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I initially blogged about this case as it unfolded, then re-titled the blog and condensed my comments. As far as I know, nothing has ever ...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Can homeowner associations suddenly make dues mandatory?

1/14/2018 update: A FEDERAL LAWSUIT has been filed against several of these neighborhood gangs in South Carolina, arguing that Homeowner Associations don't have the right to foreclose on people's homes. Stay tuned.

1/9/2018 update: Here's where my neighborhood is gonna wind up, thanks to residents who are DUMB enough to pay dues. Latest on this story.

5/17/2017 update: The gang suckered some residents into joining by promising to limit dues increases to 10% during any one year (cleverly implying that dues increases would be unlikely anyway). For 2017, the gang is now proposing a dues increase of a whoppin' 54% for a grand total of $85 bucks (they had already increased to $55). Never underestimate the gullibility of an American public that doesn't mind being taxed twice.

Over a thousand homeowners coming together to protest the way HOAs are being run in Horry County, South Carolina really got my attention. Lately, the HOA in my neighborhood, Quail Hollow, in W. Columbia, SC, Lexington County, has been demanding membership dues of $50 per year, adding late fees for anyone who doesn't pay, and threatening to "eventually" put liens on the properties of folks who steadfastly refuse to hand over the moolah.

This would be understandable - and believeable - except for the fact that for about 35 years, membership and dues were voluntary. Members were clearly earmarked in the Quail Hollow directory, revealing that almost half of the families - 'bout 150 outta 325 or so - declined to join. Then the economy took a dive, and efforts to increase membership started getting more aggressive. Then, within the past couple of years, a scheme was devised by which everyone in the neighborhood was to vote on whether or not dues would be mandatory. The "referendum" - many folks, myself included, refused to participate - was followed by a declaration that "the majority" had spoken, and dues would henceforth be required. Then came announcements of late fees and threats of liens - plus attorney's fees - for anyone who didn't cooperate.

The lawyer I spoke with placed a great deal of weight on what the understanding was when property was purchased. He thought the Association's "voting" scheme sounded like a bluff designed to intimidate residents into handing over their money. He offered to research the issue and provide a written opinion for $600. That would be one Jackson each for 30 interested families, and I've started a list.

Point is, if something's a good deal, ya don't have to force folks to support it. Fact is, the Quail Hollow Community Association is anything but a "good deal." I targeted the gang's ineptitude and wastefulness in a previous post. Moreover, while the $50 per year may sound paltry, only a fool would believe the amount isn't likely to increase. If the gang can suddenly force residents to hand over membership dues, increasing the amount of those dues would be an ever present possibility, along with no telling (literally) what else. The $50 per year smacks of a ploy designed to sucker people into being bullied, with more in store.

As things now stand, it's anyone's guess as to who's gonna sue whom, for what, and when, if at all. In the meantime, I'm finding out plenty of disturbing things about HOAs. State government is involved, either actively or passively, folks are being forced to pay for services ordinarily covered by taxes, and there seems to be fertile ground for some sort of takeover at the federal level. Is there a hidden agenda to put neighborhoods under the direct control of a federal agency such as the Department of Homeland Security? No, I'm not trying to be an alarmist. Amidst daily assaults on constitutional rights, I simply think it's a valid question. And the fact that "Neighborhood Watch" signs have popped up all over Quail Hollow hasn't done anything to ease my concern. Neither has this year's publication of "In the Common Interest: Embracing the New American Community," by the politically-well-connected-Texan, John Corona. Talk about propaganda. Talk about bald-faced lies...

A whiff of tyranny is in the air.