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Weather Alert: review these storm preparedness tips

Union Bank Money Market and CD Promotional Rates through Dec. 31, 2018

Union Bank HOA Services has extended its offering of VERY competitive rates for your reserve funds.  These new rates also include a surety bond to cover any funds over the $250K FDIC Insurance.  This special is only available for new funds coming to Union Bank from an outside bank or investment fund.  For the Money Market account the rates are good for one year.

For more information, view the Union Bank HOA Reserve Promotions flyer below:

Preparing for Hurricane Florence

With the uncertainty facing all of us with the path of Hurricane Florence we would like to provide you with some important information regarding storm preparedness-

Before a Storm:

  1. Terms. A “watch” is a notification for residents to be on alert of a potential storm, and a “warning” indicates that a hurricane is expected in your area.
  2. Insurance and Important information. Review your insurance plans and have copies of important documents, such as driver’s licenses, medical information, and insurance cards.
  3. Plan ahead.  Create an emergency plan in the event that an evacuation is necessary, and keep emergency contact information handy. Don’t forget to consider your pets when planning for a possible evacuation.
  4. Supplies. Plan ahead of time by creating emergency kits filled with survival necessities such as bottled water, non-perishable snacks, medication, batteries, blankets, crank radios and flashlights.
  5. SC Emergency Manager The official app of SCEMD. It is designed for users to build their own emergency plans, to keep track of supplies and to stay connected to loved ones. In addition, coastal residents can now “Know Your Zone” instantly using the maps feature as well as locate the nearest emergency shelters when they are open. The tools section features a flashlight, locator whistle and the ability to report damage to emergency officials. The SC Emergency Manager can function without the need of a data connection, which is useful when basic utilities are offline. Get it here

Make plans to secure your property.

  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well-trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors. If wind enters a garage, it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.

ADDITIONALLY………If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Keep a supply of water for sanitary purposes, such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.
  • Make sure you have three gallons of water per family member.
  • Refill your prescriptions
  • Fill up your car with gas
  • Withdraw a week’s worth of cash since power outages may interrupt these services temporarily.
  • Place important, valuable papers such as your log of possessions in waterproof bags
  • Have canned food for at least three days and a can opener

During a Storm:

  1. Listen. Listen to local radio and television broadcasts for current conditions and recommended actions. You can also sign up to receive emergency alerts on your mobile device here.
  2. Evacuate. When directed by local authorities, you may be required to evacuate. Know your zone and evacuation route  in advance.
  3. Shelter. If you are unable to evacuate, seek shelter in an interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.

After a Storm: 

  1. Be aware of dangers. Be cautious of potential dangers, such as downed power lines, contaminated water, or possible gas leaks.
  2. Document damage. If possible, take photos of the damage on your property or residence, in addition to making written notes.
  3. Be cautious of scams. Be alert to possible disaster-related scams such as fraudulent phone calls or price gouging. Do not give any personal information, including credit card and bank account information, to unverified callers.

More helpful hints…..

  • Make sure you have pet food and supplies for three days.
  • Contact a trained expert to turn off damaged utilities and appliances instead of trying to do it yourself.
  • Drink only bottled water until tap water is deemed safe.
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges. Stay off the streets. If you must go out, watch for fallen objects including downed electrical wires, weakened walls, bridges, roads and sidewalks.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.
  • Walk carefully around the outside your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage before entering.

We hope that you find this information helpful as you prepare for the effects of Florence.

Please follow the link below for a Hurricane Preparedness Handbook along with a Family Communications Plan for your convenience.

Hurricane Preparedness Guide

Stay Safe!

SCS will Host Two CAI-SC Events this Spring

Southern Community Services is hosting two Community Associations Institute (CAI-SC) Lunch and Learn events in spring 2018. Join us!

Register online online at or 

Stay tuned for more details on speakers and session topics!

April 26, 2018: Columbia

Southern Community Services
King’s Grant Clubhouse
300 North Kings Grant
Columbia, SC 20209
Capacity: 50

May 3, 2018: Charleston

Southern Community Services
Park West Clubhouse
2701-P1 Park West Blvd
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29466
Capacity: 50-75

Q & A with HOA Expert

Q: I am having trouble contacting the individual directors on the board of directors. The HOA president says there are “privacy issues” to giving out phone numbers or email addresses. I’ve asked our property manager and I get the same response. I thought that as a homeowner I have a right to directly contact my board members.

A: All members, including board members, have the right to privacy. Your board has hired a management company to handle business. The manager, in turn, contacts the board as needed when business matters exceed the manager’s authority. I suggest you contact the manager with your request. Either he will be able to help you or will ask the board president or board for direction. This is a reasonable process to protect board member privacy.

Q: Does an Architectural Review Committee (ARC) have the right to ignore published regulations relating to the installation of playground equipment on a residential lot? Our Rules and Regulations specifies that before an application is approved, the owners of adjacent properties must be notified.

A: If the ARC has a procedure to follow and it has not been followed, you have the right to appeal the matter to the board of directors. The requirement for neighbor input was put there for a reason and should be honored as long as it exists.

Q: Can owners and board members be prohibited from conferring with the HOA’s lawyer by the board president who is the appointed liaison?

A: Since conferring with an attorney triggers cost to the HOA, the board should have a strict policy concerning how and when it is done and who has authority to do so. This policy should be communicated to the attorney in writing so he knows who he authorized to deal with.


Used with permission from Richard Thompson of From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter. 

Like a River

Last night I went paddling and was reminded yet again why I love rivers so much. Wild or quiet, no river is ever the same from day to day, season to season.

Water transforms the world. To enter the water is to enter another universe. The river takes the solid world we walk around in every day and shape-shifts it into another reality, a fluid reality of change and flow.

Flowing water is time itself unfolding. There is no other place where it’s possible to experience so vividly how time moves into the future as on a river. It is not the inexorable march of seconds, each the same as the next, or the hands of a watch ticking away. On a river, time moves because the world flows, now accelerating and then slowing, eddying and swirling to push and tumble ahead, never the same but always downward and onward.

The river is a constant reminder that we are capable of continual evolution, that every shape is only temporary, that time is always moving, that the world is constantly creating itself anew.

Science suggests that all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium have been through the life of at least one star. The oxygen and iron in our blood, the carbon that is the backbone of our metabolism and life tissue, the potassium and sodium that allow us thought and action, they all have an ancient pedigree billions of years old, born of stellar explosions, of planets dying and being reborn, of life beginning and evolving.

Everything within us has gone through this most epic journey. And through it all, a true miracle, that somehow we are given self-awareness. Over time, everything with us flows like water. Our very being is as transient as the surface of a river.

The river speaks all this and much more. It speaks of time and the currents of the world, of shaping canyons and cutting through continents. Of this instant and eternity. “We are made of dust, and the light of a star.”

From an article by Doug Ammons.

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter. 

Hi Yo Silver!

Being a person that wants to serve and protect your own interests, you get yourself elected to the board. At the first board meeting, the president gives you a pep talk about not giving instructions to contractors or discussing board issues with other members unless you preface comments with “the board policy/decision is…”. You bristle at this. Who does this guy think he is? This is America, Home of the Free and Land of the Lone Ranger. Why shouldn’t you be able to say what you want, when you want and to whoever you want?

As a director on the board, you wear two hats: one as an elected official and another as a member of the HOA. While you are clearly entitled to your personal opinion, you need to be careful how and when you express your opinion as a board member. Once elected to serve the interests of the HOA, you need to view things through corporate glasses. This can be difficult when the issues are contentious.

The homeowner association form of government is a representative democracy…a few are elected to represent the many. A fundamental concept of democracy is rule by the majority. Thus, decisions of the board do not require consensus, just that most agree. This may leave some directors in the minority opinion and in even direct opposition with the rest.

When it comes to being a minority position director, there are several approaches, one good and one bad. An HOA board needs diverse points of view to make good decisions. If few have an opinion, usually the loudest voice will prevail and effectively the board will run by a dictator. Dictators don’t work well within the democratic context. Having dissenting opinions expands the perspective and dissenters can often have a major impact on shaping key parts of the final decision. A Lone Ranger dissenter may not carry the day but can still impact the outcome.

On the other hand, a dissenter can choose to express opposition by churning the board’s decision through the HOA grist mill, spinning the facts and creating ill will. It compromises the ability of the board to do its job and causes bad feelings among neighbors. That’s bad for everyone.

That said, there are times when a board or board officer is acting irresponsibly or even criminally. Whistle blowing is certainly appropriate when there is self dealing going on. If the matter is irresponsibility or neglecting HOA business, a vigilant director can be effective by promoting candidates that are more suitable or encourage ineffective directors to step down. But bad mouthing the current regime to neighbors over the back fence is usually self-defeating. It makes the Long Ranger look small minded, he will be ostracized or minimized by the remaining directors and lose ability to impact decisions.

A Lone Ranger director can also compromise the HOA’s interests by interfering with day to day management. One of the most frustrating things a contractor goes through is trying to respond to many “chiefs”. In a professionally managed HOA, the manager is usually authorized to direct contractors. But when a Lone Ranger director steps in to micro-manage a project, the contractor will often try to respond to both the manager and Lone Ranger. But it takes more time and effort and reduces the chances of a successful outcome.

Tonto was the Lone Ranger’s sidekick and mentor. With his wise manner, he would balance the Ranger’s hero compulsivity. Between the two and creative thinking, they always figured out a way to save the day.

In the final analysis, while dissent is a fundamental part of the democratic process and can produce good outcomes, consistently being a Long Ranger erodes the ability for the board to work as a team. Tonto understood the concept of teamwork and often gave the Ranger a different point of view by providing additional information and options. Encourage opposing points of view but strive to forge an outcome that works for the majority. Hi yo Silver!

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter. 

Model Remodeling

Owning your own home is an American dream. In urban settings, homeowner associations have become a dominant form of new construction, often representing over two thirds of new homes. While HOA homeowners have many rights and privileges, they often concede certain freedoms usually enjoyed in more traditional home ownership. One particular area of concession involves remodeling.

To control uniformity, look and feel, many HOAs have material, color and design standards which must be adhered to. In common wall and multi- story HOAs, structural integrity demands that changes made in one unit do not undermine or compromise the remaining units. For these reasons, it is important for the homeowner association to keep the owners informed and reminded of material standards and remodeling guidelines to avoid inadvertent violations.

Here are a number of requirements and guidelines which can be included in a Remodeling Policy as appropriate:

1. For smaller projects (mostly aesthetic, no structural or utility work involved), submit to the board for written approval prior to commencement of work a description of the work to be performed, who will do it and the anticipated schedule.

2. For involved projects (includes structural, utility work) owner must submit architectural plans, copies of permits and contractor agreements to the board for written approval prior to commencing work. If warranted, the board may seek the review and approval of an architect or engineer with related costs to be paid by owner.

3. If view is a consideration in project, require disclosure of proposed structure height and whether removal of trees is contemplated for better view.

4. All power tool operation must be accomplished either in the unit or off property unless authorized by the board in writing and provided there is no unreasonable objection from the neighbors.

5. Contractors are permitted to work only from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Monday through Saturdays. No work on Sundays.

6. All demolition and construction material shall be disposed of off property, not in HOA dumpsters.

7. Contractor shall clean up affected common area daily.

8. Owner will provide adequate parking for contractor. Contractor may not use guest parking or block fire lanes.

9. Common utility (electrical, water, gas, etc.) interruption must be approved and coordinated by the board.

10. If landscaping renovation is proposed and the HOA has landscape standards, a comprehensive plan should be submitted showing proposed changes.

11. Establish specific standards (brand, model, color) for paint color, roofing material, storm doors, screen doors, awnings and other common add-ons.

Since the desire to remodel can happen anytime as the spirit moves the remodeler, the board needs to be proactive in keeping owners informed of expectations. Publish the Remodeling Policy on the HOA website and reference it in all newsletters and periodic email updates. Since remodeling will happen, make sure you do all possible to direct a model outcome.

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter. 

HOA Managers: A Rare Breed


In residential, commercial and industrial rental management, there is a revocable agreement that allows the property owner a fair amount of control over the tenant. If the tenant doesn’t live up to the agreement, the owner can terminate the agreement (and vice versa). This is not the case in HOAs which are controlled by the board, governing documents, HOA statutes and property rights.

HOA managers are called on to do everything that a rental property manager is supposed to do plus be an expert at diplomacy, mediation and human psychology. They are often called on to work a full day and then attend night meetings. It is demanding work and those that are good at it are a rare breed indeed.

HOA management companies typically work by contract for a monthly fee. But how is that amount computed? It generally is based on the estimated time it takes to accomplish the tasks outlined in the Management Agreement. There is often an extra hourly charge for tasks not deemed to be routine.

So what goes into the management fee? There are fixed costs like rent, phones, copier, insurance, computers and internet. Labor charges are based on the estimated time it will take to accomplish the prescribed work. Total fixed and labor costs plus profit margin equal the monthly management fee. It is common to divide this number by the total number of units/lots to derive the charge “per door”. Size matters. Smaller HOAs pay more and larger ones pay less per door.

Typically, an HOA management company will assign a manager, a bookkeeper, a maintenance supervisor and possibly an administrative assistant to the account. All will handle multiple HOAs. The average manager may handle 10-15 accounts.

The salary levels of the staff can have a major impact on the management fees. If an HOA wants experienced professionals, there is a price to pay. This is one of the most challenging forms of management there is and a jack-of-all-trades just won’t do. A qualified HOA manager attends seminars, has professional designations and credentials and focuses exclusively on HOA management. The HOA will benefit from this training and experience so expect to pay accordingly.

Managers spend a great deal of their time preparing for and following up on board meetings. For a typical board meeting, the manager gathers information and prepares a management report, reviews the financial statement, attaches relevant correspondence, puts board packets together and emails or mails them to individual directors.

Most board meetings are held on weekday evenings at the HOA so the manager is required to work after hours and travel, both of which costs the HOA money since it’s built into the contract. After the meeting, the manager usually has a laundry list to follow up on that occupies most the following week. A manager can easily spend many hours on board meeting related business.

What can you do to reduce management costs? Keep board meetings to two hours maximum and consider daytime meetings. Move the

board meeting to the management office and hold them during normal business hours. Reduce monthly to quarterly meetings. With an approved budget, proper policies in place and a management planning calendar, the manager should be able to handle most issues with only occasional input from the president. Letting the manager manage without micro-management from the board may be the single biggest cost saver.

Another cost saving involves manager administration of insurance claims and damage reconstruction. Insurance matters can take many hours of a manager’s time. If the management agreement specifically states that insurance claim work is an extra cost to the HOA, the management company can bill the insurance claim for the time it takes to administrate a claim and renovation work. A similar principle involves time spent on collections or legal action against an owner. This management time should be billed to the delinquent owner.

How about the manager providing sale disclosure statements to owners who are selling their homes and buyers’ lenders? The management company should bill owners and buyers separately and not have the homeowner association bear the cost.

These are but a few ways that management costs can be trimmed. Be sensitive to your manager’s time and don’t pile on unnecessary tasks that ultimately will raise the cost. While it’s important to get what you pay for it’s equally important to pay extra for extra services. The best approach is to forge a partnership with the management company and adjust as time and work loaddemands.

HOA managers are a breed apart and waiting to serve. Put them to work for your homeowner association and get back to living that carefree lifestyle advertised in the brochure.

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter. 

Snipers & Terrorists

Out of the blue, an irate homeowner launches a smear campaign aimed directly at the board. It’s relentless and focused. The motivation may be some personal grievance, hatred of a board policy, disagreement on how the board does business in general or loathing for the whole HOA concept. Rather than seeking redress in an orderly and open way, however, often it takes the form of poison pen letters, back alley rumor mills or a terrorist-like assault at a board meeting.

Board meeting terrorism is designed to hold the board hostage to relentless rants and demands. This form of HOA terrorism is designed to directly challenge board authority and to disrupt the orderly process. As with any terrorist attack, the board’s initial reaction is usually disbelief. But, the cold reality of the assault soon becomes clear and the need to act urgent.

How should the board deal with this kind of attack? When presented a list of demands, should the items be discussed point by point? Should they be recorded in the minutes? What should be done?

Rule #1: Never negotiate with terrorists. The board is not obligated to discuss anything off the agenda. And it’s unreasonable to expect informed answers to firing line questions. The response should be, “Thanks for making your points. We’ll review them and give you a response in writing or consider them at the next board meeting.”

Rule #2: Don’t record a list of demands.

Minutes are intended to discuss in broad terms the business accomplished by the board. Specific motions should have enough detail to describe them and the outcome of the vote. It is not a forum for soap boxing, editorializing or where items are entered into “evidence”. It’s enough

for the minutes to state, “Mr. Sniper asked that the board consider issues relating to (general description).”

Rule #3: Control the Owner Forum. To encourage owner input, an Owner Forum before the meeting should give each speaker owner up to, say, 5 minutes to speak, so the board can get on with its business. Letting someone hold the board hostage should never be allowed and it’s up to the president to control such actions. An abusive person should not be allowed to continue for any length of time.

Rule #4: When attacked, respond quickly and firmly. When the attack becomes apparent, it’s the president’s job to interrupt and, if necessary, ask the attacker to leave the meeting. If the attacker refuses to comply, the president should adjourn the meeting and advise that such conduct will not be allowed at future meetings.

HOA terrorist attacks are designed to fan the flames of emotion and to promote rash response. The board needs to walk the high road and refuse to “dance”. While this isn’t easy when the attack is intense, the directors outnumber the attacker and with a unified response, should be able to defeat the challenge and even help point the terrorist toward a better way.

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter.

Misconceptions of Community Associations

“Community association” is a generic term that encompasses many names used around the world to describe common-interest housing. A few examples include:

  • Common-interest community (CIC) is used by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.
  • Common-interest realty association (CIRA) is the term preferred by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
  • Common-interest development (CID) is used by the California Department of Real Estate.
  • Condominium association refers to units like apartments, townhouses or other private units that are part of a single structure or group of structures.
  • Homeowners association (HOA) is often synonymous with “common-interest community” and usually describes a community of single-family homes.
  • Property owners association (POA) can refer to a residential community or a group of offices or other non-residential property.
  • “Strata title” is a term used in Australia, New Zealand, and British Columbia that describes individually owning part of a property, such as an apartment, and sharing ownership in the property’s common or public areas.
  • In France and some parts of Quebec, condominiums are called “copropriété divisée” (divided co-property).
  • The traditional term in Spanish-speaking countries for a common-interest community is “propiedad horizontal.”
  • Condominio” is the term used in Italy.

Regardless of the name, most community associations in the U.S. are incorporated and subject to state statutes that govern nonprofit corporations. Remember, membership in an association is not voluntary; you become a member when you purchased a home in the Carolina community.