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Smoke Hazard, Rental Companies. and Renters Rights

Laurel, MD
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Smoke Hazard, Rental Companies. and Renters Rights

Has anyone been notified by their Rental company about the fire and health dangers?

Has anyone successfully gotten their money back or been moved to later in the year?

Has anyone paid by credit card and gotten their card company to intervene?

Has anyone suffered health issues and incurred costs?

I'm considering legal action so reply I'd interested. The OBX companies are allowed by a consumer unfriendly Vacation Act law to make customers buy insurance they make a commission on in lieu of delivering a safe habitable residence. Code purple air quality is not safe and can csuse temporary or chronic health issues.

Kitty Hawk, North...
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for Outer Banks
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1. Re: Smoke Hazard, Rental Companies. and Renters Rights

Since I live here and breath the air you only see 7 days a year, I can say you are making a mountain out of an ant hill. A visit to NY City has just as bad air, at times, and it is here just the same, "AT TIMES" and not all the time. The past 4 days was totally smoke free here. Today smells like an ashtray.

Usually the insurance is an option offered to you, assuming you are talking about trip insurance and not the damage waiver insurance that covers you for breaking something.

Charlotte, North...
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for North Carolina
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2. Re: Smoke Hazard, Rental Companies. and Renters Rights

Savvy travelers purchase travel insurance; for a few extra dollars it provides piece of mind, you can purchase minimum coverage that would cover if you became ill and could not travel, up to coverage where you can decide not to go on your vacation for ANY reason. I never plan a vacation without buying traveler's insurance, no matter where I travel. Most people I know, do the same.

The reality companies, and homeowners are renting you ACCOMMODATIONS, and as long as they are able to provide you the accommodations you contracted to rent with electricity, water, appliances, plus other amenities listed etc., they are making good on their part of the contract. There are many things that are out of their control; so why because people are too cheap to purchase travel insurance, should the reality companies and homeowners lose money because something out of their control does not suit?

I've been on vacations several times in my life where wildfires were burning nearby, (Disney World, Fl, and California) it was never mentioned beforehand. I've been on vacations where storm fronts have stayed in the area all week, pouring rain the entire week, plus created dangerous conditions on the ocean/beach/river. (Key West, FL; Isle of Palms, S.C. and Southern China) Years ago, we rented an oceanfront home with friends in North Myrtle Beach, most of the week the beach was covered in piles of smelly seaweed, and many washed up dead jellyfish; so bad we couldn't use the beach. In each of these vacations, our accommodations were in the conditions promised, and so we "regrouped", dealt with what was what going on it the area, and enjoyed our vacations. According to you, I should have been able to get my money back from my accommodations because the surroundings weren't perfect.....so how far do you want to go? A few weeks ago I was down at our family's beach home, and discovered that the vacant lot next door, is now having a home built on it. All day, every day I was down there, I could hear nailing, drills, and workers yelling at each other, it appears this will be going on all summer. The house is rented all summer; so even though our house is perfectly fine, with more amenities than ever, we should not rent our home this summer because there is something going on next door that is out of our control? If this is the way things should be, then soon there will be many less accommodations, and the ones left will be so expensive the great majority of people wouldn't be able to afford them. Owning vacation property is expensive, on good years, we "break even".

If people need perfect surroundings/conditions on their vacation, they are going to be disappointed more often than not. Their best bet would be to stay home and watch the Travel channel.

Buy travel insurance, or stop whining.

Laurel, MD
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3. Re: Smoke Hazard, Rental Companies. and Renters Rights

First, I think there is a difference between "perfect" surroundings and known hazardous conditions dangerous to health. Some say it "just smells like an ashtray" but I've done research both on peat fires in general and health studies of Muscuvites after their big fire last year and there can be significant impact. This isn't noise or jellyfish, but a condition that can cause serious long lasting health affects. In fact, the government is actively putting out alerts.

But either way, my quarrel is the companies should have notified renters of the situation once they knew. Even if you had trip insurance, how could you go about making a claim prior to arrival if you don't know?

Several of the travel insurance companies have refused to pay. So it really isn't a remedy for this situation. If you unknowingly rented after May 6th, you are also out of luck because it was a known situation that the companies didn't disclose so insurance won't pay. The bottom line is nobody is willing to step up.

As to insurance -- one of the companies leases reads such that if a tornado ripped the roof of your very nice house then the company (and you) would still make me pay and my only remedy would be to buy travel insurance that the real estate company gets a commission on. It's a racket to absolve the owner and company of the responsibility to deliver an inhabitable house.

In other areas, I've had situations such as no working water / sewer and also a case where black mold was all in the HVAC. Proper remedies were given - one was a move, the other a reimbursement for the time (over 24 hours) without water / sewer. Lots of things are out of everybody's control. But the default shouldn't be it is always the tenants job to take the loss, which is what you are arguing. For the construction, yes it's the tenant. If your house was advertised as 3 bathrooms and during the whole stay one of them was not functional, then it is you.

In this case, I think there is some shared liability. A business owner made an investment in a house. An outside circumstance makes it hazardous for people to be in that area. I don't think that is on either party entirely, but perhaps a shared loss.

Bottom line - this is going to go on all summer. The companies and owners should be forced to disclose the risks prior to people renting, paying in full, and driving down. Many have done so with the Nags Head beach project, but not this. I'm out an additional $2000 simply because they didn't tell me. And insurance won't help in my case because of the timing.

But I'm looking for input from other tenants, not "big business" or people who live there that think "smelling like an ashtray" isn't a hazard.

Laurel, MD
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4. Re: Smoke Hazard, Rental Companies. and Renters Rights

OBX2000 - This is a peat fire. and the particulates are more like what is emitted from a coal fire than a regular wildfire. It's not at all like the ozone pollution in NYC. Have you studied particle size, the difference in the two, and the impact on health? Have you followed people from Moscow who suffered health affects from the peat fire last year? If it smells like an ashtray it is likely causing damage. Perhaps temporary, perhaps not.

And yes, there were a few nice days. But the prevailing winds are S/SW for most of the summer so it will become more of an issue as the summer drags on. Exposure is cumulative.

You and I disagree about the risk. But that's my point. Risk is an individual assessment. The companies should disclose the facts and let people make their own decisions. That's what I'm angry about. Non-disclosure. People are still renting and paying without being informed so they can make their own risk assessment.

Personally, I sent money to them in late May when they already knew about the issue. They should have informed me and I could have taken less of a loss, had time to re-rent, or had many other options available to me that I don't have now.

I'm looking for other tenants to try to band together to force the companies to disclose, disclose, disclose.

US
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5. Re: Smoke Hazard, Rental Companies. and Renters Rights

OBX200, with all due respect, "smells like an ashtray" strikes a stark contrast to the warning posted on the Weather Channel for Nags Head today (sorry about the caps):

.. AIR QUALITY ALERT IN EFFECT UNTIL 3 PM EDT FRIDAY...

THE NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES IN RALEIGH NC HAS ISSUED A RED PURPLE AIR QUALITY ACTION DAY FOR FINE PARTICULATES... IN EFFECT UNTIL 3 PM EDT FRIDAY.

AN AIR QUALITY ACTION DAY MEANS THAT FINE PARTICULATE CONCENTRATIONS WITHIN THE REGION MAY APPROACH OR EXCEED UNHEALTHY STANDARDS.

UNCMickey, the standard insurance policies that rental companies that I've seen do not cover smoke/particulates automatically--even for those with lung ailments. To be covered by this trip insurance, the traveler who suffers from emphysema, asthma or another lung ailment (but who currently is stable and whose disease is under control) has to go to the Outer Banks, he has to have trouble breathing, he has to see a doctor in that location and he has to get a confirmation from that doctor that the smoke is causing him to have trouble breathing, government air quality warnings notwithstanding. THEN he can file a claim.

(This certainly makes a good case for denying the standard insurance policy offered by the rental agencies and purchasing one's own full-coverage "no excuses needed" insurance. Live and learn.)

I do think it is perfectly understandable that folks who have plunked down several thousand dollars for one week--and paid for insurance, to boot--might be upset by the fact that some major particulates are going to be blowing their way.

BikeTraveler, I don't agree with your assessment in an earlier posting, "Hopefully this incident will expose most OBX rental agencies and owners as the crooks they are." I don't think that most OBX rental agencies are crooks. I think the vast majority are honest, hard-working people who are trying to do the best job they can. I do agree that some course corrections need to be made here in terms of disclosure.

.

Clemmons, North...
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for North Carolina, Winston Salem
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6. Re: Smoke Hazard, Rental Companies. and Renters Rights

Tough situation, and I know it must be frustrating, but I don't see any basis for legal action against the rental companies. If you booked in May, how could they know the fire would still be burning a month later?

Maybe they should have notified you about the fire just prior to your visit, but even then they shouldn't be expected to give you a refund. That's what trip insurance is for.

Charlotte, North...
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for North Carolina
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7. Re: Smoke Hazard, Rental Companies. and Renters Rights

This fire situation and the way it's being handled is the same as wildfires which have effected other vacation areas in our country. When we arrived in Orlando for our Disney World vacation there were State issued advisories and warnings on the TV news and radio, conditions changed each day, some days were good, other days sensitive people needed to stay indoors.

This type thing happens; however, the accommodations are still there, and they are safe to inhabit. There's no way to know how long a wildfire will be burning, or in what direction the fire and/or wind is going to blow; your accommodation provider does not hold the responsibility to notify you nor compensate you as long as your rental accommodations are inhabitable.

Vacationers must take responsibility and plan ahead for any problems which could arise by purchasing travel insurance as soon as they put a deposit on a vacation. (yes, filing a claim is often quite a pain) Vacationers must be responsible for their own health and safety by checking the weather/forecast and other conditions/safety issues at their destination before they travel..if traveling outside the country, one should check the U.S. State Dept. website for travel warnings or advisories....the government isn't going to call or email you to tell you about such things (unless you take the initiative and sign up for U.S. State Dept. travel warning emails).....Realtors, homeowners, Disney World, hotels, etc. are not liable to tell you these things either. The only time they would need to contact you would be if your accommodations are uninhabitable, and they can not find you a similar replacement.

As for the claim that a renter would be responsible for paying for a rental if the roof has been torn off by a tornado, this is not correct. By law, (NC Vacation Rentals Act) "if the landlord or real estate broker cannot provide the property in a fit and habitable condition or substitute a reasonably comparable property in such condition, the landlord and real estate broker shall refund to the tenant all payments made by the tenant." The contract for my vacation home reads this way, as does every other vacation rental agreement I've ever read/signed.

Also, FYI since we are in Hurricane Season....Per the N.C. Vacation Rentals Act.. "Mandatory evacuations. If State or local authorities, acting pursuant to Article 36A of Chapter 14 or Article 1 of Chapter 166A of the General Statutes, order a mandatory evacuation of an area that includes the residential property subject to a vacation rental, the tenant in possession of the property shall comply with the evacuation order. Upon compliance, the tenant shall be entitled to a refund from the landlord of the prorated rent for each night that the tenant is unable to occupy the property because of the mandatory evacuation order. The tenant shall not be entitled to a refund if: (i) prior to the tenant taking possession of the property, the tenant refused insurance offered by the landlord or real estate broker that would have compensated him or her for losses or damages resulting from loss of use of the property due to a mandatory evacuation order; or (ii) the tenant purchased insurance offered by the landlord or real estate broker. The insurance offered shall be provided by an insurance company duly authorized by the North Carolina Department of Insurance, and the cost of the insurance shall not exceed eight percent (8%) of the total rent charged for the vacation rental to the tenant."

Laurel, MD
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8. Re: Smoke Hazard, Rental Companies. and Renters Rights

Ways2Go - My recent experiences have been relatively unpleasant compared to other companies I would recommend (Railley Realty in MD). But maybe that's been a bad stroke of luck so I'll retract that they are all crooks. But it does seem to be biased towards owners / agencies with companies and repeat business and customer loyalty doesn't seem a factor.

But either way, given the severity of the fire situation I believe they should have dislcosed the facts. Not what they think is going to happen or what the impact might be to you. Simply the facts - wildfire here. Go here (government web sites) for more information and then let renters make their own deicsions. And yes, I'm just plain mad now.

I found articles as early as May 10th with pretty dire warnings about health impact (in the south) so if I had been informed I would have figured the winds would turn S/SW with the usual Bermuda high that comes in during summer and impact OBX. I've also extensively researched peat fires and no, it isn't going to "go out".

I don't expect a refund of my deposit. I expected notification so I could decide whether I should cancel and hope for a re-rent and possibly lose deposit, try to find another renter to take my week who isn's sensitive to smoke, and so on.

Right now I've made the credit card charge for final payment, but haven't paid the card company. If I don't get a satisfactory resolution I'll probably dispoute the charge and let the legal people decide of the realty company withheld a material fact they should have disclosed.

@uncmickey - Yes, you have to be an astute traveller. I am. I've been all over the world. But I don't feel it's my job to check and re-check for any events that would impact habitability. Once the company knew, they should have informed me.

Was your Disney trip such that it was code red / code purple or just some smoke from a fire? I find it hard to believe there would be Code Red / Purpose air quality and the Disney Resort would not inform you and offer to reschedule but if they did do that I would like to know.

ARBUYNC - It's a peat fire. That's how they would know. A reasonable person can assume a bog peat fire will burn until 6+ inches of rain hits it (aka torpical storm). That was known early in May. In any event, they should have disclosed the facts and let me make my own determination.

To all -- I've checked insurance. Unless you have a specific diagnosed condition they won't pay. And if you don't, you would have to go, get sick, and then file. Big chance to take with your health.

As a consumer, I shouldn't have to research daily everything everywhere. A company providing a service has an obligation to disclose known material facts that will significantly impact that service. I've read many accounts of people with smoke inside their house. It's gong to get worse as th S/SWwind continues. I stand by the position they should have informed me.

MD
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9. Re: Smoke Hazard, Rental Companies. and Renters Rights

Folks renting in Nagshead this summer are getting hit with a double whammy - beach reconstruction and nasty smoke. The way in which owners and rental agencies handle both situations will impact their customers and economy for a long time into the future. If you tick off enough people by abusing them, they won't return and the reputation will spread.

Western Ireland...
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10. Re: Smoke Hazard, Rental Companies. and Renters Rights

There are many other nice beaches in NC besides the stinkin Outer Banks! I certainly wouldn't want to spend a week breathing in smoke and listening to heavy equipment making noise 24/7! Consider another beach next summer! Good luck to all the people who are stuck going there this summer!