Have you ever planned an exciting vacation or holiday getaway only to arrive at your dream destination to find your room, condo or villa rental isn’t exactly what you bargained for? Likely you may have traveled quite a distance, you are weary and so anxious to check-in. Sound familiar?
I personally take great pride in finding the best accommodations for the best price when we travel by thoroughly searching online owners or property management sites for deals. I search for gap deals, last minute deals, extended stays, and more!
After locating a desirable property, I scour the interior and exterior photos online. I use Google Earth to view the property location and its proximity to major roads, towns, or sites. If the property fits, last but not least, I diligently research the property’s reviews on several third-party websites.
Now, I understand that every review may or may not reflect the property honestly, but by researching multiple reviews I usually get a general idea of the pros and cons of each property. If the property rating exceeds an 80% positivity rate, I am confident to book!
But what happens if you do your research and your vacation rental just isn’t what you bargained for? What should you do?
My husband and I recently booked a lovely South Florida beach destination condo through a large property management site. Booking was super easy on the website as they posted a detailed property description along with condo photos inside and out.
Over one hundred reviews revealed an 85 percent positive experience rating! We immediately booked the two-bedroom partial ocean view condo boasting photos showing a partial view of the ocean, comfortable couch, stately king size bed and amazing resort amenities.
During the drive down I decided to re-visit one of my trusted review sites to see if any new postings had been made raving about our newly booked condo property. Surprisingly, one new review popped up stating condo # xxxx had a major bedbug problem on the property.
Bedbugs have never been a problem during our vacations until a condo stay we had in North Florida a few years ago. That condo stay forever changed my thoughts on bedbugs! We arrived at the beachfront condo late at night, checked in and went straight to bed. We awoke early swatting multiple bug bites.
An inspection of the mattress area revealed major evidence of bedbugs. Thankfully, after a phone call to the property manager, we were immediately moved to another condo several miles away. It did, however, take us days to feel bug free.
We scratched bites for days and trust me, our luggage was sequestered to the detached garage for several months after we returned home.
Seeing a scathing bedbug review for a condo on the property we were headed to made me somewhat nauseous and apprehensive, but hey, what was the chance of condo #xxxx being the exact condo we had booked? The expansive condo resort we were headed to boasted over 300 condos!
Our six-hour trip to South Florida was truly scenic and without any major traffic problems. Admittedly, we were giddy in anticipation of staying at a sprawling resort in a roomy two-bedroom condo with a partial ocean view.
Pulling into the entrance revealed the resort property was exactly as pictured with a secure gatehouse entrance, tennis courts, swimming pool, and beautiful palm tree lined roads. A lovely half mile ride through the property led us to a registration building facing the gorgeous Atlantic Ocean.
The two-story registration building/restaurant resembled a chic southern beach cottage. We eagerly approached the office where a smiling registration desk clerk greeted us to check in. She immediately asked our names, congratulated us on selecting such a great condo property and proceeded to tell us all about the property amenities.
Shortly after the 10-minute presentation of amenities, rules and directions we were handed the key entry card. Believe it or not, boldly on the condo key card was condo # xxxx (exact condo number mentioned in review with bedbugs). We both took a deep breath and immediately pulled up the review site on our cell phones.
The clerk appeared surprised to see the recent review, did not offer a substitution, and instead insisted that we visit the condo to see what we thought. Knowing the resort had limited condo rentals available during Christmas week, we both agreed to at least take a look. Once bedbug bitten, however, I was certain it would take a miracle for me to spend the night in a condo with recently reported bedbugs.
We proceeded to the condo building with apprehension and walked up to third floor condo # xxxx. Opening the door, the condo appeared clean. The mattress and foundation were covered in a sealed zippered liner. Upon further investigation, the couch and king size bed looked nothing like the photos online and the balcony view consisted of a thick forest of mangrove trees with absolutely no view of the ocean in any direction.
We drove back to the registration office and politely waited for the check-in clerk. We asked for another condo rental based on the possibility of existing bedbugs (per the recent review), totally different furnishings than posted and a thick forest of mangrove trees instead of a partial ocean view.
Granted, we did not expect a spectacular ocean view, but realistically expected at least a peak of the ocean from a corner of the balcony or side window. No ocean view found even after my husband got out the binoculars!
The clerk stalled a bit and reluctantly said she had a condo in the same building available that we could have. We readily accepted another key card and proceeded to the condo building to take a look. This condo was five doors down from the previous condo.
On the plus side, the condo had no bad bedbug review, however the balcony view was the very same mangrove forest as the first condo and the couch and bed were again nothing like the photos.
Frustrated, we took a few moments to decide whether to accept a property that did not fit the description at the time of our booking or attempt to get our deposit back and find another property available nearby during the busy week of Christmas.
We both agreed that as tenants, even short-term tenants, we and every tenant has the right to receive the condo we booked that was advertised on the property manager’s website.
Trip number three to the registration office required a bit more “stand our ground” conversation. We informed the clerk that we were simply not willing to accept a condo rental that did not match the description of what we had booked. The clerk nervously looked up at us and asked that we wait while she contacted a manager.
She disappeared to a rear room and returned shortly with a key card to a third condo located in the same building but one floor higher. After two dry runs, we reluctantly accepted the key card and told her we would again take a look. To our amazement, we were pleasantly surprised to find behind the open door a fourth-floor condo with a breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean.
The furniture was at least similar or better quality compared to the condo photos they had posted online and no recent bedbug reviews! Immediately, we went back to the rental office and told the clerk we would be happy to accept the condo. Our vacation trip was salvaged, but not without a bit of a struggle!
The moral to my story is that regardless of the research we conduct to find the perfect vacation rental, hiccups can and will happen. Short-term rentals that exaggerate the view, the furnishings, and hide major issues should be held accountable. Though we may be weary travelers, we should stand up for what we bargain for!
Have you been the victim of a false advertised vacation rental? Do you rely on tenant reviews of vacation rentals? Have you ever accepted a vacation rental that was not as advertised?