The owner of a Victorian Airbnb, which was rated Australia’s best holiday home in 2020, may not find itself in pole position at the end of 2021.
The owner has been charged with allegedly threatening a guest who left a one-star review of the property. The property is called Clifftop At Hepburn. It is a luxurious property which, at the time of writing, is being advertised on Airbnb for $563 a night.
According to The Daily Mail, the businessman, Matthew Taylor, left a negative review of the property on TripAdvisor after his booking was cancelled. This allegedly sparked a stream of menacing messages from the host, David Penman.
The messages were reportedly sent in June last year. The review was left that same month.
The (one star) TripAdvisor review reads as follows: “Horrible experience, lucky it didn’t go further Yesterday we booked via Qantas for 4 nights at clifftop online. We followed up with a phone call to clarify some things and have a chat with the lady there.”
“During the conversation I asked about the second room charge for the night. On their own website under the bookings -> compare section it clearly stated an extra room was $199. When I mentioned this to the lady I could hear another man in the background talking over the top of us saying it was $298 not $199, carrying on about the ‘correct price being at all contract touch points’, whatever that means… I said no problem, we were just enquiring because we were thinking about taking our parents, however it may pay to take down the contrary information on the website and I sent the link through for their convenience.”
“Here’s the kicker, not only did this aggressive man refuse to own their mistake and honour the offer, not only did he say no, he cancelled our booking without notice or conversation! I have the email exchange to back it up as well…. I’ve never had someone in hospitality behave in such a childish manor even when fault isn’t clear, let along react like this when they’re clearly at fault for advertising the incorrect price under the booking section in their website. I have the email exchange however it goes against TripAdvisor guidelines, so I have removed it as requested.”
The property is currently being advertised on Airbnb. Its achievements are also evident on the page.
“CROWNED AUSTRALIA’S NO.1 FROM 55,000 HOLIDAY HOMES IN 2020,” the description on Airbnb reads.
“Australia’s Tesla Destination 2020. Australia’s No.1 Holiday Home 2019. Australia’s No.1 Most Unique Accommodation 2019. As seen on The Today Show 2019. Ranked one of the world’s Top 60 places to elope.”
There are also many positive reviews of the property on both Airbnb and TripAdvisor. It has an average review score of 4.97 stars on Airbnb and, of the 29 TripAdvisor reviews that have been left of it, 25 of them are ‘Excellent’ (one is ‘Very Good,’ one is ‘Average,’ one is ‘Poor’ and one is ‘Terrible’).
Practically everyone who has actually stayed there appears to have had an amazing time, with Instagram being full of fabulous photos, and review platforms being full of praise.
One Instagram post by Instagram account @clifftopathepburn reads: “Clifftop at Hepburn. Luxury accommodation so good that were often chosen as the location to launch new brands.”
What caused Mr Taylor to leave a bad review is not the property itself (which it seems he never ended up staying at, with Mr Penman cancelling his booking after their price dispute), but a minor price dispute (and how it was dealt with).
The host, Mr Penman, who is 53, “was due to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court this week,” The Age reported on Saturday, “after allegedly sending a barrage of threatening messages to Matthew Taylor in June last year.”
The Age reported: “Following a police investigation, Mr Penman was charged with one count of using a carriage device to menace on June 25 last year and one count of using a carriage device to harass between June 25 and June 28.”
“In the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday, the matter was adjourned until February next year, when Mr Penman will contest the charges. Mr Penman’s lawyer, Zac Griffiths from Harwood Andrews Lawyers, said his client disputed the allegations made by police and Mr Taylor, and would vigorously defend the matter,” (The Age).
This isn’t the first time this luxurious property has come under media scrutiny. Mr Penman took another would-be guest to court last year.
The Daily Mail reports: “In October 2020, Dave Penman sued Kaleen Dalliston for defamation after she slammed his holiday rental in a series of posts on Facebook and Tripadvisor,” after she claimed he was too slow to give her a refund.
“Ms Dalliston was due to stay at the property in August last year and she claimed she was not refunded when Victoria’s longest lockdown put a pause on her trip, so she went on social media to warn other travellers about her experience,” The Daily Mail reports.
“In her online review she claimed Mr Penman was only professional when she was providing him with money and ‘disappeared’ when it came time to ask for a refund.”
Mr Penman reportedly sought aggravated damages after claiming the reputation of his business was damaged by Ms Dalliston’s posts, and argued Ms Dalliston did not share the fact that she was offered a full refund and had agreed to wait before being contacted by the business.
According to The Daily Mail: “Mr Penman had sought a permanent injunction from the court to stop Ms Dalliston from posting further statements of a similar nature” and “the legal dispute was resolved when both parties agreed to an undisclosed settlement.”