CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WWAY) -- Buying a home is a big decision. A lot of thought goes into it, like the size of the home, the neighborhood and amenities. So when one woman bought a town home because of what the community offered, she was surprised to discover what she was promised is not what she's getting.
When Laura Sanford bought a town home in the Ocean Heights community in Carolina Beach, it met her three requirements.
"A pool, landscaping and yardwork, because I'm single, and I don't do that stuff," Sanford said. "And a pool is just nice to, after you get out of the ocean, to just jump into."
According to her contract, that's what her home owner's association dues pay for. When she moved in last winter, she saw the pool was chained closed, but she wasn't concerned.
"I figured, OK, the pool's locked, but it's January, so it's probably locked for the winter," Sanford said. "Well, it's been locked since I moved in, and they haven't done any yardwork, and they're still expecting me to pay homeowners dues."
Sanford called and e-mailed At Its Best Realty HOA management to ask why no one had mowed. She received an e-mail back stating, "Ocean Heights does not have a landscaper... There isn't anyone scheduled to mow the common areas."
But Sanford says someone was there mowing all summer. Another e-mail from At Its Best told her the person who was mowing has not been paid, because Ocean Heights doesn't have any money.
Sanford says she's been paying $60 a month in HOA dues. At least she was until October.
"I'm getting nothing, so why would I pay for something that I'm not getting any services," she said.
We contacted Dawn Gaul with At Its Best. She says the current developer, JTB, is trying to fix a problem that goes back to the previous developer, who did not take the appropriate steps in order to get a permit to open the pool.
We spoke with Randy Crouch with JTB. He says the bottom line is unless everyone pays about $500 in dues, there's no money, because there's not enough people living there to support a community that size.
Is that fair to the homeowners, like sanford, who bought out there?
We spoke with Wilmington attorney J.C. Hearne to find out what options Sanford has since she's not getting what was promised.
"Your first option is to litigate the matter, to sue the developer," Hearne said. "It would be a standard breech of contract action. Included in that could be misrepresentation, deceptive trade practices."
Sanford is open to that idea. She just hopes it doesn't come to that.
Both Gual and Crouch say they hope to have the pool open in time for summer.
We'll keep you updated on whether that happens, and if they try to increase the residents' HOA fees.