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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.

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.

Rules for the Holidays

The holidays are just around the corner, and for many people in the Carolinas, that means lots of festivities with friends and loved ones. With all of the merriment that’s sure to ensue, it’s important that residents who are hosting celebrations are not only considerate of their neighbors, but also take note of the HOA rules. A complete listing of your homeowners association rules and regulations can be found in your Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), but here are a few key items to look up that are particularly pertinent during the holiday season:

Outdoor Decorations: Decking the halls with seasonal ornaments is a great way to bring the holiday spirit home. Many homeowners love to spread the joy by decorating the outside of their homes and front yards as well, but before you scurry up that ladder to hang the decorative lights along the side of your roof, take a quick peek at the CC&Rs to find out the guidelines for outdoor decorations, as well as the guidelines for flags and signs. This will help make sure your outdoor winter wonderland isn’t an association violation.

Parties: If you plan on hosting a large get-together or party, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. First, keep the revelry and noise to a minimum, and wind the party down at a reasonable time—you don’t want your celebrating to interfere with your neighbors’ attempts to get visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Check your CC&Rs to find out what the association deems acceptable noise levels and what the quiet hours are, as well as guidelines for hosting parties.

Parking: The holidays bring many people together, and that means extra cars will need to be parked. To make sure your guests are covered, look at the CC&Rs to find out the rules on visitor parking in the association, including where they can park and what kind of parking passes they may need.

Overnight Guests: It wouldn’t be the holidays without relatives and guests spending the night after an eventful evening. Of course, depending on how long your overnight guests are staying, you may need to let the HOA association know. The CC&Rs will give you a breakdown on the rules for both short-term and long-term guests, so take a look at them before you break out the extra cot.

Following the association’s rules and regulations helps ensure that all residents can enjoy this special time of year, so please help the community by doing your part. Stay safe and have a wonderful holiday season.

Questions and Answers about Parking

Q: Why don’t we have enough parking?
A: Developers want to build as many homes possible to make the most money, so they often allot the fewest parking spaces required by law. Unfortunately, that leaves your homeowners association to deal with the shortage.

Q: Why can’t we park on the street?
A: The HOA’s roads are subject to local regulations that specify the space needed for access by emergency vehicles. When cars are parked on the street, there isn’t enough clearance for fire trucks to maneuver.

Q: Why do we have to park our SUVs and trucks out of sight?
A: Our governing documents were created by people who were unable to anticipate today’s lifestyles. Who knew 30 years ago that SUVs would replace station wagons as the standard family vehicle and trucks would become passenger oriented and even luxurious? Until our documents are amended, we’re obligated to abide by this requirement.

Q: Why do I have to register my car with the HOA?
A: The association’s registration system allows the community association manager to match vehicles with residents. In the case of an emergency, we can contact you. It also allows the HOA to identify nonresidents who are parking in community spaces. Be sure your parking pass is clearly visible at all times.

Q: It seems the parking lot loses another space to handicapped parking every day. Why so many?
A: It may look like a disproportionate number of spaces are reserved for handicapped parking, but for each space there is a resident in need. The Fair Housing Amendments Act makes it unlawful to “discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with such dwelling, because of a handicap of that person.” The ‘provision of services or facilities’ includes providing reserved parking. When a resident requests a handicapped parking space, the association makes every effort to reserve one. Not only does federal and state law require it, but it’s also the right thing to do.

Q: What gives the HOA the right to tell me where and how to park?
A: When you purchased your home, you entered into a contractual agreement with the HOA to abide by its covenants. Those covenants include bylaws that empower the board to adopt and enforce rules they believe are necessary for everyone’s good. The parking policy explains the parking rules and specifies procedures for enforcing them; not only is the board allowed to develop the policy, it’s legally obligated to do so.

Q: Why don’t we just assign reserved parking?
A:  Parking spaces are a type of property called common elements. That means all spaces are owned commonly by everyone, and everyone has the right to use them. Another type of property is called limited common elements. Like parking spaces, limited common elements are owned by everyone, but not everyone can use them. They are limited to one owner. Patios and balconies are examples of limited common elements. Assigning reserved parking would effectively change the property status from common element to limited common element, which goes against the governing documents and the property rights. Before assigning reserved parking, the governing documents would have to be amended. This process is complex, expensive, lengthy and it requires approval by all members.

Q: Why can’t I use my parking pass for an inoperable vehicle?
A:  Parking rules disallow inoperable vehicles for the simple purpose of keeping the community looking nice. Even covered vehicles give the appearance of neglect.

Q:  Why was I cited for a vehicle that complies with all the association’s parking rules?
A:  Sometimes the association tickets vehicles considered a nuisance. These are vehicles that consistently leak oil on the common areas, emit excessive exhaust or gas fumes, are excessively noisy or are otherwise inconsiderate of others. These situations result when your vehicle is in poor repair.

Q: Why is the visitor parking area always full? It’s frustrating for my guests.
A: The guest parking area serves as overflow parking for the residents. The association regrets the inconvenience for your guests, but this arrangement guarantees that you always have a parking space for yourself.

Why Do We Have Rules

Every homeowners association has a set of rules every member needs to be familiar with. For instance, where can you park, and where may your guests park? Are we allowed to park campers or trucks in our driveways? What are the limitations on the size and number of pets you may keep in your homes? Is there a designated dog-walking area within the community? And what choices—color, styles, landscaping—do you have regarding the décor of your homes’ exteriors?

The HOA’s rules were formulated to preserve the appearance of the community, protect the value of your common property, your individual homes and make the community more harmonious as a whole. So it’s important to be aware of the current HOA rules, while doing your best to abide by them. To keep up to date on with current rules and the consequences for failure to comply—look for a list of association rules on the community website, ask a board member or manager for a copy of the community handbook.

Rules also need to be updated periodically. If you believe a rule is obsolete, needs to be amended or updated, contact a member of the HOA board to find out how to propose a modification or revision.

Pet Rules for HOA Harmony

The homeowners association is proud to be pet-friendly and is happy your four-legged family members are part of the community. Of course, like any good neighbor, it’s important that these pets don’t create an unpleasant environment for everyone else. To avoid unnecessary disputes and potential HOA rule violations, here are some guidelines owners should follow to ensure their furry friends continue to be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

  • Read the Rules: While pets are welcome, there are a few rules and requirements. Please check the HOA community website or the HOA’s governing documents for more information.

Service animals are exempt from the HOA’s pet requirements. However, please contact the board or community association manager to ask for an accommodation to keep a service animal. Proof of the service animal’s training or a doctor’s certification may be required.

  • Keep it Clean: No one wants to see, smell or accidentally step in the “gift” your dog left on the grassy common area. So when your dog needs to go, be sure to properly dispose of it, preferably in a pet waste disposal can. Not only will this keep the community looking better, but it will help keep ground water clean and help prevent the spread of fecal-borne diseases.
  • Quiet Down: Pets will be noisy from time to time. However, when loud barking or meowing becomes annoying to neighbors, it’s time to help your pet become less talkative. First, try to find out what causes your pets to get vocal: Do they get noisy when they’ve been alone, bored all day and need some playtime? Have they gone through a stressful change in environment recently? Are they suffering from health issues? Do they simply like saying “hello” to every squirrel, person or car that passes by? When you’ve identified the cause, take remedial actions such as confining them to an area where they feel calm while you’re away, removing or blocking as many stimuli as possible, exercising and spending more time with them. You can also take them to a professional or search online for tips on how to better train your pets.
  • No Wandering: For the safety of your pets as well as all residents, please do not allow your pets to roam outside unattended. Along with helping protect your pets, leashing your dog is the law.

The Essentials of Due Process

From time to time, the homeowners association rules of your community are broken. When this happens, the HOA informs residents about the problem and follows what is known as due process procedure.

Simply stated, this means that the HOA always notifies residents of alleged violations before taking any action. The community’s board members will send written notice describing the possible rule violation and ask the residents to correct the problem voluntarily by a specific date. These notices also explain any action the HOA may take if the violation isn’t corrected.

The association understands that issues aren’t always as they seem. So, any time notices are sent to residents the board wants to hear the resident’s point of view as well. It can be arrange for residents to meet with the board before imposing any type of penalty.  It’s more important residents comply with the HOA rules for the good of everyone in the community to prevent the imposition of penalties to begin with. These meetings give residents and the board an opportunity to discuss rule violations informally and arrive at a mutual solution.

After the board has reviewed an issue with a resident about a rule violation, board members will discuss the situation among themselves and make a decision. Residents generally receive the board’s decision in writing in about 10 business days. For those who may disagree with the decision, the HOA has created an appeal process.

Why to Have a Design Review Process

Community associations have a set of written design review standards and processes that are required for homeowners to abide by. Some homeowners mistakenly believe these standards restrict their freedom of individual expression, when in fact they actually provide a framework which each homeowner can express individual tastes and preferences. The standards have been carefully developed to reflect a balance between individual rights and the good of the entire homeowners association—that is, property values.

OK, but why do we need processes and guidelines to maintain architectural standards?

It is necessary to have a basis for treating all homeowners fairly and reasonably. Written guidelines allow you and the design review committee to work from the same criteria.

Sometimes architectural requirements can be complex. The guidelines show you exactly what is required, and helps you design improvements that comply with the community’s standards.

And then there’s the application and approval part of the process. The review committee members assure you that they want the paper work to be as simple as possible for everyone. The guidelines take the guesswork out of your application and their decision making.

In fact, they not only provide criteria for the current committee to make appropriate decisions, but for successive committee members to make consistent decisions in the future. Without the criteria in the guidelines, the application approved today may result in future construction deemed unacceptable by new committee members upon completion.

One last purpose of the guidelines is to clarify the homeowners association’s authority in this area. State statutes and our governing documents give the HOA a legal right to enact and enforce design review standards. The guidelines spell this out clearly so that everyone understands they must comply even if they don’t agree.

Are HOA Rules Reasonable?

Homeowners associations have a number of rules and regulations that they ask you to observe so everyone can all maintain property values and quality of life in the community. If you believe a rule fails the “reasonable” test, let your board know at the next meeting for consideration or explanation.

  • Ÿ All rules are based on proper authority—either governing documents or state or local law.
  • Ÿ Enforcement of the rules is intended to be uniform, taking into account the consequences.
  • Ÿ Rules are not in place to punish you or limit your activities. Rather, rules are to ensure that each resident can enjoy the community free from the disruptive or harmful behavior of others.