It was the first vacation Sam Hurst and his wife had taken with their two young children.
“This was the year that we decided the children were old enough that perhaps we could splurge on one vacation,” Hurst said. “With the help of a little tax refund and some weekend jobs, we put it together.”
Hurst, 62, of Bellevue, started planning the 12-day vacation to Maui in the spring, and found a condo for rent in Kihei through a man in Sammamish named Wayne Price, who owned two units in the same building.
“It looked very family-friendly, Hurst said. “(A) small beach right beside the condo building, restaurants nearby.”
Hurst booked Unit #610 at Kihei Surfside for Aug. 14 through Aug. 26, 2013. The owner required payment in full up front, which came to $2,041.56 with tax. Price sent Hurst a contract, which stipulated that the condo would be ready to move into on Aug. 14, and that refunds would only be made in the event that the condo could be booked by another guest.
“REFUNDS, AFTER THE FINAL PAYMENT IS MADE, CAN ONLY BE ON A PRO-RATA BASIS, AS/IF, THE SPACE CAN BE RE-RENTED,” the agreement read.
After a long day of travel, Hurst and his family arrived at the condo late in the evening. But, no sooner did the vacation start than it came to a screeching halt.
When Hurst opened up the door to the condo, he said he was immediately hit by a foul odor.
“Kind of a dank smell,” he said. “Then I walked in and the first thing that I saw was that, obviously, the condo had not been prepared for us.”
As the family inspected the condo further, they found six or seven damp towels in a pile. A thick coat of dust covered all of the surfaces. The sheets were on the bed in a dirty heap, and the pillowcases were scattered about the floor. In the bathroom, a half-used bar of soap sat in a dish and there was no toilet paper to be found.
Hurst snapped photos of the room, which KIRO Radio showed to travel expert Steve Danishek.
“It’s disgusting,” said Danishek, an experienced traveler and president of TMA Travel. He called the condition of the room unacceptable.
Hurst immediately called a number he had been given for the woman who he was told would clean the condo during their stay. When she told him she couldn’t make it until the following day, Hurst called Price.
“And he said, ‘Well, if she can’t come, I’ve got another condo. Get the manager, she’s in an apartment downstairs, she’ll show you that one,'” Hurst said. “Wayne’s other condo was in the same state of disrepair. Dirty; towels everywhere. It had not been cleaned since the last people had stayed there.”
Hurst said he started to panic.
The building manager jumped into action, calling other condo owners in the building to see if any had an open rental. Hurst was offered a unit on the second floor for a discounted rate, and he paid the owner for 12 nights.
“Because at that point, I’m not even sure if someone’s going to come tomorrow and clean the other one,” he said.
Price and Hurst began to exchange emails while Hurst and his family were still in Maui. The emails were provided to KIRO Radio, and in them Price said he expected Hurst to move back into Unit #610 after it was cleaned.
When Hurst refused to move back into the unit, Price told him he would forfeit the vast majority of his $2,041 payment. He offered to refund Hurst three of the twelve nights as a “goodwill gesture only,” and said he had until Sept. 21 to accept the offer or walk away with nothing.
“There was no indication at all and absolutely no willingness to refund our complete money,” Hurst said. “This isn’t going to change his lifestyle by doing the right thing. I’m just stunned. I really am shocked.”
KIRO Radio attempted to contact Price at his home in Sammamish several times, but was only able to reach his wife. She said Hurst should have moved back into the condo the following day, after it had been cleaned. She called Hurst a “troublemaker” and said he and his family violated the contract by cancelling their stay.
Danishek said Hurst’s situation is unfortunate, but not surprising. He said he does not recommend that travelers book condos through private sellers without a third-party intermediary, such as a broker.
“Because you’re not going to have a professional anywhere in the mix there, who will stand on your side,” he said.
For those who choose to rent directly from an owner, Danishek offered the following tips:
-Ask the owner to connect you with previous tenants who can speak to the condition of the unit.
-If available, read reviews of the condo online.
-Call the building manager prior to your stay.
Hurst said he will likely take Price to small claims court if he refuses to refund their entirety of his payment.
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