Local lawmakers work towards HOA legislation

Local lawmakers work towards HOA legislation

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Local law makers are working on a draft bill for HOA legislation. The bill will focus on three trending issues they feel would hold the most significance on the floor while helping the most people.

A top concern for some law makers is to make sure people know what they are signing up for when it comes to their HOAs.

Carol Martucci spoke to the delegation during the HOA public hearing back in October.  There, she went over some of the main problems she was seeing in her HOA. Martucci and her husband were house hunting back in April when they fell in love with their now home in the Oceanwalk community.  Martucci recalled asking about the HOA.

"He said, it's just like any other HOA and I said, okay, well we've never lived in an HOA...what's it say?" Martucci remembered.

Carol and her husband were told their HOA would regulate things like parking in front of homes, keepingeach otherr safe, and keeping the neighborhood clean. By the time she found out there was much more, it was too late.

"It went on and on, I mean, the list was crazy, I am trying to remember all of the stuff they said, you can't - you can't do anything!"

Martucci explained, she didn't realize the extent of her HOA's covenant rules until she wanted to make changes to her property, and she didn't get a copy until she asked for it, months after she moved into her new home. Her neighbors then informed her of the $50 fees and procedure she would have to follow if she wanted to change anything.

Senator Luke Rankin saw Carol's problem was similar to many others.

"The concerns that we continue to hear, was the lack of disclosure or lack of transparency. Kind of the minority full of the majority," Rankin added. This is why they've decided this issue will be one of the top three in a draft bill on the matter. 

However, Martucci wondered how the bill would fix the damage that's already been done.

"If this bill gets passed, is it going to address all the people in the last five years that have had their lives shaken because the builder or the homeowners association hasn't treated them fairly hasn't given them their financials?" Martucci asked.

The second element of local law makers' draft bill is continuing education for HOA officers.

"Folks that need to know how to run a meeting and again show decorum, civility, and a fair democratic process," Rankin explained, adding that education would be free from the real estate commission, but it would not be mandatory.

Senator Greg Hembree explained this is because it is hard enough to motivate people to get involved and become HOA officers to begin with. 

Martucci was not impressed.

"I think number two is useless -  educate the how. If it's not mandatory, if it's not they are made to do what they are told...just don't do it!" Martucci said.

Though not mandatory, the education would be both continuing, meaning it would not be a one-time deal, and highly recommended.

The third part of the draft bill would be to expand magistrate court so these issues could be settled in court both easier and cheaper.

By going after a top three, both Senator Rankin and Hembree believe the bill could pass this time around while remaining fair to all three parties involved, the HOAs, the homeowners and the developers.

Martucci feels two major points are missing, unless lawmakers plan to have these factors fall under transparency. One: there needs to be something in the bill that addresses the budget and what HOAs are doing with homeowners' money. The second, holding the builders accountable for both finances and upkeep of property.

At Oceanwalk, Martucci explained the builder came in and made changes to their HOA covenant. Though on the homeowners committee, Martucci has not been able to find out what the builder is doing with their $1,000 that was meant to go towards reserves.

Rankin explained HOA legislation is tough because of the various parties involved, and the fact that there are good HOAs out there, HOAs that are doing the right thing.

"We have a tall order, no doubt, to get something through that does not alarm the good operators," Rankin said.

As happy as Martucci was to hear the local lawmakers are making moves towards necessary change, she wants to see more strict guidelines and regulation incorporated in the draft bill.

"I mean if you're just passing it to say you passed something, please don't do it to us, because its not going to help any. I don't know how much it's going to help," Martucci said. 

Senator Rankin admitted he has never seen a turn out for a public hearing quite like the HOA public hearing.

He explains he sees this bill as one of their top priorities to push for January. The draft bill still has to pass certain committees before lawmakers can vote on it, including two pre-filing committees next week.  If the bill does pass through the various committees, it will move on to the scheduled sessions for January through June.

Rankin explained a bill regulating HOAs has never made it to the house floor, but feels this time could be different, if they tackle these three issues first. Rankin said it will be a long road ahead of this bill, but hopes in the end, they will have one that will pass and solve many issues.

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