My wife and I rented the Beal's property "Hilltop Paradise" from 7/8/07 to 7/14/07 for a family vacation with our son and his friend. When we arrived we were pleased to see that the property was nicely landscaped and had spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the valley of Temecula. We were greeted by Mrs. Beals who provided a tour of the property.
At the end of the tour we were presented with an addendum to the rental agreement that she required we sign which outlined how to use the pool/spa and also stated it was not to be used in excess of 2 hours per day, and if it were we would be charged $2.50 per gallon for propane.
Mrs. Beals also requested that we turn off the air-conditioning if we leave, which we thought was odd considering it was the middle of July.
Before she left I asked about the internet access (as advertised it had - http://www.vacationrentals.com/vacation-rentals/485.html), but was informed that there was no internet access, but I could use one of the AOL trial disks they had supplied. She also informed me that I could drive the 5 miles into town and get high speed internet there.
On our 1st day we left to have dinner and when we returned we noticed that the upstairs temperature had reached 85 deg. and the A/C, although it was on and running, was not blowing cool air. This would not have been so bad, considering the cool mountain breeze in the evening but we were unable to open windows as most have no screens (picture of bulletin board - http://home.comcast.net/~rtclib4/bb4.jpg). We called Mr. Beals and he came the next day while we were on a day trip to tour L.A. When we returned late that evening there was a note from Mr. Beals that the A/C was fixed and indeed it was cool upstairs.
On our 3rd day the plumbing in the master bath clogged causing toilet water to back up into the whirlpool bath tub (http://home.comcast.net/~rtclib4/tub2.jpg) and leak through the ceiling unto the kitchen table. We called Mr. Beals, who was away in Las Vegas for the remainder of our stay, and he sent a plumber. However because he was out of town, we had to wait for the plumber which required we change our plans. The plumber arrived, snaked the drain and cleared the clog. Mr. Beals informed us that he was aware that the previous tenants had caused the clog (which the plumber said was from feminine products) and Mr. Beals noted that they had left them in the bathroom and in fact they were still there during our stay. He very kindly said that when he refunded our deposit he would refund an additional $100 for our inconvenience.
I also noticed that the area in which the toilet water was leaking through the ceiling had been previously repaired and painted (http://home.comcast.net/~rtclib4/ceiling_repair2.jpg) and when I mentioned this to Mr. Beals he indicated he had indeed had the same issue once before since owning the home.
That same evening the upstairs A/C failed again and did not work for the rest of our stay. We did not want to again have to wait for a repairman, as Mr. Beals was still out of town and we did not want to again be inconvenienced by having to wait on a repairman (which should be the responsibility of the owner - not the renter), so we suffered without air-conditioning for the remainder of our stay.
After 4 weeks and no letter or refund from the Beals (the rental agreement states this would be sent in no more than 3 weeks after departure), I contacted the Beal's by email and was told that we were not receiving a refund because we were being charged $375 for propane and $35 for electricity for "excessive spa use". Several days later we received a letter (http://home.comcast.net/~rtclib4/certified_letter.jpg) stating we were being charged $375 for propane and $84 for the plumber, contradicting the original email (http://home.comcast.net/~rtclib4/email1.jpg). The Beal's provided no rational for their calculation or proof of the amount of propane that was actually used.
We used the spa less than 12 hours total and did not believe it was possible we could have used this amount of propane so I did some research and discovered a site (http://www.ordinis.com/buyers/heatbuyer.htm) that sells propane pool/spa heaters and on this page they include an example (at the bottom of the page) where in the fall months of the northeast (this place is located in Pennsylvania) you can heat a 16'x32' pool (not spa) for 6 weeks for a total cost of $522. In fairness, this example uses a price of $1.20 per gallon, so if you recalculate using $2.50 per gallon it would cost $1090 to heat a pool this size for 6 weeks in the climate of the northeast in the fall which amounts to roughly $182 per week or roughly $26 per day. So how could we have used $375 worth of propane, in the middle of summer in Southern California, to heat the spa as Mr. Beals claims for 6 days? The answer is that it is impossible. If the Beals would continually keep the spa at an appropriate temperature instead of requiring their guests to turn it on and off and wait 45 minutes for it to come to temperature, it would likely use less propane to maintain the temperature than to have to reheat it from a colder temperature each time it is used. Perhaps this is why they require it be turned off after each use?
Also, for a luxury rental, of the 4 bedrooms only the master bedroom had a television and there was a 12 year old rear projection TV in the living room with an antiquated A/V system.
Though the house was very nicely landscaped, and the views are spectacular, the house in general was in disrepair. In addition to the plumbing issue, the burners in the BBQ grill were rotted through so the grill would not heat correctly, which Mr. Beals claimed was the way the grill should operate. Anyone that owns and regularly uses a gas grill understands that this happens and the grill needs serviced every few years (that is why they sell replacement burners for gas grills). The spa motor controls, which according to National Electric Code, that should be located at the spa or within sight from the spa had been "temporarily" relocated to the spa/pool equipment area some 100 ft (approx) away from the fenced in pool/spa area. Additionally the spa wiring which also according to the National Electric Code must be located in conduit was exposed creating a potential shock hazard and also was just hanging and had duct tape around the button (http://home.comcast.net/~rtclib4/spa_wire.jpg) (http://home.comcast.net/~rtclib4/spa_button.jpg). Again, there were no screens in most windows and because of this they request the windows remain closed (see photo of bulletin board).
We have been forced to contact the Southland BBB in regard to this matter and have provided them with supporting documentation. I will be posting a website with complete details and documentation in the near future.