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Case studies - Frank and Janice Nightmare Trip

Which? Legal helps couple recover thousands of pounds after ‘relaxing villa holiday’ is ruined

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.  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 make sure 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 Homeaway 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.

Our advice 

We advised Frank and Janice 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 £2,500 represented half the cost of the villa rental, the ferry crossing and some compensation for loss of enjoyment. The claim was settled without legal action.

What the law says

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.