Jessica Catz stopped being a renter when she bought her Renaissance Park townhome in May.
The close-knit community attracted her, and she liked having the option to rent out her home later.
“I knew that if I ever moved away that I would have the ability to rent it,” Catz said. “I don’t have like an intention to just pick up and run right now. But I wanted that flexibility in the future. So we looked at the covenants, and it said that we were able to.”
A few weeks after closing she and the rest of the Renaissance Park neighborhood were notified that renters would no longer be allowed.
“I was shocked,” she said. “And I was disappointed and confused. I immediately read it again. And then I reached out to my Realtor.”
The south Raleigh neighborhood sits at the intersection of Tryon Road and South Wilmington Street — less than five miles from downtown.
It will have about 1,000 households, a nearly equal split of single-family homes and townhomes, when fully built. The first homes were built in 2006 and managed by the developers before the seven-member board took over the Renaissance Park Master Association Board of Directors on Jan. 1, 2021.
Property owners were told six months later that those renting out their units would have until July 1, 2022, to “either sell their properties” or live in the homes as the primary resident.
Renters currently make up about 20% of the neighborhood.
The HOA worked with an attorney “who advised [that] the association has a legal obligation to uphold the covenants and should begin enforcement of rental restrictions as originally intended,” according to an email to residents.
“When this whole thing popped up, I did not understand the driving force behind the first action of business, let alone the nuclear option of kicking everybody out without any grandfathering and without any possibility of talk of a better way to approach this,” said Alex Brown, a single-family homeowner in Renaissance Park since 2016.
Mike Palmer, who owns a home in Renaissance Park, wants to keep renting it to his current tenant, an N.C. State University professor.
“I have never once heard a single thing about a problem with renters,” he said. “You know, nothing, and with 20% of the community being renters you would think that if renting was such a big problem, and it needed to be addressed, I would have heard something, but I haven’t.”
Brown, Catz and others have banded together to fight the HOA’s decision to start enforcing the covenants.
On a website called, www.saverenpark.com, the neighbors advocate for a special meeting to dismiss the current HOA members. They also want changes to the board’s composition, term limits and changes to the covenants.
The HOA did not respond to an interview request from The News & Observer but sent a statement.
“The goal of this board is to enforce the covenants of the community in a fair and equitable manner for all members, and to create reasonable expectation with a focus on long-term property value,” according to the statement.
“As board members it is our job to enforce the covenants as written and interpret them based on our understanding, with legal guidance provided by the association’s attorney and professional property management company,” according to the statement. “We are not at liberty to choose which parts of the covenant we care to enforce and which we don’t. It is our obligation to enforce all of them.”
Letters to homeowners
The covenants prohibit renting a home solely for commercial purposes, but allow rentals if the homeowner intends to make the home their primary residence in the future.
“Dwellings may not be used for transient leasing or rental purposes,” the HOA stated in a June email to neighbors. “The intent of the (covenants) has always been for owners to occupy their dwelling as their primary residence.”
However, in September, neighbors received another letter saying the HOA would begin accepting “formal requests” from some renters for the “narrow exceptions to the general prohibition on renting.”
In the statement to The N&O, the HOA goes on to say it doesn’t “expect or foresee” a neighborhood without rental properties. And it noted an “urgent request” was made by a renter to remain, and it was approved by the board.
The requirements for exceptions have not been made public, Brown said, adding it’s another example of the HOA not being transparent.
“We hope to hold the current board of directors accountable for their lack of transparency and for their agenda and what they’re trying to do,” he said. “It feels like [they]have some vendetta against renters in the aggressive way that they’re being targeted.”