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HOAs: Pros and Cons

An HOA (homeowner’s association) often helps maintain property values, has rules and regulations to deter nuisance activity, and provides access to other amenities. But is there a downside to an HOA? Do they often control everything, with no opportunity or control for the homeowner?

Let’s start by addressing if as a homeowner you are unhappy with the action of the association, what recourse can you take? According to the state of South Carolina Dept. of Consumer Affairs, the first action a homeowner should take is to talk with the HOA board of directors and to attempt to use the democratic processes of the association to seek election of members that are more responsive to your needs.

Only then should you file a complaint with the South Carolina Dept. of Consumer Affairs. Here’s the catch though. The department does not have any enforcement or oversight authority over HOAs. The complaint process is one of voluntary mediation. Therefore, it cannot force an HOA or homeowner to participate in the complaint process, require a specific outcome, or attempt to arbitrate the dispute.

The South Carolina Dept. of Consumer Affairs does not administer or enforce the South Carolina Homeowner’s Assn. Act. Rather the role is to collect specific data on HOA complaints, compile and share it with the Governor and the General Assembly each year. It also provides education to homeowners and HOAs. So basically, the compliant will help decide if changes to law are needed in the future.

The 2023 report is compiled from complaints received Jan. 1, 2022, until Dec. 31, 2022. The 2023 report contains information from 276 complaints filed against 208 HOAs/management companies. There was a 7% increase in 2022 of the number of complaints. The complaints raised 651 concerns with multiple included in a single complaint. The top three types of issues raised were:

Looking a bit closer at if the complaints were resolved, 66% of complaints were closed indicating an adequate business response was received. About 10% of complaints were closed as “Abandoned” due to the complainant’s failure to submit the required HOA Supplemental Questionnaire—and 19% were also closed “Undetermined” due to disputed facts. Less than 6% of complaints were closed as “Unsatisfied” due to a business’s failure to respond.

That is the basics of HOAs here in South Carolina. What are you seeing in your own region? Have you had generally positive experiences with HOAs? What have been the downsides? What would you like to see done differently either at the HOA level or at the government level?

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