CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Neighbors in a south Charlotte condo complex said they've been warned of potential fines by their homeowners' association for their damaged mailboxes after they said thieves broke into them several times this summer.
Neighbors at the Chalcombe Court condominiums said they're fed up with the break-ins and want the HOA to pay for repairs. But figuring out who's responsible and who will ultimately have to pay has been difficult.
"My mailbox was completely destroyed," Ariel Rowell said.
The trouble started in June, according to Rowell, who said her mailbox was tampered with "to the point where I can't get mail in it right now." And her mailbox wasn't the only one damaged. A few others along with the outgoing mailbox were busted.
Rowell has lived at Chalcombe Court along Sharon Road for three years. She's frustrated with the response to safety concerns in the community.
"It's kind of a hard situation right now," Rowell said. "You move to this area where you're hoping that it's a safe neighborhood. I have a daughter. She goes to school in the area. And now, I'm nervous to go out at certain hours. It's dark at night, and they're not doing much about it."
She said the thieves have been breaking into the community's cluster mailboxes almost nightly since June. The suspects steal mail and leave the busted mailboxes behind.
"I've had hundreds and hundreds of dollars of stuff stolen so far," Rowell said.
Rowell claimed calling the police didn't help.
"They said, 'Oh no, this is very common in the SouthPark area. We can't put cameras over here because we don't want our property to get stolen,'" Rowell said.
Frustrated with what the police told her, Rowell went to her homeowners' association asking for a fix. They told her it wasn't their responsibility.
In the meantime, she was given a warning for having a broken mailbox.
"I got a [violation] letter from the HOA ... saying I need to fix my mailbox and get a lock because it's encouraging theft, or else the next time it's going to be a fine," Rowell said.
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The violation notice cites Article 7, Section 2 of the community's rules. The HOA rules state, "Unit owners shall maintain, repair and replace all portions of their units ..."
The letter goes on to say "this is homeowner responsibility," and "failure to reconcile these items may result in ... levying of fines for each day the violation(s) is not resolved."
Ryan Mumper, an attorney who specializes in landlord and tenant law, said there can be a wide range of responses from HOAs, including but not limited to fines, liens against the property and even foreclosure. WCNC Charlotte combed through the community rules but couldn't find any language specifically addressing who's responsible for a shared mailbox.
This could make the HOA responsible for fixing the damage, not individual residents.
"In my opinion, unless your specific rules and regulations in your homeowners' association speak to responsibility for the maintenance of a common or cluster mailbox, it will become the responsibility of a homeowners' association," Mumper explained.
The U.S. Postal Service said it is "the responsibility of the property owner, property management company or homeowners' association to install, maintain and repair the cluster box units."
"I've lived in apartment complexes before where it's that beautiful locker system," Rowell said. "You have to input a code, and the locker will pop open. They're super secure. It's just crazy that people who own these condos, they're having issues with their own mail."
WCNC Charlotte sent numerous emails to the Chalcombe Court Homeowners' Association and its management group, Cedar Management Group, and called multiple times for their side of the story. As of the publishing of this story, those requests haven't been answered.
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