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How to Make a Complaint About a Self-Catering Cottage

Reading Time: 8 minutes

(Updated August 18)

The self-catering accommodation industry has often been the brunt of bad press surrounding properties not being of the standard advertised, or not being available at all!. Booking agents are also guilty of shunning accountability when things go wrong, by stating the booking contract is directly between the property owner and the guest.

The law for holiday rentals is not too helpful either, because while there is an extraordinary amount of legal cover for people booking a “Package Holiday”, the same cannot be said for renting a holiday cottage direct from the owner – whether there is an agent involved or not.

It’s probably fair to say that most owners and agents do an excellent job of maintaining high standards for their guests. They realise the importance of good customer service and ensuring the quality of their properties. They work hard to benefit the tourism industry as a whole.

But when a property does not live up to its claims then it can completely ruin that precious holiday that you have so looked forward to – and maybe saved up a long time for too! Naturally, you want to make a complaint and have something done about it.

Here is our guide on how to complain if your holiday accommodation was not as promised, and how to take things further if necessary.

What to do when holidays go wrong

Is it a genuine complaint?

It is important to remember that complaints can be subjective, there are some people who complain for the sake of complaining. Use your common sense – is the complaint more to do with your own subjective likes and dislikes, or is there a genuine quality or safety issue that needs to be addressed. Is it having a serious impact on your holiday?

Keep a sense of perspective. How bad is it really? Are you blowing a small thing out of proportion? If a hot tub was advertised, but there isn’t one, there is a clear breach of contract which is easy to prove. However, if a number of minor details affected your holiday, e.g. your found hair in the plug hole or a dirty oven, how this affects the enjoyment of the holiday is subjective.

Report it immediately

You have a duty to report any issues as soon as you are aware of them.  More often than not, there will be an obvious “solution” to your problem (e.g. please send cleaners to go round again, please replace dirty bed linen, please send maintenance to fix the broken boiler/shower).

You should give the owner or agency the opportunity to remedy the situation for you. With luck, it will be fixed quickly, and you can get on with enjoying your holiday.

If you don’t say anything until you get home, you might get less compensation or none at all. It’s a bit like complaining about a meal in a restaurant after having eaten all the food.

Be friendly and reasonable

How your complaint is handled can depend very much on how you handle the situation. An owner or agent will be far more willing to help you if you keep the hostilities to a minimum, even if you are angry.

Often, the owner or cottage agency is not aware of issues if previous guests haven’t reported them, so they have never had a chance to fix them in-between bookings. There is only so much a cleaner can spot during changeovers.

Remember things break down which is unlikely to be the fault of the owner. Most owners and agents do genuinely want to help. Confrontation is counterproductive.  Remain calm and reasonable at all times.

Gather evidence

If there is a serious problem which is not satisfactorily resolved, keep written, photographic and video evidence. Whether it’s broken equipment, a dirty property or things not being as described. Having evidence could be absolutely crucial if you have to take your case to court or arbitration.

Your rights

The accommodation should be clean and safe, you’re also entitled to the accommodation as it was described to you. So, if you arrive at your holiday cottage and it’s in a poor state or got two bedrooms instead of the advertised four, you may have a legal case for compensation.

Supply of Goods and Services Act
The Consumer Rights Act

How to make a complaint

Put it in writing

If the issue is not resolved during your stay, write an official letter of complaint by registered post to the cottage agency or owner when you get home. Check the booking terms and conditions for a complaints procedure. Make sure you keep all subjective personal opinions and emotions out of this letter, and instead just make a clear concise list of all the facts relating to your complaint.

You need to outline why the holiday did not live up to the contract between yourself and the accommodation provider. Make sure you read through all the marketing material used to sell the holiday as well as the terms and conditions of your booking.

Give each item its own numbered paragraph, matching these numbers up with the supporting evidence. Also, make a note of the time and date each issue was reported, what the response was and what action has been taken so far.

If you feel that action was inadequate, state clearly why you think that was the case and how it continued to affect your holiday.

Complain to a trade body

Contact (or threaten to contact) the local or regional tourist board or the trade association that is responsible for grading the accommodation. This may persuade the property manager to settle your case amicably.

Did you pay by card?

If there was a breach of contract and you paid by credit card, you may be able to claim back money through your card provider (Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act).

Your chances of getting redress from a reluctant owner are extremely low. If you still don’t get the desired outcome, then there may be more “official” channels you can try to force a resolution to the dispute.

Take them to court

Before you start legal proceedings, you have to weigh up the cost and energy required versus the amount of compensation you want to claim back.

The small claims track is a relatively quick, low cost and simple and way of taking your case to the court.

For information on the court route visit:

To claim against a company or owner outside the UK you can ask the UK European Consumer Centre for help.

You could also go down the mediation route. The Civil Mediation Council (020 7353 3227; civilmediation.org) offers telephone-based mediation to resolve disputes for £50 per hour for claims up to £5,000.

In some instances, a solicitors letter requesting compensation or a full refund before you take court action can be enough to resolve matters.

How much refund should you ask for?

Before you start demanding a full refund, put things into perspective.

-Was the incident out of the property managers control?
-Did they take reasonable steps to rectify the situation?
-Did you give them the opportunity to do so?

Your request for compensation should be warranted. If you accept the owner’s attempts to put things right and continue with your holiday it is much harder to insist on your money back.

Until a court says otherwise, any compensation is at the discretion of the holiday property owner or agent. For minor incidents, such as no heating for a few hours, then a goodwill gesture such as a bottle of fizz, a meal at a local restaurant or discount off a future stay may be sufficient.

If only one day/night of your stay has been affected, then a refund equivalent to the cost of 1 nights’ accommodation is acceptable. Don’t expect a full refund.

If you feel you have been deliberately misled e.g. there is a construction site on your doorstep, an infestation of mice or the pool water is green, then you may wish to pursue a part/full refund via direct negotiation or the courts.

For further advice on how much compensation to claim you can talk to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. If the claim involves some form of personal injury or illness, then you should take legal advice from a suitably qualified solicitor who may be able to handle the complaint on your behalf.

Case studies

Housekeeping failures

After a difficult night’s sleep in uncomfortable, stained, damp beds, the guests decided they didn’t want to stay any longer and requested a full refund. The agency said that the dispute was between the holidaymakers and the owner of the property.

The owner offered £100 as a goodwill gesture. The guest refused and insisted on a full refund. This was received following a final letter to the owner’s solicitor requesting a full refund before taking court action.

Parking and hot water problem

After buying a new car, these holidaymakers were keen to keep an eye on it and chose a holiday cottage because of the off-road parking available, as described in the information. When they arrived, they realised all was not as the advertisement had indicated.

The photograph showed a wide gravel expanse in front of the bungalow. The perspective was framed in such a way it made one assume that was the front drive and the ‘off road parking available’ described in the information.

The parking space referred to was 100 yards away, a patch of rough ground in front of public toilets. They weren’t at all happy to leave their vehicle there overnight. What was stated in the description and photos turned out to be different.

The water heating system was also on the blink so they decided to head home the day after they arrived.

The complaint to the agency and request for a proportionate £200 refund fell on stony ground. That was until the Express asked it to review the matter again. This time its response was completely different. They received a £200 refund and a £75 voucher as goodwill gestures.

Family of 10 abandons holiday after just 3 hours because of ‘filthy’ cottage

Sykes Holiday Cottages provided a full refund, because alternative properties in the location were fully-booked over the Easter bank holiday. Gathering supporting evidence (photos) proved their complaint was valid.

Contacting a consumer affairs journalist with details of your complaint is also another route to take if you are unable to resolve matters direct.

To summarise  

One thing that sets self-catering accommodation providers apart from faceless hotel chains is the personal service you get – owners and agents care. Successful lettings depend on trust and all parties acting honourably. Complaints are few and far between because most guests and owners resolve problems amicably.

Our advice:

  • Taking a civilised and reasonable approach is more effective than getting angry and shouting the odds.
  • You have a duty to report problems straight away so that the owner or agency has the opportunity to remedy the situation.
  • Be reasonable, was the incident out of their control?
  • Make sure you gather evidence to support your complaint.
  • If the issue is not resolved during or immediately after your stay, write an official letter of complaint.
  • Until a court says otherwise, any compensation is at the discretion of the holiday property owner or agent.
  • If you are unhappy with the outcome you can make a small claims court application, but weigh up the cost and energy required versus the amount of compensation you want to claim back. Sometimes, the threat of legal action is enough to resolve disputes.
  • Avoid attacking the owner online, or it could be you who ends up being sued for defamation!


  • Heather Bayer |

    Great article. I would add that review sites are not the platform to make an initial complaint, nor are they a place to complain about weather, or other issues beyond the owners control. I often see reviews posted that make negative comments about aspects of the vacation that could not possibly be the responsibility of the owner or agent – bad service in a local restaurant, or an attraction that closed early, for example.

    • Philip |

      Good point Heather. However, if guests have exhausted all other means to resolve disputes with owners or leting agencies and still feel unhappy with the outcome, then review sites are a useful platform to give feedback. Owners can also reply with their side of events so third parties can form their own conclusions.

  • Susy |

    Thank you for this article! We just spent our vacation at a cottage where the power was turned off for four days because the owner did not pay the bill. We were cold, no water, in the dark, food ruined and had to eat out. After the fourth day, we left. The price was 100.00 per day, the owner is pretty odd! What would you recommend for compensation?
    Thank you

    • Philip |

      Surprised you stayed for four days in those conditions. Have you been in contact with the owner to discuss a refund? Maybe suggest a refund for the 4 days affected as you can’t reasonably expect a full refund if you had a few days where there weren’t any problems. It’s usually better to come to an agreement where both parties are happy with the settlement rather than pursue the other alternatives suggested in this post.

  • Adele |

    Really useful article, thank you. We stayed in a cottage during the summer, it was advertised as having central heating-when we got there it had an old back boiler that didn’t work, so no heating for the whole two weeks! Yes it was summer, but for 5 days of our holiday it rained, making the property cold and damp-no other heating was available. The hot water was by an immersion heater which we had to switch on every morning. In addition to this the kitchen ceiling leaked when it rained. We reported it to the agents but nothing got done during our stay so we complained on our return. After 7 weeks they have just offered us £150, our holiday cost £1600! They haven’t answered any of our questions and the excuse for the delay is because the owner lives in Australia and hasn’t replied to their emails. Have we got a case for a full refund?!

  • Cathy |

    We have recently stayed in a cottage, which for November, at 27 degrees plus, was far too hot! The heating was underfloor, powered by an eco-wood burner that the owners looked after. We were told they did not know how to turn it down. We had to have doors & windows open – even though it was wet & windy outside. Also the wind made the tiles bang all through the night. The owners were aware of these problems but had not seen fit to fix them. We did not stay the full week. I have complained to the agency by email and requested a refund. I have not heard anything yet.
    If I have no joy I will resort to leaving my comments on Trip Advisor.

  • John |

    Not sure how I’m fixed…I booked a cottage in Cornwall earlier this year and it’s now time to pay the remaining balance. Just been on their website and it says that a neighbour is carrying construction work near the property. Obviously this may mean dust, banging, sawing etc, does that give me grounds to cancel and get my deposit back? £1500 for a week in total!!!

    • Philip |

      I would speak to the owner/agent and ask how much the construction work is likely to have an adverse effect on your holiday. Have any recent guests complained about the noise? Do any recent reviews from past guests mention the construction work? A goodwill gesture from the owner/agent (e.g. a % refund or a contribution towards a meal at the local pub, voucher for a local tourist attraction) may be warranted depending on the extent of the disturbance. Cancelling the holiday is an overreaction as it’s out of the owners control and the accommodation is still available. Speak to them, you might be worrying unnecessarily.

  • Harry |

    Currently renting a modern “two bedroom holiday let” for a week in Surrey for 1200 pounds a week. The agents advertised a designer kitchen with dishwasher, however the dishwasher does not work and the agents were aware of this before we moved in. Additionally the agents claim that no dishwasher was mentioned in the advert on Booking.com, but clearly it does ! Apartment is describing as having a “Designer Kitchen” with dishwasher. Also tiolets leak and cannot be repaired as plumber claims not to have the parts in stock. Window handle is broken, clothing / airer broken, one bed broken. Second bathroom stank when we moved in. All these were brought to the attention of the agent. They have offered an extra two hours on the day of departure as compensation. The agent continues to describe the flat as a designer flat with designer kitchen yet fully aware of the faults, surely a case of misrepresentation. I have contacted them on many occasions and they have promised to return calls but never honored. Once litagation was mentioned they then put the phone down, yet still advertising on Booking.com. What is the way forward ?

    • Philip |

      Hopefully the advice in this post covers the necessary steps to take.

  • Tash |

    I booked a stunning holiday home in Cornwall at £2400 p/w to which I had power cuts to the property for the first 2 nights. They sent an electrician to fix the problem which he couldn’t do so I requested to move properties. They did this but to a lower standard of property of £1500 p/w.
    So I have asked for a refund of the difference not any compensation. Do you think I have the right to claim this. I am prepared to go to court over this even if it looses me money in the process!

  • babs |

    The problem with private holiday accommodation can be that the host will have mostly had no professional training and so you will be at the mercy of their personal character traits. One place we stayed (self catering) we left clean and tidy and yet received an odd and confounding email complaining at the terrible state we had left things in and listing our ‘misdemeanors’! At another place, which had otherwise been lovely, the wifi didn’t work, and as this was fairly necessary to us, we reported this. After my second request for it to be fixed, I received an emotional reply saying that we should find alternative accommodation, which in the particular circumstances would not have been feasible (although to be fair they did offer a refund). I’ve also been told off for using the shower in the afternoon!!

    • Philip |

      Sounds like you have been unlucky. With attitudes like that I don’t expect their guests to return. Most owners/managers offer a personal 5* service which is what typically sets holiday rentals apart from large hotel chains.


    We rented a terraced cottage where the property next door was undergoing a complete refurbishment. Day one was replacing the floorboards! This lasted for the entire period of our stay. I have video evidence. Do I have any redress?

    • Philip |

      I would have thought some form of compensation is appropriate. Did you report this to the agent/owner at the time?

  • Carl fisher |

    All good info. But what about if you rent a property from a UK resident but the property is in UNITED STATES. Can you still make a claim against them through UK small claims track? Or should it be pursued through the courts in its home state of USA.

  • Ray |

    I recently rented a carefully chosen cottage in Wales. During the first night there was a flood in the kitchen because of a fault with the boiler. The agency offered us an unsuitable, alternative flat which we declined. They then offered a second flat in a different location which we reluctantly accepted. Organising this meant that we ended up losing a day of our holidays, and spending the remaining time in a location we did not choose. What do you think is reasonable compensation?

    • Philip |

      Hi, as you mention losing a day of your holiday, the cost of 1 day pro-rata would be a starting point.

  • Anne |

    I have a cottage booked for next weekend through an agent, there has been a flurry of recent reviews in relating to heating and hot water not working correctly. I have contacted the agent who has said it is fixed, but then more reviews about the same issue. Due to a medical issue I have asked if I can change the accommodation, based on reviews and offered to provide evidence. I was again told everything was fine, then received an email saying the owner was attending at the weekend to fix the heating and the agent was awaiting a report from British Gas.

    I have asked for contact details of the MD so I can deal directly with her, I have not been given these details, so have asked via the generic email that this be escalated to her. I have received no further correspondence or acknowledgement, is there any further action I can take. I was advised that if I cancelled if the cottage was not re-let I would lose all my money, I don’t want to cancel I just want warm accommodation where I control the heating not the owner.

    • Philip |

      I would get it in writing if the heating is fixed. Then you will have grounds for a complaint if there is a problem with the heating during your stay.

  • Andrew |

    Currently renting flat in Spain £2,400 for 2 weeks and neighbouring property being renovated, noise awful, jack hammers, banging. Owners say they can’t do anything. Five days into holiday and am going for refund but how do I assess noise inconvenience to holiday. Appreciate any comments or advice

    • Philip |

      I would gather video evidence to support your request for compensation. It’s up to the owner whether they do or don’t reimburse you, although I would expect that most owners would give some form of refund in this situation. If the owner is resident in the UK and you are unable to agree on compensation, then you could take them to the small claims court. Where they aware of the construction work?

  • Lynda Kingston |

    I rented a 5* luxury holiday let in Cornwall in December for a special occasion. We arrived to a musty cold filthy place with broken mirrors and furniture. We reported it and a representative was sent out to fix the heating, which improved it, but it was still cold. He also said that the place was filthy and took photo’s to put in a report.

    The whole place had obviously been not cleaned for some time as there was no way it could have built up to that state in a week or two. There were only 4 of us in a 3 bedroom let but there was only enough hot water for 2 showers. The sink area was disgusting and the dishwasher was filthy. We considered it a health hazard. There was also a mousetrap quite visible in the kitchen.
    There was a massive conservatory with sofas, easy chairs and a formal dining table and chairs. There was no heating in here at all, so as it was a December, we could not use it. That was the main attraction as there are sea views.
    The agency say our contract is with the owner and the owner insists that it is nothing to do with her. We have sent our photo’s and a written report to both parties. What should our next step be. We have asked for a copy of the report that the representative put in but no one seems to know who it was, which is very convenient.
    We paid £1200 for 2 weeks. The place wasn’t fit to stay in and was certainly nowhere near 5* or luxurious. I have asked the agent why there are no public reviews for this cottage and they say that no one has left any, which seems most improbable.

    • Philip |

      The agency say our contract is with the owner This seems to be a way some agencies get out of being accountable. You mentioned the place wasn’t fit to stay in, but did you leave early? If you stayed for the whole duration, then I expect this could go against your point. If you paid for the booking with a credit card, then maybe raise a dispute with your credit card company. Reviews are also a great platform for consumers to share both good and bad experiences that they have with a product/service. Write a review detailing your experience with the agency/property owner. They will have the opportunity to reply with their version of events. Have you followed the agencies official complaints procedure? Good luck.

  • M Roberts |

    What would you recommend as an appropriate % compensation to ask for, for difficulties with water for a couple of days?
    Unable to shower / wash up – no problems with flushing toilet or anything else. Owner fixed on 3rd day. There were public shower facilities close by, but that’s not what we wanted.
    Want to be reasonable, but was inconvenienced. Is a full day’s refund too much to ask for?
    Owner reasonable and I said I would follow up …. but don’t think he will give 100% per day as we had everything ok. Thanks

    • Philip |

      I would see what the owner offers as a goodwill gesture e.g. a 10% refund or a discount off a future stay would be reasonable. Unfortunately, the unexpected can happen when holiday letting.

  • Anderson susan |

    We had booked from the owner a selfcatering flat in Edinburgh and paid him 1.145.00 pounds in advance which is common practice for self catering flats. We arrived last week and the flat was stone cold. It was 5.5 C outside. We told the owner and all he had to say was, the heating goes on 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening at 18 C. People are out during the day anyway. We also had the feeling that the beds had not been changed after the people left he same morning. We told the owner we were not willing to stay in a cold flat and we would look for another place. Itt took us 2 days to find one. We asked the owner for our money back and were willing to pay for the 2 cold nights.
    He refuses to give us any money back and now we have to pay for 2 flats which makes it a bit heavy. We messed about all week long to get help, visit Scotland etc.
    What do you recommend we should do?. We are not even thinking of compensation, we just want our 1.1.45,00 Pounds back and Edinburgh will never see us again. This is not a way to treat visitors to this country.

    • Philip |

      Personally, I think that programming the heating to come on 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening at 18oC is insufficient. Everybody has different preferences as to what temperature they are comfortable with, especially those from overseas. Most owners allow guests to control the heating as this prevents uncomfortable guests and complaints. With regards to compensation, I wouldn’t expect a refund for the two days you stayed there. If the owner didn’t increase the temperature as requested or provide an additional heating source, then I would request a refund for the unused days. Let us know how this works out.

  • Richard |

    Philip, you wrote recently “The agency say our contract is with the owner. This seems to be a way some agencies get out of being accountable”. When the payment goes to the agent, isn’t there a contract with the agent. Should agents get away with saying the owner is in Australia/ill/refusing to negotiate and it is not our responsibility? Do you know of successful small claims against agents? Does the Consumer Rights Act 2015 clarify this?

  • Angela Underdown |

    Arrived at a cottage on a Fri afternoon for 7 nights. in side garden after we checked in i noticed a flood of water and could see its from an overflow pipe. I let the house keeper know and she frowned and said the owner was aware. He turned up next morning and said it’s a leak from tank in loft and too much of a effort to get up there that day to fix. I said it’s fine but he left. But also said we will see water coming from under fridge and that’s OK too!. Rolling forward to Monday eve I started feeling ill , and said to hubby at staying in..worst decision. Tues I felt awful and apart getting up midday ish I spent most in bed. There was not enough hot water to have a decent bath, show r or even wash dishes. Bed sheets were soaked from what ever I had and no mean’s to wash them. So we decided to go home on Wed.. thurs morning my hubbly gave cottage a spring clean and noticed live mould growing up the wall behind the TV caused by leak. The ownerswere aware as put air freshers around area. So thurs am I went to doctors and have a lung infection and am on steriods/anti fungal and antibiotics . Being in the cottage with electric heater on on eve right by mould was making me worse. I have written to the agency asking for compensation before I seek legal advice. Is this right or straight legal advice. I know owners name, should I go to him? I have also complained to environmental health

    • Philip |

      Looks like you have taken the right steps so far. I would wait for a reply from the agency and if you are unhappy with the outcome pursue it further. Ideally the cottage owner should have public liability insurance to deal with situations like this.

  • Carol |

    I booked a holiday caravan (on owners property) arrived on the Saturday, all fine til the Monday morning, no electricty, informed owner at 7.30am about an hour later owner came and found fusebox etc in wardrobe – circuit breaker had tripped….reset. Tuesday night at 10.30pm electric went off again. Again waited until 7.30am next morning and informed owner yet again. Came and looked and said give me 30 mins. Came back at about 9.30 with a boiled kettle when I asked what was happening was informed electrician on way. He came and fitted a new RCD thought alkbwoukd be fine. Then again this morning (wednesday) NO electricity. We were meant to be having a relaxing break and had been inconvenienced a total of three mornings, not at all relaxing. Couldnt face anymore mornings like this so informed the owner and came home. We left the place clean and tidy but obviously couldn’t vacuum as no electricity. The week cost £500 . Should I ask for a partial refund? Thanks in advance

    • Philip |

      Some form of goodwill gesture would be appropriate. However, it’s at the owners’ discretion.

  • Darry |

    I rented a villa that is fully licensed to sleep 6 people. 5 people were originally booked and a 6th joined last minute. Despite this, the prices to rent on the website are the same for 5 people as it is for 6 people so we assumed we would pay no extra. Whilst we was in the middle of the holiday the owner told us this wasn’t the case and we had to pay an extra fee for the 6th person otherwise legal action would be taken and authorities would eject us. I’ve checked my paperwork and I think I am in the right and he just wanted to overcharge. Please advise if I have case to claim as the owner is now ignoring my requests.


    • Philip |

      Did you get a discount for 5 instead of six guests? If so then the owner is entitled to charge for the extra guest due to the extra cleaning costs, wear and tear etc.

  • Denise Garthwaite |

    I have just found out the cottage I have rented has been given to someone else without being told. We are a group of 16 going in 2 cottages. I can’t get to speak to the manager to get a resolution – a receptionist is fobbing me off. Do I make a complaint to Trading Standards, do I take it to a solicitor?

    • Philip |

      Was the booking with a private owner or an agency? What does your booking contract say about cancellations?

  • Linda |

    I have recently stayed for seven days in a basement holiday flat. I noticed on arrival that the flat smelt musty and damp. There were numerous damp patches on the walls of the flat. I did telephone the owner to complain of the state of the flat. She, obviously, knew about it and said she couldn’t remedy the damp until September 2018 when the flat had no occupants. I spent a very uncomfortable week. My sleep was disturbed having to breathe in the damp particles and I developed a cough. I left a day early. I couldn’t go home before then as I had someone staying. I also could not afford to find accommodation elsewhere. This flat should not be occupied in its present state. Would I be able to successfully sue the owner in the Small Claims Court? I have various photographic evidence of all the damp. The booking was through an Agency. I have written a letter if complaint to the owner but am not convinced she will settle anything amicably. She already gave me the brush off in my telephone call and was very unhelpful.

  • Anne Ryan |

    We’ve been renting our rural 4-bed converted barn for a month and are getting to grips with the typical English renter. Having rented out a large ski-apartment in the Swiss Alps for 10 years (managed by us remotely from London) to Europeans and Brits alike with no aggro of any type, this new experience is a bit of a shock to the system. Initially pleasant when securing the booking, then the demands start rolling in. On top of the usual haggling (with emotional back-stories) on the clearly advertised and competitive price. Can we come 7 hours earlier? Can we stay 4 hours later? What should I wear? Can we bring a 9th person (our place sleeps 8), can we have free saunas, can we bring 7 dogs, can we bring a hot tub, can we stay another night for the same price, can we all have polyester duvets and pillows (because she thinks – but doesn’t know – if she and her family have ‘allergies’? And a bizarre complaint snapped out immediately on arrival: ‘I’ve packed for rain, but it’s sunny’. Reckon we’re just going to have to grow skins as thick as rhinos…

    • Philip |

      Hi Anne, all of this comes with the territory when holiday letting I’m afraid. Some guests can be demanding. Good luck!

  • Rebecca Timms |

    Hi, We returned 6 days ago from a week in a privately rented caravan in Cornwall. The terms and conditions stated that the caravan needed to be cleaned with the oven & hob left in a clean manner, fridge to be empty and clean, beds left tidy with respect shown to runners and cushions, carpets and floors to be hoovered and the kitchen/bathroom/lounge to be left in a clean and tidy manner.
    We paid £100 security deposit in advance of the holiday and we have been chasing via text and email to understand when the deposit will be returned to us.
    We had an email late last night stating that the fridge was left very dirty with spillages and red/pink substance at the back of the fridage which has permanently marked and ruined it and they have had to replace it. One of the bedrooms had chocolate mil spilt on the floor, wall and white door, staining it so bad that they have had to hire a steam cleaner to sort it out. New games they had bought had been mixed up and thrown into the cupboard, the toilet was filthy and they were lots of food remnants and stains all over and around the dining seat area and the window behind this area was filthy.
    Absolutely gobsmacked as the amount they are saying it will cost is £223.00 and they are refusing to pay the deposit back to us.
    We have photos of the lounge/dining area which shows it was clean and hoovered and tidy. We made the beds before we left and made them up how they were found, I have a photo of our double room. No food and drink was allowed in the bedrooms and was only consumed outside in the lounge/dining area so spilt mil was not possible. The fridge was barely used as we didn’t spend much time in the caravan and ate out, it was used to house a bottle of milk and a bottle of wine which the owners left us! And as far as the games go, these were not new and were old and tired and we found them in a mixed up state with bits missing and the only game we could play successfully was monopoly and a deck of cards!
    They have only just told us about the apparent damage and have not provided photos so how can I get my deposit back when they are refusing to give it to me? Any advice would be gratefully received!

    • Philip |

      I don’t understand why any owner would ask guests to deep clean the accommodation on departure. Guests and owners are likely to have different standards of cleaning. Who wants to clean on holiday? Sure, empty bins/the fridge and leave it tidy. Cleaning costs should be factored into the rental rate and the cleaning provided by the owner. The issues could have been done by previous guests. I would ask for proof that it was your holiday party.

  • matt |

    Recently we booked a holiday cottage in Netherton, Northumberland, that upon arrival smelled strongly of stale cigarette smoke even though it is marketed as being part of a non-smoking complex. There are no smokers in our party of 5 adults (1 of whom is disabled), 2 children and 1 infant. Anyway, I promised my wife that I would keep quiet about the smell until the rest of our guests arrived later on that Friday evening. However, they also immediately noticed the smell. We complained about the smell in writing the next day, Saturday, adding that attempts to mask it using air freshener, or blow it away with fresh breeze from the patio doors, only seemed to make it worse. We were told housekeeping would visit, and I asked for the likelihood that the issue would be resolved and received “hopefully on Monday”. Housekeeping brought a second can of air freshener and said whilst they could not smell anything (surprising; it was a real stink) they noted that the previous guests had smoked some kippers and that was likely to be the smell. We disagreed strongly with this theory, expressed our disappointment in th proposed “solution”, restated our complaint and asked what was the likelihood of it being resolved completely. Then we did not hear back for the rest of the week, so we stuck it out at the place given that we had driven up from the South West the day before the August Bank Holiday weekend – a journey of over 15 hours that we did not want to repeat immediately. When we finally did return home at the end of the week I found an email in my spam folder that the agent was aware of a smell before our arrival but were happy with housekeepings conclusion that it was smoked fish, and that they could not reasonably ban the cooking of smoked fish because it is a local delicacy. At this point I said we should agree to disagree about the cause of the smell and instead focus on the fact that there was a smell that they knew about before our arrival, that we had not been notified, and about which I had complained – unprompted and unknowingly. Surely that should be enough for an amicable agreement? Even so, I asked to be referred to the owner of the property just in case there was no agreement forthcoming. The agent took this opportunity to say that smells are personal things, they had acted professionally, and washed their hands of the situation. After a couple of days, no over one week since arriving home, the owner came back with a “gesture of good will” offer of £100. I find this unacceptable given the cost of the weeks holiday accommodation (~£1500) our lack of and also the lack of resolution whilst we were there. I have offered a compromise of having a smoke test done at the property by an independent/impartial third-party, so we’ll see what they say. What are your thoughts? Any help or advice would be appreciated. Thank you

    • Philip |

      Thanks for your comment. Personally, I think their gesture of good will is reasonable considering they tried to reduce the smell which wasn’t their fault. To eliminate the smell of smoke would require a deep clean which would have disrupted your holiday.

  • Sally Perks |

    We recently hired a villa in Majorca for a week at a cost of £3,300. Firstly the biggest inconvenience was that the electricity tripped off every time we cooked or used the kettle, initially we accepted it but by Tuesday it was tripping every 4-5 seconds whilst trying to cook a basic meal, we turned off every other electrical item, including fans and lights, uncomfortable in a hot kitchen at 38 degrees. During this time the washing machine was on and shrank clothes as it must have been affected by the tripping electrics. Someone came Wednesday fixed a bulb that was out and upped the fuse capacity, next morning whilst warming a croissant and boiling the kettle it was still tripping, we gave up trying to cook there! Secondly even though advertised as having English TV there was only CNN when we arrived, the instructions said we would be charged or messing with settings, but once they came there was lots of channels, my feeling is it’s not up to us to check with them they should be ensuring channels are available. Their reply is someone must have changed the settings on the TV., the electrics were fixed by upping fuse capacity and a barbecue was available, the washing machine was checked and runs ok ( but not checked whilst electric tripping) On their terms they have specifically mentioned electrics and TV and have a disclaimer accepting no responsibility but surely self catering should at the very least be that? They have offered £150 and money off next booking…….which will never happen! Is this fair and bearing in mind their rather dodgy disclaimer, all we would get? Thanks for taking the time to read my message.

    • Philip |

      This sounds fair considering the inconvenience.

  • Lynn |


    Are squeaky metal bunk beds a reasonable issue to warrant a refund ?

    • Philip |

      I don’t think so, but bring it to the owners attention so they can resolve the ‘squeak’.

  • Clare G |

    Hi, I’m not sure if you can advise as I did not make any complaints nor am I seeking a refund for my holiday lettting.

    When we returned home from a group weekend 2 members of my group eft reviews on Tripadvisor. These were balanced and honest but not terribly glowing. I didn’t feel the need to make any complaints or write reviews, preferring to simply not return to the property in the future. My friends didn’t act under my instruction and acted without my knowledge, I was the ‘party leader’ and made the contract with the owner. I met all the terms and conditions of the booking.

    The owner has refused to return my deposit stating “As a result I have retained the deposit for ‘damages’ as currently you are damaging my reputation. Once these untruths are removed then I will refund the deposit.”

    Is this fair and is it common practice ??

    • Philip |

      Wow, this is the first time I’ve heard of this! I would contact Tripadvisor to see if what the advertiser is doing is against their terms and conditions. Maybe they can intervene?

  • Paul |

    I recently rented a holiday chalet for a week, the chalet smelled of damp and was freezing cold. we had to come home on the Wednesday instead of Saturday due to the overwhelming smell of damp, I told the owner by text when I got home and they said that I should have contacted them and they would have relocated us, and asked if we had any photographic evidence, and that all places have their own smells and that the chalet was 50 years old. The owner has offered a mid week 2 night break in a caravan they own a few miles away, not really any good to me as its on a cliff top and I have trouble walking.

    • Philip |

      You should always give the owner or agency the opportunity to remedy the situation for you (unless there is an immediate health and safety risk). If you still aren’t satisfied, then check-out early.

  • Katie |

    We are owners and l really appreciate your clear advice on complaints, l only wish more guests would follow it. Having gone to huge effort to spruce up the cottage after the summer season we just had guests leaving a review saying the cottage was old and needed attention due to a dangerous gas cooker with flames that jumped on lighting and a leaking kettle, neither which on inspection afterwards was true. They claimed the beds had given them bad backs for days afterwards and when driving long distances, there was a lack of extra loo roll (they used towels instead) and complained they ran out on the third day of their stay. None of this was brought to our attention despite being on hand, they just posted it publicly. It is difficult to know how to respond to this.

    • Philip |

      Hi Katie, I wouldn’t worry too much. Everyone has their own personal preference for a mattress. With guests coming in all shapes and sizes it’s difficult to please everyone. In a self-catering property most guests would replace loo roll when running low. Like you say, they should have brought these to your attention. I would reply to the review, giving an honest account from your side.

  • Daisy |

    Hi Philip
    Recently stayed (11 nights) at a villa in Portugal. The advert before booking informed us that the pool had heating facility at an extra cost which we were happy to pay once we have assessed if the weather warranted it. Upon check in we requested pool heating was informed that they never had that facility. I have been liaising with the company that we booked from and have been offered 5% of the holiday cost. They have admitted that they falsely advertised pool facility. We booked the villa in February and they amended their advert in June and failed to inform us. Is 5% a reasonable amount for compensation
    Thank you

    • Philip |

      Is 5% a reasonable amount for compensation. It depends on what you are happy to accept and what the owner is willing to refund. Personally, I would have offered 10% or the equivalent of one nights stay as a goodwill gesture.

  • Delphine |

    We have made a claim against a company for poor quality holiday accommodation – poor maintenance, safety concerns and lack of cleaning. We are told that our contract is with the owners but the agent has not released details. How can we have a contract with an unknown person?
    Citizens Advice advised a formal letter to the agent giving details of our complaint with photographs and a deadline for a reply. We have had no response other than an email saying there would be a delay This followed a series of emails and a goodwill offer (rejected by us). What concerns us most is that some agencies can trade with no regulation of their holiday properties and they appear to hide behind an unnamed owner. We realize that many holiday properties are closely screened and graded by letting agents. Unfortunately, the cottage we stayed in was not.
    Our (curtailed) stay was 3 months ago.

  • Cathy |

    I had guest staying at a holiday let. Left early after 4 days and stated several complaints, most of which we strongly deny. Insisting on full refund even though no attempt made to contact housekeepers agents or owners to give chance to remedy any alleged faults. Talking of taking action against us if don’t pay up. Contract states must notify agents to give chance to remedy.

    • Philip |

      Do they have evidence to support their claims? Booking contracts are essential for this very reason. In the event of a dispute everything is in black and white. Do you have holiday home legal expenses insurance? If so contact the provider who should offer advice.

  • Susan |

    We had 7 guests at our holiday cottage. It is advertised by a large national company who visited and assessed it’s suitability prior to marketing and they decided it was suitable for 7. There are 8 standard sized seats in the lounge (3 seater, and 2×2 seater sofas plus chair) but one armrest of a single seat was broken (we believe by these guests, because the cleaner didn’t notice it before their visit) there were still 7 seats without that one. There are 5 chairs in the kitchen/diner but this is clearly shown on the pictures of the property. The guests complained that that only 4 of them could fit on the seating in the lounge and that one of their party (large person) found it difficult to fit in the bathroom. They complained to the holiday company and us half way through their holiday. The holiday company gave them a £150 voucher. We made £310 on the holiday and they are claiming £100 through small claims from us on the grounds of unsuitability for 7. What should we do? We spoke to them during their visit and no other groups of 7 have complained and have left great reviews!

  • Rebecca |

    I booked and stayed with my family at a cottage from 22nd December to 29th December 2018 and had the following problems which the company were informed of whilst we were there: Previous occupants had obviously used the oven which had resulted in the buttons on the timer being melted to the point where the oven could not be used. A considerable setback as a full Christmas dinner was planned with a Turkey and the trimmings. The local agency office did deliver a second microwave but this was not up to the job and was a short term fix until they delivered another oven on Christmas eve which we never received, therefore the celebration meal did not take place. Apparently the office did know there was a problem with the timer buttons before we arrived.

    With a 6 month old baby and a 4 year old with us it would have been advantageous to advise us of the situation regarding the water which was undrinkable, we were advised on arrival to use bottled water.

    We had 3 days with no WIFI and as the TV only worked with the internet this was disappointing over the Christmas period. The number of light bulbs not working or non existent was numerous although you can make do in most rooms the lights in the kitchen were required.

    I have complained via email and they have admitted all of the above although they stated we were offered a mini oven which we declined which is incorrect. My daughter and young family left on boxing day due to the conditions. The company have offered me £200 as a goodwill gesture which I feel is unreasonable and I have asked for 50% which equates to the 3 days with no WIFI and lack of oven throughout the stay. This would also bring the costs down to the normal weekly rate rather than the Xmas increase.

    Is their offer reasonable or am I right in my estimate of what I should be reimbursed?
    Thank you for reading my message.

    • Philip |

      What amount is 50% of the booking compared to £200 (which seems a reasonable gesture)?


    Just returned from Arran where a holiday rental cottage advertised a shower and bath. Unfortunately on arrival the owner had left a note saying electric shower was not working and we needed to use the bath but as one us had a bad back it was not really an option. Also the immersion heater, even on boost could note cope, with 8 baths a day. Owner not yet willing to compensate us. Are we being unreasonable expecting some compensation as a factor in selecting this cottage was the shower?

  • Sam |

    I am currently staying in a villa with private pool in menorca. The villa and pool is everything we hoped for however, the owner neglected to tell us that a large building site for a new hotel complex was currently under construction, approximately 10 metres from the villa! It is constantly noisy with machinery, industrial traffic and builders shouting all day long from 0730 until 1800 hrs. This was an expensive villa to rent and I feel the owner should have informed us of the building site when we booked the villa last year! We have reported this to home.Away but they have basically said it is not their responsibility and a resolution should be sought with the owner. The owner does not have another property we could relocate to and claims he didn’t know they would be building during summer season and only apologises. I feel compensation of some sort should be given but don’t know how to go about this now? Any suggestions?

    • Philip |

      Although the construction work is out of the owners control, if they (or the cleaner/property manager?) where aware of it they should have informed you. Are there any recent reviews from previous guests who mention it? A goodwill gesture would be nice from the owner. Hopefully it doesn’t affect your holiday too much.

  • emma howarth |

    Hi, we are just back from a week in a house in Rhoscolyn in Wales. We arrived on a Saturday and noted that we couldn’t open any windows in 3 out of the 5 bedrooms. Plus one of the bathrooms. (and the kitchen but less of a problem). We complained on the Sunday. They said someone would fix them on the Tuesday, but nobody arrived nor did they let us know that nobody was coming. They then said that the estate surveyor advised that the windows are not meant to be opened ever – but there were no signs on the window saying do not open, the latches worked, and obviously nothing on their website. They eventually dropped round 2 fans. And on the Wednesday another fan. But it meant the entire top floor of the house sleeping 10 people had one small window open for all rooms. It was full of stifling/stale air. The agency who we booked through said it was unacceptable when I complained again on Wednesday evening, and of course they would look into some form of compensation for us. We arrived back from holiday and heard nothing. I filled in their feedback form yesterday and still heard nothing. I’ve just called and been told that the owners have offered a £100 compensation. This feels a ridiculously low amount?

    • Philip |

      What % of the booking is £100? They did provide fans to try and help, so maybe a 10% refund would be reasonable? Hopefully the property manager will now provide enough fans for guests during hot periods.

  • Liz |

    On Friday, we are due to stay in a 3 bedroom ground floor apartment in Dorset for our annual 2 week family holiday. We have stayed in this apartment for the last 3 years and have been very happy with it, one of the main attractions being the large, tiered lawn that stretches in front of the house. The rest of the family stay nearby and this house becomes the gathering point so that we can all meet up in the evenings and the children can play in the garden. On leaving the property last year, we rebooked straight away. However, with a week to go before the holiday, a family member visiting the area found out that a 2 bedroom bungalow has been built on the flat area of the tiered lawn in front of the house, leaving our property with no garden at all, just a concrete patio. We were not informed of this at any point during the booking process or throughout the year and would not have rebooked this property if we had known, the garden being the main reason for us choosing it. The letting agent has apologised and accepted full responsibility for the communication error and has offered compensation. We paid over £5000 for the 2 week rental. What would you consider to be a suitable amount to request in compensation?

    • Philip |

      I would wait to see what the agent offers. Is the advertised price to rent the apartment still the same (without the garden) as it was previously?

  • Elizabeth |

    Hello, any advice welcome, thank you.

    We recently stayed in a cottage in Dorset which had furry mould problems, mouse droppings and was generally dirty and not maintained well. We arrived on the Saturday, wrote an email of complaint to the site we booked through on the Tuesday and heard from them on the Thursday by which time we had left (early).

    We did not contact the owner as they lived miles away so not a lot they could do. We were also trying to make the best of a poor cottage. Despite awful reviews going back years about the dirt nothing has been done.

    We have sent an official complaint and owner has offered us £200 back of the £900 we paid. We have declined. We do not feel it is in a fit state to rent and on principal want it sorted so that it doesn’t happen to others.

    What would your advice be?

    Kind regards

    • Philip |

      Did you have the owners/property managers/agents details whilst in the rental? If so it’s common practice to contact them with your complaints to give them the chance to put things right. With regards to the refund, that’s something that will have to be mutually agreed on. Always read the reviews before booking.

  • Chris marvin |

    Recently rented a flat in Southwold through trip advisor. On arrival there was water seeping through the ceiling onto light fitting. Made contact with owner who was aware of the leak

    as water coming througn the roof and not to worry as it wasn’t due to rain. We stressed about light fitting so put a note in light switch to not use. Next day it was still drpping so contact was made for owner to contact us urgently. On Monday builder came and the light fitting was capped off.next day plumber came and water was in fact coming from toilet. Toilet was out of use for half of our holiday. New part was in order but We had no toilet ensuite for remainder of holiday but had use of one in lower floor. Which was not nice in the middkexof the night!The owner was aware of the leak and there was no one in the property prior to us. Do we have any redress as we couldnt use our toilet or the dining room. This spoilt our holiday as my partner was stressed and it was a celebration birthday Holiday.
    Also had grandchildren with us so although we should have gone home we stayed

    TripAdvisor website is not clear on complaints

  • Jonny |

    We just returned from a 5 night holiday at a popular caravan par run by one of the UKs main providers.

    We made our booking based on information and photos from their website but when we got there we realised the accommodation was completely different in every way – different decor, different furniture, different layout. It was also a special caravan that had been adjusted for disabled users (none of our party were disabled).

    We actually saw this caravan on another website and chose not to book it as we preferred the one we booked which in hindsight was using incorrect photos and a misleading description (omitting to say it was an adapted caravan).

    We complained 5 mins after arriving and throughout the holiday but no alternative accommodation could be supplied, not even on another park.

    Whilst we made the best of it, but we would never have stayed in this caravan at any cost.

    We are chasing compensation, but struggling to put a fair price on what to claim – what is standard in this situation? They were responsive during our stay, but since returning home (10 days) they have ignored all communication so I fear this may be a section 75 claim on the creditcard company.

    Any help much appreciated!

    • Philip |

      It’s likely that they will have an official complaints procedure to follow – I’d start here to see if and what refund is offered.

  • Linda Lees |

    Rented a 4 star house with a reputable agent in Bowness, but they failed to tell me that they were not responsible for the maintenance and the cleaning of this property. Arrived on Saturday at 4pm, the whole house smelt, was dirty and scruffy. Rang the emergency number given to me by the agent,got through to their maintenance men who eventually arrived at 6.30pm, although they had never been in the house they agreed it was terrible. Took lots of photos, tried to find alternative accommodation but nothing. We ended up driving home. Rang office on Monday 9.30 am and complained bitterly. They knew about the problem but said they were surprised the maintenance had come at all. Crazy when that was the only emergency number given to me. Rang me at 11am and gave me a full refund. Took the house of their website. Today I have been offered a further £250 compensation and not sure what to do. That hardly covers our petrol to get there and back. A family holiday for 7 was ruined before the agent realised that they should have checked the house they were advertising.Members of my family had taken time off work and children of 5 and 8 were heart broken.

  • Ann |

    We rented a 7 bed house through an agency in Keswick. We should still be there! We paid £2600 for 9 nights for six adults and four children aged under 5 to stay. The accommodation was indescribably filthy. We complained to the owner who lived next door the following morning and he got cleaners in on day 3 but the dirt was so ingrained that the place was still unacceptable. We took a lot of photo evidence. The kitchen was awful and we had to clean it so we could use it. One of the shower units was held together with duct tape and the shower tray remained blocked despite the owner’s two attempts to clear it. He said he had no idea how long the duct tape had been there although we see now it is visible on the marketing picture on the agency’s website. On day four we looked at the mattresses as we weren’t sleeping and found they were stained and dirty and decided to come home – one of our party described it as an endurance. The agency was unable to provide alternative accommodation for a large party. They say our claim for refund is against the owner. The agency manager visited the property with the owner after we left, he reluctantly offers £1500, final offer. We want all, or at least £2200, allowing him £100 per night stayed to cover costs if necessary though to be honest I’d like all our money back plus compensation because we are so upset.

  • Grace |

    We have returned from a 5*( rental holiday cottage starring) barn conversation in Yorkshire. Whilst the barn was amazing, the adjoining property had building work, tarmacking and outside decorators up ladders for eight days out of our 14. Also the owner (different from our barn owner )renovating the adjoining property walked through our gates, across our patio “to measure the hot tub”,with no earlier request or permission sought, scarring my daughter and sister in law as they were in the property alone.
    I phoned / spoke to the Holiday rental company three times during our stay to say all that was going on was unacceptable, at the height of Peak Season too (August) building work is terrible and we were given no prior warning or even an apology, it was all ruining our holiday.
    On my return we wrote a full detailed complaint, along with videos and photographs.
    So far the owner has offered us a 20% refund but this covers two days of our stay and we had at least eight days with some sort of disturbance going on. I’ve told them it’s not really acceptable- am I bring unreasonable? It’s the first holiday rental I’ve ever had to complain about.

    • Philip |

      20% sounds reasonable as it was out of the owners control.

  • Julie Lofting |

    This is a long comment but I am still so angry about the way the host and letting site behaved it’s unacceptable. My youngest daughter booked a large house for 2 nights for her sisters hen party which I was attending there was 15 of us that paid towards this through my youngest daughter. On the day of some of the party arriving at the house we found the booking did not exist, all payed for by credit and debit card through the portals platform, my daughter tried calling in the week leading up to the event to see if the pool had been completed as we were told it would be for our stay, my daughter was told by the holiday company, who the host worked for, we will call you back, they never did. So we were already feeling a bit uneasy but I had made several bookings through the site without any trouble we hoped everything would be ok. On the day we repeatedly called, left messages for the host these were ignored. Whilst on the drive to the property my daughter called the letting site who also tried to contact the host, no response. So they just cancelled the booking and refunded us! I said hang on a minute we are miles from home and you surely have a duty of care to help us find another house our short break is ruined, and we have special events organised at the house as well as a food delivery. They sent us a couple of links and we had to find another house, now I am out of pocket as it was more expensive and it was not the same level of property as we had booked. Now I am trying to establish the best route to recoup the money I am out of pocket and to go after the host for goods and services not received and the stress and upset of the events that unfolded, they cannot be allowed to just get away with treating people in this way. The letting site sent my daughter a mug for the trouble!!!!!! They just wash their hands of it.

  • Tracy |

    Stayed in what was advertised as a luxury lodge but when we arrived it had numerous problems, appliances not working or fit for purpose. The accommodation was dirty, complained on many occasions to reception was no real resolution.
    Made a complaint to the site manager on return, we have just received a reply basically saying that their staff work hard and that if we had wanted luxury accommodation we should have booked one of there other lodges.
    We booked this lodge because it clearly states that the accommodation is like staying in a boutique hotel and that you will have a luxurious holiday.
    Is this false advertising if they are now telling you that if you wanted luxury accommodation you should of booked something else, when they are advertising it as luxury?
    We feel like they know it is not luxury but are not advertising this and are getting you to book under false pretences.
    They gave us a voucher for £100 off our next holiday, we paid £1500 for the week thinking it was going to be luxury.
    Could we go to trading standards as they seem to think that it is acceptable.

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