Help! My bed & breakfast doesn’t have a bathroom!

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By Christopher Elliott

Evonne Hopkins books a room at a bed & breakfast that doesn’t have a bathroom. Can she get her money back?

Question

I booked a room at a bed & breakfast in New Albany, Ind., through SuperTravel, an Expedia affiliate. When I arrived, I discovered the room didn’t have an attached bathroom. You had to go downstairs to access the bathroom. The SuperTravel website did not tell us about this. 

We asked for a refund, but SuperTravel refused, citing its no-refunds policy. I contend that what we purchased was not what they provided and not subject to the no-refund policy. 

I’ve initiated a dispute through our credit card company, but it sided with SuperTravel. I am appealing the decision.

SuperTravel’s refund policy has a clause that says they make “no refund for causes beyond their direct control.” But as an Expedia affiliate, they have access and control over the information that they provide to consumers on their website. 

Expedia and Booking.com both list the same property on their sites, and they show the information about the detached bathroom. I believe I’m entitled to a $469 refund because SuperTravel chose not to provide us with that information before we made the purchase. 

Chris, you helped me in 2013 with an airline problem, and I’m appealing to you now. Can you help me? — Evonne Hopkins, Livermore, Calif.

Answer

It’s true, your accommodations at the historic bed and breakfast did not have a dedicated bathroom, which is not that unusual in an older inn. But SuperTravel should have told you about it before you booked — that was important information to disclose.

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While it’s true that your reservations were “prepaid” (in other words, nonrefundable), it is also true that you had a contract with the Expedia affiliate that implied you would have your own bathroom. A bathroom is a standard feature in a Western hotel room, like running water and electricity.

Is my hotel room required to have a bathroom?

I’ve heard my fair share of complaints from travelers who have stayed at historic inns and bed and breakfasts. One of the most common grievances is the lack of modern amenities, particularly private bathrooms.

It’s not uncommon for older properties to have shared bathrooms or even outhouses. That surprises guests who are used to modern hotel accommodations. (Related: Help! My Expedia tour credit is about to expire.)

But are these hotels required to have private bathrooms? The answer is usually no.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), public accommodations such as hotels and inns must provide accessible bathing facilities. But they don’t necessarily need to have private bathrooms. In fact, many historic inns and bed and breakfasts are exempt from this requirement because of their age and status as historic landmarks.

What to do if you don’t have a private bathroom

So, what happens if your historic inn or bed and breakfast doesn’t have a private bathroom? 

Assume nothing

Do your homework before booking a stay at a historic inn or bed and breakfast. Look for reviews and photos that give you an idea of what to expect. Don’t hesitate to ask the proprietor about the bathroom situation. It’s also a good idea to check local building codes and regulations to see if there are any requirements for bathrooms in lodging establishments.

Ask for another room

Some bed and breakfasts have rooms with private bathrooms and without them. If you need your privacy, you may be able to convince the proprietor to switch rooms. Note: There may be a higher cost for an upgraded room.

Check out

If your room description promised a private bathroom and you didn’t get one, and you absolutely must have your own bathroom, you may have to find accommodations elsewhere. Calmly inform the proprietor that you are leaving and request a refund. You may have to dispute the charges on your credit card if the proprietor refuses. (Related: I want a refund from Expedia but it just wants me to leave a bad review for the hotel.)

Before you go down that road, consider the benefits of staying in an historic property. If you’re willing to sacrifice some comforts for the charm and character of an older bed and breakfast, then you might be fine with sharing a bathroom or using an outhouse. OK, I probably wouldn’t want to use an outhouse. But if you’re the adventurous type, maybe you would.

What happened after you left

It looks like you did not stay at the historic inn and found alternate accommodations. That’s good, because if you had stayed there, a refund would be all but impossible. And you would probably be surprised by how many readers of this column will stay in a hotel or vacation rental and then request a full refund. It doesn’t work that way.

I’m surprised that your credit card company didn’t side with you. This was a glaring omission by your online travel agency, and you should have received a full refund on appeal. I have seen travelers with much weaker cases win a credit card dispute. (But that’s another topic.)

I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Expedia’s customer service executives on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. A brief, polite email to one of them might have pressured SuperTravel to help you. I also publish a free guide on how to book the best hotel at the lowest rate for the next time you are trying to book your accommodations.

Could you have avoided this? Possibly. As you note, several other online sites noted the bathroom problem, so you might have run a quick search before booking. Incidentally, you could have called the property yourself and might have gotten an even better deal. B&Bs, like hotels, prefer dealing directly with their customers. 

You reached out to my advocacy team, and we contacted SuperTravel on your behalf. In response, SuperTravel credited your card for the full amount of your stay.  

“Whatever nudge you provided to SuperTravel was enough to do the trick,” you said. I’m happy we were able to help.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in São Paulo.

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