Leon Green isn’t sure that $10,000 will be enough money to get his would-be neighbor to tear down a 10-foot wall he’s put up for the home he’s building on the lot.
Grande Dunes, where Green lives, allows four-foot walls, but anything higher must have an engineer’s approval, which his neighbor’s doesn’t, said Green and his wife Tracy.
They’ve appealed to their homeowners association, which is controlled by LStar Management, the N.C.-based developer that earlier this year bought Grande Dunes development rights from Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc.
An LStar vice president characterized the situation as being an issue between the Greens and their neighbor and did not say that the neighbor has broken any rules.
“LStar Management is aware of an issue between two homeowners at Grande Dunes,” company vice president George Johnson wrote in an email. “We are currently in conversations with all parties involved, and the Grande Dunes (Architectural Review Committee) is thoroughly evaluating the situation. LStar Management is proud of its ownership of Grande Dunes and remains fully committed to the long term success of the community.”
The Greens have hired a lawyer.
They, like other homeowners along the Grand Strand, are frustrated with their HOAs, and they and others are involved in expensive court suits -- the only way they say they can force HOAs to obey the rules of the development.
At least some of them are expected to speak at a Wednesday hearing the Horry County legislative delegation is sponsoring to get input on just what law or laws members may introduce in next year’s session to address the broad concerns they are hearing from their constituents.
“It’s reaching a critical mass at this stage,” said Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet, of the amount of input the delegation is getting about HOAs.
Legislators and industry professionals believe that 80 percent of HOAs are well-run, but also that the problems with the rest are significant enough to need some action.
Cleary said some of the people he’s hearing from come with misinformation or disinformation on what legislators may do.
He and Sen. Greg Hembree, R-North Myrtle Beach, emphasized that legislation they introduce will not include a fee that HOA residents and associations must pay to fund a state arbitration system to settle HOA disputes nor do they favor making HOA board member training mandatory.
But Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Surfside Beach and the delegation chairman, said the training may have to be mandatory because the responsibilities of HOA board members are significant enough that they need to have legal and fiduciary information to do their jobs.
Hardwick said North Carolina’s HOA law makes the training mandatory, and he said he’s sure they faced some of the same angst over it as area legislators are hearing.
Hembree said the delegation is now focused on using magistrate’s court as a quick and low-cost way homeowners and associations can get a hearing on their grievances against one another, making board member training available and seeing that prospective homeowners get HOA bylaw and financial documents before they close on mortgages, an item being pushed by the area and statewide Realtors associations.
He said there likely will also be some legislation requiring some type of property manager licensing, a measure that is backed by the S.C. Chapter of the Community Associations Institute.
Pres Courtney, president of Waccamaw Management, is chairman of the chapter’s legislative committee and sat down with Hembree for a couple of hours on HOA issues.
Courtney said besides the licensing, he can support the three things the delegation is focused on.
But Hembree said the hearing could bring up new issues as well.
“We may hear something entirely different that takes it down a different track,” he said.
The delegation will meet soon after the hearing to discuss HOA legislation further and craft a strategy to get legislation into law.
What happens during the session probably will include the introduction of more than one bill.
An overarching Homeowners Act has been unsuccessful in getting traction in at least the past six sessions, in large part due to the fee it proposed for arbitration, so smaller, single-issue bills may have a better chance.
“You can put way too much in a bill,” Hardwick said. “I think in the end we’ll chip away at it.”
If the piece about a magistrate’s hearing on HOA problems becomes law, people such as the Greens could get a court-ruling without having to hire a lawyer.
The wall going up almost at their property line has been backfilled with dirt that will become the would-be neighbor’s driveway, meaning their cars will be nearly 10 feet above the Green’s property.
They said they’ve been told by their Realtor that completion of the development next door will lower the value of the home they bought last year for their retirement.
LStar has sent the couple photos of tiered walls with plantings in the flat parts that the company told them it plans to do with their neighbor’s wall. But the Greens don’t feel that there’s enough space in the few feet between the wall and their property line to do any landscaping that would lessen the impact of the wall.
Hembree has said that one of the benefits of magistrate’s court is that frequently people appear before them without lawyers and therefore magistrates are accustomed to making legal sense of arguments from people who don’t have legal training.
Decisions could be appealed, but the two sides would have a good idea of what higher courts might say from a magistrate’s ruling.
Hembree said he’s thinking that HOA legislation for a magistrate’s hearing should specifically deal with frivolous complaints, making the loser pay the fees and costs of the winner.
Hembree, Hardwick and Nelson said they’ve heard from legislators from Charleston, Columbia, Aiken and Greenville who face similar kinds of issues.
Hardwick said they tell him, “I’m glad ya’ll are doing something because I have constituents who are having problems too.”