A year ago – before Covid transformed our lives – we booked a holiday cottage through Character Cottages to allow our extended family to spend Christmas 2020 together.

By August, it became clear that those in the US would not be allowed to visit, so following a conversation with Character Cottages we cancelled. Such was the demand at the time, the company immediately re-let the property to another customer.

At the time I was told that we would have to wait until after the dates of our booking in December to have our £730 deposit returned.

Now, a year after paying it, I have been told that the owner has refused to return it as he had made so many losses due to Covid cancellations.

Character Cottages offered me its commission and fees – £193 – towards the refund of the deposit, as a goodwill gesture, which I have, so far, not accepted. I feel that I cancelled knowing that another person would rebook it and I’d like the whole deposit back.

Initially, it suggested I claim on our travel insurance, which I have. I have also lodged a complaint with the Competition and Markets Authority about this. What would you do?

LW, by email

Clearly it is worth waiting to see if your travel insurance pays up, although I would be surprised if it does.

Character Cottages, which has at least offered to refund you its fees, told me its terms and conditions allow the owner to refuse to refund your 30% deposit on the basis that you chose to cancel. It says the owner of the cottage was forced to refund the person who took over your booking, because their contract was frustrated by the subsequent Christmas lockdown.

In your shoes, I would take the £193, and then take this up with your card provider. Richard Colbey, a barrister at Lamb Chambers, says you should argue that you were “released” from the contract during the call with the agent. Arguably, you are inside the chargeback time limit as this only came to light in January. If that fails, head to Money Claim Online and file a claim against the owner of the cottage for the remaining £537, and see what happens.

While many holiday cottage owners have come out of this year well, others have not. I suspect that this cottage will be fully booked this year – maybe at higher prices than previous years, although the agent claims not.

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