October 10, 2017
From Beaufort County Marvin H. Dukes, III, Master-in-Equity
Ward Borden, of Jones Simpson & Newton, PA, of Bluffton,
A. Laughlin, of Laughlin & Bowen, PC, of Hilton Head
Island, for Respondents.
Community Services Associates, Inc. (CSA) seeks review of an
order of the Master-in-Equity denying CSA's request to
permanently enjoin Respondents, Stephen H. Wall and Maria P.
Snyder Wall (collectively, the Walls), from renting out the
first floor of their single-family residence while
simultaneously occupying the upstairs guest suite. CSA argues
the master erred by (1) finding the Walls' residence had
only one kitchen; (2) concluding the Walls' rental
activity did not violate CSA's restrictive covenants; and
(3) declining to consider a letter written by Respondent
Maria P. Snyder Wall (Mrs. Wall) and published in a local
newspaper after the merits hearing. We affirm.
April 1, 1970, the Sea Pines Plantation Company adopted the
current restrictive covenants that apply to residential and
common areas within Sea Pines Plantation, a gated community
on Hilton Head Island (the Covenants). Part I of the
Covenants applies to all "Class 'A' Residential
Areas" and includes, inter alia, the following
5. All lots in said Residential Areas shall be used for
residential purposes exclusively. No structure, except as
hereinafter provided[, ] shall be erected, altered, placed or
permitted to remain on any lot other than one (1) detached
single family dwelling not to exceed two (2) stories in
height and one small one-story accessory building [that] may
include a detached private garage and/or servant's
quarters, provided the use of such dwelling or accessory
building does not overcrowd the site and provided further
that such building is not used for any activity normally
conducted as a business. Such accessory building may not be
constructed prior to the construction of the main building.
6. A guest suite or like facility without a kitchen may be
included as part of the main dwelling or accessory building,
but such suite may not be rented or leased except as part
of the entire premises[, ] including the main dwelling,
and provided, however, that such guest suite would not result
in over-crowding the site.
added). Parts II through V, respectively, apply to only those
areas designated as "Beach Residential, "
"Golf Fairway Residential, " etc. The Sea Pines
Plantation Company enforced the Covenants until CSA, a
property owners' association, succeeded to the
1998, the Walls purchased their residence at 48 Planters Wood
Drive in Sea Pines Plantation. According to Respondent
Stephen H. Wall (Mr. Wall), the residence has one kitchen on
the north side of the first floor. The second story of the
residence consists of a guest suite that is accessible only
by an outside staircase.
12, the W alls b e gan renting out a room in their residence
through Airbnb, an online rental broker. The Walls'
listing with Airbnb was titled "Hilton Head Organic
B&B, Sea Pines" and indicated that the room
accommodated three individuals. The Walls also cooked
breakfast for their renters. After CSA expressed concern
about the Walls' rental activity, the Walls changed their
listing with Airbnb to the "Whole House" category
and began renting out the entire first floor while living in
the second-story guest suite themselves. They also dropped
the title "Hilton Head Organic B&B, Sea Pines"
and stopped cooking breakfast for their renters.
September 25, 2014, CSA filed a Verified Complaint against
the Walls, seeking temporary and permanent injunctions
against the Walls' alleged operation of "a bed and
breakfast" in their residence and the rental of merely
part of the residence rather than the entire residence. In
its complaint, CSA asserted that the Covenants, specifically
paragraphs five and six of Part I, authorize the short-term
rental of an entire residence but not part of a residence.
Walls filed a Verified Answer asserting they advertised on
airbnb.com in the "Whole House" category
and that they remained in the guest suite when their whole
house was rented. However, the Walls denied CSA's
allegation that they were operating a bed and breakfast in
their residence. The master conducted a hearing on CSA's
temporary injunction request on April 7, 2015, which was
continued to April 21, 2015. On ...