P.S.: Renters Beware
06.01.2015 - 05.02.2015
A few after-the-fact words on my experience with renting an apartment in Paris. I have rented apartments in Europe and elsewhere and had excellent results. One company in particular stands out: Parker Villas who rents apartments throughout Italy. I was met by the owner who handed me the keys and a list of suggested restaurants, taxis, emergency numbers, etc. But I have also had a bad experience with JavaVillas where the owner was actually on the premises and hung out with us for a few days, poolside. That was never the plan. There, I had contracted a cook who disappeared and I was never given a refund by the owner or the company. See my previous post: Jamaica: JAVAVILLAS The Bad and the Beautiful.
So when I set out to rent an apartment in Paris, I knew I had to do my homework. Long story short, I used VRBO thinking I was going to be eliminating an agency and renting direct (isn't that what Vacation Rental by Owner suggests?). Well, no. I ended up dealing with a rental agent. The photos and description of the apartment were sort of true. But not really. The apartment was run down and somewhat shabby. The curtains were stained and the floors were in sad need of repair. And there were lies by omission. WHY would I ever think to ask if there was central heating? Well, now I know. You need to ask. Believe it or not, there wasn't. There were three space heaters and numerous power strips plugged in to several outlets. How do you say "fire hazard" in French?
Almost as disturbing was the lack of cooperation on the part of the rental agency responsible for the apartment (ask me in the comments section and I will tell you their name!). I was arriving on an early flight, so I asked if I could pick up the keys early. The apartment was empty the previous week, but I was told there would be a fee for early arrival. Wow. But that was nothing. The key pick-up was an elaborate, complicated mess. The keys were locked in a safe about 1/4 mile away and up four flights of stairs. When you are traveling with luggage, this is no small problem. Factor in the hilly, cobbled streets of Montmartre and the detail that the apartment was on a steep, stone staircase, and this becomes a true ordeal. For fifty euros, the agency offered to deliver the keys. The return of keys was the same situation in reverse. By the way, it was never made clear that the apartment was in the middle of seven flights of stone steps.
The next lack of cooperation I encountered was when I asked for sheets and extra towels for the sofa bed. The apartment was advertised as sleeping four--which it did, comfortably. The agency informed me I would be charged for "additional guests." This was not mentioned in my lease or on the contract I signed.
Finally, I received my deposit back minus a charge for heat. What heat? Seriously? I did challenge this fee and the deposit was returned, in full.
I did some research when I got home and saw that VRBO is now part of Home Away and there are some pretty bad reviews out there about both. But I'm still seeing recommendations for both sites in places like the NY Times this month. I would advise differently. I guess there is no foolproof way of renting sight unseen. But personally, I would avoid VRBO going forward. I would also suggest asking to contact previous renters directly instead of relying on site-specific reviews.
I certainly didn't let any of this affect my trip. I'm home a little over a week and I miss nearly everything about Paris. I miss the view from my terrace, the crowds on the Metro, the food, my Sunday chicken place, Paris by day, Paris at night, my favorite wine store, the café down the steps, baguettes and croissants. I don't miss my broken toilet and my one-person, claustrophobic elevator. But I even miss the daily challenge of those damn steps. Did I really just say that?