HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - More than 100 homeowners attended the public hearing to voice their concerns on county-wide Home Owners Associations.
Homeowner after homeowner spoke their piece Wednesday night. Their concerns ranged from feeling ignored, feeling they have no say, construction limitations, and not knowing where their money was going.
One homeowner compared her HOA to the Gestapo.
More than a hundred people filled the auditorium and many say after years of being ignored by their HOAs, they finally got their say. The Horry County Delegation listened as each homeowner described what they've been noticing over the years living and working with their various HOAs.
"We could not get a budget from them, yet this year we got a 63 percent increase in amenities," Marvin Faine said.
"And said they can use our money any way they wanted! That's plain stealing and cheating!" another homeowner said.
"They sent something out saying we're thinking about going to 55 and over, what do you think? Well, 27 percent of the people never got notified," another homeowner explained about his HOA, that only sends information via email.
Residents in another HOA-based community, the Myrtle Beach Heron Point Golf and Yacht Club, have been informed their golf course is closing. Many of their homes back the golf course. Some even moved to the community because of the golf course. Their HOA held a meeting to answer concerns about their golf course closing, but some didn't feel much was answered.
"I mean there was definitely tension in the air because we wanted answers, but the HOA doesn't have those answers yet," Cathy Kelly explained.
While Kelly supports her HOAs efforts and enjoys living in the community, she fears if the course isn't bought, the land will grow out of control, but because the property is private, there is no one else to turn to.
Others expressed the same feeling at Wednesday night's meeting, and viewed it as their last shot and their only hope to have their voice heard.
"It's the only place we can go, there's no where else to go. Unless you hire an attorney, spend the money, and go nowhere. It's not fair," Nicholas J. Lanza said. Lanza has been struggling with his HOA board because of, what he refers to as, a fire hazard, that's been left within feet of his property.
He explained despite multiple requests, emails, and calls, the HOA has not responded. Lanza says he's gone to the police department, and various fire stations, but they could not help, because again, it's private property.
Some others feel their HOAs are on a never-ending power trip.
"In the state of South Carolina, we have no laws of protection for the homeowners in HOAs. So, basically they can almost do anything they want with a developer and get away with it," Faine said.
The delegation, with members representing each part of the county, heard each concern and admit, there's a pattern here; many have the same concerns.
"That's what we are trying to identify, that's the purpose of the meeting is to try to zero in on those few things that would have the greatest impact on the most people," Senator Greg Hembree said.
Hembree explained one clear solution at this point would be to extend magistrate court to deal with these cases and concerns. That way, homeowners would not have to hire attorneys to represent them against their HOA boards.
Hembree says the delegation plans to meet once more to talk about the reoccurring issues brought to their attention during the public hearing before continuing their brainstorm on to Columbia for new HOA legislation.
Hembree says that legislation could be voted on as soon as January 2015.