A Thursday deadline is fast approaching for homeowners associations across South Carolina to have all their rules and regulations recorded in county deed offices, or else those rules become unenforceable.
It's part of a change in state law approved in 2018, aimed at making it easier to look up the hyper-local rules that govern modern subdivisions — rules that cover everything from the appearance of homes to lawn maintenance, parking regulations, and who is allowed to use the community pool.
“Hopefully, the office won’t be inundated," said Charleston County Recorder of Deeds Michael Miller. “We’ve had some traffic with HOAs filing their documents, trying to get in before the 10th."
Homeowners associations are typically created by subdivision developers, with lots of rules aimed at preserving the look of the development while all the houses are being sold. Eventually, the associations are turned over to the homeowners, and residents elect boards of directors to run the quasi-governments going forward.
The associations have lots of power — they can assess fines against residents and put liens against properties whose owners fall behind on their dues.
South Carolina's Homeowners Association Act is supposed to increase transparency. One requirement is that associations give residents 48 hours' notice before taking action to increase an annual budget.
The new law also directs the Department of Consumer Affairs to take complaints about associations and to produce annual reports about those complaints.
Steve Peck runs James Island-based Community Management Group, a First Service Residential company that administers 135 HOAs with 22,500 homes in the Charleston Metro Area. He sees the changes as generally positive.
“My professional opinion of this is that homeowners will benefit from enhanced transparency and availability of information," he said.
Peck said that HOA covenants and restrictions and condominium association master deeds already were recorded with counties, and they are usually available online. The new law requires the recording of any rules and regulations an association wants the authority to enforce.
“There’s a portion of homeowners associations that will be completely caught off guard by this," Peck predicted. "In my opinion, if an association is attentive to these things, then there is no panic on Jan. 10."
Dale Butts, Beaufort County Recorder of Deeds and secretary/treasurer of the South Carolina Association of Clerks of Courts and Registers of Deeds, said his office has been busy recording HOA filings since December.
“Here, at the 11th hour, we are seeing a lot of traffic," he said.
Homeowners' associations have all sorts of rules, some of which cause conflict with residents. If an association misses the Thursday deadline to record its rules with the county, that association could suddenly find its rules unenforceable, at least temporarily.