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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.

Electronic Payment is an Option for Assessments

Your association management board encourages all members to take advantage of the association’s electronic payment program to pay monthly assessments or HOA fees. Electronic payment provides numerous advantages to you as a homeowner, the association and to the environment.

For homeowners, electronic payment is very convenient. Once we’ve set up your account, you no longer have to worry about lost checks or late payments due to slow mail service. You select the date your assessment is paid each month, which allows you to have peace of mind knowing your fees are paid on time. Not only does this save you time and postage, but it can also eliminate late fees.

Direct payment is also beneficial for the association. It improves our cash flow, reduces delinquencies and decreases bank charges, such as lockbox service fees. Plus, this helps keep your assessments down.

According to the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), a nonprofit trade association responsible for the nation’s electronic payments system, 43 percent of all U.S. households use electronic payments for at least one financial obligation, including mortgage, utilities, investments, insurance and loans. However, 19 billion paper bills are still delivered through the mail each year.

If just 20 percent of households in the U.S. switched to electronic bill payments, 100 million pounds of paper would be eliminated from the manufacturing process—saving 1.4 billion gallons of wastewater and 103 million gallons of fuel to deliver it. In fact, a 20 percent reduction in production and transportation of bills, statements and checks would spare the atmosphere two million tons of greenhouse gas a year. For more information on electronic payments, visit To calculate your financial-paper footprint, visit

Home computers and the Internet have made it easy for all of us Carolinians to take advantage of the convenience of paying our assessments electronically. Call your association manager today to set up your electronic assessment payment.


Why a Fee Increase?

It isn’t news most homeowners want to hear when finding out that HOA fees may be increased. However, sometimes a fee increase is the best way to keep the homeowners association in good financial health and other times, increases are unavoidable. Here are some of the reactions homeowners typically have when they hear that their fees are about to increase, followed by the related rationales for an increase.

  • “I can’t afford the increase.”  When you live in a community association, you need to be willing to share the costs as described in the governing documents to which you agreed in escrow. Keep in mind that if the association does not maintain its property, real-estate values can decline.
  • “I probably won’t be living here in 15 years when the streets need repaving. Why should I have to pay now?” Senior citizens, as well as young people living in starter homes, often pose this question. The problem with this “short-time” logic is that these people are benefiting from the use of the streets, pool and other common assets paid for by members who lived there before. Members should pay for the incremental use of these items each year they live there.
  • “Why don’t we just have a special assessment for a specific project?” It can be difficult to collect money when you suddenly have a large expense. It’s better to collect funds gradually so the funds are there when you need them. Also, a special HOA assessment unfairly penalizes homeowners who happen to live in the association at the time.

Understanding Special Assessments

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: everyone hates special assessments and expensive HOA fees. Getting a notice that you owe more money to your homeowner association can not only put a damper on your day but also a dent in your wallet, both of which the board is sympathetic to. In a perfect world, there would never be a need for special assessments—or any other type of assessments for that matter—but sadly, they’re sometimes a necessary evil.

Often times, special assessments are levied when an association needs to make essential repairs, improvements or additions to the common elements, but lacks extra reserve funds to cover the costs. While the board puts in its best effort to keep a healthy reserve fund and to budget in advance for these types of projects, occasionally unforeseen expenses occur. When this happens, we have to call upon our residents to pitch in financially so that our associations can remain solvent. Unfortunately, special assessments aren’t optional fees, and residents are responsible for paying special assessments in the same way they’re responsible for general association assessments. Just remember, these fees are funding projects that will benefit all residents, and your special assessment fees are your contribution towards that.

Of course, your association’s board doesn’t take levying special assessments lightly. Not only do we understand that special assessments can be a hardship for you, but they’re an extra financial burden on resident board members as well. Because of this, we try to make levying special assessments a last resort, and if passed, offer payment plans when possible. There are also regulations set forth in our bylaws that we must follow before levying a special assessment, and in some instances we require residents to vote on the proposed project before we can adopt the special assessment for it. Make sure you start attending open board meetings and voting on these critical projects to give your opinion on these matters.

While none of this changes the fact that having to pay special assessments fees is about as fun as a root canal, just remember that it’s all part of the greater good for your association. They’re investments to your home and your community, and can help maintain our associations as wonderful places to live for years to come.


Five Ways to Keep Fees Down

Residents can help their homeowners’ association to minimize its maintenance expenses by observing a few simple considerations. This helps hold assessment levels (your fees) down.


  1. Do NOT put newspapers in the trash cans. Place them in the trash room either tied in bundles or stacked in paper (never plastic) bags. Newspapers must be recycled. If your county fines the association or if our trash service raises our rates, it could be passed on to you as an assessment increase.
  1. Clean up after yourself. Debris left on the common areas requires special maintenance, and that can mean additional costs.
  1. Be kind to the landscaping. Every bush destroyed or flower trampled has a price tag attached and so does the labor to replace it. If you can spare a few minutes to spend outside, water the plants around your building.
  1. Go easy on the carpet. Put out your cigarette before going up the stairs and carry your bike so the chain doesn’t snag the edge of the steps.
  1. Observe the rules. Association rules are not arbitrary or frivolous. They have been carefully developed to keep property values up and insurance rates down.


Assessments: The Best Bargain in Town

Some homeowner association members question why they have to pay what is commonly known as the “member assessment” when they move into a condominium or homeowners association. While “assessment” may be a technically correct term, the fact is that they are actually property maintenance and HOA fees.

When the collective buying power of the entire association is factored in the fees tend to be a real bargain for individual homeowners. These fees cover exterior maintenance, landscaping, snow removal, trash removal and sometimes utilities, security, recreation facilities and more. They can also include savings for future big-ticket items like hot water heaters, roofs and repaving—which means homeowners will not be hit unexpectedly with a special assessment or loan payback when the roof needs to be replaced in a few years.

Excuses, Excuses

Community association members who pay their assessments late or not at all come up with some very interesting excuses. Here’s half a dozen of the most common and why it’s smart not to use them.

Excuse #1: “You didn’t bill me.”

“I didn’t get an invoice.”

“You didn’t tell me I was behind in my payments.”

Many association-governing documents neither require the association to send invoices nor provide advance notice of payments due or past due. However, associations are required to send the approved budget to each owner annually. When the association approves and sends the budget each year to our members, it contains notice of the amount you must pay annually. If you’re ever unsure about the amount or the due dates, just call the management office.

Excuse #2: “I didn’t get what I paid for.”

“My building hasn’t been painted in five years! I’m not paying another cent until some basic maintenance gets done.”

“The power was out for three days during the storm. I’m withholding a pro-rated amount from my assessment check.”

You have a right to require the association to perform its duties, and various legal channels exist to accomplish this. Withholding assessments is not one of them. Your obligation to pay assessments has nothing to do with the association’s obligations to provide maintenance and service. If you withhold your check or pay a reduced amount, you’ll become delinquent, and that leads to late fees, and actually makes your situation worse. 

Excuse #3: “You can’t do that!”

“These people have no right to make me pay for neighborhood upkeep.”

“If they think I’m paying those outrageous late fees and interest, they’re crazy.”

Actually, the association not only has the authority, it has a duty to all owners to collect assessments. This authority is established in the governing documents and the state’s common interest ownership statutes. When you moved into a community association, you agreed to abide by those documents—and that includes paying assessments.

Excuse #4: “I paid in full.”

Sometimes the association receives a check that says, “paid in full” in the memo section—but it isn’t. Or the check will arrive with a letter or note, stating the check is “payment in full,” or it covers all charges through a certain date. Nice try. If you still have an outstanding balance, we’re not going to cash your check. We’re going to return it to you. This will put you further behind in your payments and just cause more late fees.

Excuse #5: “I never use the recreational facilities.”

“I don’t play golf, and it’s an expensive game. I shouldn’t have to pay to maintain the course.”

“I’ve never been in the fitness center, and I don’t plan to ever use it. Why can’t you pro-rate my assessments accordingly?”

Admittedly, recreational facilities are expensive to operate and—for some associations—represent a good chunk of the budget. Nevertheless, most declarations specify that even if you don’t use the association’s amenities you’re still obligated to pay for their upkeep.

Many of our residents moved into this community specifically for the recreational amenities; they’re willing to pay for them because they take full advantage of the opportunities they provide. Even if you’re not using some of the amenities, they make the community more desirable and the homes in the community more valuable. If you’re not using the facilities, perhaps you should consider whether this community is the best fit for you and your needs.

Excuse #6: “The fees are too high.”

Assessments reflect the actual cost of maintaining all common elements in the community. If you owned your home outside the association, you would have to pay individually for all the same expenses your assessments cover—trash removal, water, landscaping and so on. In fact, you’re actually spending less on assessments because the association has bulk buying power, and you’re getting more because the common areas provide amenities that you likely could not afford on your own.

Legitimate Reasons, not Excuses

When association members lose their jobs or become injured or ill, the association board understands that arrangements need to be worked out for paying assessments. If you have a legitimate reason for falling behind and you need to work out a payment plan, please call the manager. The board considers each situation individually, and will to try to accommodate you special circumstances.

Assessments as Important as Mortgages and Taxes

When you sit down to pay your bills each month, do you consider your association assessment to be a low priority? If so, think again.

According to the National Consumer Law Center’s (NCLC) Guide to Surviving Debt, “Condo fees…should be considered a high priority.” In fact, NCLC considers community association assessments in the same category as mortgage payments and real estate taxes—a category ranked second only to feeding your family—according to the Guide’s “Sixteen Rules about Which Debts to Pay First.”

Assessments pay for services like building maintenance, snow removal and cleaning that you would have to pay no matter where you live—either as direct out-of-pocket expenses or indirectly in a higher rent payment. The association has collective buying power, so when all services and utilities for everyone in the community are passed to you as a monthly assessment, you’re actually getting a bargain.

So, next time you get out your checkbook, remember to put your assessment near the top of that stack of bills. You’ll be glad you did.