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Vacation Rental problems in MA

Two weeks ago we returned from the vacation rental horror story down on the Cape. The place was dirty when we moved in so we had to spend time cleaning up before we could even unpack. Now the agent is claiming that the owner has a problem with the way WE left the house and she is going to keep part of the security deposit we put down to hold the rental. So I'm wondering if this is like a typical landlord tenant issue and we should look to that law or go a different route. These people ruined the beginning of our vacation and, on principle, I want to get ALL my deposit back.

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No, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 186 (the law dealing with typical landlord/tenant situations) is relevant only with rentals of more than 100 days.  For problems with a vacation rental, you're better off using the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act (Chapter 93A) and sending a 30 demand letter in which you spell out--in detail--what your complaint is, the damages you believe you have suffered, and how you want the problem resolved.  You should send the letter certified mail to both the agent and the owner, if possible.  The beauty of the demand letter is it puts the other party on the defensive:  They must make a good faith response to the letter within 30 days or risk paying triple damages and attorney's fees.  One note, to use 93A, you must be suing a business or a person "doing business as" some entity, not an individual.  You must also believe that the person or entity's behavior was unfair or deceptive, rather than a mere breach of contract.  Generally speaking, there will be no 93A liability (triple damages) for a breach of contract, even with accompanying misrepresentations, unless there are damages other than those that arose directly from the breach.  In cases where 93A does not apply, you can still sue for damages in small claims court.
 
If the letter does not result in a satisfactory resolution, go ahead and file a suit.  As long as you seek damages of $7500 or less, you can use the Small Claims Court, a place that is very friendly to non-lawyers.  If more money is involved, you will have to go to District Court, and I would then recommend that you contact an attorney to assist you.  Good luck.



We just returned from a week at the Cape. During our stay the downstairs toilet began to overflow and the water and sewage began to flow out of the bathroom into the area of entry way and hallway. We immediately began to attempt to resolve the situation. We all attempted to contain the water in the bathroom by using our beach towels to prevent the water from further coming into the main area of the home. When I realized that the water was also leaking into the basement I immediately contacted the owner to make them aware of the issue. It wasn't until almost an hour later that the caretaker of the property arrived. He took the toilet off and indicated that he needed to replace the seal. He informed us that he was attempting to get a septic company to the property to see what the issue was and if it could be corrected. We were told that it is likely that it would not be corrected that day and would have to wait until the following morning. All while there was sewage in the house only steps away from where my three old son was playing.

Thankfully a septic company was able to come out that evening (at this point it was 6:30/7pm) and put a camera down into the tank. He indicated to me and I quote "There was no blockage it was just from sitting all winter and you were the first to use it. The grease etc. settled after sitting all winter". I inquired specifically with him, "It was nothing that we did, correct?" His response was "Absolutely not".
We were told that the following day the septic would be emptied. The septic company came at around noon on Thursday and was there emptying it for over an hour. If it was emptied prior to our arrival I do not see how or why he would be there for so long. It is clear to me that it was not pumped and/or inspected prior to our arrival (owner claims that it had been emptied but I am skeptical). I’d also like to note that the septic truck was blocking our ability to leave the property so we were forced to wait until he was finished.
Having to deal with these issues put an extreme damper on our vacation. What was even worse was the lack of concern and/or apology we received for having to endure the situation. We had human feces in our living area which made the house uninhabitable (and a health hazard), and overall made the enjoyment of our vacation quite difficult

We were required to pay a security deposit and when I returned I sent the owner a letter indicating our displeasure with how it was handled and requested not only a return of my security deposit but a partial refund of 2 days worth. In response I got a series of excuses and that while the owner thinks they are entitled to keep the security deposit because we left some condiments in the refrigerator and did not put the sheets we washed in the dryer they would return the deposit. They did not believe that we were entitled to the return of our deposit. Since MGL 186 does not apply to short term rentals what recourse if any do we have?


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