Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Booking rental property online.....a cautionary tale

A recent entry on one of the popular forums dealing with life in France tells a worrying story of a British couple who booked a French short-stay property online only to turn up and find the property already occupied by 'friends of the owner' - who is now unwilling to compensate them or return their 3000 euros paid. The booking was made via a well known holiday booking agency - also operating online - which has apparently so far refused to intervene in the case, on the grounds that the final booking details were made directly between the parties and they are not responsible.

In commenting on the incident, I reminded forum members of a case which occurred in Argels-sur-mer last year, when a non-existent property advertised online was booked by over 50 potential renters who had all paid in advance, and who all turned up on the same day to start their holiday, only to find that the property did not exist and that the street number advertised was entirely fictitious.

Not suprisingly the police and local tourist offices take this sort of incident very seriously, as it reflects badly on the reputation of the resort - and the holiday rental business in general.

The only safeguard I can suggest if you are booking a holiday rental in France is to use a local, reliable estate agency which has its office in the resort or nearby, and has the necessary credentials, such as membership of FNAIM, the estate agents' professional body. Being on-site they receive renters personally, accompany them to the property, check that everything is in order and remain on hand during your stay, just in case of any problems. They also have links to reliable tradesmen in case of emergencies such as a burst pipe or electrical failure.

Local tourist offices are very keen to protect the repuation of the area and may have lists of 'approved' rental properties that have been visited and approved, and if you experience problems during your stay, you should inform the tourist office.

Like all online purchases, holiday bookings via an online rental agency are subject to risks and the potential for fraud and property owners and potential renters should made all the checks they can before entrusting them with their money - and their annual holiday.

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