Homeowner’s association under scrutiny by Columbia residents

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Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 10:20 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Residents of the Brookhaven neighborhood in Northeast Columbia tell WIS their homeowners association (HOA) is growing increasingly worse.

The Brookhaven Association holds 1,055 homes under the purview of an HOA managed by Cedar Management Group. The Charlotte-based company was hired to manage Brookhaven in 2019.

WIS spoke with a property manager for Cedar Management on Monday. They said it’s common for residents to encounter challenges in the transition phase of increasing their property value.

These transitional hurdles prompted Cedar to adopt a 30-day grace period for any violation recognized by the HOA. The HOA currently has one president and five board members.

Cedar told WIS that Brookhaven residents can request up to three extensions totaling 90 days to correct violations. Moreover, fines are to be removed once violations are remedied.

Despite Cedar’s claims, at least fifty longtime homeowners tell WIS the HOA has grown more ‘intrusive’ since 2019.

“It’s the iron-Democratic way in which this HOA, and particularly the board, is attempting to govern this neighborhood… you essentially have one person calling the shots in the entire neighborhood,” said Richland County Councilman Don Weaver.

Councilman Weaver, a former Brookhaven HOA board member, has owned four homes within the neighborhood since 2012.

Residents across multiple corners of the community, including Weaver, cite no grace periods before fees are posted.

The community’s grievance came to a peak last weekend.

On Saturday, the Brookhaven HOA hosted its annual meeting at North Springs Park on Clemson Road.

Homeowners not in good standing with the HOA were turned away and denied entry to the meeting where two new board members were elected.

When asked why security was heightened on Sat., Cedar told WIS that people were standing outside of the homes of HOA board members leading up to the annual meeting.

Moreover, they said content generated within the “Residents of Brookhaven” Facebook page necessitated high security for the meeting.

WIS spoke with the page admin, as well as a multitude of its active members, who have no knowledge of such content being generated within their private group.

The admin tells WIS their private page is for homeowners to communicate issues with one another.

“We need a change in the whole spectrum…The board will not stand up to the president, so I feel like both of them need to be removed from their positions. And a whole new board needs to be elected,” said Teran Rowe, a former Brookhaven HOA board member.

Rowe was elected to the board in 2020 and resigned in 2021. He said he was the only male on the board, at that time.

“There’s one person that controls everything. If you send an email, it goes directly to one person… There was no transparency. It was just a money deal. Constantly taking money from the homeowners instead of bringing value,” continued Rowe.

Homeowners told WIS they have minimal access to financial statements or annual budgets. The documents show where and how yearly HOA fees, as well as fines, are allocated and spent.

“I can’t even tell you the last time I got any kind of financial report from them… I own property in a lot of neighborhoods. Probably 30 neighborhoods across the Midlands. This is by far the worst ran HOA in the Midlands. There’s just so many questions about finances, lack of transparency, the board management, and the composition of the board. I mean, it just goes on and on,” continued Weaver.

Cedar told WIS the financial statements are mailed by the United States Postal Service on an annual basis, as well as readily available on their online portal.

Several homeowners told WIS they had never heard of the online portal until we mentioned it.

“I’m not computer savvy. I have to go to my granddaughter, who’s eight years old if I want to do something on the computer. I’m an old-fashioned guy. I’m a pen-and-paper guy. Send me something in the mail,” said Henry Cosby, a Brookhaven homeowner.

Cosby said the HOA continues to cite him for violations preceding 2019. He says he has not received a paper financial statement in years but received a lien on his house this Monday.

“This is my last stand. When I moved here 14 years ago, me and my wife said, ‘we’re not moving no more. Our kids are grown. It’s time for us to start enjoying our lives.’ But when you take peoples hard earned money, anything is liable to happen,” concluded Cosby.

Weaver said he intends to ask the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office and the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission to investigate the Brookhaven HOA.

A separate homeowner told WIS his case with the state’s Human Affairs Commission was already sent for review.

WIS received a written statement from the Brookhaven HOA attorney, David Wilson, on Monday:

“The Brookhaven Community Association had its annual meeting on Saturday. There was difficulty completing the typical business of the Association because of consistent disruptions throughout the meeting. When it became clear that a small group of people would continue to interrupt, were intent on making it adversarial, and would not engage in civil discussion, the meeting was ended. The Board will be meeting soon to talk about how to avoid this kind of unfortunate situation in the future.

HOAs only work when the members of the HOA pay their dues and follow the rules. Those who are most vocal in complaining about their HOA are generally those who do neither of these things.

While the Association is always interested in improving how things are done, it must disagree with the small, vocal group who have taken it upon themselves to speak for the rest of the community of about 1100 homeowners. Many of the items complained of are simply not true. For example, you mentioned that these owners claim not to have access to financial information. On the contrary, the community’s management company makes financial information available on the community website. Owners can log in to their account to have access to those documents any time.

Were all homeowners associations to begin airing all claims and grievances about every person that refused to comply with the covenants, refused to pay dues, refused to treat their neighbors with respect, or who falsely accused the boards of directors of various inaccurate or misleading statements, there would be no time left to handle the community’s actual business. The Board remains open to input from all homeowners and hopes that many members will volunteer their time this year to make Brookhaven a better place to live and call home.”

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