Traveller beware (part 4) – a happy ending

Posted by on Nov 24, 2015 in AirBnB, Brian's Blog, Condo rentals, Vacations, Victoria, VRBO | 0 comments

Here’s how my cautionary tale ends. Travellers to Victoria, British Columbia take note. Justice has been served.

The bottom line, for those who have been following this story, is that the Victoria condo owner who left us high and dry by cancelling our vacation reservation for March 2015 was ordered by the courts to repay what he owes us, plus costs. A collection agency went after him for the money, and he paid up when told his credit rating would be adversely affected if he failed to comply.

This individual has now been delisted from VRBO and AirBnb, the two online agencies through which he was advertising the condo rental. He has also been reported to the Better Business Bureau of Vancouver Island and to Tourism Victoria.

Here’s a recap of the story:

The one-bedroom apartment we booked for our month-long March 2015 vacation on Vancouver Island is located on the third floor of the renovated Hudson Building in Victoria’s Chinatown. We rented it in November 2014 through VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), an online listing service. The cost was $700 a week, plus $250 damage deposit, plus $50 cleaning fee, plus assorted taxes. The money was payable upfront.

2015-03-13 15.52.41-8

The address is 770 Fisgard Street (Click on the image to increase size)

Five days before flying to Victoria, we contacted the owner through VRBO to find out where we should pick up the keys. He gave us his cellphone number and said he would meet us at the building.

Less than 24 hours before we flew to Victoria, we received an email from the owner abruptly cancelling the reservation. He claimed the unit had a plumbing problem requiring major repair. He processed a partial refund through VRBO and said the rest of the money would be forthcoming shortly. Here’s the actual text of his message:




 “Brian i had to cancel your reservation as there is a plumbing issue and unit is flooded and needs major repair. I will get the other portion from VRBO and send it you ASAP.”

What to do? We had already paid for our non-refundable air fares and received our boarding passes online. We decided to fly to Victoria anyhow, check into a hotel for a couple of nights, and contemplate our next moves.

The rest of the rental money never arrived. Eight days after arriving in Victoria, we issued the owner an ultimatum demanding he expedite the matter within three days. No response.

Three days later, we visited the Hudson Building. We pressed the buzzer for the unit and spoke on the intercom to the occupant. When we inquired about the plumbing problem, he replied:

“You must have the wrong address; there’s been no flooding here.”

Indeed, there was no sign of flooding, far as we could see. When we told the occupant we had paid to rent the place, he said he was not the owner but would get in touch with the owner and call us back. He never called back.

Half an hour later, I found a message in my cellphone’s voicemail. It was from the owner. Here’s what he said:

 “You should have received … looking on the VRBO here … you did get a full refund … so … um … yah … reservation was cancelled … yah … you should have a full refund … yah … I’m looking at it right now … it should be all there …”

The only factually correct part of the above statement was:

“Yah … reservation was cancelled.”

We did some checking on the guy. We discovered he was also listing this property on AirBnb, another online listing service. He identified himself as “Hey, I’m Josh!”

Hey, I'm Josh!

Hey, I’m Josh!

There were 10 reviews on the airbnb site relating to the condo in question. Eight of the 10 referred to abrupt cancellations similar to ours. Clearly, there was pattern of behaviour here. One of the reviews said:

 “Josh cancelled our reservation 1 hour before we checked in. He did not directly tell us, we received an email from AirBnB saying our reservation was cancelled. Josh did not respond to our phone calls, emails, text messages or AirBnB messages. His indecent and immature behavior towards guests who have already paid to stay at his place is disgraceful. Avoid this host as he cancelled on us just as we were arriving to Victoria on the start of our vacation.”

We sent a formal complaint to VRBO. The listing was removed within 24 hours. We also sent an advice notice to AirBnb. It too removed the listing. We then took the owner to civil claims court. He failed to file a dispute note and failed to appear in court for the hearing. A judgment was rendered in our favour, a writ of enforcement was filed, and a collection agency was assigned to get the money. The cheque has now arrived..

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