I attended the open hearing on HOAs held on Oct 29th by a group of our state legislators and what I heard only reinforced what is already widely known by anyone willing to take some time and investigate the situation. I would like to publicly commend the delegation for holding the hearing and soliciting input on this issue from property owners.
The situation is out of control and has been out of control for many years but until recently there has been little effort to remedy the situation. As with most politicians, it appears the hearing was set to determine and gauge the level of public outrage thus determine how much of a threat it will be to them in retaining their jobs in future elections.
To anyone who examines the situation there is no question as to the abuse of property owners in HOAs and the complete absence of property owner’s rights in HOAs in South Carolina. Many states have already recognized these injustices and have written comprehensive laws to protect citizens from this abuse. Some are very well written (Florida and Virginia) and others leave a lot the be desired (North Carolina and Georgia). It appears South Carolina has arduously arrived at the conclusion action must be taken on this issue. It has been stated by many they regret relocating to South Carolina where there is little in the area of consumer protection and property owner’s rights if you are a member of property owners associations.
If one researches the laws of other states, there are many issues to include, but the four most glaring issues that must be initially addressed are: 1) Consumer protection; providing all documents relative to the HOA, CC&R, Rules and regulations, financial statements, bylaws, etc. a minimum of seven days prior to the sale closing on the property. 2) Developer controlled HOAs; limiting the dictatorial power (excessive) of the Declarant over the community and mandating a well-defined systematic turnover of the HOA to the property owners which protects property owner’s rights. 3) A reliable, efficient, and inexpensive method of resolving issues that arise within an HOA, utilizing a “loser pays” system to pay the cost to adjudicate the complaint. 4) Ensure HOA Boards are openly and fairly elected (per properly adopted bylaws) and managed per South Carolina’s currently existing Code Title 33 - Corporations, Partnerships, and Associations.
Going forward, my fear is there will be a weak and halfhearted effort to address this issue in the legislature. This has already been stated by some in the legislature who say they want to move forward and incrementally address very simple issues regarding management of these organizations. I am not sure what they are afraid of other than irritating a group of lobbyists or upsetting potential campaign supporter and/or contributors. There are laws in the legal code in several others states. Do not reinvent the wheel; read these laws, determine what would benefit South Carolina citizens, debate it, and promptly pass the legislation.
I don’t know any of the legislators personally nor have I discussed this issue with them. I have emailed opinions and comments with no response to date. I get the general impression they are very cautious and slow moving. I can only state I believe the injustices and inequities in these organizations have now come to the forefront and will begin to impact the perception of South Carolina as a place to live and own a home. Hopefully our legislators will evaluate the situation, acknowledge the input of property owners, and act expeditiously for the benefit on all who live in the state.
The writer lives in Conway.