No refund for a “dirty, bug-infested, and uninhabitable” condo

Paul Kenny pre-paid for a condo on Kauai for 15 nights, but he and his wife only stayed for one. The reason? “The condo was dirty, bug-infested, and uninhabitable,” he says.

Kenny wants a full refund. He had caught the management company misrepresenting certain facts and had photos of the bug bites his wife allegedly suffered. He’d disputed the charges on his credit card, but said American Express was having a hard time determining who was at fault. Perhaps my involvement would help.

I reviewed the paperwork and thought he might have a reasonably good case. I was wrong.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s review what went wrong. It’s quite a list.

Kenny and his wife checked into their unit and decided to go for a swim. When they returned, they found that their keys didn’t work. “We had to bother the downstairs neighbor to call the front desk,” he says. “We waited and waited, flagged down two employees to have each of them call the front desk as well, before someone finally arrived.”

After help arrived, the Kennys noticed a screen door was down. “Bugs were coming in, so it became stifling hot very quickly,” he says.

They also discovered the actual unit was in disrepair. The refrigerator was missing shelves. The Wi-Fi didn’t work. “I managed a few minutes here and there, pirating off of nearby connections, but kept getting thrown off. It was more than frustrating,” he says.

The oven and stove didn’t work, either. “We tried to make tea, but there was no power to the cooking appliance,” he says.

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He says the condo unit was not clean. The tub and shower had mold.

“In the kitchen, there were greasy marks on the wall by the garbage can cabinet. The other walls also had yucky marks. Dead bugs covered the outside of the light fixture in the shower room, and the insides of all the light fixtures harbored scores of bug carcasses,” Kenny says.

It was a sharp contrast to the photos of the unit posted online, which showed a light and clean unit.

“In reality,” he says, “it was old and used.”

Kenny asked to be moved to another unit, giving the management company until 10:30 a.m. the next day to respond. They missed the deadline.

“We proceeded to book a condo through Marriott, and packed all our belongings in the car,” he says. “At 10:38 they called to say they could put us in [another] unit, but we would have to pay for a minimum of three days as a booking fee. I told them they were too late, that we had already taken care of ourselves.”

I have to be honest: If all of those things had happened as described, I would have probably done the same thing. So I thought Kenny had a strong case.

I contacted the management company, The Parrish Collection, on his behalf. Here’s its response:

The Kenny Party checked in on 11/3/15 and had a 15-night reservation. The condominium that they booked with us can be seen using this weblink.

The guest initially checked in late in the day and reported some maintenance items. We did send a property manager to assess the situation the next morning and the guest would not let him in the unit.

They asked to relocate and although not our normal policy, we agreed to move them to the unit they requested. Kenny called back and advised us that they were checking out. He didn’t allow us to relocate them, per their request, or address any of the items they initially mentioned were a problem.

The guest did agree to our terms and conditions which clearly review our payment and cancellation policies. We did receive a dispute via American Express two times for this guest, and both times American Express agreed with The Parrish Collection.

It’s clear that the management company and the guest had very different perceptions of what happened. Still, even if only half of what Kenny claims is true, it seems like an awful rental. And the company sure took its time responding to him.

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Could Kenny have been more patient? Less demanding? Perhaps. But one thing is clear: This was not an ideal situation, and just because Amex sided with Parrish doesn’t mean Parrish is right.

Case closed? I’m afraid so.

Did Kenny deserve a refund?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • The first thing I do is inspect everything to make sure things are as expected. To check in and go for a swim is irresponsible. I am unclear as to why the keys did not work when they returned from the swim. They apparently worked when they first entered the apartment.
    On a different note: Are we back to using Disqus for signing in again? I thought that was dropped.

  • Patrica

    I would need more substantive evidence of Kenny’s claims (mold, bug infestation, etc.) Sorry Chris, but your dead cockroach is NOT evidence. HE also set a deadline for the CONDO, knowing full well that if he aborted his rental, he was responsible for payment. He did not give the condo an opportunity to correct the “problems”. Their three day booking fee sounds weird to me. His words: “but we would have to pay for a minimum of three days as a booking fee. ” I have seen people merely complain about their condo unit and are immediately moved to another at other condo properties. He sounds awfully fussy to me( the marks on the walls??) .. perhaps the unit did have bugs inside the light fixtures.. I could add that cute little geckos in the kitchen are also a common occurrence in Kauai. (Don’t worry, be glad when you see them as they eat the bugs!!) The stove not working? Yes, that deserved attention immediately…and again, most condos on Kauai have a microwave which can be used for tea making. This is one of the lesser “fancy” areas in Kauai, with the Princeville area more posh. WARNING: WiFi access and phone areas in Princeville are virtually non-existent, we have to go to the main office for internet access. signed, frequent visitor to the islands and Kauai. Kauai no ka ai!

  • taxed2themax

    Just from an arms length it sounds like he really didn’t want to be there and acted (either intentionally or otherwise) to insure that he wouldn’t. Now, I DO think there were issues that needed to be addressed. True. I also think that there does need to be some measure of reality in that bugs in a locale like the Hawai’ian islands, is, to a degree, a part of the picture.. This does not say that a bug infestation is ok, it’s not, but I do think that you do have to take where you are into some measure of reality.

    The part about the guest-imposed, move deadline of 10:30 is something that caught my eye. I think that prior to the 10:30 “deadline” he unilaterally imposed, that it would have been prudent to call the office first, and ask “the deadline I have imposed on you is near. Where are you in regards to my demand (or request, depending on how you see it)? Now, if the office didn’t then give some kind of definitive answer, then I think that’s one thing, but I think he really owed it to the management company to check first. Sure, it’s possible the office may have or could have fobbed him off with “we’re working on it, give us time”.. sure, that’s a possibility, but I for me, I’d be much more comfortable with this part IF he contacted them BEFORE taking self-help actions.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Hi Ryan,
    Yeah, it was. We went to something called SolidOpinion for a while, but the self-moderating thing didn’t work out. So, back to Disqus… and to my happy surprise, it’s improved considerably while we were away. Moderating with Disqus is a joy now. :-)

  • sirwired

    It sounds like most of the problems could be fixed with a good cleaning and a few minutes with maintenance. Depending on the time he checked in, housekeeping may have gone home for the day. I think the 10:30AM deadline the morning after checkin may have been more than a bit tight.

    (It’s not unusual for light fixtures to have bugs in them… I’m pretty sure that if you examine upwards-facing light fixtures in your very own house, you’ll find dead insects.)

  • judyserienagy

    This condo sounds like a nightmare. But Kenny bears the responsibility for the problems not being fixed. Checking in late in the day and demanding that things be made right by 1030 the next morning is not reasonable. If the place was uninhabitable, I would have immediately checked into a hotel for one night, leaving the management company the entire day to fix the unit. Kenny could have scheduled a meeting late that second day to assess the situation and come to a reasonable agreement. Customers cannot dictate policy to the manager, there has to be a reasonable effort to compromise. I’m not surprised that AmEx sided with the company.

    Nobody knows why the manager didn’t jump in right away to address Kenny’s concerns. That would have gone a long way towards a solution. However, the management company could have refunded him half of what he had prepaid, as they could have probably rented the unit after cleaning it all up. This is a sad case of non-communication on both sides.

  • KarlaKatz

    And, signing in with Disqus is easier! Thanks for switching back.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Were there any photos showing these things? I’ve become pretty suspicious of these laundry list sorts of letters where basically everything is supposedly wrong.

    And I was a little confused about them checking into the unit but not noticing any of this stuff (or having the problem with the keys) immediately. Some of that stuff–the broken screen door in particular–would seemingly have been tough to miss even on a cursory glance of the unit. They checked in and got the keys but didn’t go to the unit immediately?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I wonder if they got the keys and then went for a swim first before ever visiting the unit. That would explain the issue with the keys, though I don’t know why they wouldn’t have used the room to change into their swimsuits. But it’s a rather odd story if they did visit the unit first given they claim the place was totally filthy, things were broken, etc. Surely if they saw that the minute they arrived they’d have done something about it before taking a swim.

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