A Big White vacation rental host has been ordered by the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal to repay $4,900 to guests who cancelled their 2020 trip due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the resort.
On Dec. 12, 2020, Francine Borsanyi, Patrick Blain, and Dennis Diemert reserved Laurinda Kalawarny’s vacation home for Jan. 18-25, 2021 for a total cost of $5,399.39 including taxes and cleaning fees. The group later attempted to cancel their booking when it became clear that travelling to Big White was out of the question.
Prior to the booking, Blain messaged Kalawarny to ask about the cancellation policy if the resort was shuttered due to COVID.
“Thank you for your concerns, if the mountain shuts down there would be a full refund of your deposit,” Kalawarny replied.
The tribunal found that while Big White was still open for locals, it was effectively “shut down” for the group since they were from outside of the province. At the time, Big White was only open to locals and a public health order was placed restricting travel bookings to locals only. That order remained in place until Feb. 5, 2021.
Kalawarny encouraged the group to travel anyway, saying that other out-of-province guests used the rental while the public health order was in place and that Big White did not check where guests came from.
“Accepting Ms. Kalawarny’s interpretation of the contract would mean expecting the applicants to contravene a PHO order and Big White’s rules and hope not to be caught doing so. I see no reason to endorse such an interpretation,” tribunal member Micah Carmody wrote.
Kalawarny’s vacation rental is listed for an average of $900 per night on Vrbo under the name Laurinda Summers. A notice has been added to the rental description notifying vacationers that Big White “is not cancelling ski passes,” and “a local address is not required.”
This was not Kalawarny’s first case at the tribunal. She and her then-husband Darren Kalawarny were ordered to pay $3,145 to a guest who cancelled a booking at the couple’s vacation home in May 2020.
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