San José, Costa Rica, since 1956


By way of an ad in The Tico Times(directed to the international community),I called Mr. Sergio Espinoza to renthis house in the exclusive beach resortPunta Leona for two nights. Accordingto the owner’s description, and the priceof ¢50,000 ($106) a night, I was underthe impression it would be an agreeableand comfortable place to stay with myyoung children.Two days before the trip (Friday andSaturday, returning Sunday), I paid$217 and picked up the keys at the businessof the property owner in San José. Itrusted that this amount of money wouldat least ensure us a comfortable place tostay.However, we found the place deteriorated,with cushions in a poor state anda kitchen unpleasant just to look at. Atthe insistence of my children and feelingvery deceived, I had to look for anotherplace to stay in the neighborhood.Fortunately we found another houseto rent and were able to enjoy a funweekend.I called Mr. Espinoza and explainedto him, in a polite tone, that perhaps hishousekeeping service was not takinggood care of the place and because ofthat we couldn’t stay there. I told him Iwould be very thankful if he couldrefund at least half the cost of the stay.He became indignant and repeated varioustimes that he never gave refunds andthat I could “find a lawyer” if I liked.This was more offensive than thedeception of the house.I visited the offices of the PuntaLeona Club management, where I spokewith one of the managers, who assuredme he would be checking up on thehouse to propose some basic standardsfor lodging, so as to not repeat such incidentsthat “damage the elegant image”they want for the private Punta Leonabeach club.Is it possible to receive a refund withoutneeding lawyer?–Teresa Cook,San Ramón de Tres RíosWhen The Tico Times contacted cabinowner Sergio Espinoza, he said he was surprisedby the complaint and couldn’tunderstand what Teresa Cook “said or did.”He said that in five years of renting thehouse he had never had a complaint, andthat he did employ someone to clean thehouse every day, and he goes every 15 daysto check on it.“The house has five bedrooms, the livingroom has air conditioning, there aretwo refrigerators and the kitchen is well-equipped,”he told the paper. He did concedetwo of Cook’s points, though: that therefrigerators were old, and that the mattressesdidn’t have plastic covers.“Perhaps she’s right, but that’s not areason to leave the house,” he said.When asked why he didn’t refund halfher money as she had requested, heexplained that she abandoned the house,and because it was already Friday, hecouldn’t rent it out to someone else for theweekend.“If she had told me on Thursday, Icould have still sent someone to thehouse,” Espinoza said.The Tico Times also spoke withReinier Obando, manager of Club PuntaLeona, who recommended that people whowant to stay at Punta Leona get a room atthe hotel.“Punta Leona is practically a city,” hesaid. “We have 2,000 members. 500 havetheir own houses within the club.” Obandoexplained that most of these houses are theproperty of individual members, not thehotel, so any rental agreements are strictlybetween the owner of each house and therenter. The hotel has no way of regulatingthe quality of the houses or the terms of theagreements.“I recommend that people not rentfrom club members. This causes variousproblems,” he said, one being that onlyclub members with an I.D. card can enterthe property.In reference to this particular case,Obando said he was unable to contactEspinoza to discuss it. He said he saw thehouse from outside, and while it didn’tlook that attractive, it did not look thatterrible, either. He also said he has notheard of any other complaints againstEspinoza.

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