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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.

No 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.

Comment on this Story

  • Ashley Smoot

    Very disappointing, not what you deserve after plunking down good money for a home with those amenities.

    Good luck Laura, I hope it works out!


  • Guest

    I wonder how much homework people do before buying into a condo/town home community. 60 dollars a month to cover mowing, landscaping and a pool is WAY too cheap. There is no way to get those services at that rate.
    It sounds like the HOA kept their fees artificially low, to lure buyers in.

    Anyone knows that a well managed HOA in our area, providing services like that, would be charging about 200 dollars per month.

    The best managed HOA on the island, the Keys, is under 200 per month and doing a fantastic job for their owners. Again, they use volunteers to run their association, saving management fees.

    What a shame for those buyers over in Carolina Beach.

  • subsidizing the HOA in order to keep the dues low to entice buyers knowing the break-even of operating the HOA was much higher. Unfortunately, this is what the developers do. Once enough units are sold and the HOA is turned over to the owners…suprise! They find out the dues have to be increased in order to pay the bills.

  • Lo

    The fees in the addendum to the contract are 150.00 per month. I was surprised to get a bill for only 60.00 when I moved in. There are only 6 units….so 60 a month easily covers the cost of mowing and spraying some weed stuff – which is all they did. The pool is postage-stamp size – my sister’s pool is bigger.

  • Guest

    Put claims in against the other parties to her purchase closing; Realtors, builders, a lender if she has a mortgage, etc who withheld pertinent information. They knew the whole story; It’s their fiduciary duty to disclose all itmes like that that are common knowledge to those parties.
    She was duped by all of them.
    The developer is responsible for putting money into the HOA for each unsold unit. $60 a month is never enough and was a short-term marketing ploy by the Realtors and developers to make the units sell quicker.

  • Guest3658

    Stealing money? they sound like friends of Bev Perdue and Mike Easley.

  • Guest

    do not move into Lake Forest Inc.they have a board that is trying to put Lake Forest Out of business.and the homeowners out in the street,we need all the luck we can get??????????????????

  • Guest7969

    is the bottom line….the HOA is run by the owners of the homes…YOU HAVE NO CHOICE…the responsibility of the homeowners to split the costs of doing business of the HOA…is tied to the title of the home. It doesn’t matter at this point what was or wasn’t promised…services that cannot be paid for…can’t be open.

  • Lo

    It is breach of contract. It is not run by the “homeowners”, it is “run” by some outside contractor. It is an addendum to the contract, which was signed by the developer and myself. A legally binding contract that says they are supposed to provide pool, landscaping, and lawn maintenance, in exchange for HOA dues. No service = no dues.

  • Prior to purchasing any home governed by a HOA, it is wise to request and review the financial statements of the HOA. Good luck!

  • Guest

    I certainly hope you rinse in the shower before entering the pool after being in the ocean. And no running either

  • Guest

    My next purchase was going to be a townhome in the wilmington/carolina beach area. What should I be looking for when they say HOA fees? I would be using this as a second home.

  • Out of State Visitor

    My next purchase was going to be a townhome in the wilmington/carolina beach area. What should I be looking for when they say HOA fees? I would be using this as a second home.

  • Guest

    get that board out, something is fishie


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