Real Estate News

HOA life | ‘I know you won’t believe this’

“I know you won’t believe this,” said Steve Houser, a resident of the Glenmoor development near Conway, “but I’m actually positive about homeowner associations.”

He says that despite the complaints he has about his issues in development.

Associations are formed to protect homeowners’ property values, and that is a good thing. To do so, they enact and enforce covenants, a list of things homeowners must or must not, can or cannot do with their property.

Some of those will inevitably run counter to what some homeowners believe should be the case.

Houser’s main complaint is the power that South Carolina gives to a subdivision’s developer, known legally as a declarant. It’s a concern shared by Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet, who thinks the state needs a law to do the very things that Houser wants.

“To me it’s unfathomable how much power developers have with these governing documents,” Houser said.

He wouldn’t have bought in Glenmoor if he’d seen copies of the master document and covenants and codicils prior to closing. They said the developer would have nine votes on community matters while residents had just one.

For Houser, that doesn’t work, especially when the residents collectively have a greater financial stake in the development than does the developer.

Consider his situation.

When he retired to South Carolina several years ago, he moved into Glenmoor on S.C. 90 outside Conway, the first subdivision he’d ever lived in that had a homeowners association.

He and other buyers were told by the people who sold them their homes that the subdivision’s roads would be taken over by Horry County for ongoing maintenance. In fact, Houser said, the promise is stated in the closing documents he signed to buy his home.

But the original developer went bankrupt during the recession, and residents’ discovered that the county wouldn’t take the roads, leaving them with a very expensive task.

Glenmoor wasn’t sold to a new developer for two years after the first walked away.

During the interim, residents formed their own homeowners association of which Houser was a board member. They collected dues, paid bills, kept up common areas as best as possible and even set up a website.

But no new homes were built.

When the new developer, Graeme Black, asked Houser to serve on the board he formed after he bought the undeveloped part of Glenmoor, Houser said no.

Black raised the ire of homeowners when he instituted a fee to upgrade and maintain the roads without a vote of residents.

“It’s not an option,” he explained. “You have to take care of your common areas.”

He empathized with Houser and other residents for the road situation and he praised them for self-governing the development during the two years without an owner.

Black said the Highway 90 corridor outside Conway was one of the first to get hit when the housing bubble burst and it’ll be one of the last to come back.

“That community has not progressed,” Black said. “They’ve gone backwards.”

There are other problems besides the road situation, Houser said. For one, homeowners have never been told that Black officially owns their subdivision. He said they were told to direct questions to Black, but have seen nothing official to identify him as the owner.

Another problem, Houser said, are the berms that protect homes along the outside row of Glenmoor from the noise of the adjacent highway. There are berms in other parts of Glenmoor, and all are legally owned by individual homeowners and not part of the subdivision’s common property.

He said the interim board struggled with what to do with the berms, particularly since those on 90 gave a bad impression to passersby, including potential buyers. Ultimately, the board decided it could not use association money for the maintenance since the berms were privately owned.

Black, and the board he appointed, decided to change course, Houser said. Homeowner dues now are used to keep the berms along the roadfront looking good, but not those on interior property.

Black said the community was maintaining the berms before he arrived and that owners have given the HOA an easement on the part of their property that is the berm.

Houser said it’s not fair for dues to be used to maintain part of some owners property while others are left to fend for themselves.

Black said he understands that there are always going to be homeowner complaints in any development.

“We understand that,” he said, adding, “There’s always a critic.”

Houser maintains that Black isn’t interested in improving or beginning development on any new areas in Glenmoor. All he wants is to sell the subdivision as soon as he can, Houser maintained.

Black said as much himself, two times, during an interview.

“I’m confident we will put a quality builder out there,” he said.

He said his company has a good reputation and has worked in Windsor Plantation and several Carolina Forest subdivisions, including Avalon, Walkers Woods and Summerlin.

Houser, he said, has become an ardent critic.

“He’s just stirring up trouble,” Black said.

“I’m just representing my interests,” Houser said emphatically when he heard he’d been branded. “I bought a home here and I was lied to.”

Houser’s home is for sale and he plans to move elsewhere in South Carolina, but won’t say if it’ll be in Horry County.