Group targets Homeowners Associations

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By Penny Zibula | Staff Writer

WILMINGTON – Monday evening, approximately 30 individuals from several communities in eastern North Carolina met for a presentation by members of HEAR, an acronym hearnclogo(1)for Homeowners Education, Advocacy Rights, a group intent on working for legislative changes in the way HOA’s and POA’s are run.

In North Carolina, 53 percent of the population lives in some kind of homeowners association or property owners association.

“About 30 per cent are doing well, and the rest aren’t run well, said HEAR4NC Advisory Board member, Ed Gurski, as he began the meeting.

The two-hour session included a presentation on on how the group, which has members in Raleigh, and Charlotte, as well as Wilmington, has two bills pending before the Short Session of the NC Legislature, which will begin in January of 2014.

HB871 will mandate that all property managers who work for associations will be licensed real estate brokers and must be bonded.

“There are no regulations at the moment,” said HEAR4NC founder, Ole Madsen, “and there is a lot of money being handled.”

Another result of the bill’s passage would be that complaints about property managers would be handled by the North Carolina Real Estate Commission.

HB883 would make it mandatory for HOA and POA executive directors to participate in a 20-hour online training that would familiarize them with laws and procedures that govern how associations are to be run in accordance with NC laws, and the bylaws and declarations of their respective communities.

Throughout the meeting, participants told of abuses by individual associations. These included tales of everything from refusals to provide financial information on how dues money was being spent to dead fish in mailboxes and even death threats.

At a prior meeting, an individual refused to sign in or give a name, for fear of retribution from the community’s executive directors.

But the news was not all bad. Teresa Rue, Association President of Sedgly Abbey, a Wilmington community of 59 homes, proved that property owners could take back their power, and make positive changes.

On April 16, 2011, Sedgly Abbey held a special meeting where property owners voted to remove the existing governing body. Some of the reasons for the homeowners’ discontent were the secrecy in which the directors operated, refusal to provide information regarding payments to lawyers, as well as other information on how dues were being used, people walking around the community with the express purpose of looking for small infractions, and, what may have been the last straw — liens placed on two homes because of the height of their bushes.

“Since then, we’ve done a lot,” Rue said proudly. “We’ve reduced our dues, set up a website and any member of the Board is available to answer homeowners’ questions.”

One of the first changes the new directors made was to immediately remove the liens on the two home with the offending bushes.

“We’re not a board, we are part of the community,” Rue emphasized.

Not every association has such a happy ending, and for those communities who are still engaged in daily power struggles between disgruntled property owners and their governing bodies, there is a hard road ahead. According to HEAR4NC, organizations such as the management companies, and their umbrella association, CAI, property managers and the lawyers who work for them, will be lobbying to kill the two pending pieces of legislation.

However, as HEAR4NC makes itself known throughout the State, property owners who are seeking relief from what they feel are dysfunctional and even corrupt association directors, are finding that they are not alone.

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