Traveller beware!

Posted by on Mar 16, 2015 in Brian's Blog, Condo rentals, Vacations, Victoria, VRBO | 0 comments

Here’s a cautionary tale. Travellers to Victoria, B.C. take note.

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

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.

770 Fisgard Street, Victoria

Victoria’s Hudson Building (click for larger image)

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 is:

“Yah … reservation was cancelled.”

We’re still awaiting the rest of our refund.

We did some checking on the guy. We discovered he also lists this property on airbnb, another online listing service. You can find that listing by clicking HERE. He identifies himself as “Hey, I’m Josh!”

Hey, I'm Josh!

Hey, I’m Josh!

There are seven reviews on the airbnb site relating to the condo in question. Five of the seven refer to abrupt cancellations similar to ours. Clearly, there’s a pattern here. You can see the reviews by clicking HERE. Note, in particular, the one that says:

“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. After six days, it is still looking into the matter, apparently. In the meantime, we have received the following semi-incoherent response from the owner:

“i CAN DEDUCED THE TRATE FOR THE LAT 2 WEEKS OFF MARHC FOR YOU”

????????????

This story isn’t over yet. Stay tuned!

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Copyright 2015 Brian Brennan - Writer

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