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Lawmakers Give Beach Renters Peace of Mind

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RALEIGH — This time of year a lot of families line up vacation houses on the North Carolina coast, but anything from hurricanes to a shoddy rental unit can ruin their summer fun. Tuesday, state lawmakers stepped in to make sure that does not happen.

Under current law, landlords are not required to make sure their vacation properties are safe for renters. They also are not obligated to give renters a refund if a hurricane ruins their trip. A senate bill would change the law to protect renters.

Bill Conley's family rented a house at Indian Beach to celebrate his parents' 50th wedding anniversary. They were posing for a sunset photograph when the second floor deck they were standing on collapsed.

"Within seconds there was screaming, crying, bodies all over the place," Conley said.

Eleven people were injured. The deck was held in place by rusty nails instead of bolts. But when the Conleys tried to sue the homeowner and realtor, the case was thrown out of court because North Carolina law does not protect vacation renters.

A bill approved by aSenatecommittee Tuesday would change that.

"If you're injured as a short-term renter, you're protected in North Carolina," Sen. R.C. Soles said. "You can sue to get your damages and be protected."

The Vacation Rental Act also offers renters some protection from the unpredictable. Property managers would be required to offer "trip insurance." If the renter buys the insurance, and a hurricane forces them to evacuate, they will get a refund.

"When you rent you can be offered insurance and if you take out the insurance and your vacation is interrupted, you get an opportunity to recover," Soles said.

If renters do not buy the insurance, they will not get a refund. The insurance will not cost more than 8 percent of the rental price. So if the renter pays $500 for a week-long rental, he or she would pay $40 at the most for insurance.


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