Condo, Strata and HOA News

Category Archives: South Carolina

Criminals Treat Condo as Giant Living Piggybank, Owners Attempting To Respond

The Estates at Westbury, Bluffton, South Carolina has a couple of issues. The first is crime, and the second appears to be a failure of the management company to respond.

The 300 unit complex is riddled with crime and negligent owners and tenants. And I get the feeling that criminals are treating the site as a giant piggy bank. Two (news, news) units have recently been home invaded by armed group of men – both times forcing the owners to lay face down while they rifle through the home for valuables.

Less heinous, one resident describes the building on goings as:

the Estate could be a beautiful and serene place to live, there are a number of facts that make this a less than desirable home. With a number of armed robberies, muggings, residents who are permitted to move in and hold drunken parties until the middle of the night, fist fights breaking out at said drunken parties, carloads of people coming in to the community who do not belong here, people driving at undesirable speeds through the community that are a threat to the children playing here, drug dealings going on that are known to both the Association Manager and to the maintenance team, and music so loud that it shakes entire buildings – the lifestyle and feeling of “home” at the Estate is in sharp decline

It is so bad that one elderly couple fear even their walk to collect mail.

Ouch. That means it’s time for the management to step up.

To their credit, it appears the management is improving lighting and putting in brontosaurus in size speed bumps to limit vehicle speed. Where they fall down is communicating with the owners, and supporting their actions.

Most importantly, when it comes to supporting a proven method to reduce crime in an area – creating a neighborhood watch – the management has been resistant to at each step. The residents put up over 500 flyers to communicate with the community, the management tore them all down. Owners and tenants try to engage the Association Manager; she has banned tenants from her office because they are not owners. Tenant Jennie Krogulski has gathered about 30 tenants and owners volunteers to start a watch; and the final message from the manager – the residents are not allowed to set up a Neighbourhood Watch.

I  would counter with the following: if serious injury occurs to any member of the community – which a reasonable person would deem a neighbourhood watch would have helped prevent – I would go after the resident manager. I would hold her responsible.

Neighbourhood Watch programs have existed for a long time and are supported by the police department. Volunteers receive training and support. Issues of liability have all been resolved over the 50 years the program has been in place. USAonWatch even has a copy of the Neighbourhood Watch Manual free for download.

A Neighbourhood Watch program for a complex with these issues is reasonable, accessible, and empowering for the residents. It is a great and awesome program to support, and should be seen as a progressive action to combat the real and tangible threat of harm and danger these residents have.

For up to date information, the active residents have a Facebook page for the complex that can be seen here.

Condo Using an Individual Accountant Who Stole $800k+

UPDATE 18 Aug 2011; William W. Scott was found guilty on multiple charges, and stealing more than $800k.

Being on the board of a medium (50+ units) or large condominium (100, 200, 500+ units) will often have you managing more money than you are used to. A 200 unit condominium can easily have a million dollar yearly budget, and reserve funds from the hundred thousand to millions.

At the end of the day, the board is responsible for not only the good use of those funds, but the safekeeping of those funds.

People are people, and even friends can be untrustworthy and unreliable. So goes the story of William W. Scott of Bishopville South Carolina. In a 09 February recording with local police officers he outlined a series of imprudent financial actions with condominium accounts he had access to. In total, it is alleged that more than $800,000 was taken from these accounts.

When dealing with money, one of the best actions a board can take is to bring in reputable third parties that have a focus with condominiums. To this extent, I always suggest a management firm, and a deposit service unrelated to the management firm.

The deposit service (and pick one specializing in Condominiums) will be able to offer advice on how to manage the condominiums funds within any legislative requirements you may have. The management company will act as one more trained set of eyes that can quickly spot abnormalities that may occur in the investments. Between these two additional checksums – a professionally recognized deposit service and a good management firm, you lessen dramatically chances of illegal loss of funds.