A substantial and well-established holiday lettings firm has suddenly stopped trading, leaving people out of pocket – and with no access to redress.
Holiday letting firms do not have to protect deposits or belong to an authorised redress scheme.
The collapse of Brighton Holiday Homes could highlight how consumers in this market lack protection, with The Property Ombudsman yesterday saying it is keen to “close the gap”.
Brighton Holiday Homes was set up in 2008. Its full-time employees – 16 in senior positions are featured online – included housekeepers and maintenance staff.
Last year, according to its website, it had over 27,000 guests who booked short lets in a wide variety of properties across Brighton, where the firm is known for getting out and about in its branded vehicles.
Run by Neil and Michelle Stonehill, the firm has now sent an email to customers saying: “It is with great regret that due to the challenging economic conditions, Brighton Holiday Homes has ceased trading with immediate effect.
“You will not be able to access the property you have booked so please do not travel to Brighton unless you have alternative accommodation.”
The email advised customers to contact their credit or debit card provider about possible refunds.
Customers quoted in the local paper say that they had paid between £1,000 and £4,500 for short breaks, including hen parties.
Yesterday, the Brighton Holiday Homes website was still up and running, offering ‘huge discounts’ in its autumn sale for people booking in the next six weeks.
According to its terms and conditions, Brighton Holiday Homes took security deposits in some circumstances, but aimed to return these within 14 days of the tenant’s departure.
The company always required full payment for the booking in advance.
Its collapse comes despite the boom in short lets on platforms such as Airbnb and the apparent growth in popularity of staycations.
Jane Erskine, deputy ombudsman at TPO, said: “Holiday letting firms do not have to belong to a redress scheme and the deposits do not have to be registered, although we would accept short-term letting businesses on a voluntary basis.
“As for whether the short term let industry should be regulated – this all comes down to consumer detriment.
“We are keen to ensure that the gaps within the redress landscape are closed, to ensure all consumers have an avenue to redress.”