WRAL Investigates

HOAs ignite clash over property rights, property values

Posted November 1, 2010

WRAL Investigates

— Homeowner associations are a relatively new form of neighborhood management – 73 percent were established in the past 20 years nationwide – but they are becoming a bigger hot-button issue across the state.

HOAs can ignite the ultimate clash over personal property rights versus property values, but understanding rights and responsibilities can be confusing.

The Planned Community Act gives North Carolina HOAs the power to enforce bylaws, such as grass height, house color and how long trash cans can sit outside. North Carolina General Statute Chapter 47F also gives associations the right to collect assessments, issue limited fines and even foreclose if homeowners don't comply with those bylaws.

Jim Laumann founded HOA-NC, a Morrisville business that supports associations with education. He says the best HOAs find a reasonable balance between enforcement and understanding.

“Most homeowners do not read the covenants,” Laumann said. “Some (HOAs) go to the extremes to be the condo commanders. Some go to the other extreme of not wanting to offend their neighbor.”

Jacqueline Jones lost her job last year and faces foreclosure for a second time in Raleigh's Enclave at Forestville Farms. She was late in paying her $300 annual assessment in 2009, but after she caught up and paid a penalty, she was able to keep her house. This year, she was five months late again, and her HOA tacked on more than $800 in fines and attorney's fees.

“This is the lien they placed on my home,” she said. “I am so frustrated right now. I can't get anyone to listen to me."

Collections attorney Ed Flowers says Jones should have communicated sooner with her HOA.

“I am not unsympathetic. I've extended my payment plans, but I can't work for free,” Flowers said.

Homeowners association violation notice HOAs ignite clash over property rights, property values

HOA battles sprinkle the area, from Raleigh to Preston Grande in Cary.

Kelly Godfrey says the HOA there constantly harasses her daughters and their town home guests, whether it's over an open garage door or parking restrictions.

“I think they are overbearing. I think they are nit-picky,” she said.

The Godfreys say HOA board members often place warning notices on visitor cars parked in visitor spaces.

“But, for some reason that's a problem here,” Godfrey said.

In one case, a guest's car was towed from visitor parking, she said.

The HOA president said parking is so limited that restrictions must be enforced out of fairness for everyone. While WRAL Investigates couldn’t find that the covenants specifically limit visitor parking, the president said the same guests kept taking up spaces.

“What we're looking for in a neighborhood like this would be if there are covenant violations,” said HOA manager John Lawton.

Lawton patrols Lakeridge in Cary and is president of HRW Inc. His company enforces covenants and manages neighborhoods, and he believes ruling with an iron fist doesn't work.

“We really try to develop a standard that doesn't make it so you're out there every time the grass is three quarters of an inch longer than it should be (or) that you're fussing with somebody,” he said.

HOAs are designed to protect property value for the many, but that doesn't mean everyone's pleased.

“There needs to be some kind of regulation for homeowners associations,” Godfrey said.

There is no regulation of HOAs in North Carolina. Homeowners can sue, but there's no regulatory body overseeing their actions. Elected volunteer board members set the tone for enforcement.

As for Jones, she should be able to keep her house after setting up a payment plan to cover her late fees.


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  • cubed32696 Nov 4, 2010

    Funny the only house in my non-HOA neighborhood that has bushes higher than the house and the grass two feet tall is owner-occupied. It is not us who throw loud parties until early morning hours with the police having to be called. As a renter, my grass is always cut, leaves raked, flowers planted and the front door freshly painted every spring. The other four renters in my neighborhood always have their lawns mowed and well cared for. This is a neighborhood of working families and adults, not students.

    Don’t give me it’s the renters that cause problems. It’s the owners who do not care, because they think they can blame the renters for their low property value, when it’s their own doing. I’m always told that my house is the best looking in the neighborhood because of what I do. This is not just a house this is my home.

  • jhaws2 Nov 4, 2010

    We received a letter from our HOA’s attorney on 10/18/10 that we were in violation of the Rules and Regulations because our trailer has been parked in the driveway for longer than five days without written permission of the Board of Directors. According to our Rules and Regs, any boat, motor home, trailer or recreational vehicle cannot be parked in a driveway, lot or adjacent street for longer than five days with our written permission of the board of directors. The trailer was moved within 10 days of receiving the letter, as requested. We are now to attend a hearing on 11/4/10 to determine if a fine will be assessed and if our community privileges (neighborhood pool) should be suspended. My question is the “longer than five days”. Is this five days a week, a month, a year, a lifetime??? It is very unclear. Also there are 9 other residents with trailers in their driveway or lot, however we are the only house that is being perused. The HOA has now delayed the hearing anothe

  • Mugu Nov 3, 2010

    HOAs are a byproduct of the Yankee invasion of the South. Life sucks up there, I blame the unions... they are going to try to make NC like NY which will suck as bad as the place that they left. They start by getting us used to socialist occupation... like HOAs. Unions are next!

  • Justin T. Nov 3, 2010

    Instead of the stars and stripes I would start flying the HOA flag in my front yard but unfortunately I can't find a flag with a pentagram or "666" on it anywhere.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Nov 3, 2010

    “When somebody tells me that I can't fly the American flag...thats a bit much.” -- josephlawrence43

    Yet, you agreed to these things when you signed up with your HOA. Why?

    And, how big can your American flag be? Parade size like at a big car dealer? Because that happened. Someone like you was whining that he was not allowed to violate the rules he agreed to legally follow and the mean old “un-american” HOA made him take down his parade-size American flag on its 40’ pole. The nerve of them...enforcing the rules that he agreed to. Shame on those commies. ;-)

    “There are certain things I will cooperate with--and certain things I won't."

    Yet, you agreed to an entire list of restrictions when you put your signature on the HOA document. Is your word worth so little?

    “And should somebody try to force me--they could well end up shot.”

    Translation: “I’m not accountable for my actions. If anyone tries to hold me to my word, I resort to violence, because I that's all

  • Raptor06 Nov 3, 2010

    After being part of an HOA in Virginia, not repeating that mistake was my primary mission when buying a home here.

    Since republicans claim the belief of minimizing external control, I expect them to take actions to modify some of the current overly-restrictive HOA legislation.

  • JackandJill Nov 2, 2010

    I would never buy a house where an HOA exist. I have heard so many horror stories.

  • Scubagirl Nov 2, 2010

    "Yes that's fine if you live in a neighborhood where houses are over 250K

    If less than that you end up with 25 percent of the houses are renters who don't care and the owners are too broke to fix anything."

    sorry, but you're WRONG

  • brandonfv Nov 2, 2010

    HOAs are another form of government. The brain child of realtor associations that lobbied and had laws passed in their favor, and implemented by people that want to control other people. I have been part of my HOA for years, now, and really have no concept of how they think. It's unbelievable, the nit picky irritating little this and thats, that the HOA reads into the by-laws, and covenants needs to stop. I agree with the covenants, and by-laws, but they are in plain black and white. The contract between the home owners and HOA is not a fluid document that should be interpreted differently by everyone that reads it. The HOA tries to change things in the neighborhood as soon as the receive a complaint, and all it takes is one complaint from a homeowner to find another homeowner in violation when there really isn't one.

  • TigerLilly0811 Nov 2, 2010

    There are many misconceptions about HOAs, and some people just don't want to follow the rules. Many people do not understand that the HOA was formed before the community was built and is governed by NC General Statutes and the covenants that were written and recorded as a legal agreement before the Board members were voted on to serve your community. You agree to follow the covenants when you purchase a house in an HOA community. If you think that it is all about being the yard police then you might want to join your HOA Board and find out how much they really do for you behind the scenes. Many of them volunteer because no one else will. You do not have a choice whether to pay your HOA or not. It is your fair share to contribute to the expenses that are necessary to keep your community looking pretty and property values up. People who don't pay make it harder on everyone else. I think every homeowner should be required to join the board one time to understand.