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Breakages & cleaning...


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We have been over to our place at the coast today to see some renters off. They said they wanted to leave at 10am, not a problem for us , so we arrived about 9.45am, their hire bikes where still sitting in the garden and they hadn't started to pack. We said we'd go for a walk into town while they sorted themselves out, we were then asked to go with the husband and 2 children to take the hire bikes back. I thought this would be OK as it would allow the wife to pack and do some cleaning. We found that the middle of the garden table had been broken, he blamed the wind had blown the umbrella over (which had a concret base!!) while they where out, also broken the cafeteria (not major). They eventually left at 11.15am and found that although I charge a £100 cleaning/breakage deposit, no cleaning had been done, we spent the next 2 1/2 hours cleaning.

I want to be reasonable, but how much of the £100 should I refund??


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I have some questions to help to get a basis for your decision:

  1. What is the value of the broken items?

  2. Do you expect to do no cleaning at all on a changeover or put another way how long would you spend doing a changeover if the cleaning was acceptable to you?

  3. How much do you rate your time at e.g.15€ an hour.

After thinking of these things you might be able to arrive at a sensible/justifiable amount to hold back.


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I suspect that you know the answer that most right-thinking people would give.

Twice your deposit wouldn't cover what you'll have to spend + the extra time for cleaning.  No refund (even they won't expect it), but may I suggest that you spend 20 mins detailing in a note, why. (Nothing emotional, just the facts).

Doubt you'll get a repeat booking from them, but then you wouldn't want it, would you?

You guys trying to earn a living like this are saints - I'd be up for murder long since. 

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"We found that the middle of the garden table had been broken, he blamed the wind had blown the umbrella over (which had a concret base!!) while they where out, also broken the cafeteria (not major). They eventually left at 11.15am and found that although I charge a £100 cleaning/breakage deposit, no cleaning had been done, we spent the next 2 1/2 hours cleaning."

So two breakages plus cleaning.

These items will obviously need replacing, cafetiere not that expensive but a new table will cost.

How much would you have to pay a cleaner to do 2 1/2 cleaning?

Probably they decided not to bother with the cleaning and just forfeit the damage deposit.


I would be tempted to write them a polite letter but be very business like and keep the lot.


bonne chance

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Do you have a specified time for leaving on departure day in your contract? If so and they outstayed it, you can include that in the justification for keeping the security deposit. Personally, I prefer to itemize the cost of breakages and extra cleaning and normally wouldn't take the full amount, but in your case I agree, you could probably justify keeping the lot in view of the breakages that have occured and extra time involved.
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Some years ago we paid something like £ 30 for the cleaning of a sailing boat we had hired in Turkey as we had an horrendously early departure time at the end of the holiday. We just thought of it as part of the holiday cost.

I suspect that where renters clearly make no effort to clean then they have already in their own minds written off the deposit.

Add to that the breakages and you're agonising over something that they've already forgotten about. I wouldn't even bother writting to them.


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I believe, strictly, that only costs you can reclaim are those that you

actually incurred. While I think it highly unlikely that you would be

persued by these people, taking in excess of the actual expense could

put you into a vulnerable position if they do decide to be arkward.

People do seem to have a (rather wimpish, in my opinion) tendency to

charge into a solicitors office at the drop of a hat and I am sure that

you don't want that kind of hassle.

Therefore, I personally would be careful to send them a note detailing

the costs. You could certainly include the coffee pot, the cost of any

cleaning materials and a reasonable €15 per hour (per head) for

cleaning. The table could be more tricky - one of our tables Went West

this week in the same way, and I saw it happen, so I couldn't really


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We had guests this year who hired both gites for their extended family & I only charged a £100 security deposit between them as the parents were repeat guests.  On their departure we had to replace various items, repair curtain rods & clean the upholstery in the gite which was taken by their daughter's family in addition to 6 hours cleaning across the 2 gites........... & after several hours washing in Vanish I had to throw away the 2yr olds bedding as the food stains just would not shift.  When we wrote a very polite email detailing the costs & that we were keeping the deposit they were not at all happy & thought we were being unreasonable so we ended up 'doing a deal' whereby we refunded 50%........we have increased the security deposit for next year & have written into our terms & conditions that a cleaning charge will be made......... we don't expect the gites to be as spotless as on arrival, but if there is no evidence of any cleaning being done or it is left 'grubby' then we feel we are justified in making a cleaning charge.  We allow ourselves (just the 2 of us) approx 3-4 hours across the 2 gites to clean & restock + make up beds etc.  No mean feat when we also have a 4 bed B&B to run........ We never charge for things like broken glasses & tables & parasols do go AWOL in storms, but when they leave a gite in such a state we felt justified in charging for cleaning in this instance.  So far all our other guests in 3 years have left the place in a good condition - fingers crossed as we still have 7 weeks left of the season.......Have only ever had to keep the deposit on 1 previous occasion when a dog went berserk in a gite in which it had been confined for 13 hours while its owners went out for the day.....on that occasion we booted them out on day 5 of their 2 week booking after the curtains, carpets & cushions were ripped to shreds & we had to spend a week redecorating the gite before the next guests were due - then we kept all the money including deposit & never heard from them again. 

15euros/head/hour for cleaning does seem a little steep - if I brought someone in we would expect to pay between 7 & 10 euros/hour. My worry now is that I have stated that a cleaning charge will be made some people will take advantage of that as an excuse not to do any cleaning..........currently our guests clean up on departure as a thank you gesture + a lot of them want to return.

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Thanks for that - admit to only bringing in a friend once to help with a 15 hour ironing backlog, so yes did not pay the social charges in that instance - we are putting our security deposit up by 100%  to cover us - as the 12 man hours we spent earlier in the year would equal more than the current security deposit not taking into account breakages, repair costs etc...........question is how much does everyone else charge as a security deposit???????
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I look after a cottage (changeovers and gardening) which is occasionally rented out by the owners and wouldn't charge less than 15 euros an hour. If I carry on next year, my rates will go up to 18 euros an hour. Obviously, if your changeover person isn't registered you may get away with less, but I think it's really mean to pay less than SMIC! Remember that most changeover people can see what your rental charge is per week on websites.

Deposits: we book somewhere (usually 3 epies) through Gites de France every year and we pay 250 - 300 euros as a security deposit (the rental this year for 6 person character gite near Pau is 270 euros in September). We also opt to pay the 45 euro cleaning charge so that our last evening doesn't have to be spent cleaning - although we always hoover around and do basic clean of the kitchen and bathroom.

Be realistic if you are running a business - the French are!

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aj, I sympathise greatly with the way you must feel. We have been in a similar position before.  Like the majority of those people who have responded here, my first reaction would be to keep the deposit - which is only what these people deserve. There is, however, another way of looking at it.

It's possible that what your departing guests said about the table could be the truth. Cafetieres get broken quite easily and the glass is not costly to replace. Cleaning - well, in truth a gite that is left uncleaned  probably only takes about an hour or two longer (depending on the size) to clean than one where the guests have made  the usual  "just about clean"  effort on a normal changeover. For us, our three bedroom gite takes five to six hours to clean properly on a normal week. If it was left uncleaned then it probably still wouldn't take more than seven hours.

The important thing is that these guests have gone and you never have to see them again. If they ask to come back then you can decline their booking. Yes you can keep their deposit but this will inevitably lead to a torrent of unpleasant correspondence back and forth between you. Yes, you can win in the end because you have the money, but you have to ask yourselves whether it is worth it. You have the choice of drawing a line under it and putting it behind you or letting the whole thing drag on and you get more and more worked up about it. You are in the right but, if you are like most people, that won't stop you becoming upset about it.

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I charge £200 security deposit, but have only had to take some of it once when a group renting all 3  houses overstayed the 10am departure time (they were all drunk the night before, well in fact they were drunk for just about the whole week) and left the place in such a state there was an extra 6 hours cleaning involved. I never charge for accidental breakages. Zeb is right - the French are far stricter with the terms and conditions of gite rental and the way the property should be left. They expect the properties to be left in exactly the same state as they were on arrival, if not ,it is necessary to pay an additional cleaning charge. Even though I tell my French guests that they don't have to do that with my properties as an end of stay clean is included, they still leave the houses immaculate. It is what they are used to.The British mentality is generally different and they treat gites more like hotels.
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No, keep the deposit. You are a business person and business is business. We dont charge deposits for nothing so if they dont stick to the deal they must pay. Why should they get their money back if you had to clean up after them and replace broken equipment?. Someone else has let them get away with this sort of thing before obviously and are taking advantage of you.
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Thanks for your comments. I spent this morning driving around Saintes looking for a table, I finally found one which is green, not white, so now it doesn't match the chairs!!! Everywhere I went they had sold out, so have just bought this one as we have people arriving on Thursday. He did admit he hadn't put the pole of the umbrella into the concrete base properly, personally if it was so windy I don't know why he had the umbrella up!! I can't just by a new glass for the cafeteria as he threw it all away, also I forget to mention, somehow the grill of the BBQ had disappeared, am a bit cross about that as they were only the second people to use it......so my next shopping trip before Thursday is to find another BBQ, easier said than done at this time of year.


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I charge £200/300 euros 'good housekeeping' deposit (refundable) for 4 bedroomed gite accommodating up to 10 people.

This is always paid into my bank account prior to the holiday.

Have not, as yet, taken any deduction for minor breakages (glasses) or for cleaning - takes 2 of us 6 hours to clean and change beds etc. Some people leave the house cleaner than others.

Some guests have been very honest and confessed to minor damage or even replaced broken items, whilst others have hidden broken arms on sun loungers - I haven't time to inspect everything so I don't know who it was.

I accept this as 'normal' and now appreciate how hard you have to work in the business.

Molly maiding is not a profession for the faint hearted or over sensitive!!


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I don't think that you can just keep people's deposit without giving them a breakdown of the additional costs you have incurred. Obviously if these costs come to more than the £100 then they'll get nothing back. I also don't think that you should charge silly agency prices for extra cleaning if you've done it yourself, just the going rate for the number of hours you've done. You may be in business, but I also think you should be honest about things.

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Yes, I think Kathy has it right.

It is not about making a big profit in instances such as this but

ensuring ones extra costs are well covered. We do not charge for minor

breakages but we do draw the line at anyone leaving the place like a

tip. We ensure our T&C's  pretty much cover most eventualities

and we always get the guests to sign that they have read and agreed the


We charge X amount per hour for any cleaning over and above the

standard half hour clean after the guests leave We have had one family

argue that they left it clean and as it was on arrival....How one

argues with someone who really has to have been having a laugh at our

expense I don't know. We simply deducted the 2 hours extra work and

just ignored the abuse which followed. And before anyone says was it

worth the trouble....Yes it was, taking the pee out of people who have

laid out a fair amount of money on making the place fit for a perfect

holiday, only to have guests leave it in such an awful state, are going

to pay, hassle or not......


We never reimburse anyone for at least 3 days after they leave. The

guests know that, it is there in b&w in our T&C's.  There

are a number of things that may not be apparent straight away. A year

ago, we had a microwave blown up by guests it was perfectly clean on

the outside, the guests left, we found the damage an hour after they

left. As anyone knows, one will often not have the time to check

everything at 08h00 or even earlier, if guests are pushed to catch a


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I guess my question would be - have you cashed the cheque? I think you're perfectly entitled to take out reasonable costs - and from the list of breakages it doesn't sound as though they'll get much back. Just given them a breakdown of the costs and refund the remainder (if any) to them
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It is a sad fact that some people will not treat your property as they would treat their own. I like some other members have been fairly fortunate not to have to charge yet. I have had odd breakages, normally glasses etc. but I absorb these as part of the running costs.

I do find people who leave dirty cookers / pans etc. and who use 2-3 towels a day, not bothering to wash them, annoying but I accept that it's part of the job unfortunately.

Back to the original post though. I would definately charge for the table, at cost + delivery charge and would  deduct an excessive cleaning charge but only for over and above time. I would provide it in the form of a bill along with copies of the receipt for the table. This way they couldn't argue really.

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