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Last month a New Zealand family labelled, ‘the ‘dirtiest guests of all time’ raised a furore as travellers debated whether the accusation was indeed justified.
In a Trip Advisor review, property owner Susanna Wigmore blamed the family for scuffing her Cook Islands villa floors and leaving behind a mess, amounting to a bill of $780. Accused guest, mother, Bridie Henderson, was shocked at the claims, as she had assumed the tariff covered all necessary cleaning costs.
The bill was overturned after Henderson appealed to the Cook Island tourism board; however, the story went viral with commentators debating whether the family were required to cough up the payment.
Natalie Ball, director, Comparetravelinsurance.com.au says that hotels and accommodation providers are entitled to send bills to guests who have damaged or soiled the host’s property. However, the onus should be on the host to provide reasonable proof of said damage.
‘Ultimately, photographic evidence may be required to prove that the charge is justified. Without sufficient proof, the host doesn’t really have a leg to stand on. In this instance, the holiday home owner were forced to withdraw the bill, however, better communication from both parties would have resulted in a more amicable outcome.”
Ball advises that the majority of insurers will exclude cover for accommodation damages.
“Most travel insurers do not cover damage costs to third-party property that is in your care or custody. Some, like SCTI, may provide cover for accidental damage but it’s important that you understand any relevant exclusions. Report the incident to your insurer as soon as it occurs and avoid admissions of fault or liability to the property owner.”
NSW teen Jesse Simes learned the hard way just how costly accommodation damages can be. Simes along with four friends managed to rack up a bill of over $2,000 worth of repairs to their Gold Coast serviced apartment.
Simes admits the group were liable for some of the damages but suggests the accusations were overblown.
Simes says, “I think it was ridiculous how much we were charged. We were responsible for some of the damage but they [the hotel] took advantage and blamed us for breaking things we hadn’t. The place was trashed but it wasn’t that bad. “The list of repairs sent to the group included $770 for a broken lounge, $560 for a dented fridge door, $200 for a broken microwave and more.
While Simes’s case is extreme, Ball says that guests hit with surprise damage or cleaning bills should speak to their accommodation provider directly.
“If you believe that the bill is unjust, speak to management and see if you can resolve the issue internally. Failing that, you may want to consider taking to social media or to the ACCC to voice your concerns.”
In the event that your credit card is charged without your authorisation, Ball suggests appealing to your bank to reverse the charge.
“Whether it’s an Airbnb or a hotel, you’ve likely agreed to a security deposit hold on your credit card. However, if the hotelier has gone ahead and automatically charged your credit card without alerting you, you are well within your right to ask for a reversal. If you weren’t advised about the charge this may be classed as an unauthorised transaction and your financial institution may be able to assist.”
Ball also recommends taking before and after photos of your accommodation to prevent any wrongful accusations, particularly if you notice any existing damages.
“If you notice anything awry, or, have accidentally damaged anything on the property, alert management as soon as you can. If the host insists you pay, you may be able to lodge a claim with your travel insurer, provided the damage was accidental.”
Ball says that both the share economy and a downturn in the hotel industry have led to an increase in unexpected accommodation charges.
“As more homeowners rent out their properties, the result is less regulation and a host of issues for both hosts and guests. We would advise you to always check your accommodation supplier’s policy in advance and be communicative and upfront about any issues from the get-go.”
Natali is a former kids magazine writer whose credits include working for the mouse (Mickey that is). An avid traveller, Natali spent part of her childhood in Israel and enjoyed several stints across the globe. Having worked in travel insurance for three years, Natali likes to simplify the fine-print and help Aussies make sense of their insurance policies. She currently lives in Sydney with her husband and one-year old son.