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Weather Alert: review these storm preparedness tips

Expected Upkeep Enforced by our Community Association Management Firms

The staff or volunteers you occasionally see walking around your community with clipboards or tablets are your association’s covenant enforcement officers. They’re inspecting the property to ensure that everything is working properly, that conditions are safe and that nothing is reducing property values or the quality of life in your Carolina community.

In short, they’re making sure policies and rules are being followed—from pet behavior, parking and unkempt lawns, to improper exterior modifications and more. They field complaints from fellow homeowners and, if necessary, remind you (or your neighbor) when a rule has been overlooked.

The officers report their findings to the Carolina Home Association board with photos and detailed notes. Most violations are easily resolved without board action. If not, the next step is a hearing before the board—we want to hear your side of the story. Those who continue to ignore rules may be fined or taken to more extreme measures. The most serious cases may end up in court, though we try very hard to never get to that point.

Your association’s covenant enforcement officers perform a vital function, so please treat them with courtesy and respect. If you have any questions about the rules, the officers can explain them to you. Your association manager and board members are happy to listen and respond to any concerns.

When you purchased your home in one of our common-interest communities in the Carolinas, you became contractually bound to abide by the covenants that protect your association. Please review them and ensure that you are in compliance. You can find them on our website.

Precautions You Can Take Against Lighting As A Homeowner

Warm weather usually means fun in the Carolina sun, but summer heat also can bring severe weather. Threatening thunderstorms often loom large on summer afternoons, so it’s important to be prepared for downpours and accompanying lightning. Consider the following suggestions when planning both outdoor and indoor events this summer to reduce the risk of a lightning strike.

  • Watch the weather. Pay attention to your local weather forecast before participating in outdoor activities. If there’s a chance of thunderstorms, consider rescheduling or moving the event indoors. If that’s not possible, have an emergency plan in place in case a severe storm rolls in, and designate a sufficient nearby structure as an emergency shelter.
  • Stay inside. If severe thunderstorms are imminent, go indoors and wait until they pass. Safe, enclosed shelters include homes, schools, offices, shopping malls and vehicles with hard tops and closed windows. Open structures and spaces do not provide adequate protection.
  • Duck and crouch. If you’re caught outside during a severe storm, it’s important to crouch low on the ground, tuck your head and cover your ears to help protect yourself from harm. Do not lie down; lightning strikes can produce extremely strong electrical currents that run along the top of the ground, and laying horizontally increases electrocution risk.
  • Turn off faucets. During a thunderstorm, lightning can sometimes be conducted through the plumbing. Avoid any type of contact with running water, including bathing, showering and washing your hands, dishes or clothes.
  • Turn off electronics. All electrical appliances—televisions, computers, laptops, gaming systems, stoves and more—that are plugged into an electrical outlet could carry a current from a lightning strike. Surge protectors will reduce the risk of damaging electronics.

Stay away from windows. Not only is lightning a threat, but high winds and hail create flying debris that could be harmful during a thunderstorm. Close all windows and doors and stay as far away from them as possible.

Our Association Management Groups Practice Fair Debt Collection  

Our associations makes every effort to work with homeowners in the Carolinas who are having problems paying their assessments. We understand that people get behind on their payments at times. We want our homeowners to know that our associations adhere to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), and we do not harass homeowners for unpaid assessments.

Carolina Community associations are required to collect assessments, which many state and federal courts consider to be debts. The FDCPA requires those who collect debts from individuals—like homeowners in a community association—to refrain from tactics that might be considered invasive. The FDCPA prohibits the association from:

  • Harassing you
  • Threatening you with violence or harm
  • Publishing names of owners who are delinquent or refuse to pay
  • Annoying you with repeated phone calls
  • Making false statements about you
  • Misrepresenting the amount you owe
  • Depositing your post-dated check early
  • Threatening to take legal action against you when we don’t really mean it
  • Providing your personal information to anyone else without your permission

The FDCPA also requires the association to notify you in writing about your delinquent assessments. This correspondence must state that it is an attempt to collect a debt, include the amount of the debt and the association’s name, and it must state that you have 30 days to dispute the debt in writing. If an association violates any of these stipulations, it could be liable to the homeowner for damages, attorneys’ fees and court costs.

For more information about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act practices in the Carolinas visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information page at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0149-debt-collection.

Why are Quorums Important to HOAs?

A quorum is the minimum number of North or South Carolina homeowners who must be at a meeting before business can be discussed. State law tells us what that minimum number is for our associations. It’s relatively low, but we still have a tough time reaching our minimum. This is a common problem in many homeowner associations.

Meetings that don’t reach a quorum must be adjourned and rescheduled at a later date. This costs the association money and creates more work for their teams. Further, achieving a quorum at a second meeting—if we couldn’t get one the first time—is even harder.

So, why bother to try again? The Home Owners Association board is legally obligated to conduct an annual meeting and it’s an important part of conducting association business. During the annual meeting, new board members are elected and the coming year’s budget is presented to the Carolina homeowners for approval. No quorum means no election and no budget. This means the current directors will have to continue serving until an election can be conducted. It also means that last year’s budget will remain in effect until a valid meeting can be held to approve a new budget.

Good news: You can be “at” a meeting in the Carolinas and across the country at the same time by signing a proxy! That’s how you assign your vote, in writing, to another person. Proxies count toward the quorum, so they’re very important to the association.

We ask you to complete a proxy form even if you plan to attend the meeting. That’s just in case something comes up that prevents you from attending. When you do attend the meeting, your proxy will be returned to you.

Since proxies are so important to achieving a quorum, you may find us knocking on your door, calling on the phone or even stopping you in the common areas asking you to sign a proxy form. We’ll do anything to achieve a quorum. Without it we can’t do business, and eventually that affects you, the Carolina homeowner.

Supporting the Efforts of all Volunteers of Community Associations

Doing good may be its own reward, but most volunteers across the Carolinas would probably agree that it’s nice to be recognized for the time, effort and commitment they’ve put into serving others—particularly in what can sometimes seem to be thankless roles.

Members of our communities devote their energy and enthusiasm to making communities in the Carolinas the very best they can be. Most of the time they do this by serving in important board positions and committees, and on neighborhood projects. Volunteers also help keep assessments down—every hour of volunteer work is an hour of labor that the Southern Community Service Home Owners Association does not have to pay a service provider.

Below are some easy ways to show your neighbors how much you appreciate their hard work.

  • Keep an eye out for those featured in our newsletter’s Volunteer Spotlight. When you see them, introduce yourself and say “Thanks!”
  • Join us for our annual volunteer appreciation celebration. Help us honor those who have donated their time throughout the year, and have some fun.
  • Send an e-mail to a volunteer explaining that he or she is valued for stepping up.

As volunteers, your neighbors invest their time in projects that benefit you and the Carolinas. No association can thrive without them; so let them know you appreciate their efforts.

Have an idea for recognizing volunteers? Contact a board member and share!

Winter Storm Watch in Effect

With the Winter season comes seasonal storms, which can vary from icy roads to freezing temperatures. It is important that as a home resident you know the correct precautions to take against harsh Winter weather. Please be sure to take the necessary precautions in regards to freezing temperatures.

Home tips
Frozen pipes can lead to a big mess. Here are a few tips for guidance on avoiding weather-related disasters at home:

  • Allow a small trickle of water to run overnight, preferably through a faucet on an outside wall.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets so warmer air can circulate below the sinks.
  • Know the locations of your shut-off valves, in case a pipe bursts.
  • Shut off any outdoor spigots and bring in hoses.

Plants
If you haven’t already taken steps to protect your plants, here a few ways to care for them during the cold weather:

  • Bring your smaller container plants, especially succulents, indoors. Mulch or cover outdoor plants with straw, blankets or cardboard.
  • Be sure to turn off automatic sprinklers, detach hoses from faucets and wrap the faucets to protect outdoor pipes.
  • Don’t worry if plant leaves wilt; they protect themselves against cold by dehydrating themselves. Given time, most will perk back up.

Pets
Pet owners should take special precautions with their animals during freezing temperatures. It’s best to keep all pets indoors.

Cats will curl up against almost anything to stay warm, including car engines. Before you turn your engine on, check beneath the car or make plenty of noise by honking the horn.

Stay warm!

Cold Weather Advice

Snow can make children squeal with delight, but it can also make adults snort with dread and frustration. Although we don’t get much wintery weather in the Southeast, our homeowners association try to remove any snow and ice quickly and safely from roads and walkways, while still allowing the kids to have some fun. In the meantime, please keep these cold-weather tips in mind:

  • Each homeowners association has shovels and salt available for good-Samaritan residents who wish to help out with the sidewalks. Shoveling can be good exercise, but pace yourself and drink plenty of water.
  • Please ask your kids to use the designated sledding areas. They’re safer for your children and easier on our landscaping. Make sure sledders have a buddy and only sled during daylight hours. We want to make sure everyone stays safe and has fun!
  • If possible, for everyone’s safety, clear the snow away from fire hydrants near your home.
  • When you warm up your car, wait a few minutes before turning on the heat to give the windshield time to adjust. Drastic changes in temperature can cause your windshield to crack. That includes pouring warm water on cold glass outside or immediately blasting your defroster inside the car. If you just can’t wait, consider using de-icer sprays instead, which are quick and effective. Rain-X defroster wiper fluid, or similar products, prevent ice from bonding to your windshield making your scraping job much easier.
  • Keep a supply of drinking water and food on hand. Remember to keep blankets, flashlights and warm clothes handy. If you lose power, it’s up to you to call the utility company before you call us.
  • Don’t expect to see the snow plows until at least multiple inches of snow have accumulated—that’s what we’re contracted for. Please keep this in mind before calling us with your reminders and questions. In cold weather, don’t go out if you don’t have to. Be smart and stay warm.

Lost and Found: Replacing Important Personal Documents

Important personal documents like passports, birth and marriage certificates and Social Security cards are often necessary for you and your family to access a number of government benefits and services. When these records are lost, stolen or damaged, you’ll need to find copies and replacements immediately.

Passport

A lost or stolen passport should be reported to the U.S. State Department at 1-877-487-2778. You’ll need to submit forms DS-11 and DS-64 in person at a passport agency or acceptance facility. If you find your passport after reporting it as missing, return it to the State Department — you won’t be able to use it to travel. If you lose your passport overseas, contact the local U.S. embassy or consulate. You can find more information at travel.state.gov/passport/lost/lost_848.html.

Life Event Certificates

Birth, marriage, divorce and death certificates are state records. To obtain a copy, contact the state office where the life event occurred. A complete list of state and territory offices is available at www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm.

Social Security Card

 If you know your Social Security number, you may not need to replace your Social Security card if it’s lost. You can collect Social Security benefits, get a job and apply for many government benefits and services with only your number. If you want to replace the card, mail or take documents that prove your identity (a current driver’s license or U.S. passport) and citizenship (U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport) to a local Social Security office.

Military Service Records

Copies of military service records typically are necessary to apply for government programs available for veterans, including health care, retirement or education benefits. The National Archives stores copies of all veterans’ service records. Apply online to receive a copy of yours or an immediate family member’s  records if they are deceased. You can also replace lost military medals and awards. Go to www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/.

These vital records and others, such as tax returns and school records, can be replaced. A complete list with tips on how to obtain all of your personal records is available at www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Family-Issues/Vital-Do

Go West, Young Man, Go West. And South!

While the populations of North Dakota, Iowa, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., will be stagnant or decline between now and 2030, a dozen states will experience population growth of 30 percent or more, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. They are Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

Eight states—California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Tennessee—will grow between 20 and 30 percent by 2030. The remaining states, most of them in the Midwest and Northeast, can expect increases of less than 20 percent.

While the South and West are projected to grow by 52 and 35 percent respectively, the Northeast and Midwest will grow by just 5-10 percent. Many of these people will move into communities that fall under a property management service such as an HOA.

Southern Community Services is happy to be managing many homeowners associations during this exciting time of growth for the South.

The Census Bureau has a great website with demographics for every state listed next to the same data for the nation as a whole. You can go to http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/ to see how our states ranks on population, home ownership rates, foreign-born residents, education, per-capita income and much more.

 

Sidestepping Solicitors

Annoyed by the persistence of solicitors’ unwelcome knocks on your door? It seems like no matter what they do, they always manage to show up on your front porch at the worst time. They come with fliers, door hangers, a rehearsed speech and the distinct ability to ignore the polite decline of the products they’re peddling—cleaning supplies, appliances, cosmetics, magazine subscriptions, home-improvement products, coupons for local businesses and other unwanted items—sometimes even making you feel trapped in your own home.

Homeowners associations are particularly frequent targets of commercial, religious and political solicitors; part of the appeal is that population density makes our HOAs an easy environment for them to canvas. Because of this, finding a way to keep solicitors away can be difficult.

The simplest way to deter solicitors is by posting a “No Solicitors” sign in your yard, on your door or in your front window. If you get knocks on the door anyway, you also can ask solicitors for their license, permit or company identification; many don’t have it and will leave. If the solicitor doesn’t leave or keeps coming back, tell them the community has nuisance restrictions and there are legal ramifications for violating them. If that’s not enough to make them high-tail it off your lawn, you can also call your community association office and ask for security personnel to escort the solicitor out of the community.

While a visit from a solicitor is often annoying, they can sometimes be more than just a nuisance; some might have motives such as fraud, canvassing a home to commit a crime or other unseemly behavior. If you believe a solicitor is acting suspiciously or you feel threatened, call the police immediately and notify our security personnel to help you avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Stay safe, keep your sanity and do your part in discouraging solicitors from trolling our community. You’ll soon hear just how sweet an un-rung doorbell sounds.