DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I recently rented a condo in Florida through Homes & Villas by Marriott. I used my Marriott Bonvoy points to make the reservation.
When I arrived, I discovered the unit was uninhabitable. The condo smelled of mold and mildew, and the furniture was threadbare and filthy. I have difficulty breathing.
I left shortly after arriving and had to go to a hotel for the night. I tried to contact the vacation rental company numerous times, before I left and after I checked out. I also asked Marriott for help, but I never heard back from the vacation rental company.
I would like my points refunded. But Marriott is deferring to another company that manages its vacation rentals and will not give me my points. Can you help?
— Chris Skaggs, Canton, Michigan
ANSWER: Marriott’s vacation rental site promises its homes are “professionally cleaned and inspected,” but it looks like they missed a few spots in your condo. You shouldn’t have to stay in a place like that.
Your rights to a refund aren’t governed by Marriott’s terms of service, but by the rental agreement you signed with that third party. Under most rental contracts, you can get a refund if there’s a problem with the health or safety of the unit. Mold and construction definitely qualify, but you need to work that out with the rental company.
You gave the rental company and Homes & Villas by Marriott a chance to resolve this, but it looks like they didn’t. I think Marriott was correct to refer you back to the rental company, except when it comes to the refund. Only Marriott can return your Bonvoy points.
I reviewed your paper trail. You didn’t mention your rental contract in your discussions with Marriott or with the vacation rental agency. You did, however, provide photos of the threadbare furniture.
When you find yourself in a situation like this — and I hope you never do again — you have to document everything. Keep your contracts and emails, and take lots of photos — not just of the threadbare furniture, but of any mold or dangerous conditions that would prove your rental is uninhabitable.
Ultimately, I think Marriott bears some of the responsibility for this rental. After all, it put its name on your rental and allowed you to use your points. The least it could do is give you a straight answer before referring you back to the rental company. I list the names, numbers and emails of Marriott’s executives on my consumer advocacy site at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/marriott-contact-details/. I think a brief, polite email might have helped to resolve this.
I contacted Marriott on your behalf. It refunded your points without offering any further explanation.
Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers resolve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is “How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler” (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or [email protected]
(c) 2022 Christopher Elliott
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