My Turn: abusive and unregulated HOA power - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

My Turn: abusive and unregulated HOA power

Posted: Updated: Aug 22, 2013 09:04 AM

I've used this forum a few times this year to discuss some things our General Assembly did during their session in Raleigh. Depending on your political beliefs, some of those items may or may not have needed their attention.

But here's something our lawmakers didn't get done that have a lot of people in an uproar. I'm talking about home owners associations. If you don't live in one, you've no doubt heard about them from a friend or relative.

Some actually do what they're supposed to do and work diligently for the benefit of property owners. But we have seen far too often, some HOAs stretch beyond their intended purpose and exert power where they shouldn't. Some are downright abusive in the process and some are just aloof.

If you ask about 1,000 people currently living in the St. James community, they might agree with that last statement. They're battling their property owners association over a speed limit change that some say wasn't needed.

Lawmakers had two shots this year, but failed to pass a bill that could have restrained abuse and unregulated HOA power. Sounds to me like they probably need to get this item back on the agenda at the beginning of next session.

That's my turn. Now it's your turn. To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me at yourturn@wect.com.


 

Emailed comments from viewers:

I have served as president of two HOA's, an 800 lot unit in North Georgia and a 150 lot unit here in South Brunswick County. I've also served as secretary in both HOA's over the years.

My experience has been that about 75% of the members could care less about what goes on just as long as everything looks nice and the dues aren't raised disproportionately over the years. Up to 25% of the members attend the periodic Board meetings and perhaps 3 to 5% have issues with various and sundry Board actions. There is always someone who chooses to disregard the rules whether it be some dog who has pooped on so and so's property or a baby swimming naked in the swimming pool. Then there are a those who like to grand stand and complain about everything but the procedures for complaints and grievances are well spelled out.

Every homeowner is furnished with a copy of the Master Declaration and Rules governing the operation of the community so everyone should be well aware of what the Board is trying to achieve and what their individual responsibilities are.

We should not lose sight of the fact that Board members have volunteered for those positions and as I've found over the past 20 years that only a small cadre of folks are willing to put their name on the line and run for office. Many consider criticism personal and that is unfortunate. As the HOA matures or the community becomes older less and less folks volunteer for the Board or other community activities and unless new homeowners step up to the plate the HOA will die and the organization turned over to a management company.

That's when the real complaints will start!

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I watched MyTurn a few minutes ago. I have lived in communities where power-hungry people were on the HOA.   However, I now live happily in Sea Trail in Sunset Beach; we have a strong, volunteer-packed Master Association (HOA) that are very Property-Owner oriented with great communication, the key to happy Property-Owners. Sea Trail just came out of a bankruptcy situation with a buyer who is aware of Property-Owner concerns and is willing to improve them as well as improving the business of operating the Sea Trail Resort. The buyer and his representatives and the Sea Trail Master Association have established great communication which gives us hope for continued happiness.

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I find it hard to believe that after the last legislative session that you find it offensive that they did not deal with HOA issues. The so called Voter ID law which actually dealt with a whole lot more than just having a picture ID. Tearing the education system apart with an end result in destroying public education.What do we need with a law outlawing Sharia law, and endorsing making laws to agree with Christian teachings. Just trying to out Texas-Texas The list is so long you had to stumble over it to address this issues that affect probably 1% or less of the citizens of NC.

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I just saw your segment on HOA power and you showed St.James. I work for Troon golf which runs St.James. They have speed limit signs up and you will get a ticket. I was running late yesterday and I received a speeding ticket for going 26 in a 20 mph zone at the cost of $100.00. This was with no warning that even a state trooper would give. If you get a ticket from one of their " officers" for anything 3 times or more then you aren't allowed to drive back on St.James.. I think these ppl have way to much power and the $100.00 for a ticket is outrageous.. This is just my opinion and my experience..

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May be just my opinion but I am sure other residents in Brunswick county think as I do.  The people of St. James want locals, those here before them to stay out of there way.  There are some good people that live in St. James. 

I am Retired Army and a native of Brunswick County.  I love our area!  With my time in the Army I met people from the world over.  Having said that the people of St. James are the most arrogant of any group I have ever seen.  I sit back and laugh at times when I hear of there
arrogant behavior.  You see there community is high priced and not what they think it is.

Back in the 1970's  St. James was where we "locals" dumped our trash.  We that know that get a big laugh every time St. James is in the news.

Did you know some years ago they " St. James "
wanted Lowes Foods to close on Wednesdays to the public.  True story!  That was to be there day to shop and not see local people.

That is my turn now you have your turn!!!

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Read your article, and agree, we are the one's with the pending bills HB 871& 883. They are parked for the short session as planned, however there is more.....

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Our group Homeowners for Education, Advocacy and Rights

(http://www.hear4nc.org) are the ones who wrote the two bills for this last legislative session. They will be brought back in the mini-session and we will be going to Raleigh to gain support and have them passed.

Will these bills solve all the problems? No, but it's a start.

Over 52% of NC residents live in a Planned Community (HOA/POA/Condo).

Some are run very well and others have abusive Boards who bully and intimidate the members.

We have two informative meetings scheduled for September 2013. One in Sunset Beach at Thistle Golf Club on September 23 (10:00 am to 12:00) and another on September 30 at the Wilmington NE Library from 5:00 -7:00 PM. The subject of the meetings is POA's for Dummies with a slide presentation. There will also be a Q&A session - time permitting.

NC statute  47F - The Planned Community Act is the governing document for these associations. However, because these associations are incorporated under the Non-profit corporation act (NC 55A), many BOD's think they are in complete control.

This is contrary to 47F which states that the Board is subservient to the members and are granted powers by the members.

We have heard of many abuses in communities across the state. Some members have had their homes foreclosed without notice --- a non-judicial foreclosure. Guess who will make money on this???

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Having read your comments as well as seeing the short video clip the other night on channel 7 it seems to me that there is always more to the story than gets reported.

The POA Board did study and discuss the issue at numerous meetings, attended by many people who spoke both in favor of and in opposition to the changes for many months prior to lowering the speed limit in a few areas of St James.  The Board also contracted with a professional traffic engineer who looked at the many facets that determine what a speed limit should be in a particular area such as cross streets and cart paths, number of pedestrians in the area, as well as the availability of walking paths.  The consultant's recommendations resulted in both lowering and increasing speed limits in areas in St James.

Far from being an "abusive-and-unregulated-hoa-power" issue I think that the Board acted in a responsible manner.  Having served on numerous HOA Boards I know you can't please all the people all of the time but can only try and do your best.

As a last comment I might suggest that there may have been 1000 people that signed a petition in opposition to the changes yet St James has some 3750 residents so can we assume that the other 2/3 to ¾ of the population might support these actions?

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I read with interest your article on unregulated HOA power. As you know there has been an uproar concerning the new speed limits. This has result in far more fines per month than usual (I heard but can't verify that over 150 tickets are issued per month. HOA has every right to set the speed limits and issue fines for those found guilty of violating the HOA regulations which they must adhere to when buying property and homes in our community. Speeding tickets can be given for going over 1 mile the speed limit as they have ever right to do so. I just got a ticket and will plead no contest when I go to the hearing.

My concern in this community  is the HOA can only control speeding. There are some residents here that feel that they live "under the dome" and are allowed to violate the law as our security force cannot do anything.

This includes driving through stop signs, ignoring spaces reserved for the handicap, reckless driving, passing vehicles on streets with solid yellow lines, not pulling over for emergency vehicle, possible DWIs as only the police respond when a resident calls 911 if an accident occurs involving a DWI driver, etc.. It is very hard for a resident to report this activity as they must have proof.  Although there are deputies who patrol St. James, they can only do so much due to limited personnel and budget restraints I work as a volunteer at their office and commend all the officers for providing safety and protection to all the citizens in Brunswick County. I especially commend them for doing so given their salaries in exchange for putting their lives in danger when the need occurs.

Unfortunately we have some bad apples in the community just like any community however living under the dome is unfortunate for those of us who would like to live in peaceful community.

I've been told that if you don't like living here, leave. I kid them back by telling them a divorce would be far more costly.

Anyway, just my thoughts as a resident of St. James and thank you for allowing individuals to give their comments.

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As a resident of St. James Plantation, I paid close attention to the WECT news report, as well as the "My Turn" commentary regarding the lowering of the speed limit within St. James.  There is an important backdrop element that was not mentioned in WECT's presentations. In my mind, had you been aware of this element, your report and subsequent commentary may have been quite different in tone. 

The decision to lower the speed limit from 30 to 20 MPH in that one section of St. James was not an arbitrary, spontaneous decision by the St. James POA.  That change was recommended by an outside consulting firm that specializes in such matters.

I live in one of the newer sections of St. James. Some of the roads here are wider, and straighter than those in the older areas of St. James. A number of us had complained that the 20 MPH limit on some of these newer roads should be increased to 30 MPH. After much discussion and consideration, the POA paid for the outside firm to evaluate the speed limits on a number of the main roads in St. James.

Upon review of the consultants' report, the POA decided to adopt ALL of the recommendations. Happily for me, that meant we did get the increase to 30 MPH in our area.  Unhappily for those in the Founders' section, the limit was decreased from 30 to 20 MPH. 

I empathize with those protesting the reduction and agree with them that 20 is too low. Perhaps it should have been set at 25 MPH.  But, that is not at the heart of my point to you. The POA took a thorough and unbiased approach to speed limits and implemented "expert" recommendations. It did not do so out of any attempt to make a power play nor to impose the will of a few upon many.

There may be serious disagreement with the consultants' recommendations. However, if I were on the POA and the consultants made a recommendation for reduction in speed for safety reasons, I would find it hard to ignore that recommendation. Whether the speed limit can be readjusted is another matter, which may include other studies and legal ramifications.  More to come, I am sure.

A POA cannot please all constituents all the time. It is frequently a thankless job, and I am pleased we have dedicated, capable folks willing to spend so much of their time in this service. Accordingly, I felt obligated to come to their defense on this topic.

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I recently watched your commentary regarding Home Owner Associations (HOA's).  Unfortunately, there have been several recent examples of questionable conduct and decisions made by some local HOA's.  However, I don't know that the legislation that was proposed in the recent session is the right way to go about resolving those problems.  What is needed is the application of common sense and empathy for residents that are experiencing difficult times.  This year's legislation contained a few good ideas like mediation but more bad ideas like mandatory training, extra fees and licensing of association managers by the state Board of Realtors.  If enacted, most would result in more costs to residents, and added difficulty in recruiting volunteers to serve on HOA boards.

One of the stickiest issues is foreclosure and property liens for non-payment of dues. Consider what the associations' dues can be paying for: landscaping and yard  maintenance, road maintenance, upkeep to community owned docks and bulkheads, permitting and maintenance of storm water management systems, maintenance of ditches and swales, maintenance and operation of clubhouses, pools and other amenities.  Most residents in these neighborhoods purchased their homes in these communities because of the amenities provided.  Further, all residents received copies of the covenants and declarations at the time of closing and are made aware of what the association dues will be.  Consideration needs to be given in cases of financial hardship, but that isn't the only reason people don't pay.  Is it fair for the residents who pay their dues to have to subsidize others that won't?  Foreclosure should always be the last alternative but what other options are available when a resident is thousands in arrears? In small communities a thousand dollars can be a significant portion of the annual budget.

There are problems that need addressing, but there also needs to be some middle ground that makes HOA's accountable but still able to function.  It is ironic that the party in power in Raleigh talks about smaller government and less regulation but at the same time is considering more regulation, fees and obstacles to HOA's enforcing rules that have been previously approved by the state.

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I usually agree with most of your commentaries but your running down the St James POA in reference to the 20 MPH speed limit was out of line. Before you make comments about things, research it first.  A number of the 20 MPH areas have been changed to 30 and the areas that are still 20 SHOULD be 20. They are very narrow roads and dangerous if someone is driving to fast. People ride bikes, walk etc on those roads and it for SAFETY

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