We had a lovely stay. The weather was great and we really enjoyed the use of the garden and the short walk to the beach (only 5 minutes! It was difficult to park when we arrived on a Saturday afternoon but Rafal did warn us beforehand. When we arrived there was tea, coffee and milk etc which was much appreciated but no toilet paper, presumably just a mistake but worth noting when arriving after a long journey. We had a really great stay and would recommend!
We booked a weekend break at Breakwater Cottage via trip advisor and paid the owner directly via paypal. The trip was to celebrate a friend’s birthday and news of my pregnancy. Following the online booking I was asked to call Rafal Rataj (the owner) to discuss instructions for the duration of our stay. This evolved into a very strange phone call with Rafal asking us not to use the central heating and to keep the garden chairs in the bathroom when we were not in the property. He also asked us to photograph any existing damage to any items within the property which seemed reasonable at the time but on reflection was a bit odd. The conversation also included the usual topics like check in and out times and access key codes.
We were a party of four and a small dog, all arriving at separate times due to work commitments in London. On the day of our arrival I contacted Rafal at around 2.30pm asking for the key code as I had still had not received it and I needed it to pass onto my friends to access the property as they were arriving earlier than me. Rafal said that he was unable to give key code out until 4pm and only when I explained that I was about to leave the office and that my phone had a low battery did he send it through. He later accused me of lying about this and our time of arrival.
The cottage itself was fine and nicely finished apart from the bathroom which is very small with a tiny wash hand basin. It is also located downstairs which is a bit far away from the bedrooms especially when pregnant. This did not bother us too much as the weather was good and we were out and about in Whitstable enjoying the weather. We were very surprised when we found the garden chairs which must be kept indoors (because of theft seemingly), they were rather scuffed up metal chairs and did not look like something worth stealing, but we kept our part of the deal and brought them in from the garden when we left the property.
We vacated the property early on Sunday morning and left it in exactly the same condition which we had found it. At around 10.45 Sunday morning I received a text message from Rafal asking if we locked the property and put the garden chairs in the bathroom and left out the rubbish.
I explained that we had already left the property and had locked up and brought the chairs in. We did not leave out the rubbish as it was Sunday and there was a note on a notice board in the kitchen which advised the occupants to leave the rubbish out on Monday and we didn't want to leave it on the busy street overnight.
One week after our stay, I received a phone call from Rafal Raja was hard to understand due to his extremely aggressive tone. He was shouting and accusing our party of chipping a picture frame. I tried to explain that we had definitely not caused any damage to his property and if we had of broken anything we would have notified him immediately and taken a picture as stipulated in his initial call which in hindsight should of set alarm bells ringing. He became so aggressive that I actually had to hang up on him to let him calm down. He then sent 3 images of a picture frame which none of us can recall having seen during our stay, the frame had a very small chip on one corner. It was then that he said that he was not returning the damage deposit (£150) because of this and proceeded to claim that this damage was caused during our stay.
I contacted Rafal to try to resolve this issue but he would not accept the fact that we did not damage the item in question. I was left with no option but to escalate this dispute with PayPal and Tripadvisor. During this call he swore at me numerous times and told me that I had lied about the picture frame and our time of arrival on Friday. In addition to the picture frame damage he accused us of blocking a drain and heavy drinking whilst staying in the apartment. He looked through our rubbish following check out and found four empty bottles of wine. I strongly refuted all of his claims and he became extremely aggressive and stated that he wished he had killed our dog and cooked it on a BBQ. This was extremely distressing that he had become so aggressive.
Towards the end of the call he actually said that as I hadn't written a review yet, he would return half of the security deposit back i.e. £75 if I wrote a positive review. This was completely outrageous and convinced me that all of his claims were underhand.
When booking accommodation I usually read through other people’s reviews. In this instance many of the reviews for Breakwater Cottage were positive, but stangely had only ever reviewed Breakwater Cottage and no other properties. Following this dispute I looked back through trip advisor and some other holiday accommodation websites in more detail and noticed several other reviews which also mentioned similar altercations with the Rafal over his refusal to return the security deposit for supposed damage which they did not cause. So it would seem that Rafal Rataj has done this more than once before and that he thinks that he can use this method as a way to increace the rental on his property through their security deposit without any recriminations. I have reported him to Trading Standards and we are looking at the possibility of making a claim in the small claims court. Unfortunately in a case like this, the onus of proof is on the claimant and we cannot prove that we did not damage the picture frame. Rafal knows this and has been using this to his advantage knowing that the cost of a solicitor would be more than the £ 150 which the dispute is over. Hopefully anyone else planning a visit to Whitstable and staying in Breakwater Cottage will take note of this.
Nicely decorated with homely touches. Spacious enough for 5 or 6. Has all you need for a short break or holiday, and just a 5 minute walk from the centre. Even has a Nespresso machine, so take some pods (but the local Sainsbury's sells compatible pods) if you need decent coffee. Nice to find all the basics for when you arrive (tea, coffee and some milk in the fridge). Was a bit short on towels, but Rafal (the owner) has said he will sort this for the future. Would have been nice to have some logs provided for the burner, rather than have to pay extra. Parking outside can be difficult, but we went by train! Loo is downstairs, so not too 'convenient'(!), but such is the nature of older houses, so you get by.
Overall, a very nice property with some quirky touches to make it feel more of a home than a 'standard' holiday let.
The cottage is in a great location, close to the town centre with lots of local shops, pubs and restaurants and just a short walk from the seafront too. Cottage was comfortable with good amenities although it should be noted for some that the bathroom was downstairs. Cottage is listed as sleeping 6 which it would due to the three bedrooms but the living room area would be better and more comfortable for a maximum of 4 people.
Had a great weekend in Whitstable and would recommend.