Frustrated with your HOA? Knowing your rights can help

Published: Jul. 12, 2017 at 8:17 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2017 at 2:30 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Homeowners in a fight with their neighborhood homeowners association can get the upper hand by knowing their rights, an attorney who represents HOAs told WBTV.

We started asking what residents could do to fight back against their HOAs after we received dozens of calls to our tip line from viewers who have tried to raise issues in their neighborhoods with little or no luck.

One of those homeowners was Ronald Hannah, who lives in the Davis Meadows subdivision in north Mecklenburg County.

Hannah said he and his neighbors were trying to get access to their HOA's financial documents since January, ever since they found out their quarterly dues were being raised from $60 to $75.

"I just want to know what's going on," Hannah said. "It's not about the money, it's about finding out what the money is being used for."

North Carolina law requires HOAs to make their financial documents available to any member who makes a valid request for the information. But Hannah said his calls and emails to the company that runs his neighborhood's HOA, Greenway Realty Management, have gone unanswered.

"We're trying to communicate with them via email or even call them, it's a complete hassle. Leave a message and get no response," Hannah said.

Attorney Chris Gelwicks represents hundreds of HOAs across North Carolina and South Carolina. Gelwicks said dealing with HOAs can sometimes be tricky, both for the homeowners and for members of an HOA board.

"Board members are there to service the members of the association as a whole but they are volunteers," Gelwicks said. "Most boards meet once a month. They are limited in what they can do based upon what's in their declaration of restrictions and their bylaws."

Gelwicks said most HOA boards do not have a magic wand to wave and make homeowners' requests a reality or solve certain problems. Though, Gelwicks stressed that residents do have rights and knowing the law can help homeowners make a case.

"Read your bylaws, read your declaration of covenants, read the articles of incorporation. Those are the three main documents that govern HOAs in North Carolina and in South Carolina," Gelwicks said.

When it comes to financial records, Gelwicks said the North Carolina law requires HOAs to turn their financial statements over to neighborhood residents at the end of every fiscal year. He also said HOA boards must adopt their budget and have the budget ratified by members within a 30-days notice before the budget can take effect.

Residents who feel their HOA boards are not following the law can take action on their own to try and create change, according to Gelwicks.

"If you communicate with a board and you don't think you're getting anywhere with them, you have the ability as a member to get other members to join you to call a special meeting and, you know, get on the board yourself," Gelwicks said.

After months of waiting for a response to his inquiry from the Davis Meadows HOA, Hannah may have to try a new strategy to access the financial information that he is entitled to by law.

"We just would like to find out where going and just get better communication," Hannah said. "It's not a relationship if there's no communication from both sides."

A spokesperson with Greenway Realty Management issued the statement below. Despite the company's assertion that they provide financial information to any neighborhood resident who asks, it is not clear that Hannah's request for that very information has been provided.

As an HOA management firm we work at the direction of the HOA Board of Directors. Greenway Realty Management's policy is to provide all records to which a homeowner would be entitled. Those records would include a balance sheet, income statement and budget report. The Annual Budget is approved by the Board of Directors and is presented to the membership annually along with a balance sheet.  Monthly financial statements in electronic format are available to owners by individual request.

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