Q: If I book Villa Rosa will my booking be safe?
A: Of course! (But we would say that wouldn't we?)
There have been a number of online holiday booking scams, particularly with private villas and apartments. These scams do the thousands of legitimate holiday property owners no favours but, unfortunately, neither do the expert advisers, both "official" and "unofficial". If you took their advice literally it would put holiday home owners such as us completely out of business and holidaymakers would lose the variety of accommodation that is now available. Let's look at the risks, the ins-and-outs, the whys-and-wherefores and the pros-and-cons of the different ways of booking a holiday online........
The development and increasing popularity of the World Wide Web has opened up warmer climates to holidaymakers who perhaps want something other than the fixed packages offered by the traditional tour operators such as Thomson, Thomas Cook or First Choice. It has allowed them to pick their own flights and perhaps choose accommodation that is a bit more special or individual, an option that previously involved trawling the adverts in specialist magazines and newspaper travel supplements and, essentially, hitching rides in spare seats on charter flights.
Unfortunately this increasing online activity has resulted in some confusion, some problems and, inevitably, some risks. As we look at the problems and risks we also have to deal with the confusion......
There are lots of different websites offering some or all of the components that make up a holiday and it's not always obvious what types of organisation are behind them.
At the top of the pile are the more obvious traditional tour operators who buy in and/or own the elements that make up a holiday and package them up into a variety of offerings. They usually include flights and accommodation but can also include much more. While these avenues are not without some element of risk, the UK operators are ABTA and/or ATOL protected which means, should they fail or something else go wrong, the holidaymaker should get a good level of protection.
At the bottom of the pile are independent private holiday home owners - people like us. We have our own holiday home, Villa Rosa, which we use ourselves on a regular basis and also let out for others to enjoy. We use this website to promote the villa but also use other online advertising websites. It is obvious, we hope, that this website is owned by us, the villa is owned by us, and we do not provide any other travel or holiday services, except in giving friendly advice. We are not a company so we can't "go bust" in that sense and the nearest equivalent is we individually go bankrupt. Since we don't owe any money to anyone we would suggest that the likelihood of that is very remote.
In between are other holiday websites that offer a range of accommodation and sometimes flights. These can often be confusing to potential holidaymakers because the travellers don't always realise what type of organisation they are dealing with. For example, some people think that Owners Direct, Holiday Lettings and suchlike actually organise holiday accommodation, similar to tour operators, whereas they are, or certainly were, merely advertising platforms for people like us, so a booking is usually being made directly with the property owner and so the risk is the same. On the other hand, the companies behind some other websites do indeed organise the accommodation and sometimes flights. They will take your money, book the accommodation, and pass on part of the money to the property owners. Some of these are ABTA/ATOL protected but others are not, and so if one of the latter goes into liquidation then the accommodation booking may, or may not, be safe - it depends if they actually paid the property owner before their problems arose.
Perhaps the worst problems with advertising websites such as Owners Direct, España Breaks, Holiday Lettings and HomeAway have been the result of unscrupulous people placing fake adverts whereby the visitor pays the fake owner but when the guest arrives at the property it either does not exist or the real owner knows nothing about it. Partially in an attempt to counteract this, but also in the interests of expanding their own businesses, these type of advertising websites are trying to take on much more of the booking process than they have done in the past, providing availability calendars, taking over the communication channels and even taking the money for the booking.
The money side of this newer activity can add some security because they often offer a level of guarantee against fraud, but this increased "ownership" of the process can add to the confusion, as they start to look like full holiday organisers rather than advertising platforms. Other confusions can arise because some companies who organise holidays also advertise on these advertising websites, so the adverts on these sites are placed by a mixture of companies and individual owners!
In more recent times, unscrupulous individuals and/or organisations have been setting up complete scam websites that mimic genuine holiday accommodation websites offering a range of villa and apartment accommodation and other services but, like the scam adverts, the images and/or details have been "stolen" from other legitimate sources. These scam websites include canariesvilla.com, luxurycanarianrentals.com and canarianvillarentals.com. Unless you dig deep they can be quite convincing. It's only when you reailise that the ONLY method of contact is by email, the ONLY method of payment is by bank transfer, the "company" says it's been in business for a number of years but the domain is only a few weeks or month old (check https://whois-search.com) and there is ALWAYS virtually full availability for the listed properties that you realise all is probably not above board.
Often, the first piece of "expert" advice for booking a self-catering villa is to only book through a company that will arrange the contract for you. Well, that's not very helpful to people like us and, in reality, does not always guarantee you will get your holiday! That advice is given because travel companies making such arrangements are not usually the scammers but they are not immune to problems and can go out of business, as happened with Premier Holidays (Canaries) Limited in 2015 and Lowcostholidays and associated companies in 2016.
These failures left holidaymakers who had paid in full but arrived in the Canary Islands without accommodation because the owners had not been paid. Individuals can, of course, go bankrupt but this is a much more onerous state of affairs for the individual than for the directors of the companies concerned, so in many ways the risk of an individual failing is less than a company.
The second piece of advice, no matter who you book with, is usually to pay by credit card. This is because, under Section 75 of the UK's Consumer Credit Act, purchases you make that are worth over £100 and under £30,000 are usually (but not always) protected by the credit card provider.
That makes sense if you are buying from a company who has lots of transactions but it is unlikely that the private owner has full credit card facilities. We DO, however, take credit (or debit) card payments using the services of PayPal.
Unfortunately, because a third party (PayPal) is actually taking the payment, Section 75 does not always apply. However, PayPal operates a Buyer Protection scheme which applies to holiday bookings provided any dispute is raised with PayPal within 180 days of the payment being made. In some jurisdictions it would also appear that the full payment has to be made in one instalment. (Generally we are happy to accept a 20% deposit to secure the booking and the remaining 80% balance two months before the start of the holiday.) If you are worried about Villa Rosa not actually existing when you arrive in Matagorda and you want to take comfort in PayPal Buyer Protection then, depending where you live, you might need to pay us 100% of the holiday cost when you make the initial booking and this must not be more than 180 days before your holiday. You should probably check out both PayPal Buyer Protection in your country and Section 75, if you are in the UK, if you are concerned about such matters. Tied in with this is the advice that you should never pay directly into an owner's bank account because it is hard to recover it if something goes wrong. For convenience (and cost reasons), direct bank transfer is actually our preferred method of payment but we understand that some are uneasy with this which is why we accept payment by PayPal, which also allows you to use a credit card instead of immediately available funds.
If you have not already been put off buying a holiday in private accommodation, the third bit of advice is usually to take steps to convince yourself of the legitimacy of the website and/or the holiday property owner that you are dealing with......
We currently only advertise online using this website, www.villawithpool.co.uk, The Holiday Let, and Lanzarote Information and promote ourselves through our own Facebook page and other Lanzarote related Facebook Groups. If you see publicity for Villa Rosa anywhere else it might still be legitimate but it is probably old. In the past we have advertised with Owners Direct (now HomeAway), España Breaks and Lanzarote Breaks. To be safe, don't book through anything other than this website - check out the URL in your browser address bar.
We only take online payments through PayPal so if you are prompted to make such a payment for Villa Rosa make sure that the secure payment page starts with "https://", belongs to paypal.com, and is the account that you pay into is in the name "Mrs T and Mr S A Davy".
Our own full website (URL) address is "https://www.villawithpool.co.uk". If you check out the Nominet WhoIs - http://www.nominet.uk/whois/ - for the domain "villawithpool.co.uk" - http://www.nominet.uk/whois/?query=villawithpool.co.uk or use https://whois-search.com/whois/villawithpool.co.uk - you'll see that we (or Stephen A Davy) have owned it since 24th December 2002. We bought the domain name when we were in the process of buying Villa Rosa and have been renting out the villa since early 2003. We really do exist!
Villa Rosa also really exists and we really do own it - it's at number 46 Calle Amapola in Matagorda which is part of the municipality of Tias which is in Lanzarote which is in the province of Las Palmas in Spain. Check out our listing on Google Maps - https://goo.gl/maps/78MaUhsvh7v - where you will see the location of Villa Rosa and the lack of a "Claim this business" tag means Google has verified that the property is ours. We are also a verified PayPal seller.
If you want to get in contact then please do so - our details are on our contact page.
Finally, the advisers say check out the reviews. It's nice to get compliments and very nice to get (good!) reviews but personally we don't particularly like the hassle of reviewing things ourselves and therefore we don't "pester" our guests for reviews of Villa Rosa. We occasionally get online reviews on our own comments page and we often receive nice emails thanking us, some of which we'll copy onto the website but, sorry, you won't find too many.