Clairemont HOA addresses resident concerns

Special to the Fort Mill TimesMarch 19, 2013 

— A battle between Clairemont residents and the homeowners association over financial accountability, management and other issues has left many homeowners frustrated that their voice isn’t being heard.

The Clairemont Homeowner’s Association addressed a variety of concerns — from spending to stricter regulations — during a recent meeting attended by about 70 people at Pleasant Valley Methodist Church in Indian Land.

Clairemont resident Connie Scribner said the board has dismissed residents’ concerns. Scribner, who has lived in Clairemont for 10 years, said the board should be “absolutely open with the entire community.”

One of Scribner’s main concerns was how the board spends money. Scribner cowrote a letter to Clairemont homeowners with resident Rita Muehlman describing “questionable expenditures paid from the HOA account,” including get-well flowers for a board member, new rain-sensitive sprinkler heads and new key fobs.

The letter also described a concern over the $1,200 monthly fee for a management company, Kuester Management, hired last May. “The additional charges from Kuester are outrageous,” the letter states.

“We’ve had a lot of support from many people,” Scribner said. “Things need to be changed.”

Referring to a string of complaints from residents, Clairemont HOA board of directors secretary Nick Kerzman said that although most of the claims are based in fact, they are “not the entire picture.”

The board is acting on the heels of many years of unaddressed violations within the community, Kerzman said. However, Kerzman said the board has been “as transparent as possible.”

Clairemont HOA Board President Paul Agey said the board members knew they would have to make changes and better enforce regulations. “We knew we weren’t going to be popular,” he said.

For the past few years, there has been little enforcement of the HOA’s bylaws and guidelines, Kerzman said. Now, he said, the number of violation letters have trended down, he said.

“This is to be expected after years of a lack of management,” Kerzman said.

When Clairemont switched to a new management company, the association enacted a two-letter process for violations. If a violation remains unresolved after the first letter, the homeowner receives a notice and must appear before the HOA.

“Residents started responding to the letters and making the changes,” Kerzman said. “The board is following the governing documents of the HOA and making a point to enforce each one equally as to not show any favoritism.”

When going through the neighborhood, Agey said he filled pages with violations. The board noted deteriorating entrances, foreclosed and abandoned homes and 11 homes for sale.

Agey said the number of issues stems from years of “everybody ignoring the problems.” He said the board faced resistance from homeowners. “We’ve taken a lot of grief from the community,” he said.

But board members hope to address remaining violations, Agey said. “We are going to make this a better community,” he said.

During the meeting, the board addressed a variety of residents’ concerns, including satellite dishes, expenses, late payment of taxes and others.

Satellite dishes

The restriction on satellite dishes was one of residents’ main concerns. The current bylaws call for dishes to be not visible from streets or adjacent lots. Receivers cannot be placed in the front yard or on the front half of the roof.

According to FCC regulations, satellites must not interfere with the ability to get an acceptable quality signal, and should not delay or prevent the use of the antenna or increase the cost of installation.

Kerzman said many satellites weren’t properly installed. He said that residents should comply with the HOA restrictions since they comply with the FCC rule. “Our guidelines are very flexible,” he said.

Kerzman explained the board’s spending on get-well flowers was for a board member who had a heart attack. The board also covered costs of the baseball tournament termed “private” in Scribner’s letter.

Kerzman said the tournament was a community social function, not a private party, and was approved the Social Committee. He said rain-sensitive sprinklers will save money on water.

Payment of 2012 taxes

E-mails poured in to the board from its residents when the HOA’s 2012 property taxes weren’t paid on time. Leaders said the late payment was due to Kuester never receiving the property tax bill from a previous management company.

When the board contacted Kuester to get the taxes paid, Kuester updated the billing information and paid the taxes immediately upon receiving the bill, said Ben Rhodes, director of management for Kuester.

Rhodes said Kuester relies on courtesy from any previous management company to ensure that all information is passed on. “It’s an ongoing challenge to obtain information from previous management companies,” he said.

The taxes have been paid as of March 7. The board is unsure whether a fee will be assessed for the late payment of taxes, Kerzman said.

The board met last year’s budget, though it had to make up for 26 homes with unpaid assessments, Agey said. In 2012, the board reinstated all HOA committees and reduced pool and landscape costs.

Currently, there are three houses for sale in Clairemont, the entrances have been reworked and of 25 violations, five have been resolved.

Kerzman said the board did not draw any money from the community’s reserves this year, as was the case in the past.

In 2007 the reserves were depleted by 49 percent, though Kerzman did not know why. Reserve losses leveled off in 2010, he said, with no depletions since. Last year, the board started with $37,962 in reserves and ended with $38,070. The board spent $115,807 of the $135,785 income, staying under budget.

“We need to rebuild our reserves for capital expenditures,” Kerzman said.

Kerzman said residents will be expected to pay an increased assessment of $40 for 2013, to $460, to cover bad debt, or unpaid assessments, which represents 9.4 percent of the HOA’s budget, Kerzman said.

The $127,000 budget includes expenditures for utilities, property taxes, an increased management cost and bad debt.

Some residents voiced concerns over the budget and asked for a vote. Kerzman said the bylaws do not call for a vote, but the board allowed a popular vote and most homeowners stood in favor of the budget.

After the meeting, a new board member, Paul Purcaro, was elected. Purcaro, who has served on the board in the past, was elected over Rita Muehlman, who said she felt a change was needed. Purcaro said he hopes to make Clairemont a “good place to live.”

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