Neighborhood Inspection – April 17, 2017

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On April 17, 2017 the neighborhood inspection was completed by AMG.

Q. What is a neighborhood inspection?

A. The CC&Rs (A contract you signed when you bought your home) and the Rules and Regulations (adopted by the HOA board) set forth rules, regulations and policies for which you need to maintain your property. The purpose of these rules, regulations and policies is to maintain a high value neighborhood which benefits the majority of our members.

Q. How does it work?

A. The board directs the management company to drive around the neighborhood and visually inspect the neighborhood for “violations”. The categories generally inspected are: Trash cans (Are they stored out of sight and neatly), Trash (loose items left out in the open, building supplies, etc.), High Grass (Unkempt lawns), Pressure Washing (Does your home need it), Commercial Vehicles (Large box trucks, etc), Trailers, Boats, General Home maintenance issues.

After the inspection the ARC committee is asked to verify the violations. This means someone from the neighborhood follows up on the list presented to us by the management company to ensure the violations exist. We generally wait several days so we can be sure the “violation” wasn’t just a temporary issue which was resolved without any further action needed on the part of the HOA.

If a violation is noted by the management company and the ARC committee, you get a letter from the HOA. If you resolve the issue, nothing further will happen. If the issue is not corrected you will get subsequent letters and then HOA Board may move forward with legal action.

Obviously the goal is to not have to send out letters or involve lawyers, so please try to keep up with your home maintenance and landscaping.

Spring Cleaning

March 21, 2017

Its that time of year when many of us start to clean out our garages and open the windows to air out our homes. Have you taken a look at the outside of your home?

Pressure washing, sidewalk and driveway edging, weeding, etc are not only a good way to keep up the value of your home and be a good neighbor, they are a requirement when you live in a neighborhood with a HOA.

Please take care of your exterior maintenance issues as soon as possible. The management company will be conducting a neighborhood inspection soon on behalf of the board and reporting their findings to the Architectural Committee. Homes with violations will receive notices to correct the violations and follow up inspections.

Maintaining your yard – Edging

Part of Joining an HOA is Being a good neighbor. After fielding some complaints from residents It has come to my attention that several of the lawns in our fair community are in desperate need of edging. Which is greatly lowering the curb appeal of the houses around them. 
 
There will be an inspection in two weeks on Monday December 5th.  
 
If you can take the time to make sure that your lawn meets the minimum edging criteria of two inches past the area where the concrete meets the dirt. 
 
Below is the article that explains the rules laid out by the HOA charter… 
 
Our CC&Rs explain in Article IX Section-8…
Maintenance of lots. Except as may be maintained by the association for townhome lots pursuant to section 5(b) of Article IV hereof, Each homeowner shall keep his lot in an orderly condition and shall keep the improvements Theron in a suitable state of repair, promptly repairing any damage thereto by fire or other casualty. No clothesline may be erected or maintained on any lot. Each owner shall further maintain the yard and landscaping on his lot in a clean and neat condition and shall keep his yard mowed and landscaping trimmed so as not to be unsightly. No lot shall be used in whole or in part for storage of rubbish of any character whatsoever nor for the storage of any property or thing which will cause any noise that will cause any noise that will disturb the peace and quiet of the occupants of the surrounding lots, and no trash, rubbish, stored materials, wrecked or inoperable vehicles, vehicles that have been unlicensed for more than thirty (30) days, or similar unsightly items shall be allowed to remain on any lot outside an enclosed structure; provided, however, that the foregoing shall not be constructed to prohibit temporary deposits of trash, rubbish, or other debris for collection by governmental or other similar garage and trash removal units.  If the owner fails or refuses to comply with the foregoing, the declarant may demand that the owner promptly comply with the same by mailing a notice thereof the owner at his address specified in his contract to purchase such lot or by posting such notice of the lot. If the owner has not complied there with within five (5) days thereafter, the declarant may enter and correct the same at the owners expense. Each owner, by acquiring a Lot (s) subject to these restrictions, agrees to pay such cost promptly upon demand be Declarant. No such entry as provided herein shall be deemed a trespass. 
 
To clarify… 
 
The edging and lawn care of some of the homes in this community are in desperate need of edging. 
This inspection will only focus on the:
·         Sidewalk (each side of the sidewalk)
·         Front Curb   
·         Driveway
The basis of measurement of deciding if action needs to be take will be a 2 inch measurement from the point the concrete meets the dirt. When you bought your home in a residential area that had an HOA you obligated yourself to take care of your lawn for the betterment of everyone. We thank you for looking into this and our community thanks you for taking the time to take care of your beautiful home!     
From The office of…

Paul Schellberg
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How do we decide what to do?

No decision should be made in haste… especially when so few decide what happens to so many.

valet trashRecently there was some controversy surrounding a poll that was taken by the board regarding trash pickup in the townhomes. I received a few emails, read messages on Facebook, took phone calls and even saw a letter distributed to all of the townhomes in response to the poll. I was very pleased to see so many people getting involved and voicing their opinions about an issue. I was disturbed though when many of those members voiced worries that a decision was being made by the board without taking time to examine the issue. I felt compelled to take the time to reach out and explain how this board chooses to implement decisions.

Nobody wants a secluded group making decisions for them
Nobody wants a secluded group making decisions for them

Some decisions are easy. We have encountered the situation before and addressed the issue and established a policy or standard for making the decision. For instance… if you were to look at an approved or denied architectural request you might see that it is signed “Lisa Barnes for Rob Smith”. This might lead you to think Lisa at Hawthorne approved or denied the request or that I approved or denied your request alone. The reality is I only pass along the boards approval to Lisa, who then signs the request on my behalf. (Saving me the trouble of printing, signing, scanning and emailing forms). In many cases, in order to slash the time required to get a response to an architectural request, I will send an approval or denial without consulting the board. In those cases I am merely applying past board approval or denials to a situation which has occurred multiple times. I do not consult the board every time someone requests a satellite dish on the back of their roof line, the board has already stated that is an approved request.

survey-taker
Polls are just another why to get information

Other decisions require more thought and research. An example would be a request to add a sunroom to a home. This might require checking the CCRs and bylaws for any rules which would apply, an examination of any previous requests of a similar nature, a conversation with the homeowner to verify the type of work to be done and ensure compliance with any CCR requirement, and then a decision. In a case like this the board would pass the request on to the Architectural Committee. The Architectural committee would meet and discuss the request, follow through with the investigation and then report their findings and opinion to the board. The board would then discuss the recommendation of the committee and call a vote. This process can be longer, but ensures a more well rounded decision.

In the case of something like the townhome trash pickup, or anytime a drastic change in the standards and expectations of the members might occur, the board of directors may choose to hold a vote for a more detailed investigation. In the case of the townhome trash service we examined several options. The board requested an opinion of the options from the townhome committee. The townhome committee, the board member assigned to the townhome committee, and the block captain for the townhomes decided to poll the residents and owners of the townhomes regarding valet (curbside) pickup as opposed to the dumpsters. Some of the townhome residents were left with a feeling that the poll was a voting process to decide what should be done. I can assure you that the board considers the opinions, wants, and needs of the membership extremely valuable… but we also recognize that in some cases we have a more broad picture of the many different working parts of our community.

Unisys-02-04-Leaks-MeetingAfter the polling is complete and the townhome committee has come to an official opinion they will pass that information on to the board. The board will then meet and discuss the findings. Members of the board will weigh the options along with their own findings and cast their votes. The board will then present their decision to the membership.

 Because of our bylaws there are very few decisions the board of directors can not make on our own. We are trusted by the membership to make sound decisions on a day to day basis with no interaction. The bylaws do not require meetings, votes, polls outside of the annual member meeting. The only vote provided by the bylaws is the one to elect a board of directors. Our board feels a one time a year meeting with very little interaction throughout the year is a mistake. We prefer open and honest discussion with as many members as possible. Please understand that the board of directors will always listen to the membership, either as a whole or individually.

Check yourself… please

The Architectural Committee is the group responsible for reviewing and interpreting the Declaration or CCRs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions).  Since gaining control of the HOA and then establishing the Architectural Committee, the board of directors have been trying to sift through the backlog of fence requests, deck additions, paint changes, etc.  We have been working as a group to interpret the CCRs and make decisions, which will become policy when denying or approving a neighbors architectural request.

We have managed to address most of the old requests though there may be a few that are lost in the records of the original developer.  We have managed to establish some basic protocols for dealing with requests and getting unusual requests reviewed and approved or denied.  We have even managed to compile a list of pre-approved sheds, which we hope will speed the process when a neighbor decides to add a storage building to their property.

We are now starting to see the more difficult side of things moving into our field of view.  We are being forced to acknowledge the elephant in the room.  As an HOA we have rules for our neighborhood, which we must enforce.  As homeowners and members of the HOA we have a responsibility to adhere to the rules.  When a homeowner violates a rule, unintentionally or with complete disregard, that homeowner is forcing the HOA (and your neighbors) to take a stance against them.

As board members we have a duty, one which we can be held liable, to enforce the Bylaws and CCRs evenly and without bias.  Allowing someone to skate by on a violation because they are a friend, or because it will be controversial is not an option.  As a board member I have to maintain my property as well as I can and I must try to follow the rules as closely as possible.  As members you should do the same so that you do not put me or the other board members in the position of having to enforce fines or place liens on your home.

Trash cans in view of the public
Trash cans in view of the public.  If you don’t like a rule or decision made by the Architectural Committee or the Board, there is a process for that.  Talk with board members, committee members, or your block captains.  Read your bylaws and CCRs for information on how to get a rule changed.  Holding your tongue does not fix the problem.  Get involved and get your opinion heard.

Mow your grass or we foreclose!

Fines can add up quickly. Early communication with your HOA is the best way to avoid fines and find solutions to problems.
Fines can add up quickly. Early communication with your HOA is the best way to avoid fines and find solutions to problems.

As I write this the board of directors have been in charge now for just shy of two months. In that two months we have been working to setup committees, establish policies, create a website, etc. One of the committees we created, The Architectural Review Committee, is beginning to get more active within our neighborhood. This will have both positive and negative effects on you depending on your point of view.

The ARC has a few basic duties. One of their primary and often most controversial jobs is policing the many violations which pop up from time to time.  The ARC works with the board of directors to handle complaints of CCR violations by being the eyes and ears in the neighborhood. I though it would be a good idea to quickly go over the current process we will be using to handle violations of the CCRs, both past and present.

In the typical scenario a member of the HOA will notify us, the board of directors, of a violation of the CCRs.  A member of the ARC will then go to the location and observe the violation (if possible). The ARC member will document the violation and then send an official notice of violation to the board of directors. If the violation is something minor, like un-mowed grass, a copy of the notice of violation will be dropped off at the home of the member in violation asap. This eliminates the delay and cost involved when these types of minor violations are sent through the management company.

If the violation is more substantial, a fence or shed for instance, the board will then review the violation.  Often the president or secretary will check with the management company to ensure the perceived violation was not actually approved in error or based on some extenuating circumstances.  If the perceived violation was approved, the board will discuss whether or not to proceed with official notification of a violation.

If the board decides to move forward with official notification of a violation, the management company will be notified. At this point the process becomes more automated. You will receive a notice in the mail telling you that you are in violation of the CCRs. If the violation remains uncorrected you will receive a second notice. After the second notice you will then receive notice of a Hearing.  The hearing is your opportunity to meet with the board of directors and estate your case”.  After the hearing you will receive notice by mail of the boards decision. If the violation was dismissed, you are done. If not you still have to fix the problem.

At this point you will receive notice to correct the violation before a set date or you will be fined by the HOA. If the violation remains uncorrected and the fines are not addressed, the board will be forced to eventually have a notice of lien sent to you.  Fail to address the violation and the fines, and the lien will be placed on your home. You will also be assessed lawyer fees and other fines associated with the lien process. Finally, and only after all other efforts are exhausted, the board will move to foreclose on your property in order to resolve the situation.

Obviously this is a LONG and slow process. The process is slow and tedious with good reason nobody wants to foreclose on a home because a neighbor didn’t mow his or her grass. I can only imagine the entire process being played out in the most extreme situations.

As always I would like to remind you that we are neighbors. Sometimes un-mowed grass is a symptom of a much bigger problem. Talk to your neighbors, make them your friends, and help those around you.

How do I get HOA approval for my shed, fence, or deck?

There has been some confusion lately surrounding the process for getting an architectural request approved. In this article I will try to clear up the process and help get you a roadmap to “ARC approval”.

First lets examine some reasons you might need to submit an ARC request. If you plan to make an architectural change to the outside of your home or the property around your home… You need HOA approval. Why? So as to ensure you are not going to do something outside of the HOA rules as interpreted by the membership, committees, or board of directors. Decks, sheds, new siding or shutters (color or style change), mailboxes, driveways, windows, patios, the removal of some trees, are just some examples of things which require approval. If you aren’t sure… Contact Hawthorne for guidance.

Lets say you have decided to add a storage shed to your property. You picked out a shed at a local store and you have decided where to put it. Now what? The first step is to outline where you want to add the shed so you can show the ARC committee. The easiest way to do that is with the property survey you received with your closing documents. If you can’t find them you can google “Lancaster County SC GIS” and look up your property there (http://www.qpublic.net/sc/lancaster/search.html). You can then print a map of your property survey. With a copy of your property survey in hand, draw shed as best you can on the map. Next download the “Request for Architectural Approval” form.  (Link is at the bottom of this page)

Follow the instructions on the form and then mail all of the information to: Almond Glen Owners Association P.O. Box 11906 Charlotte, NC 28220. The request will be checked for completeness and then forwarded to the board for review.

In many cases the request will be reviewed and quickly approved or denied. The decision is then communicated to Hawthorne via email. You will receive notice as soon as possible via either email or mail. If there are questions about the request your case may be sent to the architectural committee for further investigation and review. The ARC committee will then make its recommendation to the board and the board will then review the recommendation and communicate a decision to Hawthorne.
If you believe your denied request was made in error, you can request an appeal. Contact Lisa Barnes at Hawthorne (lbarnes@hawthornemgmt.com) if you would like to request an appeal and the board will be notified.

FAQ

Question 1. What if I have already added a deck, sunroom, patio, fence, etc. and you didn’t get official approval.

Answer 1. Well, it’s a little late but late is better than never. If you don’t submit a request and the ARC committee discovered the violation, you could find yourself in the middle of a mess of fines, ARC denials, and frustrations. If you have an existing addition which needs approval… Get it in as soon a possible.

Question 2. What if I have an unapproved addition and I discover its in violation of the HOA rules?

Answer 2. If you are in violation you could be told to update the addition, change the design or completely remove the addition. The HOA can assess fines up to $100 A DAY until the violation is corrected. If you have a special circumstance and feel that you deserve an appeal of a decision made by the ARC committee or the Board of Directors, you can request and appeal through Hawthorne. (Just contact our HOA manager and the board will be notified of the request for appeal)

Question 3. How is the appeal process handled? Who makes the ultimate decision? Can I get the membership to vote if I don’t like the board of directors decision?

Answer3. In most cases the final decision is made by the members of the board of directors. Three members of the board of directors make up a quorum for meetings… but hearings and appeals are voted on by all of the board members so as to give everyone a chance to represent different opinions. The membership is not polled as the membership votes for the board members and therefore entrusts the board with their day to day decisions. Appeals are requested through Hawthorne and then forwarded in most cases to the president of the HOA. The president then brings the appeal to the board and a decision is made to hear or not hear the appeal. If the appeal is heard it might be delayed so the board can talk with the homeowner, consult the ARC committee, review the bylaws, speak with the HOA attorney, etc. The board will always make an effort to advise the homeowner of the need for a delay.

To apply for an Architectural Review please fill out this form:  Application for Architectural Review