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South Carolina man told to take down Christmas lights

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 9:32 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - A South Carolina man says his Christmas display will have to come down after the HOA’s property management company told him his decor violates the master deed and bylaws.

Douglas Dwyer said it’s been a labor of love decorating his condo, located in the Myrtle Beach Golf & Yacht Club. His home is covered with what he estimates to be about 10,000 lights, but he said the work was well-worth his time in order to brighten his neighbor’s faces.

“It came together like a Tetris puzzle so-to-speak - one piece at a time, and it just turned out to be magical,” Dwyer said.

After sharing the light show on Nextdoor, those in the surrounding residential community responded enthusiastically, with many passing by in person to get a look.

Despite that, Dwyer said he was told Tuesday by his HOA’s property management company that his décor violates the master deed and bylaws, and needs to be removed by Thursday. The area in the Myrtle Beach Golf & Yacht Club is governed by a different HOA.

According to an email Dwyer received from Old Colony Realty Property Management, “homeowners aren’t allowed to alter or affix things to the outside of the property,” citing a section of the master deed that said “junk, debris, towels, laundry or materials of any kind” couldn’t be stored on shared property.

Dwyer isn’t convinced this is a true violation of those rules and regulations. The email also said he’d either have to take down the political flag he had on the exterior wall of his house, along with the Christmas lights and yard decorations, or face removal of the items at his expense.

“This is just insane. They’re going to charge me to take down Christmas lights?” he said.

It isn’t clear exactly what led up to the enforcement of the HOA’s bylaws and master deed. Nearby neighbors in Dwyer’s HOA told WMBF News it was the opposite of a nuisance to them.

“I don’t think this is an issue. I really don’t,” one neighbor said. “It picks up your spirit - it is, after all, Christmas time.”

The property management company said that they “enforce the recorded rules as we are instructed to do so.”

“The property manager has been instructed by the Night Heron Association Board of Directors to enforce the Master Deed & By Laws. Mr. Dwyer is one owner in a condominium association building that is legally bound by rules and regulations, as well as the Master Deed & By Laws that applies to all owners and that all owners are aware of. As such, he is currently in violation of section 14 of the Master Deed. According to the Master Deed you cannot attach or store any material on the building or in the common areas. Our office does not create the rules for this community, we enforce the recorded rules as we are instructed to do so. Please be aware that there are several different associations within Myrtle Beach Golf & Yacht Club, each with different Master Deeds & By Laws and Rules & Regulations,” the property management company, Old Colony Realty, said in a statement.

The company did not respond to questions about whether the other homes with Christmas decorations up were in violation as well.

“I don’t think I’m asking a lot to bring cheer to the community. That’s all it is. It’s joy and cheer,” Dwyer said. “People walk by and they smile. And that’s what I wanted to give to the community, and I needed it myself.”

Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said their office frequently hears about civil matters that police cannot get involved, such as HOA issues.

“You give up a ton of rights by moving in a place with an HOA, and they can set almost any set of rules, and those rules can be very conservative,” Richardson said. “People say, ‘That’s my First Amendment right - that’s a right that I’ve got by being a U.S. citizen.’ And overall, you do - but you gave up certain rights to go into an HOA.”

Richardson said ultimately, residents should elect new board members if they’re unhappy with decisions being made. Another recommendation is to bring these problems to the attention of state legislators in hopes that laws regulating HOAs would be able to change.

In 2018, state legislators put into law new ways to track trends of the issues South Carolinians have with their HOAs.

The Homeowners Association Act put forth ways to require more transparency from HOAs while creating clearer guidance on how to submit a complaint for the HOA’s review and response through the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Since then, hundreds of complaints have come through. The department can take in these homeowner complaints but they cannot compel the HOA to fix the situation or even respond to the complaint for that matter.

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