Editorial | Dog dilemma shows challenges of and to HOA boards

03/08/2014 12:00 AM

03/07/2014 4:58 PM

Ginger, Rhett and Scarlett will be able to stay with their owners in Dunes Pointe Plantation without penalty now that the Dunes Pointe POA board of directors has adjusted its recently imposed limit on the number of pets allowed in each residence. For a while, it seemed one of the sibling miniature poodles faced eviction.

Either reduce their pet count to two or pay a $100 a day fine was how Sheila and Sherm Bertrand viewed the new rule of two. His question summed up the situation: “What do they expect me to do with a 14-year-old dog?’’ The Bertrands no doubt feel better with the POA board’s decision to grandfather the Bertrands’ three dogs.

They received this from Earl Collins, community manager for K.A. Diehl: “The purpose of this e-mail will serve as notice that the Dunes Pointe POA Board of Directors approved the grandfathering in of the 3rd pet. This will be a one-time situation and remain in effect until the pet passes or leaves the property for some reason.’’

The threat of pet eviction at Dunes Pointe is only the latest case of a homeowners association crossing the line between reasonable governance and arrogance. It was thoughtless of the Dunes Pointe board not to grandfather homeowners with more than two pets. The board evidently recognized its new rules were ill-advised in showing no mercy to any three-pet situations, so perhaps that was an oversight. With more foresight, the board surely could have saved some hard feelings in the 100-condominium community.

The kerfuffle in Dunes Pointe could have been avoided. So can much of the confusion and uproar in POAs or HOAs along the Grand Strand. Disorder is not limited to condo communities, although they seem to have more problems, often brought on by changing the rules on pets, motorcycles, golf carts, signage in windows, the color of window treatments and on and on. And regardless of the good intentions of a board, it’s problematic to decide to enforce a rule that has long been ignored.

Condo residents know what a thankless job it is to serve on their HOA board. Many will not serve and those who are willing often find one term is plenty. They soon grow weary of phone calls from homeowners who evidently think board members have duties well beyond community governance and dealing with other homeowners who refuse to follow the rules.

S.C. Sen. Darrell Jackson has again filed a bill that could smooth operations of HOAs boards and their ongoing relationships with homeowners. The proposed Homeowners’ Association Act adds a chapter to state law. In summary, the legislation increases the transparency of HOA operations. It makes clear that a HOA owes members “an obligation of honesty, loyalty and care, including ‘duty of due diligence’.’’ The act also includes homeowners’ responsibilities, such as timely payment of fees and complying with by-laws, covenants, rules and regulations.

Jackson previously has tried, unsuccessfully, to advance this legislation. Two years ago it languished in the Senate Judiciary Committee where it was assigned the other day to a subcommittee.

A Homeowners Association Act won’t resolve all the angst in HOAs but it could help, and it deserves serious discussion in the General Assembly. We urge area senators and representatives to help that happen.

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