Would you refund for inconvenience? Electric Fault due to overload

So the current guests have been the most demanding so far. Been 2 nights here and the amount of electricity they are consuming is exorbitant. In Malta central heating does not exist yet they expect the space to be very warm which is not possible due to the high humidity. So they asked me for an extra heater which I did provide them, I also gave them an extra blanket “just in case” which they thanked me for. So far not a big deal.

They call me at 8pm that the power is out, I go (its a 15minute drive from my home) and I find they had the electric oven, toaster, electric cooker, water boiler and two 2000W heaters on at the same time! I had to call an electrician as the power would not go on. In the meantime my guests appeared unhappy that their dinner was spoilt and left to eat at a restaurant. Thankfully I found an electrician at such a late hour, he we was there in 30 minutes! Upon inspection he found the electric cables in the fuse box had melted due to a very heavy overload. He fixed the fault and I can’t tell you what a sigh of relief that was. Total downtime from time of guests calling me was about 1hr 30min. Would you offer a refund for such an inconvenience?

I think I’m going to have to write it in the house rules not to switch on too many appliances at once.

That doesn’t sound like heavy overload in terms of what a lot of people would be used to. I think most houses wiring is designed to withstand a lot more than that.
I would refund them maybe 1 night and then be sure to warn all future guest how limited your electricity is


This is a very old house, although electricity has been updated over the years. I will get the system checked perhaps to make sure nothing is wrong.

I agree with @Gardenhost. Also, it would avert future problems if you state in your listing that you don’t have central heating and say what the usual temperature is in your house. In our listing we state that we don’t have air conditioning as many people expect it.

That is a lot of wattage for an older system, in my opinion. I can think of any number of cabins I have rented in New Hampshire that would never keep up with that load.


I know, I’ve also stayed in places like that and I think most people won’t mind if they know what to expect. Those who do will move on .

Just thinking in terms of how a lot of people live these days. It’s not uncommon in many households to have several devices charging, dinner cooking, the heating going and the TV on the background. Maybe mum or dad are vacuuming and there’s a load in the washing machine. Granny’s making a cup of tea. Grandad’s mowing the lawn with the electric mower… maybe this scenario is a little exaggerated but probably not all that uncommon when you think about it


You are correct. Our house was built in 1926. When we moved in we couldn’t run two electric appliances in the same room at the same time. We upgraded the wiring and added new circuits.

That doesn’t seem like an overload to me, especially in colder weather. I also don’t think it is ‘demanding’ that guests contact you when there’s no power.

Our home is older (1940s) with the original wiring but we often have similar appliances running with no problems. It may be that we have a more robust system than Malta but no matter where I was staying, I would expect to be able to run appliances supplied by the host to cause no problems because of their usage.

Going forward, I’d mention the electricity problem in the house tour.

I think I would partial refund enough to cover the cost of dinner. They also cost you money but if you didn’t have rules or guidelines how would they know? I just spent $300 to have another circuit added to my guest room for the window AC. I don’t want to take a chance on tripping a circuit breaker.

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I wouldn’t refund for an issue that you resolved. Especially since they were the ones who caused it. My sense is that you are going to get a crap review anyway from these people so save the money and don’t refund!


That load would easily trip our electricity in Barcelona. Older homes in Europe are not the same as the US, and even if the electricity has been retrofitted (like ours has) there is still the possibility of overload. When I make American Thanksgiving in Barcelona I typically trip the power at least 3 times.

@travellinbug I agree with the others that you should mention these ‘quirks’ in your house rules or welcome document.

I wouldn’t refund, but may just leave a nice bottle of wine. You are going to get a sht review regardless so don’t do too much.

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I would not refund for an issue which they caused and you fixed very quickly. Well, maybe the cost of dinner… Hopefully they won’t be staying much longer.

Mt partner’s father retired to Spain and live up in the foothills of the Pyrenees, in a house that although built since Franco died, was built to “country standards” His place wouldn’t take that load either, without frying!

Heck we had a refrigerator line leak recently that flooded the area behind the fridge and into the master bedroom under the Pergo flooring. That circuit would not handle two de-humidifiers running at the same time without popping the breaker, and this is a house built “only” 40 years ago here in the States. It sounds like tarvelinbug’s rental doesn’t even have circuit breakers.

Tell those guests that they are darn lucky that they did not start an electrical fire which would have destroyed your rental and their luggage, if not their lives!

I’d wait and see if they ask for one first. If they ask for one, I might make some sort of offer. They couldn’t have known that they’d overload the circuitry.

Spain is very much ‘if it works, it’s not broken’ country. :joy:

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@travellinbug, I’d not reimburse them: seems like evenly mutual inconvenience on this one!

If you make a house note, I’d be clear that this is a Malta cultural thing, not you choosing to install a central heating system.

Sort of like, when I visited Nepal I wondered why my boutique hotel had such crappy WiFi. Then I realize all of the internet sometimes goes out (along with the electricity) and I figured out it was a country thing and not anything my hotel could’ve done. So, letting people know it’s a cultural thing could go a long way in setting guest expectations to the on-the-ground reality!

Thank you all for your feedback. For the record I do have a circuit
breaker, its illegal not to have one. However my understanding is that
circuit breakers only trip when you have a leak through earth.

Following this incident I’m going to get an electrician in next week to do
a proper testing of the system, I don’t take any chances with safety.

The guests will be leving today. I think as a host I did my best to address
the issue promptly. I don’t want to blame my guests for the problem, as
some of you suggested they might not be used to living in an old house and
they could not have known of this limit. This is something I have to tell
all my future guests.

Thanks once again,


That is a “ground fault circuit interrupter”. This prevents people getting electrocuted.

A fuse is the thing that switches off when an electrical circuit gets overloaded. In the past it was a a cable with a smaller diameter in a small box, because it was thinner it would burn first, thus protecting the rest of your circuit.

The thing that probably killed your system was the second heater. That was the (heavy) straw that broke the camels back. It would also be VERY VERY strange to have all the elements you mention (electric oven, toaster, electric cooker, water boiler and two 2000W heaters) on one single circuit. That is not normal. Although I am not an electrician (so I’m not 100% sure) I think an electrical water boiler should be on it’s own circuit. Sockets where you plug in heaters should have cabling that can take the extra Watts.
Hasn’t your electrical instillation been certified before you started renting out?

Humidity is no reason why a space can’t be heated. Lack of a sufficiently powerful heating system, and lack of good insulation even more so, are reasons why rooms don’t heat up.
I think it’s acceptable to rent out a property without decent heating, but you should clearly warn people in advance. Because lot’s of people won’t be expecting a cold environment.

I would partially refund the guests, because OR you didn’t equip your place upto standard OR you didn’t inform your guest well. In both cases it was your fault.
Your guests were simply not that smart in their expectations and their actions, but not all people are smart. When thinking of a listing, the rules, the recommendations you should always keep the absolute dumbest people in mind.

That can easily overload any system, if some of them were on the same circuit.

Normal, rewired panel boxes have 20 amp circuits for normal rooms. That’s about 2200-2300 watt. So, a 2000 watt heater already pushes it to the limit. If they then add another heater to the same circuit, they would overload it.

All heating elements (toaster, electric cooker, water boiler, electric overn) use a tremendous amount of wattage. There’s only so much wattage per breaker and you can’t add the wattage of several breakers together.

While most people don’t know this, it was definitely the guests’ fault, even if not in purpose.

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I am constantly amazed at what nice places are available in my town, some are “entire homes,” MIL suites or guest houses for under $50 a night.

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Don’t forget outside of the US the voltage is different. Coupled with old wires and heavy loads would easily cause this.