We have strict accounting protocols in place that provide the highest level of security to your association funds. Learn more about fiscal responsibility at SCS.

Expected Upkeep Enforced By The Community Association Management Firm

Expected Upkeep Enforced by the Community Association Management Firm

The staff or volunteers you see occasionally walking around your community with clipboards or tablets, are the association’s covenants 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 your 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 worse. The most serious cases may end up in court, though we try very hard never to get to that point.

The association’s covenants enforcement officers perform a vital function; please treat them with courtesy and respect. If you have any questions about the rules, the officers should be able to explain them. The association manager and board members also are happy to listen and respond to your concerns.

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

Why We Contract For Professional Landscaping

Why We Contract for Professional Landscaping

Maintaining common areas is one of the homeowners association board’s most basic responsibilities. To fulfill that responsibility, the board has contracted with a professional landscaping company. Before signing the contract, the board sought bids from several potential companies, carefully considered the competence and expertise of each company, checked references and compared fees.

These fees may seem like an added—or even unnecessary—expense; but, in the long run, the additional cost will be less than the losses faced without professional help. The advantages:

  • Professional Expertise: It takes more than a green thumb to maintain attractive and functional landscaping. The contractor employs professional staff and trained labor crews. This expertise translates into a cost-effective and successful landscape maintenance program for the community.
  • Bulk Purchase Savings: The landscape contractor purchases plants and supplies in bulk quantities at reduced prices and passes the savings along to the HOA.
  • No Equipment to Buy or Maintain: The HOA doesn’t have to purchase, store, insure, maintain, or buy fuel for equipment.
  • Improved Plant Survival: Trees, turf, shrubs and other plantings are costly. Without proper care, they don’t survive, especially immediately after installation. The landscaper guarantees newly planted shrubs and trees, so the community won’t have to pay for replacing dead plants.
  • Reduced Liability: The HOA’s landscape contractor is properly insured and knowledgeable about—and in compliance with—all local and federal environmental requirements and safety regulations. The contract shifts responsibility to the contractor and reduces the HOA’s liability.

Landscaping is very important to the community’s quality of life, its image and value. Maintaining it can be very expensive. Is it worth what the association pays for these services? Yes! Investing in professional landscape maintenance makes your neighborhood desirable and contributes to the value of your individual homes.

Lethal Lawns: Preventing Mushroom Poisoning

Lethal Lawns: Preventing Mushroom Poisoning

As mushrooms become more popular on homeowner association lawns in the spring and fall, so do mushroom poisonings. There are no easily recognizable differences between poisonous and nonpoisonous mushrooms, and as Americans become more adventurous in their mushroom consumption, poisonings are likely to increase. Most mushrooms that cause human poisoning cannot be made nontoxic by cooking, canning, freezing or any other means of processing.

Poisonous species are found in habitats ranging from urban lawns to deep woods, they have no antidote and can cause severe illness or death. Only a qualified mushroom expert should identify the mushrooms growing in your HOA community, and you must take appropriate precautions to prevent children and pets from eating or licking them.

Mushroom spores are always present, and while there is no simple way to get them out of your yard, there are steps you can take to minimize fungal growth.

  • To avoid spreading mushroom spores, don’t kick, stomp or mow mushrooms.
  • Dig up mushrooms as soon as they appear, and throw them in the trash. By doing so, they will be unable to send out spores. Never put them on a compost pile; it is an ideal environment for their growth. Mushrooms need water and organic matter to grow, so water grass and plants only when necessary. Keep your lawn cut and free of debris by raking up leaves and grass clippings, and scoop up animal droppings.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing your lawn because it encourages the growth of mushrooms.
  • Use lawn fungicides. While these won’t eliminate the problem, they may help control it if other measures fail.

In the event of a pet or child eating an unknown mushroom, seek immediate medical care. Also pick as many of the mushrooms as you can, and take them with you to be identified.

Eco-Friendly Lawn Care Tips

Eco-Friendly Lawn Care Tips

Maintaining your yard in a traditional manner isn’t always the “greenest” endeavor. Whether it’s using chemical-laden pesticides and fertilizer or working with greenhouse gas-producing lawn tools, not all of lawn upkeep are environmentally friendly. With these simple tips from your homeowners association, you can reduce your carbon footprint and keep your yard looking lush.

  • Conserve water by dousing your lawn more heavily but less often. This way, you’re using less water because the heavier watering lasts longer, allowing you to spread out how often you have to water your lawn. Also, watering in the early morning or early evening gives water a chance to soak into the soil and switch to water-saving sprinklers and hose nozzles.
  • Leave grass clippings on your lawn after mowing to decompose and replenish the soil, which encourages healthy grass growth.
  • Don’t cut grass too short. Keeping your grass between one and three inches (depending on the type of grass) to ensure that the root systems are deep enough to protect the grass from getting scorched by the summer sun. To avoid stressing the grass, a good rule of thumb is to cut no more than 1/3 of the grass’s current height. Be sure to cut your grass often so that you don’t have to take off too much with each mowing.
  • Consider trading in your gas-powered lawn mower for an electric or battery-powered mower. Gas-powered engines contribute significantly to air pollution, so switching to an electric or battery-powered mower reduces carbon emissions. Both types of mowers are easy to start, and battery-powered mowers rechargeable and run up to 70 minutes. Electric and battery-powered versions of other gas-powered lawn tools, like weed whackers and leaf blowers are also available.
  • Go organic when choosing a fertilizer. Organic fertilizers take longer to show results than chemical fertilizers; but offer a much greener lawn in the long run.. Conversely, chemical fertilizers can deplete your soil of minerals, pollute ground water runoff and cause soil to become too acidic.

 

Curb Appeal Counts

Curb Appeal Counts

Whether you live in the mountains, the beach, or anywhere else in the Carolinas, cleaning out and sprucing up your yard are good low-cost alternatives to major home improvement. You might hire a professional or have the skills and tools to do it yourself, either way, we offer helpful tips to improve your lawn and landscape:

  • Planting colorful annuals in beds or pots around the house and patio, in hanging plant holders or in flower boxes makes a house look cared for and cozy.
  • Weeding, edging, planting beds and mulching go a long way toward improving a yard’s look.
  • To solve problems or add interest, plant new trees and shrubs to create focus areas, or to camouflage foundations and old fencing, or block unsightly views.
  • Have your trees and shrubs professionally pruned, fix brown spots in the lawn and remove and replace diseased plants.

Homeowners who want help with their yard should seek an evaluation by a professional lawn or landscape firm. A professional can assess the health of the lawn, plants, trees and shrubs and offer recommendations for improvements.

For more information, visit www.landcarenetwork.org/findaprofessional.

 

Urban Gardening Basics

Urban Gardening Basics

As the bleak cold of winter finally breaks and signs of spring begin to pop up all around, thoughts of vibrant flowers and lush vegetables are on gardeners’ minds. For those green thumbs living in smaller homes, apartments or condos, an impressive garden may seem unattainable. However, many are turning toward urban gardening, bringing plant life into unique spaces and growing gardens in every nook and cranny. These miniature gardens bring great natural beauty and help reduce humanity’s carbon footprints. As more people move to urban areas, urban gardens are becoming more popular, and encouraging those who have never planted to go dig in the dirt to see what comes up. While urban gardening does have its challenges, the homeowners association have a few tips on how to overcome them to bring your small garden into full bloom.

Know Your Plot

Before you go on a planting spree, take the time to plan out the logistics of your garden. Will it be in your back yard, on your porch, on the roof or on a window sill? Is your intended spot part of the HOA’s common ground? Check with the community association before you start.

How much direct or partial sunlight does that area get, and is that the right amount of sunlight for your plants? Is your space large enough to house the plants when they’re full grown? And, if not, do you have a bigger space where you can relocate them? Will you be doing container gardening, or will you be planting in the ground? What steps do you need to take to get your soil ready for planting? Before you begin gardening, it is important to have answers for these questions because the different environments will affect your plant life. Having a plan can help you avoid unnecessary chaos.

Know Your Plants

All plants aren’t created equal, and knowing which will best suit your urban garden is a must for robust growth. Often, urban gardeners will be restricted by space or the need to plant only in containers. Compact plants that can thrive in those conditions, such as herbs, tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, zinnias and many more will best survive. And be sure to know what your plants need, such as when and how deep to plant them, as well as how much light and water they need. Also, will they need to be started as seedlings under a grow light until they’re hearty enough to go outdoors. Also be wary of the soil mixture needed to them to flourish.? Being ready to address your plants’ needs is an important step in making sure they grow to their full potential.

Know When to Transplant

Container gardeners will need to be vigilant about making sure they transplant their plants into the right containers as they grow. If your plant is in a container that’s too small, the roots will become restricted, causing the soil to dry out quicker, so it’s necessary to move your plant to a roomier home. Be careful, though, not to use too large of a container, as the roots won’t be large enough to suck up all the moisture in the soil, which can lead to root rot. A good rule of thumb in choosing the right size container is to make sure your plant is neither overflowing or dwarfed by the container, and that there’s a few inches of dirt that can be seen around the plant. So the next time your plants hit a growth spurt it will have the right amount of space to live comfortably.

Get Creative

The best part about an urban garden is that you can set it up anywhere and make it into anything you want. Your garden can be on places like your patio, your front door steps or anywhere else good sunlight hits—and the HOA permits.

While these tips just covered the basics, to learn more about urban garden, go to www.gardenguides.com. No matter what your living area is like, if you’ve got a bit of imagination you can make an urban garden that’s uniquely your own.

Beware Boxwood Blight

Beware Boxwood Blight

Boxwoods are ornamental shrubs found throughout the U.S. including South Carolina. They’re popular because they stay green year round and don’t appeal to deer. Alarmingly, a new species of boxwood blight (the fungus Cylindrocladium buxicola) was discovered in the U.S., and several other countries in late 2011. Indistinguishable from two other types of benign boxwood blight, this third species is aggressive and deadly to all boxwoods not protected. Here is some helping advice provided by your community homeowners association.

The only known solution for Cylindrocladium fungus is extreme daily temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The US Department of Agriculture has allocated more than $500,000 for research to cure boxwood blight. Until a remedy is found, homeowners can slow the spread of the disease by detecting it early and using proper eradication procedures. Early detection is especially important since the fungus life cycle can be as swift as seven days from infection to propagating new spores.

Early signs of Cylindrocladium infection are round, brown spots on leaves or lesions on the leaf tip. In advanced stages, leaves drop off and the bare branches show black cankers.

If you have boxwoods on your property, inspect them at least once a week during the growing season. If your boxwoods show any signs of distress, you should take the following steps:

  • Contact the county agricultural extension center for testing. Testing is important since all boxwood blight species look alike. If tests confirm that Cylindrocladium is the culprit, begin removing diseased plants immediately and notify the community association company or a HOA board member as soon as possible.
  • Always wear gloves when handling diseased plants, fallen leaves and plant debris. Be careful not to touch healthy boxwoods or parts of garden tools that may come in contact with them. Wash the gloves and tools thoroughly or use disposable gloves.
  • Remove infected plants and dead leaves carefully and thoroughly. Fungus on fallen leaves can survive for as long as five years, so removing all debris is essential. Seal and double bag all debris or, if, burn or bury diseased plants and debris. Do not combine infected plant debris with other yard waste for pickup or disposal, and do not use it in compost systems.
  • After removing infected plants, vacuum porches, decks, walkways, flagstones and other hard surfaces adjacent to diseased boxwoods.
  • Replace your diseased boxwoods with alternative plants for the five years following a Cylindrocladium infection. Ask your landscaper or nursery staff for substitutes that are not in the boxwood family. If you opt for new boxwoods, plant them as far from the infected areas as possible.
Beyond Lawn Care

Beyond Lawn Care

Wooded areas, meadows, streams and ponds are features that add value to communities. These wonderful features enhance property values, increase aesthetic appeal, improve environmental quality, eliminate noise and wind and reduce energy bills.

The responsibility to maintain our natural areas goes beyond the capabilities of lawn care providers, so it’s up to the homeowners association to properly maintain all common ground, both landscaped and natural.

That’s why the your homeowners association pays attention to water resources and quality, wildlife habitats and species diversity. With proper HOA management and maintenance, there will be great benefits to local ecosystems. Plus – it’ll save the association money!

Remember, environmental stewardship begins at the community level.