We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Bad experience w/Starfish Rentals. Seeking recommendation

Washington DC...
2 posts
Save Topic
Bad experience w/Starfish Rentals. Seeking recommendation

A family member had planned her wedding for Columbus Day weekend 2016 on Topsail Island and many family members rented houses on the island for the weekend so that they could attend the celebration. I thought I was booking 360 Degrees of Heaven directly with the owner on VRBO but I found out later I'd been shifted to dealing with Starfish Rentals & Realty. Not sure who is more to blame for what followed but I would avoid dealing with Starfish and this property, in particular, in the future to be safe.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Matthew hit the area that very weekend. Luckily, it was a well-forecasted storm and we knew more than a week in advance that there was no way the wedding could actually take place that weekend. The southern coast of North Carolina was the bullseye for a record-breaking hurricane precisely on the day we were scheduled to arrive.

I didn't really anticipate a problem since the record-breaking storm hitting Florida and then South and North Carolina was all anyone was talking about on the national news for at least a week. Unfortunately, I was wrong. When we tried to cancel our reservation, Starfish told me it was "business as usual" on Topsail and refused to let us cancel our reservation or even move the booking to another date when the area wasn't under the threat of a major storm.

They insisted on keeping our full rental fee as well as the added charge for rented linens (bed sheets) for a home that was never used. Their reasoning was that somehow the rental company and homeowner were incurring a loss on account of our cancellation. Makes total sense in a situation where there is rain in the forecast so your guests opt to cancel their vacation. But that is far from what happened here.

To suggest that there was an opportunity cost incurred because the reservation had been held for us -- instead of making the property available to others who may want to rent the home -- was a complete joke. The southern coast of North Carolina was the bulls eye for a record breaking hurricane. Flights into and out of Wilmington were cancelled. Portions of interstate 95 were closed. Everyone already on the island was being told, emphatically, to leave town. And we've all seen the videos of the aftermath on Topsail - major flooding. Not only would it have been unrealistic and unsafe for anyone to be heading to the island on Friday October 7th but -- if anyone made it there -- they likely would have left with significant damage to property including vehicles.

Still interested in visiting Topsail but will not work with this company again. Can you recommend an alternative?

TIA

Mentioned in this post
Topsail Island
Topsail Island
953 Reviews
Topsail Island, NC
North Carolina
North Carolina
United States
Florida
Florida
United States
Topsail Beach
Topsail Beach
Topsail Island, NC
Wilmington
Wilmington
North Carolina Coast, NC
11 replies to this topic
Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
737 posts
25 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Bad experience w/Starfish Rentals. Seeking recommendation

I recommend not visiting the beach during hurricane season.

Seriously, cancellation terms and hurricane policies are pretty much the same for all beach rental companies. You signed a contract that I'm sure very clearly spelled out those policies. I don't see anything here that Starfish did wrong, and no one can tell you that you would have had a different experience if you used another company.

Sorry to be blunt, but your family member took a risk by scheduling a beach wedding during hurricane season, and unfortunately you all lost out.

Washington, DC
1 post
1 review
Save Reply
2. Re: Bad experience w/Starfish Rentals. Seeking recommendation

Thanks for your note. I guess that probably was somewhere in the many pages of fine print that I, admittedly, didn't read (and, by default, agreed to) but others in our wedding party who booked with VRBO and other services didn't have the same problem. Just want people to be aware of the issue and look at other (more renter-friendly) options.

Again, looking for suggestions as we believe that Topsail would still be a lovely place to visit.

Mentioned in this post
Topsail Beach
Topsail Beach
Topsail Island, NC
Marietta, Georgia
Level Contributor
630 posts
Save Reply
3. Re: Bad experience w/Starfish Rentals. Seeking recommendation

We have rented many beach houses from realty companies and VRBO Some will give refunds for hurricane evacuations and some will not. It's in the contract. Sorry that happened to you. The ones that don't refund suggest trip insurance to cover your lost costs.

United States
Level Contributor
476 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Bad experience w/Starfish Rentals. Seeking recommendation

Sorry to hear about your family's missed beach trip & wedding. Unfortunately, sounds like this company isn't very "renter friendly". We all know each company has their own policies regarding hurricanes, and they don't have to refund anything unless stated in contract.

But since hurricane season does cover a wide chunk of time, it's hard to predict the "best" time to book. Mother Nature will do as she pleases too.

However, some companies are more sympathetic to the renter who is going to lose out on a vacation & some money, & will at least refund a portion of it, especially if there's a chance they can rent it to someone else. You would think they would've been more sympathetic, especially seeing as how everyone was aware of this hurricane & flights were cancelled/delayed, plus roads closed. I definitely wouldn't have expected them to still charge for the linens. But as stated above, gotta read the fine print...and there's always insurance to back you up.

Personally I've had great experiences with Century21, Seaside Rentals, & Topsail Realty as well as VRBO in the past. It takes some time & research, but you'll find the best fit for you. Good luck. Topsail is very lovely, love the lack of mega highrise condos, chain restaurants & crowds! It's a beautiful island any time of year. (Just have to hope Mother Nature's on your side!)

Mentioned in this post
Topsail Beach
Topsail Beach
Topsail Island, NC
Charlotte, North...
Destination Expert
for North Carolina
Level Contributor
3,076 posts
31 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Bad experience w/Starfish Rentals. Seeking recommendation

I'm sorry for your troubles, these days you really do have to read and understand the fine print. I always recommend travel insurance when vacationing anywhere along the southern U.S. coast during prime hurricane season months (late August, Sept, and Oct) Many times an individual homeowner is easier to work with when these type things happen, but with more recent insurance coverage changes, many too have had to stick with their cancellation policies. Rental/property management companies always push travel insurance, and rarely, if ever make any exceptions to their strict cancellation/hurricane etc. polices. VRBO and Homeaway are full of companies looking a lot like homeowners and if you aren't very careful, you can book a home thinking you are dealing with a homeowner, only to discover it's a property management company, those companies(VRBO and Homeaway) have gone downhill fast since they were purchased by Expedia last year, and I will never use them again. If you aren't up on how bad they've become, check out online reviews of those companies, www.consumeraffairs.com/online/vrbo.html

Here's a newer online vacation rental website, all homes/homeowners are verified, and the website does not charge travelers/service fees like VRBO, Homeaway, Airbnb, and all property management companies do. They've got a good selection or Topsail and North Topsail homes... http://www.carolinavacationhomerentals.com/

Edited: 27 January 2017, 15:48
Mentioned in this post
Topsail Beach
Topsail Beach
Topsail Island, NC
North Topsail Beach
North Topsail Beach
Topsail Island, NC
6. Re: Bad experience w/Starfish Rentals. Seeking recommendation

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

TripAdvisor staff removed this post because it did not meet TripAdvisor's forum posting guidelines with prohibiting self-promotional advertising or solicitation.

We ask all of our members to keep their forum messages free of self-promoting advertisements or solicitation of any kind - members affiliated with any tourism-related business should not include commercial contact information or URLs in their forum messages.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 13 April 2017, 03:36
 
Virginia
Level Contributor
18 posts
1 review
Save Reply
7. Re: Bad experience w/Starfish Rentals. Seeking recommendation

I'm sorry for your trouble during hurricane matthew. i own a home on topsail and it was rented that weekend and we gave the renters a full refund. what size home are you looking for the summer? have you tried airbnb? i think it's nice to work directly with owners, like on airbnb and vrbo. We have also worked with Ward Realty for beach rentals and they have very good service.

Charlotte, North...
Destination Expert
for North Carolina
Level Contributor
3,076 posts
31 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Bad experience w/Starfish Rentals. Seeking recommendation

It WAS nice to rent directly from homeowners on VRBO and Homeaway, before Expedia bought them last year and have now implemented hefty travelers service fees, and restricted communication between homeowners and travelers.(hiding email addresses and phone numbers until travelers have booked/paid the nonrefundable service fee) They've also heavily marketed to property management companies so now as many homeowners leave VRBO and Homeaway because of the new policies and poor service that VRBO and Homeaway now provide travelers and homeowners, the homes left on the sites are actually property managed vacation homes...not homes managed by homeowners. Airbnb has always charged a fee to travelers booking through that site, also beware Airbnb rentals are illegal in some areas of the country. Research before booking.

Surf City, North...
1 post
Save Reply
9. Re: Bad experience w/Starfish Rentals. Seeking recommendation

I do wish to respond to Jennifer's frustration to Starfish Rentals and Realty... It is necessary to state that although we were not legally required to return any monies, we did voluntarily (despite the claims made in this review) refund the security deposit, the cleaning fee, the linen fee, the administration costs; everything except the rent and associated taxes. We have a binding contract with the owner's of this property too... and the three partners chose not to refund the rental monies since Jennifer voluntarily refused the travel insurance. Starfish Rentals and Realty adhered to the Vacation Rental Act/and with the supporting laws and policies of the NC Real Estate Commission. The home had been reserved since April 15, 2016 in her name. And, although we were not legally required to return any monies, we did. The local authorities ( recorded messages from the Mayors of Surf City, Topsail Beach, and North Topsail Beach ) issued a voluntary evacuation for all three towns on Topsail Island preceding the storms approach. With this, the local authorities did not recognize Hurricane Matthew as a severe enough threat to Topsail Island to issue a mandatory evacuation. There was no mandatory evacuation order issued and there was no major flooding on Topsail Island. I feel very badly for Jennifer and her group and it is unfortunate that she wishes to blame Starfish Rentals and Realty for following the real estate law of NC. We are a small, family owned business, and want nothing more than to provide a memorable family vacation for our many guests and repeat guests. Despite the weather, we had other guests arrive and check-in and we had guests that elected to stay during the storm in their rentals. I myself drove around the entire island during the storm inspecting our properties without hardship or any damage to my vehicle. The only locations that experienced flooding through out Hurricane Matthew was the canal areas.

Mentioned in this post
Surf City
Surf City
Topsail Island, NC
North Topsail Beach
North Topsail Beach
Topsail Island, NC
Topsail Island
Topsail Island
953 Reviews
Topsail Island, NC
United States
Level Contributor
476 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Bad experience w/Starfish Rentals. Seeking recommendation

I do love it when realty companies post replies to bad reviewers. Thank you Starfish Rentals.

If what they say is true, then the OP has nothing really to complain about...in regards to the realty company. They refunded your security deposit, cleaning fee, & linen fee, (which sounds like GREAT customer service to me, as I would expect at least the cleaning fee & security deposit in the case of a hurricane!)

Two sides to every story, as always. Sounds like the OP was just really upset about the missed beach trip to Topsail- which is totally understandable, but blamed the wrong person.

After all, it was Mother Nature who ruined your planned trip.

Still sorry to hear, I hope you'll still give Topsail a try, as it is a beautiful, family frriendly, low key island!

Mentioned in this post
Topsail Beach
Topsail Beach
Topsail Island, NC
Reply to: Bad experience w/Starfish Rentals. Seeking recommendation
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted
Get answers to your questions about Topsail Island