‘It’s unacceptable’: Homeowner says HOA used funds on private party for retiring manager

NEW LONDON, N.C. — The Old North State Club neighborhood is a gated community in New London steeped in tranquility, except for one resident, Maria Ray.

Ray says she recently found out that the homeowners association board held a retirement party for a long-time manager in December and only certain people were invited.

“They didn’t include the whole association,” she told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke.

Ray says she wasn’t invited but all the homeowners still had to pay for it.

“If you’re going to have a private party, pay for it,” she said. “Come out of pocket on your own. Don’t use homeowners’ (money) that weren’t invited.”

Ray says the HOA addressed the issue in an “Annual Meeting Q&A” document she received. It says the manager who retired was the one who controlled the guest list, but that, “Looking back, we can see how this must have been perceived to the residents who were not invited, and at the time we did what we thought was best.” The statement goes on to say the reception cost every household less than $8.

But Ray says it’s the principle. “When you’re using community funds to fund a private party, I just felt like it was, it’s not right. It’s unacceptable,” she said.

She would complain to a state agency that oversees HOAs, but as Stoogenke has reported before, there aren’t any in the Carolinas.

“There needs to be some regulatory agency over HOAs so things like private parties and funds of homeowners don’t get misused,” she said.

Stoogenke reached out to the HOA more than a month ago but did not hear back in time for this report.

Stoogenke offers this advice if you have a problem with your HOA:

- See if your HOA’s bylaws help or hurt your cause.

- Talk with your neighbors — there’s strength in numbers.

- Try meeting with the board as a group, not by yourself.

- Many homeowners don’t realize state law says you don’t have to wait for the scheduled election to vote people off the board.

- Talk to a lawyer but know it may cost you.

Stoogenke adds that you can always lobby state lawmakers to regulate HOAs more. For example, North Carolina lawmakers are considering a bill to make it harder for HOAs to start foreclosure proceedings.

If it becomes law, HOAs could start foreclosure proceedings against your property only if you owed more than $2,500 or racked up 12 months of fees, whichever were to come first. Plus, the HOA couldn’t just notify you by mail, like now. It would also have to email and call you first.

“Homeowners work so hard to own a home, the biggest purchase of their life, and now, just for a few hundred dollars in HOA dues, you are taking that American dream away from them,” one of the lawmakers sponsoring the bill, N.C. Rep. Ya Liu, told Stoogenke.

The bill passed the House and is working its way through the Senate.

(VIDEO: NC lawmakers want to make it tougher for HOAs to put a lien on someone’s property)

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