Hilton Head Plantation property owners who owe thousands of dollars in fees and repeatedly refuse to pay will soon be charged a toll each time they drive into the gated community.
The new $10 charge for property owners with "severely delinquent" accounts takes effect Oct. 1, said general manager Peter Kristian. Their guests will be charged $50 each time they enter the gate.
Kristian said the toll is the latest in a series of attempts to collect the overdue money from about 26 homeowners. Those 26 owe a total of about $122,000 in annual assessments, charged to property owners for security, landscaping and amenities. Most of their accounts are more than two years overdue, Kristian said.
The delinquent property owners already have lost a series of privileges at Hilton Head Plantation. They can't vote on community measures, participate in programs or classes, or renew the decals that allow them to enter the gated community. They receive an outstanding balance in the mail each month and also have been sent handwritten letters, Kristian said.
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"It's unfortunate we have to resort to these type of tactics, but out of respect for all the other residents who pay their assessment in good faith, they expect us to be good stewards," Kristian said.
Because of the loss of decal privileges, the homeowners with long-overdue assessments have to call in a daily gate pass to drive into the plantation. That will allow security guards to identify them and collect the toll, which will be used to pay off their accounts, Kristian said.
The property owners' association board decided to charge the toll to avoid costly litigation against the delinquent homeowners, according to the gated community's newsletter.
The plantation's amended declaration permits toll collections, as long as the money goes toward the community's upkeep and services.
Kristian said the community's security guards are already accustomed to collecting fees from vendors or other visitors who have to pay to enter, and he doesn't expect the new toll to change how homeowners who don't owe money get through.
Plantation resident Joe Handley said he and other community members who pay their assessments on time agree with the toll. This year, each property owner was charged about $1,000. Kristian said the amount had increased from last year to cover those who don't pay, although he could not say by how much.
"It's the only way to try to encourage them to make good," Handley said. "The rest of us pay religiously, so why should we have to carry those who won't?"
The toll, announced in the August and September newsletters, appears to be working even before it's charged. Kristian said all but eight of the property owners with delinquent accounts have contacted the administration to discuss payment plans or other measures.