Depending upon your community structure and governing documents, it is entirely possible that your HOA will provide maintenance within the community. Examples of this are where townhome community documents provide that assessments cover select items of exterior maintenance (such as roofing systems, siding, or yardwork). Condominium associations also may have an easement to access the interior of owner units in order to access the “common elements” (frequently the interior “guts” of the walls—utility lines/plumbing). Such maintenance will involve the community association sending out contractors to assess the maintenance needs, and also performing work. These contractors will be arranged and hired by the community association, and may need to obtain access to the interior of a home or condo unit to perform necessary work.
Recently, police in Bradenton, Florida issued a press release cautioning that a man had been posing as an HOA-provided pest control operator providing services. Instead, the man and his accomplice were burglars, who used this ruse to gain consensual access to the victim’s home, and stole cash, jewelry, and other items from the home. The men were eventually caught, and charged with burglary to an occupied dwelling. The Bradenton case was unfortunately not the first instance of such a scheme, as police in Cape Coral reported that the very same scheme was used to allow two men to steal over $1,000 in jewelry from the victim.
This scheme is not just unique to Florida, and could easily be replicated in North Carolina, as restrictive covenants are publicly recorded documents that are accessible on the county register of deeds website. Bad actors can find whether your lot is subject to restrictive covenants, what the name of the HOA is, as well as what maintenance items the Association is responsible for. Using this publicly available information, a fraudster could pose as a contractor or service provider, and offer that they are being sent by the HOA to perform services that the HOA is clearly responsible for.
In order to combat this scheme, as with most fraud, the best approach is for homeowners to stay aware of their surroundings. Homeowners can do so by following the Association’s minutes and maintenance updates. Associations providing maintenance will state which providers they currently use, and will give homeowners advance notice when certain Association-provided maintenance will be performed, and who the providers will be. Usually, these minutes are able to be requested members, or will be hosted on the Association’s member-only website. Such minutes are not typically provided to the public, which will allow the homeowner to have non-public information that allows them to spot the scam. Aside from HOA-specific security measures, homeowners should utilize common sense, and question whether the provider has a license (if required by the purported service), whether the provider is wearing a uniform, is driving a company vehicle, or has a business entity that is on file with the North Carolina Secretary of State. If the homeowner has any questions regarding HOA maintenance, they should contact either a board member or the Association’s management company to verify that the service provider is legitimate. If Associations or members spot such a scam, they should report the scam to their local law enforcement, as well as the North Carolina Attorney General, Josh Stein (fraud hotline can be called at 877-5-NO-SCAM) or the South Carolina Attorney General, Alan Wilson (fraud hotline can be reached at 803-737-3953).
If you have questions about this or any other community association related matter, please contact one of our North Carolina attorneys in Charlotte, Greensboro, Wilmington or the Triangle, or our South Carolina attorneys in Greenville and Columbia.