Police called in as house swap gets dirty
For the English mother, it was the house swap from hell. When Andrea Moczarski swapped her four-bedroom home in Britain for an Aussie family's three-bedroom home on NSW's central coast, she was expecting a relaxed Christmas with her two young children.
Arriving in the dark, the English family stumbled around in search of a light - and stepped in one of seven piles of dog poo left by an untended dog. And once they gained entry to the Australian home owned by the Browns (not their real name), it was dirty and had cockroaches, Ms Moczarski said.
From then, the house swap descended into threats, insults on social media and calls to the police. Within a week, the Brown family had left Ms Moczarski's home near Manchester and gave the British family three hours to vacate theirs.
For families such as the Moczarskis and the Browns, house swaps have become an increasingly popular and cheap way to travel.
But, as one home-exchange veteran said: ''One person's clean isn't always another person's clean.''
The site used by the two families, HomeForExchange.com, says it has organised more than 500,000 swaps but fielded only 200 complaints. Most of these were about ''broken cup'' issues or varying standards of cleanliness, the site's owner, Ans Lammers, said.
''Once we received a complaint from a member that she found dust on top of a kitchen cupboard when she stood up a stair to reach the top,'' Ms Lammers said.
Ms Moczarski said the NSW home did not appear to have been cleaned, although it was tidied. A gift was left for the two children. But there was little space for the family to hang their clothes during their three-week stay. An earlier agreement to swap cars had not worked out because the Australians could not get British insurance.
The British family spent over $200 on cleaning products.
''We had the attitude that we are here now, let's just sort it out,'' Ms Moczarski said. ''We were cleaning the carpet, cleaning the chairs, buying air freshener.''
When she contacted the Browns for advice after the vacuum cleaner broke, the Aussies were so offended by the suggestion their house was dirty that they quit the British home in protest. As the English family returned from church on the Sunday before Christmas, a relative of the Browns told them to get out, prompting Ms Moczarski to call the police. After consulting two police officers, the family refused to vacate the NSW home.
When Mrs Brown told friends on Facebook the swap was going badly, she added: ''Unbelievably, they think our house is the house from hell.''
The Browns contacted HomeForExchange.com for advice.
''I tend to see the reaction of Andrea on the dog poo and cockroaches issue [as] a bit exaggerated,'' Ms Lammers said.
Bee Cogger, a spokeswoman for houseswapholidays.com.au, said she had not heard of such a case and cleanliness should be discussed in depth before a swap.