July 3, 2014. Tropical Storm Arthur is moving toward North Carolina during one of the busiest weeks of the summer travel season and many consumers are wondering what it could mean for their vacation plans. Attorney General Roy Cooper and his Consumer Protection Division today offered tips for consumers who’ve rented a house or reserved a hotel along the North Carolina coast.
“Know your rights as a consumer in case this storm disrupts your vacation,” Cooper said. “Be sure to check with your hotel or rental agency so you know what to expect if you need to evacuate or can’t get to your destination.”
North Carolina’s Vacation Rental Act (N.C. General Statute Chapter 42-A) protects consumers who rent a vacation property for fewer than 90 days. Under the law, the landlord must give you a written rental agreement that spells out your rights and obligations as a tenant, the rights and obligations of the landlord and/or broker, and the details of what you’ll pay.
Once you sign a vacation rental agreement, you and the landlord agree to abide by its terms. Landlords are required by law to keep the property safe and habitable.
If your vacation gets cancelled or cut short by the threat of a hurricane:
Your landlord may have offered you insurance on your vacation rental, which would cover the cost of any nights you miss due to a mandatory evacuation. If you’re ordered to evacuate and were not given a chance to purchase insurance, the landlord is required to refund your money for each night you can’t stay at the rental property due to the mandatory evacuation. But if you were offered rental insurance when you signed the rental agreement and you didn’t take it, then the owner isn’t required to refund your money in case of a mandatory evacuation.
If you’re unable to reach your vacation rental property because of closed roads or other transportation problems caused by a disaster, contact the rental agency or landlord. Whether or not you are entitled to a refund will depend upon the facts of your particular situation, such as whether or not alternate routes are open.
If you rented the property through a real estate or property management company and have a complaint or question, contact the North Carolina Real Estate Commission at(919) 875-3700.
Many consumers have booked rooms at hotels along the North Carolina coast for the Fourth of July weekend. If you’re concerned that you may not be able to keep your reservation due to severe weather, contact the hotel right away.
It’s always a good idea to ask about cancellation policies before you book a hotel room. Some hotels require a deposit or other upfront payment that you may lose if you cancel or otherwise change your reservation.
If you paid in advance, whether or not you may be eligible for a refund will likely depend on the hotel’s cancellation policy and your specific circumstances. For example, if the electricity is out at the hotel, or the rooms are uninhabitable or unsafe for any reason, then you should be entitled to get your money back.
To file a complaint about a North Carolina hotel or motel, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within the state or file a complaint online atwww.ncdoj.gov.
For more tips, including how to protect yourself from storm-related scams, please visit www.ncdoj.gov.
Price gouging law in effect due to Arthur, says AG Cooper
North Carolina’s strong price gouging law is now in effect along the coast because a state of emergency has been declared due to Arthur, Attorney General Roy Cooper notified businesses and consumers today.
“We’re warning price gougers not to use this crisis as an excuse to make an unfair profit off of consumers,” said Cooper.
Under a state of emergency declared today, the price gouging law is in effect in 26 coastal counties including: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Jones, Martin, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Tyrrell and Washington counties.
Price gouging—or charging too much in times of crisis—is against North Carolina law when a disaster, an emergency or an abnormal market disruption for critical goods and services is declared or proclaimed by the Governor. The law also applies to all levels of the supply chain from the manufacturer to the distributor to the retailer.
Cooper has enforced North Carolina’s price gouging law (NC General Statute 75-38) in the past to win thousands of dollars in refunds for consumers and penalties from violators.
“Most businesses pull together to help their community when severe weather threatens, but if you spot anyone using Arthur to try to justify ripping you off, let my office know about it,” Cooper said.
Consumers can report potential price gouging to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or by filling out a complaint form at www.ncdoj.gov.