Unfortunately, Alex Brummer’s story is all too familiar and follows a common pattern.
The letting agent takes no responsibility for problems and instead palms you off on a faceless owner with whom you typically have no direct contact — often you don’t even know their name.
Here’s where you stand if, like Alex, your holiday was not up to scratch.
Unfortunately, Alex Brummer’s story is all too familiar and follows a common pattern, says Dean Dunham
When you book holiday accommodation and travel together, whether in this country or abroad, you are generally protected under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018.
These provide consumers with a great deal of protection, at the heart of which you are entitled to a remedy (often compensation) if the holiday doesn’t match its description.
However, most staycations fall outside the regulations, as they only involve a booking for accommodation — so Alex and his family cannot rely on them.
Instead, they are protected by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which says that UK property owners or holiday providers must offer accommodation with reasonable care and skill, and this means accommodation that is clean and safe.
The issues Alex’s family experienced with the TV service, sofa smelling of animal urine, leaky shower and malfunctioning hot water system almost certainly fell foul of this law.
In addition to this protection, Alex’s family were also entitled to the accommodation promised, as it was described on the Suffolk Secrets website.
This not only means that the firm’s description should be accurate, but that no important information should be left out that would, or could, have influenced the decision to go ahead with the booking.
Alex has made it clear that his family would not have continued with the booking had they known the accommodation was next to a construction site, so it is clear that this information should have been communicated to them.
As is common in these situations, Suffolk Secrets acts as what is known in law as an ‘agent’, meaning it advertises the accommodation and then facilitates the booking between the consumer and the owner of the property. This is confirmed within the Suffolk Secrets terms and conditions, and the contract, in this case, is between Alex’s son-in-law and the property owner.
The owner could try to hide behind the terms and conditions in relation to the problems, as many do in these situations.
In Alex’s case, the relevant terms and conditions say: ‘We will not be responsible, nor liable to you (or any holidaymakers) for any events outside the owner’s or our reasonable control, such as the breakdown of domestic appliances, plumbing, wiring, temporary invasion of pests, building works at adjacent properties, damage resulting from exceptional weather conditions or other unforeseeable circumstances…’
However, my firm view is that this does not help the property owner with their argument that they need not have notified Alex’s family of the building works at the point of booking or, at the very least, prior to the holiday commencing.
Alex and his family are clearly entitled to compensation in relation to the issues with the holiday.
If they had chosen to refuse to stay at the accommodation, they could have claimed a full refund and potentially compensation for the inconvenience and any expenses incurred as a consequence of the property owner’s breach of contract.
As they continued to stay at the accommodation, the compensation will have taken the form of a price reduction, as had already been offered. To calculate the amount, Alex would have needed to consider the extent of the family’s loss of enjoyment of the holiday, and ultimately the diminution in value.
I note that 20 per cent has been offered and accepted. But in the circumstances here, I feel this was too little and should have been rejected.
Ultimately, in these situations you need to consider how much a court would award, as this would be the next step if the compensation amount could not be agreed.
There is no hard-and-fast rule on the amount of compensation that will be awarded but I would expect to see it at around 35-40 per cent.
Finally, when you suffer a holiday disaster, as Alex did, you should first build an evidence file to substantiate all the issues. This should include photographs, videos and anything else that demonstrates the problem.
It’s also important to notify the holiday provider/organiser/property owner immediately and not leave it until you get home.
If this does not get you the redress you are looking for, the next step would be a claim to what is commonly referred to as the ‘small claims court’ — a relatively straightforward, cheap court process for claims under £10,000 in value, where typically the parties represent themselves.
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