The North Carolina Real Estate Commission has received more than 100 complaints from people who paid to rent a vacation property but couldn't use it because of storm damage.
The vacationers all have the same complaint: They want their money back.
A representative of the commission told a Raleigh television station that the renters are entitled to a refund, even if the property owners or rental agencies aren't sending the money back. Under the state Vacation Rental Act, if a vacation home is rendered inaccessible or has suffered significant damage, a refund or access to a similar home at the same price is required, even if the renter didn't buy insurance at the time of signing the contract.
Nine people who complained to the television's station consumer reporter revealed they were out a combined total of nearly $29,000 in rent payments they had already made.
One man who was interviewed said he had put down $4,700 for two weeks in Surf City, North Carolina, for an anniversary celebration this fall. But when Hurricane Florence struck the area in September, the man called the property manager of the unit he reserved to find out the condition of the property.
He told the TV station that he was told "...all rentals have been suspended for the foreseeable future, nobody is allowed. We're not renting, we're not doing anything." But when he asked about a refund of the money he had paid, he was told he wasn't entitled to one because he didn't purchase rental insurance.
Staff members at the state Attorney General's office, the Department of Insurance and the Real Estate Commission are expected to take a second look at the law to see if gray areas can be clarified.
That won't help this batch of renters, some of whom have filed lawsuits to try to recoup their losses. A real estate attorney can assist in cases like these, and future renters could ask an attorney to review rental contracts before they are signed.