Scrooged: Horry County man told to take down Christmas lights

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 8:35 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Even on a dreary, rainy day like Wednesday, lights glowed across the Grand Strand to usher in warm welcomes of cheer.

But one Horry County man says his Christmas display will have to come down.

Douglas Dwyer said it’s been a labor of love decorating his condo, located in the Myrtle Beach Golf & Yacht Club. His home is covered with what he estimates to be about 10,000 lights, but work he said was well-worth his time, in order to brighten his neighbor’s faces.

“It came together like a Tetris puzzle so-to-speak - one piece at a time, and it just turned out to be magical,” Dwyer said.

After sharing the light show on Nextdoor, those in the surrounding residential community responded enthusiastically, with many passing by in person to get a look.

Despite that, Dwyer said he was told Tuesday by his HOA’s property management company that his décor violates the Master Deed and By-laws, and needs to be removed by Thursday. The area in the Myrtle Beach Golf & Yacht Clu is governed by a different HOA.

According to an email Dwyer received from Old Colony Realty Property Management, “homeowners aren’t allowed to alter or affix things to the outside of the property,” citing a section of the master deed that said “junk, debris, towels, laundry or materials of any kind” couldn’t be stored on shared property.

Dwyer isn’t convinced this is a true violation of those rules and regulations. The email also said he’d either have to take down the political flag he had on the exterior wall of his house, along with the Christmas lights and yard decorations, or face removal of the items at his expense.

“This is just insane. They’re going to charge me to take down Christmas lights?” he questioned.

It isn’t clear exactly what led up to the enforcement of the HOA’s bylaws and Master Deed. Nearby neighbors in Dwyer’s HOA told WMBF News it was the opposite of a nuisance to them.

“I don’t think this is an issue. I really don’t,” one neighbor said. “It picks up your spirit - it is, after all, Christmas time.”

The property management company told WMBF News that they “enforce the recorded rules as we are instructed to do so.”

We followed up to ask if other neighbors within the HOA who also had Christmas decorations up were in violation then as well, but we did not hear back.

“I don’t think I’m asking a lot to bring cheer to the community. That’s all it is. It’s joy and cheer,” Dwyer said. “People walk by and they smile. And that’s what I wanted to give to the community, and I needed it myself.”

Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said their office frequently hears about civil matters that police cannot get involved, such as HOA issues.

“You give up a ton of rights by moving in a place with an HOA, and they can set almost any set of rules, and those rules can be very conservative,” Richardson said. “People say, ‘That’s my First Amendment right - that’s a right that I’ve got by being a U.S. citizen. And overall, you do - but you gave up certain rights to go into an HOA.”

RELATED | Water problems, HOA complaints create perfect storm of issues in Grand Strand

Richardson said ultimately, residents should elect new board members if they’re unhappy with decisions being made. Another recommendation is to bring these problems to the attention of state legislators in hopes that laws regulating HOAs would be able to change.

In 2018, state legislators put into law new ways to track trends of the issues South Carolinians have with their HOAs.

The Homeowners Association Act put forth ways to require more transparency from HOAs while creating clearer guidance on how to submit a complaint for the HOA’s review and response through the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Since then, hundreds of complaints have come through. The department can take in these homeowner complaints but they cannot compel the HOA to fix the situation or even respond to the complaint for that matter.

To file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs, you can find more information here.

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