“The noise was constant and unrelenting”

Lisa Stickevers thought she was renting a quiet villa in the Turks and Caicos Islands during the holidays. She thought wrong.

“We drove up to find a port-a-potty and dumpster at the end of our driveway,” she remembers. “The property manager said they would be planting plants, but that was all.”

That was not all. Construction crews came and went. They cut rebar. They drilled. They poured concrete. They worked from Monday morning until Thursday and then, finally, on Christmas Day, they took a break.

When Stickevers complained, a property manager eventually offered her a 10 percent discount off her next stay. But it was too little, too late, and she wants me to help her get more.

“We feel misled,” she says. “We would have booked a different villa or, with help, we could have moved during our stay. We feel our booking agent was unresponsive. I have all the emails promising us no construction, and our emails with the VP. We also recorded the noise that prevented us from [using the property] Monday through Thursday.”

So let me set the scene. Stickevers and her family show up at a villa where they have a written promise that it will be quiet. The agent brushes off their complaints until their stay is almost over. Then they get a 10 percent discount off a future stay.

Hmm, let’s see. Stickevers lives in Baltimore and the Turks and Caicos are in … Turks and Caicos. When will she be there next? Will she ever go back? Your guess is as good as mine.

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What does she want?

We have asked them to reimburse us for the time we were unable to use the villa. It comes to about 17 percent of the total time, which is $2,000.

We could have asked for a percentage of the day time hours, but we didn’t.

As you know, villas are at peak pricing during the holidays. The villa was gorgeous, but the noise was constant and unrelenting.

I checked the offer from the rental company and it actually doesn’t look that bad. Turns out the rental was made through a large vacation rental site, Travel Keys, and handled by Elite Destinations, which has a worldwide portfolio of rental properties. The company had approached the villa owner for compensation, it explained, but “he has declined.”

It added,

To help make amends for any frustrations experienced, both Elite Destinations and Travel Keys offered to extend a credit towards a future rental.

Travel Keys will apply a 10% credit off of your next villa vacation with us at any of the 5000+ properties we list around the world.

Should you wish to reserve another villa that is part of the Elite Destinations (the reservations manager) portfolio, you will receive a further 10%-20% discount off the total rate, depending on the villa reserved.

That’s not as bad as we thought, right?

Well, maybe. A video on its site promises its rentals deliver a “private setting for the intimate moments,” and shows magnificent rentals on desolate beaches and smiling guests enjoying the serenity of the moment. Stickevers’ villa was not in this video, I’m sure.

While Travel Keys and Elite are probably not legally obligated to provide a noise-free vacation rental, I think an argument can be made that they are morally obligated, after reviewing some of their promotional materials.

And I feel for Stickevers. She had a crummy Christmas in the Turks and Caicos, thanks to all the noise.

Did Lisa Stickevers’ vacation rental company offer her enough compensation?

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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 chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • Bill___A

    The noise ruined the trip, not to mention all of the stress dealing with the noise issue and the fact that a premium was paid. They can’t get their time back and they paid a lot of money. There should be a significant cash refund, and these booking agencies need to ensure that owners cannot simply refuse valid claims for adjustment.

  • Rebecca

    This is on the booking company. They promised her something, in writing. Then she didn’t receive it. I do think it’s perfectly possible the owner lied to Turn Key. I also believe they asked the owner for a partial refund and the owner declined. But that doesn’t change the fact that Turn Key took her money and promised her something. They need to go after the owner, not use it as an excuse to deny her any real relief. It isn’t her problem that the owner is in the wrong. Turn Key took her money, and it’s up to them to fix it.

  • John Baker

    This all hinges on what was or was not promised in writing and where the work occurred.

    If she was promised quiet in writing and the work occurred on her unit, she owed a refund.

    If she wasn’t promised quiet but instead some nebulous marketing speak and the work was on a different unit, I think the 10% is a good compromise.

    I can’t tell which one is true.

  • Chris Johnson

    10% discount on a future stay? What a joke. I guess the company is not worried about repeat business or negative reviews. They must have well more than enough potential vacationers to take the dissatisfied ones’ place.


    I think the amount of compensation she is requesting is more than reasonable. She should have been advised of the construction–whether it was on the property she had rented or next door. If she was promised a quiet retreat for Christmas or not advised of construction then she is due more than she received.

  • Flatlander

    First world problems…

  • Annie M

    I agree with everyone else – the booking company is wrong and deliberately deceived her, she should be getting more since she has that information in writing.

  • AAGK

    Next time…Parrot Cay!!

  • Mel65

    Even if she weren’t promised a quiet stay, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect one and she deserves some compensation. If they had offered the 10-20% as a refund, that would have been fair, but for a future stay? I call that the “we sent you a rotten pizza? Here have another one on us” offer. Construction and disruptive activities need to be scheduled for downtime. The owner needs to suck up the fact that for a week or so, he won’t be renting the villa. Renting it out knowing it was going to be loud is rude, obnoxious and bad faith.

  • AAGK

    Did she tell them to stop drilling and get off the property and they refused to leave? She deserves a refund.

  • AJPeabody

    Only money, not a future discount unlikely to be used, is proper.

  • 42NYC

    Had a similar experience this past December at an AirBnB in Rincon Puerto Rico. We were out most of the day but the construction at 8am was a little too much after a night out.

    One call to the property manager and the remaining days the construction didnt start until 10am. The manager then dropped off 2 cases of beer and a bottle of rum as an apology.

    Legally he probably didnt have to do anything but i certainly left with a much better impression since they tried to be reasonable

  • MF

    The client paid with real money – she should get real money, as she was deprived of the ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property, which is a reasonable expectation for a guest. That the property owner valued $$$ over an honest warning about the rental period in question is the kind of lack of integrity which infects many individuals & businesses nowadays.

  • Nathan Witt

    I appreciate Ms. Stickevers’ approach here, and I think other consumers seeking financial compensation for wrongs would be wise to adopt it. She calculated the actual loss of use and requested that as a refund, rather than claiming, after having used the villa for a week, that the noise made her miserable and demanding that the whole thing be refunded. It makes her seem reasonable and her complaint somehow more credible. Also, it seems to me that the party that takes your money is the party that owes you a refund. If Travel Keys or Elite (or whichever layer of this transaction actually charged her card) wants to go after the property owner, that’s fine, but they should refund the requested amount.

  • Suzanne

    Travel Keys is a very unreliable company. Their agents work as independent contractors and have no clout.
    They have terrible customer service. Avoid them like the plague. Not to be trusted under any circumstances and not reputable at all.

  • KanExplore

    Not enough compensation. Broken promises, and a very meager discount on future stay. Properties should know when construction will be going on and should alert potential visitors and probably discount stays during those times. A bad deal all around.

  • TMMao

    Have had guests complain that the lawn shouldn’t be mowed when they’re on the property. But they only leave for dinner which is after the groundskeeper goes home. So by day five, they’re now complaining that the grass isn’t mowed. When exactly can it be mowed from 7am to 5pm if they’re always around?

  • cscasi

    A lot less noise than what they were putting up with during their stay. I am sure they would not have complained about their lawn being mowed one time during their stay, if it needed it.

  • cscasi

    But, they did stay there for the whole period. I think, if they have the e-mails that promise them a “quiet” stay, then they should take some sort of legal action a fair amount is not refunded to them in cash. What’s fair is the issue, as they did stay the whole period. But, they are only asking for what I consider a reasonable amount. If they do not get it, they should decide if it is worth it to take further action if Chris cannot advocate for them and get them some reasonable compensation.

  • Tracy Larson

    I can totally relate to this. I am a local Realtor in the Florida Keys and I was hired to manage a property. The owner knew that there would be considerable construction to the condo building his unit was in, but he still wanted to rent it. I told him I could not do it and would not rent it consider how extensive the construction was going to be. The construction was a major concrete restoration, which involved jack-hammering the old, cracked concrete off the building and replacing it, among other things, and it was scheduled to last for nearly 6 months! I advised the owner to take the loss and not rent the condo out because he was sure to get very negative reviews, but he did anyway, using a popular vacation rental site, and naming me as the manager, but with all payments going directly to him! Mind you, he did mention in his ad that there was construction going on, but it was passed off as “light construction”. Guess who got all of the calls complaining of the noise? He refused to offer any compensation or any refunds. I have since severed all ties to this owner, as all he is concerned with is his bottom line, and not truly giving his guests a decent stay.

  • Blamona

    Okay. I personally own a vacation villa in Turks and Caicos. I would have handled it differently. If there’s construction next door, I notify guests immediately (actually in Caribbean there is no warning, they might not show up for months, then show up 4 days in a row without telling neighbors). If surprised by it, I would have showed up with gift cards and still would have offered a refund (probably 20%). I couldn’t have helped them move as the island was completely sold out

    BUT I hold third party booking sights responsible, Travel Keys, Expedia, etc). They are just booking sights, and owners don’t have contact info of guests until check in. So there’s no way for owners to correspond directly to guests until then.

    Travel Keys should be responsible, at least for a portion, in the form of refund not future booking (they take 15-20% just because you went through them!)

    But as the owner under the circumstances, I would have still done gift cards, kept in touch, and negotiated something with them. Because unlike Travel Keys, Expedia (that now owns vrbo and homeaway) I care about my guests!

  • Molly

    There is nothing I hate to see more in discussions than this dismissal. It it totally without validity. There are two options: You can dismiss a person’s complaint as trivial and/or without basis for substantive reasons. Or you can acknowledge a valid complaint.
    Solely living in a first world country, having a well-paying job, being able to afford a vacation, etc is about as far from a substantive reason for dismissal of a valid complaint as it gets. Apparently in some people’s world, one must be homeless and starving to be able to justify any complaint… living comfortably is the only reason needed to disallow any complaint about anything…. we should just let the world rip us off. Not living up to a promise or contract, is fine as long as you aren’t “first world”.
    So please tell me about your horrible circumstances that allow you to judge so many of us so harshly!

  • Flatlander

    How dare the groundskeeper not wait until they go to dinner to mow the grass (when he would presumably need to use a flashlight)! They are probably the same people who want the bag boy at the supermarket to put all of their groceries in one big bag, and make it so the bag isn’t heavy. (Simpson’s Reference there)

  • Lee

    They know full well that many people to whom they offer a discount on a “future” booking are unlikely to ever book with them again; It’s utterly insufficient in my opinion. If they are wedded to the puny 10%, at least have them pay it in cash –

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