the management company should be doing. 

  • Bruce Burger

    You should mediate on the deposit issue if the renter can’t get a clearer answer for why her deposit has been withheld. I don’t think you should mediate for the other issues. Some are the nature of renting directly from an owner (especially if the listing doesn’t have many photos), while others could have been addressed through a phone call. A renter shouldn’t have to spend “a lot of time online” but she should call the owner. It’s unclear if the renter called the primary phone number that the owner gave her to call in case of problems. Only if she did should you mediate for a modest refund, and even then, I wouldn’t press too hard since there were no major functional defects.

  • SooZeeeQ

    Who can you trust these days?

  • emanon256

    I’m not sure if they can take down negative reviews.  But there was a property Chris wrote about a few months ago and it had multiple bad reviews.  When I went to the VRBO site, it said the property’s listing had been removed.  I tried searching and found a new listing with the exact same pictures, description, owners, etc. It had no reviews, but was listed as a new property.  So I think that is the easy way around getting bad reviews.  Also, on several suspect properties, some of the reviews tend to sound like they were written by the owner, maybe they are, maybe not.

  • emanon256

    I took it as she was using the internet on her cell phone to try to contact someone else.  If she has Canadian service, she would pay some serious roaming charges.  Also there is a review of the property saying the WiFi didn’t work there.  It does say she contacted the condo manager and the local representative could not be found and she even spoke to a second manager who could not help.  So I feel like she did her due diligence. Maybe the manager dropped the ball, but she did try to contact someone.

  • jennj99738

    There is one other bad review on vrbo.com.  The owner provides an “enlightening” response in which he/she berates the reviewer for violating the terms of the rental contract by writing a negative review after the deposit was refunded.  So, it appears the owner may have a clause in the contract that a renter may not give a negative review or the deposit will be withheld.  

    I think that’s BS and any judge in small claims court would not enforce that contract.  However, it’s all a matter of landlord tenant law which is very specific to the jurisdiction.  Here, in Nevada, a landlord may only withhold a security deposit for damages to the property in excess of normal wear and tear and reasonable cleaning fees (not if a cleaning fee was already paid).  If the landlord fails to refund the deposit within 30 days, a tenant may sue for up to double the amount of the deposit.  However, this is state, if not county or city, specific. 

  • Asiansm Dan

     I have my sister live there but I prefer to go to Hotels. I go at least twice a year. But now the airlines tickets go to Asia almost match the Hawaii destination, I tend to fly more to Asia. Another reason is traveling in US need a car, and renting car now is a challenge. For the same daily price, you can have a car and a chauffeur in Asia and you are not responsible for anything because the chauffeur is from the rental company.
    Buying condo/property it’s easy but headaches comes when you try to sell it, specially when you are not resident. Lot of Tax paper and expenses, not worth the headaches. Keep the money, invest in the banks and leave the 5 stars hotels take care of you.

  • dsliesse

    Like Lorcha, I voted no — not because it shouldn’t be pursued, but because this is beyond mediation.  It’ll be complicated, since the OP is a Canadian citizen, but this definitely calls for an attorney to intervene. If there actually is a contract clause that forfeits the deposit for giving a bad review, I would consider that unconscionable.

  • judyserienagy

    You have it exactly right, Chris.  She’s entitled to an explanation but probably nothing else.

  • TonyA_says

    It all depends on how the location is ZONED. For instance, the place the OP rented was in Kona so that is under Zoning Code of County of Hawaii’s County Code. IMO unless the place is zoned where Boarding facilities, rooming, or lodging houses is a permitted use then short term rentals may be violating the law. The County of Hawaii is even strict with Bed and Breakfasts. They need to get a permit if they are in RS districts and RA, FA, A districts.

  • TonyA_says

     Read Chap 25 of County of Hawaii’s County Code.

  • Extramail

    Chris hasrewrittenn a story or two, I believe, that have said that rental agreements are now writing in them that you can lose your deposit if you write a bad review without first talking to the rental agent. Don’t know if that is the case here but how many of us agree to the terms of service without reading every single word nowadays?

  • emanon256

    I interpreted the land lord’s response to the other review to say that she violated the rental contract by not immediately informing her of the toilet being broken.  This despite the tenant saying they informed them the first day, but the land lord excuse is that their e-mail was hacked, so they are not responsible.  Also when that guest complained about the TV not working, the land lord says the prior tenant violated the contract by not telling them the TV was broken.  Then the land lord complains they should not have given them the deposit back because they used too much electricity and violated the agreement (In reverence to the toilet).  The land lord also states that the toilet is now fixed as they were told by the next guests.  If the land lord only knows what works and what doesn’t work based on guest feedback perhaps they should hire a local property manager.  It sounds like they only respond when they are repeatedly nagged and depend on renters to tell them what’s going on and anyone who doesn’t tell this is in violation.  Maintaining their condo should not be the tenants responsibility, it should be the land lords.

  • TonyA_says

    Here’s an interesting article (maybe self serving ad) on supposed to be legal Transient Vacation (Units) Rentals

    Note how it says the legitimate ones are those that are zoned as hotels!

  • TonyA_says

    How about the TAX, John? Did you forget that?
    Are these Transient Vacation Units paying Hawaii TAT, General Excise Tax, etc.? Doubt it.

  • john4868

    @TonyA_says:disqus My discussion was limited to the link you sent that states that the issue there is a Honolulu ordinance. Since this was Kona, it didn’t apply.

  • TonyA_says

    Dang I agree with you 100%. I also have a close relation in Hawaii. But I find that place too commercial and the beaches are not anywhere near as beautiful as the Asian ones. Also as you said the fare to Asia is cheaper and you can take the best airlines of the world (CX, SQ, OZ etc.) I think Americans should discover Asia more for their own good (wallet).

  • Lindabator

    Most of the ones we travel agents book are part of a hotel chain generally, and are always booked by as little as a day at a time, so they have to have all their ducks in a row.  :)

  • TonyA_says

    A lot or REAL Hawaiians really don’t like this whole Transient Vacations Units (TVU Rentals). Here is a decent site that discusses issues in Oahu  http://www.sonhawaii.org/

    There is similar discontent in the other islands. The “natives” are getting squeezed out of affordable rentals and homes. I wonder if tourists ever consider that.

    Aside from probably not paying HI’s Transient Accomodation Tax (TAT) and HI’s Excise Tax, they may also have broken the law that requires all rental units to have a LOCAL contact in Hawaii.

  • sanibelsyl

    I have no “no disparagement” clauses in my vacation rental contracts and would never consider them as either an owner or a rental guest.  The OP may have agreed to sign one, and to do so would certainly have been foolish.  But if there is no way to enforce disparagement clauses, what is the point of including them in the first place?  As I say, I would never have one as so doing certainly appears to be censorship as well as a red flag that the property may be less than what it is advertised as.  Yet people do have them and I’m not sure that they could even legally be upheld —-as it is suggested here.

  • Brian

     She tried to contact the local representative.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s contacting the owner’s agent.  Since that was within 24 hours, they owe her a deposit, and something for her troubles. 

  • ClareClare

    I’m wondering whether the fact that the OP is from Canada influenced the sleaze-bag owner’s decision to keep the deposit?  Said owner may very well be betting that someone living in another country won’t take all the time and trouble to file a lawsuit.  Betcha she wasn’t expecting the OP to turn to Chris!

    The very same thing happened to me years ago when renting a car from Hertz in Ireland.  They invented false damage and charged my ccard the exact amount of the deductible–long story, but they managed to carefully arrange everything so that my only recourse was to physically fly back to Ireland and sue them in Irish court.  Uh, like that’s going to happen?  Wish Chris was writing his column back then…

  • jennj99738

     I reread it after reading your response and I agree with your interpretation.  I read this sentence differently, “I find it interesting she would write the review almost a month after their stay & after they received the deposit.”  It read to me, “if only Lynn (the renter) had written her review earlier, I (the owner) could have withheld the security deposit.”  Anyway, nothing in the owner’s litany of complaints against the renter in this other review was valid. 

    It’s clear that if the owner is not inspecting the property after a renter moves out, he or she does not get to withhold any portion of the security deposit because he or she doesn’t know who did the damage.  Maintenance is never on the tenant in any event.

  • Joe Farrell

     The ONLY way the Chris becoming involved is if the property is identified.  Chris will identify airlines, hotels, car rental companies and all sorts of third party companies but will not identify the specific Royal Kalihi unit or the owner?  Why not?

    The power of the press only works when the provider of the product or service knows that they are going to be made public – if we don’t know the owner and unit number name – whats the point?  At that point it does nothing for me –

    You see – if an ombudsman gets involved and the owner tells him to kiss off – then I want to know to avoid that seller of services.  If the owner explains themselves and makes the OP whole – then I want to know that too so I can perhaps rely on that person’s character in the future when I am choosing a rental.

    Not telling us the unit or the names prevent us from making use of the information provided above.

  • emanon256

    You know, the unit we rented in Kona was listed like a hotel, even though it was a condo.  I always thought that was odd, but this explains it.  I would rent a condo again in a heartbeat.  I think we paid $80 a night, and while it was dated and not at all fancy and had a lout air conditioner, we also could cook our own meals, walk to the beach, and had a lot more room than at a hotel room.

  • emanon256

    People should use agents, not VRBO.  That’s all there is to it.

  • TonyA_says

    I don’t understand why people complain their rental is “this and that” without first checking if the rental is even legal. If everything is in the up and up, the city will and can inspect the place and make sure it is safe. This is why I like hotels. At least I know they have a license to do business and collect taxes. I have nothing against condos or B&Bs provided they stay legit.

  • Asiansm Dan

    I still love Hawaii and Florida but I travel to HI and FL less frequent, once every 2 years. In year 2000 and before, I fly to Miami once every 3 months. But now it’s quite expensive. Every instance try to squeeze the money from us: Several level of Governments, Airport Authority, Added fees and extra charges in Hotel, Car-Rent. Recently, I have my European friends and relatives complaint about Highway Automatic Payment Scam, they received charges and penalty from the Toll Highway they are not aware and nobody tell them when renting the car. They are ticketed by using the highway and they see it like an intentional milking practice used on innocent tourists.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Just re-read the listing. The owners are such idiots they say “service dogs MAY be allowed.”

    Um, no.
    Service dogs are allowed everywhere and if you don’t like it, don’t run a business in the US.

  • Ann Lamoy

    Not to mention the review posted just a week after her review-giving the property 5 stars. And coincidentally they stayed the same day as she did? I get that most people probably post their date of stay as the start of their stay. And it might be entirely possible that one of them posted 12/10 as the start and the other the end.

    But honestly? I find Steven’s review a tad bit suspicious. Okay, more than a tad bit. I am willing to bet good folding money (what I have set aside for my Vegas trip) that this is either the owner or a friend of the owner posting a positive review to pump up their ratings.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_H6PILMKHNNJGSWQMZBFDJYWBA4 Spaz Daffodil

    You should mediate, but you won’t get anywhere.  The landlord knows that the renter will never return, so why return the deposit?  The chance of the renter returning to Hawaii to file a small claims court case is very, very small.  It is a form of theft.  How much was the deposit?  Maybe she could sue in Hawaii for the return of the deposit plus travel expenses?  (I’m not an attorney)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

     With all of these questions, most of which I think are irrelevant, why wouldn’t you want Chris to mediate, if for no other reason than to get to the truth?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    She won’t get her travel expenses

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

     Interesting thought. Why not the return of her deposit?

  • sanibelsyl

    The major reason is that Chris must get many more requests for assistance than he has time to provide.  I think (answers to)  these questions are relevant in assessing whether he should get involved. There are too many unknowns here for me to vote for his pursuing this.  Chris, himself, has reservations in researching this without more information (“That makes me wonder if I’m getting the entire story.”) and I agree with him completely.  In the vacation rental business, falsehoods abound, some from owners, some from guests.  Why would I want Chris to get ensnared in a tangle of lies and end up, eventually, wasting his time?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2NZAJ6KPWUWJV23TTE3TNBMJZI Trudi

    I think she tried to get some help through the condo management. If she didn’t want to use her cell phone to call, she probably should have looked into using a local phone. If she read the contract as thoroughly as she claims, then she knew she should have contacted someone immediately. However, the name and number of that person should have been left in the condo unit. All the places I’ve EVER rented have had a local name and number to call for assistance. If she left the condo in reasonable condition, and it seems she did, then keeping her deposit for reporting the bad issues seems petty. The owner has the opportunity now to fix the issues, and not have to deal with another unhappy renter. Once again, VRBO is useless except as a resource company; they sincerely don’t care if a renter is ripped off or not. If you can help her, I hope you will, Chris.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    I take a different tact.  The default position is that a deposit should be returned to the guest.  The onus is on the landlord to present credible reasons to withhold the  deposit.  Every ambiguity is therefore resolved in the favor of the guest.