We own a holiday cottage which we let through Cottages.com. A customer, due to arrive on 12 June, had to cancel 17 days beforehand following an injury. He planned to claim the cost from his insurer as it was non-refundable. However, Cottages.com has retained our £633 rental money for itself and told us we are only entitled to keep our share of the deposit, which was £20.
Cottages.com’s response is astonishing. “In line with our terms and conditions, in the event of a customer cancelling at the last minute, and not being eligible for a refund, the owner is entitled to their part of the deposit and we retain the remainder,” it says. “In these circumstances we work hard to rebook the property for our owners.”
In the event of a cancellation, the property owner will therefore keep the money already paid to them. But a different section of the small print explains rental money is remitted to owners on the 10th of each month. This means that owners with bookings that start on, or shortly after, the 10th day of the month face losing a week or more of income if the customer cancels. If your customer had been due to arrive at the end of June and had cancelled with the same 17 days’ notice, you would not be out of pocket because his payment would have already been remitted to you. The implications of this are not, in my view, made clear enough.
Why should Cottages.com land a windfall at your expense? It cites marketing and administration costs, but it already deducts a fee for that. It is part of the Awaze group, which owns 21 holiday rental brands, and initially refused to refund customers whose bookings were cancelled because of the March 2020 lockdown.
It declares its owner refund policy as “fairly standard” in the sector, but its rival, Sykes, which has 18 brands, remits payments to owners when customers cancel. Holidaymakers who have to pull out at short notice may accept owners are entitled to keep the money they have paid, but I can’t imagine they’d be so understanding if they discover they can’t have a refund because Awaze has pocketed it.
On a cheerier note…
K and VB of Gloucestershire salute a holiday rental company for putting customers first. “We booked a holiday cottage through Norfolk Cottages for May 2020 for a family coming from Canada and Turkey. Due to the pandemic this was deferred to May 2021 but with overseas travel restrictions still in force it still couldn’t proceed. We asked if a refund might be possible. An email arrived by return agreeing, and the £700 was in our bank account two days later.”
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