2015 News for Pawleys Island, Litchfield and Murrells Inlet
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Real estate: Bill would send POA board members to class

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Area property owners associations opposed a bill that would have allowed the state to collect a fee to handle disputes between the groups and their members. Instead of money, a new bill would require association board members to spend time learning about their responsibilities.

“Now that the fees are gone, I think there’s a chance something is going to move this session,” said Tom Stickler, president of the Waccamaw Neck Council of Property Owners Associations.

The council plans to hold a workshop next month on the pending legislation. It comes at a time when the council board is trying to get more of its members involved and show it has a role to play in community affairs.

State Sen. Luke Rankin of Horry County prefiled a bill that would create the S.C. Common Interest Community Association Act to regulate groups whose membership is mandated by property deeds. A commission of property managers and association board members would create educational requirements for managers and board members. New board members would have 30 days after their election to complete a four-hour orientation program. They would have to take at least an hour of continuing education each year.

The act also sets rules for meeting notices, access to documents and the conduct of meetings that follow the state’s Freedom of Information Act. It would require associations to file their governing documents in the county courthouse and record any amendments to them within 30 days. Disputes between boards and members would be handled through the courts.

State Sen. Darrell Jackson of Richland County filed a bill to create the S.C. Homeowners Protection Act. He is the author of a bill that would have charged associations $10 per member to fund dispute resolution through the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs. His new bill would require disclosure to buyers that their property is subject to an association membership. It also sets out a process for resolving disputes through “adjudicatory panels” created by associations.

The state Community Associations Institute is backing the Rankin bill, with some changes, said Press Courtney, owner of Waccamaw Management, who chairs the institute’s legislative committee.

It hopes to ease the education requirement. “We encourage our boards to get educated,” he said. “We’re going to offer an option that’s much less onerous.”

Overall, he sees the Rankin bill as “a step in the right direction.”

Neither bill would apply to voluntary associations, such as those at Hagley Estates, where Stickler is also president, or the Litchfield Beaches.

Council board members aren’t sure how the education requirements will go over with the member organizations. But Mike Diem, the board’s secretary, already teaches a class on POAs at Coastal Carolina University.

“It’s not just coming to meetings. It’s a serious job,” Diem said.

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