we moved to HK 6 months ago. before arriving we booked a serviced apartment (from the uk) for a duration of1.5 month (time we gave ourselves to find a place to live). we paid 1month rent and 1 month of deposit upfront.
we arrived and it turned out that the place was not really looking like the pictures on the website, it was not modern as described on the website. it was basically a tiny flat with no windows in the living room (1 window in the kitchen, one window in the bedroom) and old furniture. we left 2 days after arriving. (not the type of place I would have kept my family in for 1.5months)
we never received a contract from them (they said they would send one but never did) and the whole communication was on whatsapp. furthermore we agreed by chat to have an apartment on the 3rd floor (2nd floor was booked apparently) they gave us an apartment on the 4th floor (without lift).
anyway they charged us the full amount (1.5months) and categorically refuse to refund anything else.
I spoke with a lawyer (the free legal advise) who told me it's a case of false advertising and misrepresentation and that I should bring that case to the small claims tribunal, which I did.
on the day of the hearing, for some reason, the serviced apartment representative didn't make it to court but it was not their fault so the case was adjourned. I still sat in the court with the judge who listened to my case and told me few interesting things which left me confused and pessimistic :
- even though he agrees that the pictures we took from the apartment and the pictures on the website differ, he said that pictures on website are just pictures and therefore opened to interpretation , same conclusion regarding the description of the flat online, it's all opened to interpretation.... (I was a bit surprised by that one to be honest, how can pictures and black on white words be open to interpretation is beyond my naive brain)
- also he said that WhatsApp chat is not legally binding the same way as a contract is and therefore in absence of a contract, the cancellation and refund policies are whatever the website says. in that case, not refundable.
the next hearing is in 2 weeks and I feel a bit lost here. I i went to court feeling optimistic based on my conversation with the lawyer but the judge seems to think otherwise.
i guess any advice or anyone with similar experience would be helpful. fundamentally I've nothing to lose when I go to the hearing, It seems I can only hope for the hotel to do a gesture of goodwill but that genuinely surprises me that an hotel can get away with that.