Sunday, 17 October 2021

Vindictive guests

 We've already stated elsewhere on this blog that we subsidise guest stays in the cottage. We're looking to cover costs whilst keeping the property occupied without the longer term risks of tenancy agreements.  Bringing holiday guests into the locality also injects cash in the local businesses. As a consequence our rental fees one of the lowest in the area when compared to the facilities provided. However we still get some guests paying the low rent and then expecting Ritz facilities. They will then approach Sykes to get a discount on the subsidised prices.

We had one pair of guests stay over a year ago who demanded a partial refund from Sykes which they didn't receive even after they sent "photographs" to Sykes. Their main complaint was that the accommodation smelt musty. I guess that is difficult to (dis)prove with photographs.  We didn't get involved in this until their bad review was received by Sykes.  Either side of their bad review on the Sykes website are complimentary good reviews from other guests.

Contractually the guests are supposed to contact the owners first during the holiday stay to seek some form of remediation. The "guests" didn't attempt to contact us.  There were the other vague issues added to their complaint list, such as cleaning etc,.  All this could have been resolved if they'd contacted us during their stay.  

In fact we'd just finished redecorating the entire interior of the cottage about a month before their stay. We'd cleaned the whole cottage after the decoration process.  All of the carpets in the house had been professionally cleaned, prior to their arrival. We also undertaken a Covid-19 sterilisation clean in every room, at short notice, prior to their arrival. This included wiping down surfaces, UV-c light exposure and steam sterilisation

One of the guests has publicly stated in bold type on the Internet, for all to see, that their objective of their holiday was: "...a cheap few nights...I guess that sums up the whole event. I'm sure a discount would have made it cheaper. As it was they were able bring their two dogs to the cottage for no fee, which saved them £240 in kennel boarding fees.

However not content with a bad review via Sykes, they posted a similar review about the cottage on TripAdvisor some 14 months after their stay. That is plain vindictive. We're now considering legal action against this couple for damages. I've made sure to take full archival copies of their reports.  

They also failed to comply with Covid-19 regulations during their stay and also did not follow the departure procedures with the consequence that we were unable to check the security/state of the cottage when they left.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Should we make better use of the property?

 Having had a poor summer in terms of the guests, we're looking at future alternative uses for the cottage. In previous years the guests have complimented the cottage, but this year most of the Covid staycation guests have been excessively demanding, manufactured unwarranted complaints and looked to get discounts on our already subsidised prices. Would they put in hours of unpaid work for strangers who are only going to complain?  Guests, who we've allowed to board their pets in our property at no additional cost.

We're contacting the local authority to discuss offering our furnished property for rental to those in need of housing, such as Afghan refugees. People in genuine need.

Friday, 23 July 2021

Cottage cleaning session

 Today's cleaning session, the guests left it generally clean, but there were the usual type of issues:

  1. Stain on lounge carpet;
  2. Soundbar; tinkered with by guest and left non-functional. The output audio cable had been plugged in the Coax (aerial) socket on the TV. Sound bar configuration had been set to Bluetooth.
  3. The neighbour's wooden, fence two palings broken, probably by our guests.
  4. Microwave oven left dirty and greasy.
  5. Bedroom bedside lamps disconnected.
Meanwhile, we did a swap out of consumable items, wiped down all contact surfaces with isopropyl alcohol or Stakil water based biocide. Each room was treated with 74 Watt Ultraviolet light (UVc) for an average 30 minute exposure.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Increased pricing at our Holiday Home

 Our current pair of guests are the straw that broke the camel's back. Their behaviour has been poor and they've made unwarranted complaints to our rental agency. We'd offered them a full refund provided they left immediately, but they chose to stay. We dread to think what we'll find when we go to the cottage tomorrow for handover cleaning. No doubt they'll leave a lousy online review. The previous couple loved our cottage and left a good review. Our first action on arrival will be to make a full video of the state of our cottage.

It seems that many other holiday home owners have had similar problems with "Marbella" guests displaced by the Covid-19 travel restrictions. There seems to be little respect for the owners from people seeking the cheapest available holidays online. For the past few years, we've subsidised guests staying at our property, mostly because we treat the property itself as the long term investment. However damages caused by guests abusing our facilities have all but wiped out any profit.  In addition to the subsidy, we effectively give each pair of guests four hours of our life free of charge. We also provide free of charge release from pet boarding fees for the holiday makers.

We've instructed our agency to increase prices by 25% with immediate effect, and to also add a £250 Good Housekeeping Bond per stay.  If the guests leave the cottage in good condition the GHB will be promptly refunded in full. This will price our cottage a few pounds per night over the previous rates, but hopefully people just looking for somewhere cheap to stay will go find their bargain elsewhere.  For regular guests we'll look at some kind of loyalty bonus to reduce their costs.

If this reduces the number of bookings, so be it. We're not in the business of receiving abuse as a reward for our time and efforts. I've seen reports from several owners recently that they've decided to pull their property from the Self Catering homes business.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Weeding the back yard

 Our guests expect the back yard of the cottage to be tidy on arrival. The garden and yard soon become covered with stray grass and weeds during the summer period. The brick surface of the yard has small gaps between the bricks. These gaps become filled with soil in which weeds can take root.  Weeding by hand takes a couple of hours, and during changeover between guests we don't have the time to undertake weeding. So I make use of a paraffin fuelled flame gun. This burns off the weeds in approximately 15 minutes for both the garden and the back yard.

It needs careful preparation to ensure that the gun is operating safely and that it does not melt/ignite fencing and garden pots. The visible flame is about 60cm long and is pretty ferocious. In the above picture you can see the grass/weeds growing in the yard of the adjoining cottage. The owner is quite old and lives about 100 miles away so his yard tends to be neglected. I help him by occasionally killing the weeds in his area too. 

This is what the yard looks like after the work is done: 

I'd noticed that the hedge of another adjoining property was overgrown and projecting into our garden, making it difficult to follow the path and steps. A flame gun is no use with the hedge, so I also brought my petrol powered  long reach hedge cutter to the game during this visit.

This shows the path/steps before I tidied:

This is after cutting the hedge:

And, this is after the final hedge tidy and weed burn off:

It was a good job that I'd finished the work promptly because our next set of guests turned up five hours early asking to get access to the cottage. Fortunately, this time, I was able to oblige.

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Road in to Wirksworth

 Some of the people reading this blog may be curious as to the countryside around Wirksworth.  Here's a video from a summer evening drive into town from the South. I was visiting the cottage for maintenance jobs.

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Humid Summer Guests

The Victorian walls of our holiday cottage a solid and have no air gap, there is no damp course in the brickwork. Previous owners have used chemical injection in the brickwork and also ceramic vent tubes, but this has not been effective in controlling the damp rising on the interior plaster. Last winter by way of experiment we installed an automatic dehumidify machine and it was very effective at reducing the damp. We were keeping the house at 43% Relative Humidity. This makes an enormous difference to the house for relatively low power cost. The low humidity helps to prevent black mould on walls and insect infestations. As we allow guest pets we have to be careful about mites and fleas, this had been a problem in the past requiring fumigation and temporary cottage closure.

We also installed a remote environmental sensor which allows us to monitor temperature/humidity via the internet. We are also alerted by SMS when limits to temperature/humidity are exceeded.

When guests are present in our cottage, we remove the dehumidifier relying on them to open windows as necessary for comfort. It is also one less machine for them to tinker with and break. We soon learned to keep everything as simple as possible for guests, or things get broken.  We leave the unobtrusive environmental monitoring running and check the reports occasionally.  

We noticed with the last set of guests, during June, that the Relative Humidity had risen from 45% to about 65%. We're not sure why, but it is probably a good indicator that they kept doors and windows firmly shut during their stay.  This figure is unusually high for a guest stay.   There's a booking gap of one week before the next guests, so I reinstalled the dehumidifier during the gap to reduce humidity.  At the moment we are extracting over 5 litres of water per day from the air in the sealed and unoccupied cottage. I'd love to know how they so saturated of holiday home, during the summer rising damp is not normally an issue.

In the above monitoring chart you can see the sudden drop when we started the dehumidifier located close to the sensor.  It will take a while to extract the excess moisture from the walls, carpets and furniture.