Raleigh woman, HOA in stare-down over backyard staircase
Posted January 1, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — A Raleigh woman could be climbing the stairway to foreclosure in a battle with her neighborhood's homeowners association.
Gloria Daniel received a city permit to build the two-story staircase at the back of her Karlbrook Lane home in the Stowecroft neighborhood off Buffaloe Road. But she didn't follow the subdivision's covenants, which required her to get approval from the HOA first.
The Stowecroft Owners Association Inc. sent Daniel letter after letter telling her to tear the staircase down. She refused, saying she spent thousands of dollars on it.
"They say they're going to fine me $100 every day, and if I don't pay, they're going to foreclose on my home," she said recently. "When they say 'foreclosure,' I was so sad. These people are going to foreclose on my home just for building some steps."
Michael Ganley, an attorney for the HOA, sent a letter Monday to WRAL News to defend the association's stance.
"This is not the case of a homeowner building a flower garden or porch swing without approval," Ganley said. "Ms. Daniel has constructed an enormous and unsightly staircase edifice to provide exterior access directly from the ground level to the second floor of her home."
What's more, he said, she has consistently misled the HOA about the reason for the staircase.
"Even following construction, Stowecroft was still willing to give Ms. Daniel permission to maintain the staircase, but Ms. Daniel has not provided any truthful or reasonable justification for the necessity of such a structure," he said.
According to Ganley, Daniel has told the HOA on various occasions that she wanted to protect her home against a Hurricane Sandy-type storm, planned to care for orphans or needed the stairs to care for her developmentally disabled husband and son.
He noted, however, that the stairs were built long before Sandy hit the East Coast and that Daniel doesn't live with any family members.
Daniel told WRAL News that she plans to care for developmentally disabled adults on her second floor. The state will help pay for that care, but Department of Health and Human Services regulations for such "supportive housing" require emergency access for all floors – so she built the staircase to the top floor.
"I don't know why they want me to tear it down," she said.
Neighbors such as Ed Wilburn said the rules are clear about getting HOA approval for any construction projects, but he said he would prefer the association focus more on security and upkeep in Stowecroft.
"I think the current HOA spends more time on building infractions as opposed to the actual tenants," Wilburn said.
Neither side is giving in, but the HOA is delaying the fines in hopes of working out a compromise with Daniel.