/ Travel & Leisure

Brief cases: what to do with an uninvited holiday guest

Which? members Frank and Janice Turner paid £2,420 to hire a villa for a family holiday, then found the British owner insisted on living in an outhouse during their stay. We investigate problem hotel rental.

The Turners were looking forward to unwinding on their break in France after a busy year. But when they arrived at the villa on 10 August 2014, they discovered the boiler was broken. The owner, who was there, said it had broken two days earlier and would be fixed the next day. For hot water, she suggested they boil kettles or use a sink in an ‘outhouse’ at the end of the garden that ran off a different boiler.

They were disappointed, especially as their two infant grandchildren were with them. The owner said she’d spend the night in the outhouse to ensure the boiler was repaired the next day.

It wasn’t fixed and, nearly nine days later, the owner was still in the outhouse and asked if she could continue to stay there until the end of their fortnight’s holiday. The boiler was not fixed until 18 August. To add insult to injury, the Turners discovered a review on the website where they had found the villa, from people who’d stayed there before them and who said that they also hadn’t had hot water.

Which? Legal advice

Couple featured in Which Brief Cases

We advised the couple that, as the owner had been aware of the issues with the boiler long in advance of their arrival; she should have fixed the problem or informed them about it and given them the chance to cancel. As she hadn’t, they were entitled to claim any loss of value, loss of enjoyment and out-of-pocket expenses they suffered because of her breach of contract.

To avoid having to take court action, the couple were prepared to accept £2,500 in full and final settlement. They made this offer in a ‘without prejudice’ letter – this meant that if matters went to court, the letter could not be submitted as evidence against them. The claim was settled without legal action being needed. The £2,500 represented half the cost of the villa rental, the ferry crossing and some compensation for loss of enjoyment.

What the law says about problem hotel rental

Under Section 13 of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, a supplier must carry out a service with reasonable care and skill. If the contract is broken, the defects should be put right; at no cost to the injured party, within a reasonable time, and without any significant inconvenience. Where they are not, the consumer can claim compensation.

Has your holiday ever come with more than you bargained for? Were basic amenities provided and who did you turn to about your problem hotel rental?


We always ask if the whole property will only be used by us during our stay as villa owners can be very economical with the truth when advertising their properties.

They advertise a detached property but neglect to tell you they live in part of it.

We also ask who looks after the property and how far away they live. Very often owners live next door or on another part of the property.

It is not as though we are going to do anything they would disapprove of. It is just that you cannot completely relax when you know you are being kept an eye on.

I have similarly experienced British owners of a Spanish villa living in an outhouse at the end of the garden. Fortunately it was a part of the garden that was separated from the rest of the property. The advantage was that when there were minor problems with plumbing, someone was there to fix it instantly.

But did you know before you got there?

There is always someone locally who cleans and looks after the property, but I prefer them to be out of sight.

No, we didn’t know that before we got there. But they were out of sight, so it wasn’t a problem. I think the problem is more that these villas are not dedicated holiday villas, but someone’s home, and the residents move out to a neighbouring building for the duration of the stay.

We once rented a villa on Greek island.

There were 2 rental villas on the property and when the other guests left, the cleaner moved in.

Mrs Mopolos was an absolute nightmare which is why we are more cautious now.

I’m a bit confused here. The headline implies that the issue was the owner staying on-site, yet the complaint and legal advice refers to the non-functioning boiler.

Gemma says:
12 May 2015

In august last year I rented a private caravan in Butlins. The cost was £860 plus £100 refundable bond. Since I had not received any correspondence by Nov I emailed the owner and politely requested to have my £100 bond returned to me. He replied promptly and apologised for the delay. He requested my bank details and assured me that I would receive my £100 after the weekend. I never received this payment into my account and despite me sending 2 further emails I am still awaiting a response. Can anyone advise me what, if any, action I can take to recover my bond???