MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach is known the nation over for being a beautiful vacation and retirement destination.
A homeowners association can be a make or break the issue between a good community and a community that has a high turnover in its population.
According to Nate Johnson, the government affairs director with Coastal Carolina's Realtors Association, problems with HOAs are common throughout the Grand Strand.
"Between Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and Charleston there's a lot of people with second homes. A lot of people come and invest," Johnson said. "And what's sad is hearing their stories about how they were so excited to be down in Myrtle Beach, that they've had to deal with the horror of their HOA, that they, personally, do not want to be in Myrtle Beach."
Dawn Harrington, a resident in Southwood, is seeing this happen in her neighborhood.
On a rainy weekday afternoon, several homeowners huddled in the backseat of the minivan of a disabled resident. They were outside in the rain because they were not allowed inside a homeowners association meeting.
"They said the meeting was closed. And it's like, the meetings are open," Harrington said. "And they said 'No, these meetings are closed. You can only enter if you have received an invitation.'"
According to a bill introduced by Sen. Darrell Jackson on Jan. 11, 2011, "A meeting of the board of directors, including a subcommittee or other committee of, must be open to all members of record."
Harrington was compelled to take action after a neighbor complained about some trees in her backyard. The trees were planted there 16 years ago, but now a neighbor has complained the trees obstruct their view to a common waterway.
The trees are inside Harrington's property line and, according to her, are within code. However, the Homeowners Association of Southwood is requiring her to trim the trees to a point that would kill them or cut them down, she said.
Harrington is not the only one who feels she is being mistreated by this particular homeowners association.
Johnny Cranford, another resident in the neighborhood, said he is being challenged on a roof he had built over his patio. The process has made him undergo stress tests to prevent a second heart attack, he said.
"They singled me out for some reason," Cranford said. "When I got the letter, I worried about this thing so much I started having chest pains again, just like I did last November."
The November Cranford is referring to is when he had a heart attack. He built a roof over his patio, a roof he said is identical to half a dozen other roofs visible from his backyard.
Because he did not get approval for the project before starting construction, Cranford said he is being targeted by the homeowners association.
"This guy's a bully. There's a lot of people here that are mad," he said.
Perhaps what is most frustrating for these members of the community, though, isn't how they are being treated by their homeowners association; it's that they don't feel they have any course of action to take other than hiring an attorney. That is an action many of them cannot afford to do.
This is exactly what compelled Tracey Day to run for a position on the council.
Day, who is one of five members on the council, had similar problems with her homeowners association. She wanted to be on the council to be a voice for people who are having problems.
"I thought maybe we needed some new blood in there," Day said. "Then after everything going on with these other people, I'm realizing that things are continuing to happen. I don't think I'm getting anywhere with it."
All of these frustrations are not solitary. The Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors receives hundreds of complaints regarding HOAs. Some of them were about the same HOA, but many are different.
For Johnson, the problem is that there is no enforcement.
"The only way a homeowner right now wants to fight it, they have to get a lawyer," he said.
The Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors is currently working to get legislation passed in South Carolina regarding HOAs. According to Johnson, surrounding states have legislation but South Carolina does not.
Johnson encourages anyone who has issues with their HOA to either contact their congressmen or the Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors before December so congressmen can present bills for the upcoming year.
WMBF News reached out to Mike Cronin, the president of the Southwood Homeowners Association. Cronin said he had no comment and abruptly hung up the telephone.