HOA life | Group of six is raising numerous issues at Azalea Lakes

sjones@thesunnews.comJuly 5, 2014 

Carla Murphy saw what Jean Cavanaugh was complaining about when she looked at the financial reports sent to Cavanaugh by the accountant for Azalea Lakes.

Murphy, president of the homeowners association for the condominium complex near the U.S. 17 Bypass entrance to Market Common, was used to hearing something was wrong from Cavanaugh, one of six residents Murphy said inundate the board of directors with constant complaints.

Managers, both professional and volunteers like Murphy, said the same thing is true at every development and subdivision where there is a homeowners association. A small number of residents seem constantly upset about one thing or another.

But Murphy is different from other managers. She could pinpoint an exact number.

“We have certain individuals who want to complain about the same things over and over and over,” she said.

Cavanaugh and Jan Benton, another resident Murphy identified as a member of the group, said they ask so many questions because they either get no answers or the wrong answer.

They say, for instance, that the homeowners association meets privately and that getting information on those meetings can be next to impossible. They also said the association has not been forthcoming with the development’s financial records, and when some are issued, they couldn’t possibly be right.

Cavanaugh said the records she received showed that the association’s revenue from dues to be exactly the same for every reporting period. She knows some residents don’t always pay dues in the month they are due, as happened to her.

In addition, she said that when she paid three months’ back dues she had to pay a fine as well, which also should be reflected in financial reports.

Benton, a former county planner in Anson County, N.C., said she’s aware of the few S.C. laws that regulate homeowners associations and she knows that the Azalea Lakes association isn’t following them.

The law says that all associations must give notice to homeowners when there will be a board meeting and that it is to be open to all property owners, something Murphy didn’t know until Wednesday.

“(The Azalea Lakes board) has always done it that way,” she said.

Benton and Cavanaugh said the association holds a hammer over the heads of people who press for information and answers to their questions with a non-harassment rule, which says that any resident who continuously annoys board members can be fined $50 each time.

Murphy said the rule was written before the current board members were seated, and she doesn’t think any residents have ever been fined for harassment. But she said every time she threatens it, the complainers change from one subject to another.

Benton said those with concerns are just trying to protect the value of their property. She said that Murphy and other board members allow people who rent condominiums board members own to skirt the rules, such as having barbecue grills on their decks.

Murphy denied that is so. She said any time someone is found to be using or even to have possession of a grill, they are told they must take it off the premises.

Residents can use the association-owned grills erected between groups of buildings, Murphy said.

The association has no professional property management company to help it run things, and Benton, a former board member, believes that is the source of most of the problems and complaints.

“It’s a full-time job and if you don’t have the skills or the experience to do it, you should get a management company,” she said.

The residents voted at the last annual meeting for the board to explore hiring a property manger, but Benton and Cavanaugh said they’ve been told the board has determined that one is not needed.

Murphy, on the other hand, said she believes that a management company will be hired within a year.

She said she spends 30 hours to 40 hours a week on issues at the complex, and the other two board members put in 20 hours to 30 hours apiece.

It’s just too much work to expect of volunteers, she said. The board is supposed to have five members, but Murphy said the amount of work each must take on has kept other residents from running for seats.

The association recently hired one of the accountant’s secretaries to respond to each day’s questions from residents, she said. Or at least those she has the knowledge to answer.

Cavanaugh said she’s through complaining. It doesn’t do any good.

“If I could sell this place, I’d get out of here,” she said. “I’ve given up.”

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765 or on Twitter @TSN_sjones.

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