Sunday, 12 July 2009

It goes with the territory

We have, on the whole, been very lucky with the guests who have rented our holiday home and in the six years that we have owned it, we have only on two occasions had cause to deduct anything from the security/damage deposit that we take. Our latest guests, however, have been possibly the most awkward we have ever had. They are Americans, or at least have an American address. I have nothing whatsoever against Americans in general, but that was the start of the difficulties.

Our normal practice is to ask guests for the full rental, plus security deposit, to be with us six weeks before they take over the house, which is pretty much standard practice in the "industry". I then send them a key with information on exactly where the house is. (They already know the village, but this is when I tell them which house in the village.) I thought it unwise to post a key to the States, so arranged for one to be hidden near the house and sent an email to our guests telling them where they could find it. I didn't think to check that the email had been received, and our guests didn't bother to chase up the information until they were in France. It was lunch time when they phoned to say they would be at the house at about 6pm and could someone meet them with a key? Unfortunately, we were away until late the following day so were unable to deal with the problem. But they had the phone number of our local rep, who knew where the key was, but it seems they didn't bother to call her. We heard nothing more and assumed they found the key.

After they had left, we received our usual report from our local rep, who told us that there was a 9" diameter heat mark in the middle of the polished dining table and that they had complained in the visitors' book that the house was damp (in temperatures of 30+?). I immediately emailed our guests, telling them I would be retaining the security deposit until we had found out the cost of putting right the damage.

Two days later I received an email from the guests: "We have completed our stay and are wondering how the security deposit refund will be processed? Also, just be aware that we returned to key to it's hiding place where we found it - after MUCH searching. We never received information regarding it's whereabouts. In addition, we left one day early, and in doing so left the drawers from the bureau and the armoire open to air out the smell of dampness. They were not serviceable during our stay." I responded by repeating my earlier email.

The reply: "I do understand your thoroughness. It is unfortunate that it did not include a follow through by your local contact to see if everything was ok. We used the only pot pad that we could find (a rattan pad from the bookcase) to protect your table. Unfortunately, it did not work. It is interesting that you have no concern about other inadequacies in your rental home. They will be, however, reflected in our review [on the Holiday Rentals web site]."

They can't have looked very hard as there is a metal trivet in the kitchen which could have been placed on top of a table mat. And would our local rep drive half an hour to check everything was OK - just on the off-chance that our guests would be there?

Oh well, as I said - it goes with the territory. And at least I can control MY attitude. I will reply in a couple of days pointing out:
  1. although perhaps I should have checked that they had received the information about the key, they could have chased it up themselves;
  2. the somewhat unreasonable expectation of a chance follow-up visit from our local rep, something which has never happened in all my experience of renting holiday homes;
  3. given the ambient temperature, I find it puzzling that there could be any trace of damp;
  4. other inadequacies?
  5. I will have to pay our rep half a day's wages to get quotes for restoration of the table, another day's wages while the work is being done, plus the actual cost of restoration, all of which come to more than the deposit we are holding;
  6. I consider this matter closed.
Oh yes. I will ask other guests (who have been complimentary) to post reviews on the Holiday Rentals web site.

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