Outer Banks vacation rental firm to give pandemic refunds, but lawsuit moves forward

North Carolina news

MANTEO, N.C. (WNCN) –A lawsuit by hundreds of people who were initially denied refunds by a Dare County realty firm is going to continue despite the fact the firm has now decided to issue refunds.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Dare County shut off access to anyone but people who lived there creating an issue for those renting beach properties.

The North Carolina Attorney General and the North Carolina Real Estate Commission both said refunds were owed, but Surf or Sound, a realty form, didn’t agree.

Then a lawsuit was filed by hundreds who rented with Surf or Sound demanding refunds.

The company eventually changed its mind again saying in a statement, “We began the refund process for guests affected by the Dare County road closure who did not transfer their reservations to later this year or to 2021.”

Attorney Gary Jackson, of James Scott Farrin law firm, filed the suit and said “We have to believe these refunds may not have been provided but for the lawsuit.”

Although the company decided to offer refunds, that didn’t put an end to the litigation.

“The company has not offered refunds to people who opted to have a different date or property in the future,” said Jackson. “A lot of these people are very upset.”

He said the way Surf or Sound offered the refunds was done in such a way that it put customers under pressure to make a quick choice.

He said Surf or Sound said, “We’re not going to provide refunds but will allow you to pick a later date or house in the future, but you have to do it by June 19th or you’re not going to get a refund.”

Jackson said, “The people who took that offer felt bullied and want their refunds.”

The North Carolina Attorney General’s office says it is overseeing the refund process for those who signed a refund agreement.

Lloyd Smith Jr. is the attorney for Surf or Sound. The attorney general’s office says he is working with them to make sure refunds are disbursed in a timely manner.

A Surf Or Sound spokesman said the firm cannot comment on the status of the litigation because it’s an ongoing legal matter, but back on June 10 Smith told CBS 17, “We think we have a very valid defense.”

It’s unclear how many people are still part of the lawsuit.

“At the very minimum they want refunds,” said Jackson.

Jackson also says he is still waiting for Surf or Sound to formally answer the complaint.

When that happens he said, he and his clients will decide what options are available.

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