If There's a Problem with Your Vacation Rental, Whether a Luxury Villa or Apartment, What is Fair Compensation? Rentals tend to inherently be more problematic to get appropriate compensation for than a luxury hotel, for a few reasons.
First, unlike a hotel room or suite, you're generally unable to easily get access to another similar rental within a short time period. Have a problem with the cleanliness of the hotel room, or there's a plumbing issue? The hotel should be able to move you to another similar (or better) room or suite. Not so with the rental–anything seriously wrong with it will require time to clean or fix, you usually can't just move to a similar alternative rental.
Second, with a rental, you're not just dealing with the hotel's front desk or Duty Manager. You'll have to coordinate with the property owner or management company, which may not be as easily contacted as a hotel's front desk would be, and you may also need to get the vacation rental company you booked the rental through involved, in order to get the issue resolved and possible compensation. Be especially leery of Airbnb, which requires you to claim within 24 hours of checking in, and requires that you've first tried to resolve the matter with the host. Airbnb is notoriously cheap when it comes to refund and compensation claims, although filing a legal claim or getting publicity can help get swifter recourse, such as this Guardian article covering Airbnb vacations from hell.
Third, my experience is that individual owners and property managers are far less professional and willing to provide compensation than top luxury hotels such as Four Seasons. It's not uncommon to have things drag out over several weeks, both in terms of potential compensation or future credit claims, and in terms of getting back a security deposit.
Compensation Commensurate with the Villa Rental Problem
As with any claim for compensation or a goodwill gesture, be realistic when assessing the problem(s) you experienced. Something that was wholly within the control of the property owner or villa manager and prevented you from using the villa for a long period of time, such as a plumbing issue, no one meeting you to provide the keys such that you had to wait for hours to gain access, a pest infestation, a filthy, uncleaned rental, etc. is qualitatively different than a coffee machine that didn't work, beds that weren't made up but had clean folded linen on them, a garden that hadn't been weeded in awhile, etc.
In the former cases, where you really couldn't use the villa, I would request a refund on a pro-rated basis for the amount of time you weren't able to gain access to or enjoy the use of the villa, plus a little extra for the inconvenience. More minor inconveniences are worth mentioning as feedback, and could potentially get you a small credit for a future rental, but unless there was also a more major issue I wouldn't expect much.
If the Rental Was Mostly Very Positive, Be Open to Future Credits
As mentioned above, often vacation rental owners and their property managers are very reluctant to issue refunds, and any refund offered may be significantly lower than you believe you're entitled to. For this reason, if your overall experience was positive and the issues you experienced were frustrating but not deal breakers, consider accepting a credit for a future rental, as you're more likely to get more. Just be sure that you'll realistically manage to use it by the expiration date (typically one year from the date of issue).
Example 1: Smoke Alarm Went Off in the Middle of the Night, Unable to Turn it Off
This example is from a few years back, from clients for whom I'd reserved a vacation rental in Hawaii. One night, a smoke alarm, high up in the villa and completely out of reach (there was no ladder on the property) started beeping incessantly in the middle of the night, preventing them ever getting back to sleep. Naturally they were irate and sleep deprived, and while no compensation gets you your sleep back, I did get half a day's rental back for them as a refund for the 4 hours of extreme annoyance until it was able to be turned off. This was a problem entirely within the property owner's control, as the beeping wasn't from an actual fire, but from the batteries needing to be replaced, yet no ladder was on property such that the guests couldn't reach the smoke detector.
Example 2: Dirty Linens and Trash in Villa on Arrival Day, Cleaning Service Failed to Come
A more recent example is one of my client's vacation rentals via Onefinestay, which is part of Accor (which acquired Fairmont a few years ago). In this case, the villa itself was cleaned and ready on my clients' arrival day; however, a bundle of dirty linens/towels and a bag of trash had been left in the foyer, and although my clients called right away asking for it to be removed, it took two calls for someone to come.
Even more frustratingly, although on their arrival day they booked a cleaning service to come and clean midway through their stay, and reconfirmed it with a property representative who called them the evening of their arrival day, no one sent them the price list they requested, and no one showed up on the appointed day to clean. They instead had to take time from their vacation and clean the villa themselves, since no one showed up.
Later, it was discovered that the Property Manager had emailed a completely incorrect email address with a price list and asked them to reconfirm the cleaning.
After making the case to Onefinestay that the cabin wasn't completely ready on their arrival, since the dirty linens and trash from the prior guests were still in the cabin and weren't removed promptly despite their request, plus the arranged for cleaning service never came despite my clients confirming it with two different property representatives, not to mention the Property Manager emailing a completely wrong email address that wasn't theirs (and failing to follow up with phone calls, since the Property Manager had both cell phone numbers of my clients) we received a $1000 future stay credit from Onefinestay that can be used at any Onefinestay property, as well as a $500 future stay credit for the specific rental they stayed in, as my clients did enjoy every other aspect of the rental, apart from the cleaning and communication snafus.
Why Working with a Luxury Travel Advisor Can Be Helpful Even for Vacation Rentals
Thankfully, most vacation and villa rentals go smoothly, and without incident. But on the rare occasion when there are problems, it can be helpful to have TravelSort or your luxury travel advisor advocate on your behalf about the problems you experienced, and seek to obtain a refund or future credit. Chances are that a luxury travel advisor books many more vacation rentals than you as an individual do, due to the number of clients the advisor works with, so that leverage can be applied when dealing with the vacation rental company and property owner.
Also note that Four Seasons Private Residences enjoy Four Seasons Preferred Partner benefits if you reserve them with TravelSort or another Four Seasons Preferred Partner.
If you've ever had a problem with a vacation rental or villa rental, did you seek and obtain compensation?
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