Your rights as a vacationer on the Outer Banks

Ice is displayed at the Variety Store on Thursday, July 27, 2017, on Ocracoke Island on North Carolina's Outer Banks. An estimated 10,000 tourists were ordered Thursday to evacuate the island after a construction company caused a power outage, leaving people stranded without air conditioning or places to eat. (C. Leinbach/Ocracoke Observer via AP)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The power outage on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands is affecting vacation rentals in different ways.

UPDATE: Ocracoke, Hatteras, Buxton among areas now on generator power, officials say

You can get to your rental on Hatteras Island despite the power outage, but Ocracoke Island is under mandatory evacuation for visitors.

Tourists who were already on Ocracoke have to cut their vacations short and get off island.

If your vacation is affected by a hurricane or natural disaster, North Carolina’s Vacation Rental Act guarantees you certain rights.

It says:

  • Your landlord may offer 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 you 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.
  • If you were offered rental insurance and didn’t take it, then the owner isn’t required to refund your money in the case of a mandatory evacuation.

Ocracoke’s evacuation is mandatory, but not caused by a natural disaster.

That’s a gray area that may affect whether travel insurance pays off or not.

UPDATE: Ocracoke, Hatteras, Buxton among areas now on generator power, officials say

Getting ahold of a rental firm on Ocracoke to ask questions may be difficult right now. Many are not answering their office phones or have voice mailboxes that are full.

The website for Ocracoke Island Realty has a banner across the top advising clients that due to the loss of power on Ocracoke Island, their offices are currently closed for an undetermined period of time.

It advises clients that the firm will be emailing guests as soon as it has an update and thanks them for their patience during what it says is an unexpected event.

On Ocracoke, many of the vacation rentals are condos owned by locals who go through rental companies.

Rex O’Neal owns a fleet of rental golf carts as well as three properties on the island which he rents to vacationers. Unless it's late in the hurricane season, he says many renters opt out of the insurance.

“A lot of people don’t take it this time of year because unless you have a family issue, there’s no weather issue that will stop them from coming," he explained.

On Hatteras Island, there is no mandatory evacuation despite the power outage.

And because there’s no hurricane or other act of God, vacationers are being advised by rental companies that the travel insurance will not kick in for that situation.

Rental agencies like Sun Realty have sent an email to renters advising that access to Hatteras Island is unrestricted and the island is open for business, but you won’t be able to use A/C or have power in your rental.

So, with no travel insurance applying to Hatteras Vacations, you will have to make the decision if you want to go to your rental there and deal with the conditions on the island.

If you want to dig deeper, here’s a link to North Carolina’s Vacation Rental Act.

Here is a look at an email sent out by Sun Realty in regards to the outage:

Good afternoon,

Our apologies for getting this email out a bit later than we anticipated; we were hoping for more official details and are working through information as it comes to us.

We are receiving numerous calls and messages from eager guests who want to know if their arrival will be delayed by the power outage. The good news is, generators are in place to supply most of the island’s power needs, and temperatures are forecast to be mild for this time of year.

As of this morning, here is what we know about conditions on Hatteras Island for both residents and visitors:

  • The water supply, food supply, gasoline supplies are all OK. Please conserve water. All water is safe but the power outage is impacting the pumping station’s ability to supply water.
  • EMS and law enforcement are all running as usual.
  • More generators are being brought in by CHEC to power the island. If power is conserved, the island may be/should be restored to full power. Conservation of power means NO AC. If the load is too great, the rolling blackouts will continue which means power for about 3 hours and then off for about 6 hours, as we understand. This will still mean NO AC.
  • So far, access to Hatteras Island is unrestricted. This may change. We are monitoring communications and the Dare County website.
  • CHEC is currently assessing the situation and there is no official word on when they’ll be functional again. Perhaps a few days, or maybe a few weeks. The plan is for their generators to supply electricity to all of Hatteras Island.
  • Food Lion, Connors, some gas stations, and at least some local restaurants are currently OPEN. Again, this could change, but they have generators and are open for business. You may consider bringing extra cash, as credit card machines may not always be operational.
  • Guests cannot bring their own generators to power their vacation rental. Battery powered lanterns, flashlights, etc are OK. Anything flammable is NOT allowed.
  • Power conservation means no AC and limiting use of appliances and electronics as much as possible. Turn off and unplug as much as you can. Only use outside lights when necessary.
  • Our cleaning crews are out cleaning homes today and are scheduled tomorrow, as usual, as well so your home should be ready for your arrival. If you ordered linens, they’ll be at the house for you.
  • Pools and hot tubs will be serviced this weekend but we can’t ensure they’ll be ready for you when you arrive. Filtration was shut down for several hours when the power went out, and it takes a while for chemicals and adequate filtration to catch up. Rolling blackouts may impact their use as well. Please do not use the pool or hot tub until you are given the OK to do so.

UPDATE: Ocracoke, Hatteras, Buxton among areas now on generator power, officials say

This is the latest information we have from Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative (CHEC):

Buxton, NC, 9:00 am – Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative (CHEC) continues restoration efforts in the wake of a transmission outage caused by PCL Construction. 

CHEC crews worked through the night to provide intermittent power via the diesel generating plant in Buxton and two portable generators staged in Avon and Waves.  The portable generators struggled to carry the heavy load on these circuits, and CHEC members and visitors are asked to please minimize load.  Additional portable generators have arrived on the island this morning, with more on the way. 

The outage was caused when PCL Construction, the company, building the new Bonner Bridge, accidentally drove a steel casing into the cooperative’s underground transmission cable on the south side of Oregon Inlet on Thursday morning, July 27.

The cooperative’s transmission cable contractor is on the island this morning, as PCL works to excavate the site.  Once this is complete and the extent of the damage is assessed, crews will create a time frame for the repair.

CHEC will supply temporary power through the Buxton diesel generator and portable generators until the transmission repairs are complete. These generators will only be able to run if load is at minimal levels and everyone is conserving.  To minimize load, CHEC asks that everyone please turn off AC units and minimize other electrical usage.

Additional line crews from Brunswick EMC (Supply, N.C.) and Roanoke EMC (Aulander, N.C.), will arrive on the island today. These crews will help CHEC crews man the 9 portable generators that will require 24/7 watch.

For updates during this outage, follow Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative’s Facebook page

Should you have specific questions or concerns about your rental property, please know that our staff is extremely busy taking calls, with limited access to phones at this time. You may email with questions, but we ask for your continued patience as we work through these logistical challenges. Our Avon and Salvo offices each also have intermittent power. We still have lines being forwarded to other offices and are handling the call and email volume as best we can.

We appreciate your patience and support of Sun Realty and your mutual love for Hatteras Island!

Best regards,

The Sun Realty Team

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