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Shock twist in 'dirtiest guest of all time' beachfront rental saga

Author
Chris Marriner, NZ Herald,
Section
Business,
Publish Date
Thursday, 15 August 2019, 1:54PM
Kaireva Beach House in Rarotonga. (Photo / Kairevabeachhouse.com)
Kaireva Beach House in Rarotonga. (Photo / Kairevabeachhouse.com)

New claims have been levelled against the owners of Kaireva Beach House, the Rarotongan beachfront property at the centre of a storm after they labelled Kiwi guests the "dirtiest guest of all times".

Bridie Henderson posted a scathing review to Trip Advisor after her experience with owners Susanna and Robert Wigmore, who charged her $780 in extra costs.

Patrick Perry, from California, has revealed that his family were hit by similar claims for damages.

Perry, his wife, and their two children stayed at Kaireva Beach House in December 2018, paying the full price six months before renting.

Perry told the Herald that he was "hesitant" about this arrangement but was reassured by "seal of approval" given to the property by Cook Islands Tourism.

During their stay, the Perrys' 12-year-old son borrowed a fishing rod from the Wigmores and subsequently lost the cap to the reel. The Perrys said they ordered the $15 replacement part to be delivered to them.

Perry claims this was not acceptable to the Wigmores, who demanded $300 plus 15 per cent tax for the full replacement of the reel.

Robert Wigmore told the Herald that eyewitnesses had seen the child dismantling the reel and that he had "lied" about what happened to it.

The Perrys paid that fee to the Wigmores at a later date after it was determined they could no longer find the exact replacement reel.

On their return home, the Perrys received an email demanding repair or replacement of various items around the house, including a wheeled bedside table which the Wigmores claimed had all four wheels broken.

They replied, disputing all of the damage and were then sent an invoice for $1000 that did not cover any of the previous damage but instead claimed for "damage on the floors", "extra cleaning fees" and "lost scuba flippers".

Perry describes these claims as "completely bogus" and has provided to the Herald a number of emails which that the Wigmores then contacted him two more times in February 2019, with escalating claims.

The first asked for $1150 and was followed up by an email 10 days later that asked for $1495, threatening that "the matter will be forwarded to authorities in LA" if the money was not paid in seven days.

Susanna Wigmore described the escalating claims as part of a negotiation, saying that the Perry family had refused to pay every damage claim that was sent to them.

Perry said he then "turned over the matter to my personal attorney, who advised me to cease all communications with them, as they had no legal ground to stand on".

Perry sent a final email on April 14, telling the Wigmores they were "not in agreement over any assessment of damages" and that demands sent previously were "unsubstantiated and inconsistent".

The pool area. Photo / Kairevabeachhouse.com

The Wigmores replied on April 17, placing the blame for the claimed damage on the Perry's 12-year-old son and telling them to "talk seriously with your son" because he was "lying".

The Wigmores told the Herald that the Perrys' son had been left home alone and had caused damage to the home.

"Their son is a young boy who was very energetic," Robert Wigmore told the Herald, "at the same time he would destroy things."

An email in May also mentioned the Perrys' son, saying: "You won't change your mind, even when you know your son. Then he will continue doing it until someone punch him hard in the face.

"No worries, life will take this back to you or to him ... and you won't sleep well having a guilty conscience."

The Perrys described the remarks as "personal attacks" on their son, which they called "disturbing and highly offensive".

Robert Wigmore didn't resile from the comments about the 12-year-old boy, saying: "He will cop it, because that's the sort of child he was."

Susanna and Robert Wigmore. Photo / Kairevabeachhouse.com

Susanna Wigmore framed the dispute as part of a "big debate" regarding the ability of guests to damage the reputation of hosts with online reviews: "Hosts are accredited, the guests are not accredited. You don't know who comes into the house, unless they come through Airbnb, or TripAdvisor or Booking.com."

Kaireva Beach House has received glowing reviews online, with a five-star rating on Airbnb, four and a half stars on Trip Advisor and 9.6 out of 10 on Booking.com.

The property has won Air New Zealand tourism awards and holds the quality assurance mark from Cook Islands Tourism.

Guests praised Robert and Susanna as "lovely hosts" and the house as "special and perfect".

Susanna Wigmore said that she had been left "very upset" by the claims, telling the Herald: "I am the good guy and they are the bad guys."

She said she had received a huge amount of support from other hosts, who had shared tales of having their properties damaged by guests.

The earlier complaint from Kiwi Bridie Henderson and her family saw the Cook Islands Tourism Board intervene, apologising to the Henderson family.

A representative wrote: "I feel this is unbecoming of Cook Islands hosts and not reflective of the professionalism of the majority of our tourism industry.

"On behalf of all of us here in the industry – please accept my sincere apologies."

 

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