Bali villas .con – Rank and vile?
By Bali BS News
Aug 5, 2005, 09:25
This is the first of our two reports regarding Bali villas, from the perspective of the holiday maker just looking to rent the perfect vacation home. Our next article will detail the rocky road fraught with risks through fraud and corruption to actually owning their own dream villa in Bali. For now and the holidaymaker though, the Bali villa tricks start early on......
First, because the term “villa” is perceived to mean extra appeal and profit, it is a magnet for the hotel marketing department. For example, you have the likes of the The Dewata Beach Hotel suddenly renaming itself as “Wana Villas”, which is incredible given the literal meaning of a villa and the fact this hotel has some pretty mundane 3 level concrete structures. Ok, Dewata / Wana have some separate rooms, but the rush to rename hotel bungalows as villas is not really accurate to say the least. The term “villa” comes from Roman times, and even during its abuse by the British describing, as they did, domestic residence bungalows as villas, at least they still had kitchens, lounges and separate bedrooms, etc.
We are pretty sure the minimum legal requisites to use the term “villa” in the EU, Australia or USA would be an above average house with its own kitchen. Not a detached or semi-detached hotel room with its own roof! But then, we are dealing with Balinese businesses and Indonesian descriptions here. Although western travel agents offering holidays in hotel rooms which are described as villas, when they are not, may well be liable for an Indonesian businessman’s marketing zeal. Even if a property described as a “villa” is not a hotel room, if it is not an above average house with its own kitchen, it is not a villa. And there are many holiday homes on Bali that therefore make false claim.
Of course, the deception does not stop there. Many private holiday homes on Bali were built as holiday homes, for the owners, not for tourists. That is, they are not licensed, which does equate to some risk for anyone that puts a deposit down on an unlicensed villa which may be closed down before they arrive, or worst still while they are there! And even when villas are licensed, their web sites may paint a much rosier picture than is true. Of course, every villa owner wants to portray their property in the best light. But forum postings seem to suggest Bali has perhaps more than its fair share of over-stated villa web sites. The problem is, villas mostly require advance payment, so there is very little a person can do when they arrive and find their slice of paradise is actually an unfinished building slightly larger than a shed in the shadow of a karaoke bar and with a swimming pool so small only a 3 year old could be claimed to be able to actually swim in it.
Then there are the outright cheats. What follows is just one example of what perhaps happens too often in Bali. It is about Englishman Paul Harvey and his former property, Canggu Sunset Villas. We should add that Canggu Sunset Villas is now owned by one Heather Flanders, but we have concerns about her too, as we will detail shortly. Paul Harvey took 1000 dollars deposit money from one Australian lady we shall refer to as Mrs. West. We are told that there is evidence Mr. Harvey had already sold Canggu Sunset Villas to Heather Flanders by the time he took Mrs. West’s money, which would make what he did fraud of course. We also have heard speculation that Paul Harvey and Heather Flanders are friends, which seems to be supported somewhat by how Ms. Flanders reacts.
Anyway, Mrs. West paid her deposit money in good faith. Her holiday was very important to her as it was her once a year respite from her critical and permanently ill daughter, who she has to devote the rest of her time to. Mrs. West is not a wealthy woman by any stretch of a westerner’s imagination. So when she found out she did not have a villa and that it became clear Paul Harvey was not the sort of person to make a refund, Mrs. West had to change her plans by staying at much more humble accommodations, because she was 1000 dollars light. Despite numerous attempts to get her money back before and after her holiday, and despite the pious words of Mr. Paul Harvey, she was unsuccessful. In fact, while she was in Bali, she went to the police and then went to Mr. Harvey’s latest villa in Seminyak, where she was heard to be told by Mr. Harvey to (word resembling “chuck”) off.
As for Heather Flanders the new owner of Canggu Sunset Villas, she reported that she had honoured other people’s bookings made through Paul Harvey, but she was unable to honour Mrs. West’s booking. Heather Flanders also stated she had involved lawyers and the police against Paul Harvey. However, it was pointed out that Paul Harvey seemed to have taken Mrs. West’s money while he was no longer the owner of Canggu Sunset Villas, therefore he apparently committed fraud. When Heather Flanders was asked to help Mrs. West herself file a complaint against Mr. Harvey, Heather Flanders failed to oblige. Hmmmm. Although Ms. Flanders may well be as innocent as they come and equally a victim of Paul Harvey, it does seem strange that her words professing good deeds could not be applied to one Mrs. West, 1000 dollars short, not even to the extent of helping her put Mr. Harvey in jail for criminal fraud, when Heather has said she was involved in a police complaint against him anyway, hmmmm.
Therefore, bearing in mind the corrupt state of Indonesia’s police and often questionable ethics of its villa owners, potential holiday makers looking to rent a Bali villa may well want to take stock of the fact they have little or no protection, and very little recourse if things are not as they should be. What amazed us though when we read through the emails sent by Paul Harvey and Heather Flanders was the piety they exuded. It seems most definitely in Paul Harvey’s case and apparently in Heather Flanders’, piety amongst Bali's villa owners may often count for peanuts. Buyer or rather renter beware, very beware.