Las Vegas Sun

October 30, 2014

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Letter to the readers:

Are HOAs a benefit or detriment to Las Vegas?

Dear Reader,

You’re accustomed to seeing letters to the editor. Well, this is a letter from an editor. I’m Matt Hufman, and I handle the opinion pages of the Sun. I and other journalists at the Sun are going to start writing to you regularly. We hope to start a conversation about topics that matter to us in Southern Nevada. We’ll also share your comments and observations and point you to some interesting opinions, thoughts and stories along the way.

We’re starting with a subject near and dear to the hearts of Southern Nevadans: homeowners associations. On Wednesday, columnist J. Patrick Coolican will write about HOAs, and we’d love to have some of your opinions before then.

This is passionate subject for many homeowners, but love them or hate them, HOAs are a part of the fabric of society here in Southern Nevada. There’s no doubt they play a major role in life, taking over what might normally be government functions. (Is it odd that in a place that has such a libertarian spirit, HOAs proliferate? Or is that natural, given they are a form of self-governance?)

When my wife and I bought a home, we found ourselves paying heed and dues (though mostly dues) to two HOAs.

You haven’t lived until you have two HOAs and their agents patrolling your neighborhood. These are not the types of patrols that might, say, catch the people who have broken into our cars. But they can sure spot those weeds alongside the house. Or a car parked on the street after 10 p.m. But the gate at the entrance of the neighborhood can hang broken for days.

Go figure.

But enough of my kvetching. To be fair, there are benefits of living in an HOA. My neighborhood is relatively quiet, weed-free and pretty tidy (with all the houses painted in those delightful shades of HOA-approved beige). And I haven’t seen any of my neighbors disassemble a car engine on their front lawns, as I have elsewhere. There’s nothing quite like the smell of carburetor in the morning, is there?

Anyway, that’s a bit of my story. What’s yours? Do you live in an HOA? Do you like it, hate it, tolerate it? Do you participate in board meetings? Does your HOA help you? Or do you care?

Would you send me your thoughts? You can send it in the form of a letter to the editor ([email protected]), a comment on the website or just a note to Letters to the Editor c/o Las Vegas Sun, 2360 Corporate Circle, Third Floor, Henderson, NV 89074. Or fax: 383-7264. If you’re sending emails, be sure to put “HOA story” in the subject line.

The Sun will print a sampling of the comments that come in, and hopefully, we can have a discussion about HOAs.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Best,

Matt

Matt Hufman is the assistant managing editor of opinion.

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  1. Because of the nature of developments in Southern Nevada and elsewhere which include common areas for pools and other recreational facilities,guard gates and even private streets it is essential that some type of management structure is provided to maintain these common facilities for the community at large. I have served on the board of directors for four of the six years that II have lived in our existing community in Aliante. one of the important challenges as a board member is to always try to weigh the best interests of the entire community against the interests of vocal but minor interest groups in the community, such as the pool gang. another challenge is to conduct yourself as a board member in accordance with subpart 116 of the Nevada Revised Statutes, that part of Nevada law set apart for HOAs. board members who are insensitive to the law and the rights of unit owners stumble into serious problems and create serious difficulties in the community. It can also be said that all board members are volunteers who are expected to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

  2. Mr. Jack makes some valid points in his comment. Common area upkeep is one of them. Any prospective home buyer should take the necessary paperwork regarding HOA do's and dont's to a qualified attorney for review, prior to purchase of the home. "Buyer beware" is relevant whether your prospective home is in a HOA controlled neighborhood or not.

  3. It really comes down to selecting members of the Board of Directors, If you have board members that are motivated by the opportunity to throw their weight around, you would end up with "yard nazis" who will suddenly decide to label a gas barbeque in your carport as "clutter" even after its been there for ten years. On the other hand, you may be fortunate to select people who have a genuine interest in the community and the maintenance and improvement of common facilities.

    My best advice is to read the Nevada Statutes (NRS 116) and know your rights as a homeowner. If you don't like the culture in your community, go to the Board Meetings and challenge it. If that doesn't work, consider being a candidate for the Board of Directors and change that culture from within.

  4. Matt,

    I have lived in Heritage Estates development in Peccole Ranch since 2004. My home and neighborhood were built in 1991 and both are still beautiful. Why? The HOA.

    I also lived in Northridge California from 1985 to 2001. I had a nice home built in the 1950's with a beautifully landscaped front and backyard which I meticulously maintained. Two doors down was a house that was an eyesore, needed paint, lawn dead, fense falling down, etc. That house brought the value of my home down and ruined the nice look of my neighborhood.

    HOA's can be abusive and a general pain in the neck and some are, but if you are someone who wants his or her neighborhood to look much like it did 20 years before, HOA's are the only way to go.

    If you want the freedom to maintain your home or not, paint it any color you want or not paint it, to allow your lawn to die, to disassemble your car in the front yard, etc, then when you see a neighborhood with an HOA, run the other way as fast as you can.

    Michael

  5. Ours goes way overboard. I have one or two weeds and get a nastygram that threatens me with major fines and to take away my house. While other homes in the neighborhood are so overgrown with tree branches over the sidewalk and ground cover plants covering half the sidewalk one must walk in the street. A cop wanna-be writing the paper. Yet things remain the same month after month. I don't know what my monthly dues are put towards. I went to the meeting but they don't want to hear anything because they have made up their minds before I even get there. As far as I can tell, we could do without and have the same results. I thought I purchased my house but it seems I bought my house for them.

  6. The problem with HOA's is the inevitable corruption. They always start out with clean books and helpful volunteers, and within a few years they are being run by power-hungry little tyrants with their fingers in the cookie jar. These small-minded despots have learned there is easy money in fining homeowners for trivial or made-up problems. Finding people like that to run your HOA is easy. It's getting rid of them later that is hard. Such people are supported by a system that is so corrupt, it is virtually impossible for a homeowner to fight back on any level. If you get fined for something ridiculous or imaginary, don't expect to find justice through any of the established channels. The courts, the Real Estate Division, the Ombudsman, lawyers, mediators and politicians will not help you. All that will happen is you will get tangled up in the system, and you will pay and pay and pay.

  7. The greatest problem I see with an HOA is the duplicity of being taxed twice. Beyond the visual of a clean, neat neighborhood lurks the underground complex of sewers, water and power lines that the HOA must one day be ready to pay for.

  8. The opportunity for criminal activity is rampant under the current Common Interest Community laws in Nevada. There is little if any State oversight. Calling the Ombudsmans Office is a joke. We have seen first hand with management company owners giving sweetheart deals to sham companies owned by their spouses (Platinum Community Management, Vistiana, etc.). Homeowners are ripped off at every turn.
    Elections are not conducted in a legal manner, votes are padded and the same gang of characters tends to run the places year after year, covering up past ill-doings.
    Making up rules to accomodate certains friends of the board members and the members themselves is common until an aware homeowner calls their bluff.
    My HOA (Platinum - now defunct) actually had the audacity to send me a bill for $300 to change the name on my file. They backed off after questioning.
    And if you dare question any of this they bring out the attorney that we are paying for with our monthly 'dues' to tell you to sit down and shut up and threaten you with fines.
    The only benefit to an HOA is that none of the houses in my development are painted purple. As if the value could go down any more, they say they have rules to protect our home values. So much for that.

  9. Matt, Make sure your article differentiates between single family HOA's and Condo-Townhome HOA's. They are two different animals. Our HOA has about 30 deadbeats that haven't paid their regular assesments for years now. BUT when their common roof leaks, the HOA must repair it. Succinctly, the deadbeats are getting a free ride, and by NRS 116, we're forced to repair their leaking roofs.

    Also be aware of what I call "The crazies" writing to you. They are self appointed lawyer wannabees who challenge everything the board does. These people always question every action as if we purposely want to spend money like drunken sailors. By law they have the right to question, but their constant accusatory tone gets old after awhile.

    Having served on a Board before I can tell you I spent a lot of time throwing water on the BoD "Nazi's" who's sole goal in life is to make other people live the way they think it should be lived. You know the type. The little people who've accomplished nothing in life and now this is their day in the sun.

    Understand that most BoD's of HOA's have to deal with the owners in multiple ways. Some owners want to be left totally alone. Others demand that we find out and control all activities in every household. Still others want us to be moral directors with letters received demanding what we're going to do about the owner of Unit 3 who is sleeping with the Owner of unit 8.

    So truly find out what BoD lives are like before you go into a tirade about 2 or three renegade HOA Director groups.

  10. Part 1. Common interest communities can be of significant benefit if the operting guidelines are rational and simple enough for all. This isn't necessarily the situation here in Nevada. I have resided within HOA's for forty plus years. As a past president of two homeowner associations and currently the treasurer of one, each year I see the list of legal requirements for executive boards grow. There are hundreds of pages. Much of this growth is lacking in common sense and without merit. Sometimes these changes represent complete reversals of prior requirements. Many times they seem to have been written by a special interest and beneficial only to their view, not the community at large. I am advocating for what I feel are necessary and reasonable changes to NRS 116. Thank you in advance for your consideration. Not all Common Interest Communities (HOA) are created equal but NRS 116 mostly treats them like they are the same. Today there is little statutory differentiation between small HOA's with limited resources and large HOA's with significant resources including staff and volunteer committees i.e. 300 homes v. 3,000 homes but there should be a clear difference when it comes to how they are being asked to operate on a daily basis.
    The current statute NRS 116 falls short with regards to recall elections. Multiple recalls are not limited by time or by number. It does not adequately address the number of petitioners required. By stating 10% or less (NRS 116), a 3,000 unit HOA may need 300 signatures but a 300 unit HOA with a 5% limit in their CC&R's only needs 15 signatures for a recall petition. Recalls may be conducted without any reason given. While this may work for government officials, HOA's are private not-for profit corporations and the "accused" should be granted the right to defend against what they are accused of and not have to fend off scurrilous letters. Too many HOA bylaws are cookie cutter creations. If they were all well thought out this would be a good thing. They are not. These bylaws all over the map. With a 66 2/3rd's requirement to change our bylaws it is next to impossible to change them no matter how justifiable and rational the proposed change. This is especially true when twenty or even forty percent of the HOA is bank owned. Banks don't care and they don't vote. Every non vote is a no vote. This needs to change so that homeowners must opt-in to defeat the proposal not abstain thus casting an automatic no vote. A 128 home HOA such as mine with a 5% petition limit allows the same 7 homeowners to submit repetitively a recall petition for any number of Board members every week or month. This costs associations money and wastes a great deal of time for everyone. The statute need to change to a petition minimum of 10% or more and not more than two recalls for the same person in a calendar year.

  11. Part 2. 5. Large scale HOA's have the luxury of paid staff, volunteers and a far greater economy of scale than small HOA's. Prohibiting executive boards of small HOA's from conducting closed but audio taped non-voting workshops results in ever more executive board meetings, increased costs or apathy while suppressing any desire to serve from those who are highly qualified. This aspect works great for the profitability of association management companies but not cost control for the HOA. It is difficult enough to find qualified Board members in a small HOA let alone a staff of paid or unpaid volunteers to help sort out issues and problems for the executive board.
    6.Association management companies need to change their accounting methods and reporting such that HOA's are able to establish actual month by month budgets (little water and landscaping costs accrue during the winter) and actual monthly dues income should also be reported as actual and not just "accrued." 7. Any letters sent to an owner stating that they are in arrears should at a minimum state what their future cost(s) may be if they do not comply -- i.e. "should the HOA find it necessary to place a lien on your property by (date or timeline) the cost to you to clear this lien will be $XXX and payable to ___________." The letter should also contain a copy of the HOA's collection policy. 8.The Ombudsman's office has no teeth so attorney's living in HOA's, especially small ones, can wield a big stick. They can sue almost without financial impunity and rightly or wrongly the HOA spends a lot of money and time either directly or indirectly defending, even when they offer to settle. This aspect needs a lot of work. Consider raising the annual support fee from $3 per house to $6 and staff administrative law judges in the ombudsman's office to resolve legal issues before they move up the chain. 9.Gated communities by virtue of a gate must provide maintenance and incur significant costs that are normally covered elsewhere by property taxes. This is clearly double taxation just for the privilege of having a community entrance gate. As a result, local government distributes the cost savings (tax reductions) across the entire population while the gated communities receive no additional financial benefit. The taxing authority benefits from no street maintenance costs, the developer benefits as a result of reduced standards like no sidewalks, narrower streets, more space to build homes and then up-sells the gated community aspect as if it added real security.

  12. Part 3. 10.Any Executive Board should be allowed to align their annual election with their fiscal year without a vote of the owners or a change to the CC&R's. 11.New Board members are required to take short course soon after they are elected. This works great for large associations who just might have attorneys and many other well educated Board volunteers. Smaller HOA's are lucky if they can get anyone to run for a board position and it's even more difficult getting people to participate either on a committee or attend meetings. Yet the legislature wants to treat a 128 home community as if it had 1,000 homes. This doesn't work. Somehow the legislature believes that an association manager fits the bill here. Really? The management company is not allowed to give any advice (take on the mantel of expert) especially if it is a legal issue. So if you are a 128 home or 1,000 home community the attorney will charge the association the same but the homeowner cost distribution is far different. All this could be done much better if the ombudsman's office had teeth -- see item number eight.

  13. If HOA's are going to continue - the State must regulate them heavily to help avoid their continued abuse and corruption.

    We must establish boundaries for HOAs instead of letting them exploit homeowners.

    Just look at the complaints - valid on both sides. Those validly point out HOA corruption and abuse - fining people for a weed and going so far as compound fines with interest and other fees. Then you have those who point out how that eyesore property has diminished the value of other homes.

    We need to establish boundaries that will help stop the corruption and abuse while also permitting people to enter agreements with HOAs.

    There is another problem that is present but few point out. Notice the comments above where people say "if you don't like HOAs look elsewhere."

    The problem with this approach? The line between Gov't and Private enterprise begins to blur. Once you have the vast majority of communities with HOAs - you have to ask yourself - are these HOAs now taking the role of Gov't? If so, then homeowners will have a right to argue for constitutional protections against these pseudo private agencies.

    The bottom line - we need to heavily regulate these HOAs and stop the ongoing abuse and corruption.

  14. Per my earlier post, most of the bitching and whining I've read so far, could have been alleviated if the bozo's who buy a home in one of these HOA gulags had bothered to read the fine print, or spent a few bucks to have a qualified attorney decipher the mumbo-jumbo BEFORE SIGNING THE CONTRACT TO PURCHASE THE HOUSE. It ain't rocket science, and for those of you stuck in the "catch 22" realm of HOA's: MOVE.

  15. Folks:

    Thank you! There have been some great and thoughtful comments, letters, posts, etc. It's great to see all of your opinions.

    Please, let's keep the discussion going. This weekend, the Sun will publish a sampling of letters and comments, so keep them coming.

    I'll try to post more thoughts before then, after I finish reading the initial batch of letters and comments. In the meantime, a shout out to hermit, who riffed on the classic song "Little Boxes."

    Best,

    Matt

  16. This affirms the validity of the
    Zogby research as an effective measure of how residents perceive their community associations.

    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

    700 out of 60 million and that's a good sample?

  17. I've lived in Las Vegas for 12 years now - and I have not bought a home, though I've seriously considered doing so a number of times! Why? It seems almost impossible to find an honest real estate agent, and an honest broker, and an honest bank, and an HOA that is made up of board members that are just sane!

    I lived in three different apartment communities that were nightmares due to incompetent management - these Apartment Management Companies need to be investigated and regulated too!

    When I found a nice condo-apt style place (where I've lived for the past 7+ years) everything went great until I mounted my American Flag (on the interior wall of my patio) extending out into the "common area" air-space!

    In the minds of the management I broke their sacred corporate rules - and they began waging a war on my peaceful occupacy when I politely refused to take down OUR American Flag!

    Long story-short, I won that fight (and it helped that I was a well respected member of society and a Combat Disabled Veteran) - but, it was a fight that never have been brought against any citizen!

    Then, I dared to hang a Blue Star Military Family Banner on the inside of my Dining Room window and, again I got a complaint from management! Again, I politely refused, and explained that there are offical national symbols protected under the Constitution of the United States! Sadly, I also had to explain that the NRS (Nevada Revised Statutes) also provides for the display of political signage before, during and after campaign seasons!

    Again, battles that should never have been waged by incompetents that don't even understand basic law, and valuable time wasted that could have been used doing something, almost anything, more meaningful and needed in the community!

    I wonder what would happen if I dared to hang up a black/white POW/MIA Flag, or a Nevada State Flag?

  18. BTW: Thank you Matt Hufman - it's nice to hear directly from the Editorial Staff on a personal level rather than wonder who the Las Vegas Sun Staff are, and what are they thinking? This is just one of many important topics that doesn't get enough discussion openly and publicly!

    Perhaps, someday, we will return to an America where basic respect for the rule of law is based in a fundamental understanding that the SUPREME law of the land is the U. S. Constitution...then State Laws, followed by County, City and Township Laws - and that the myth of Corporate Law falls, rightfully so, subordinate in the minds of these petty profiteers that only pose as patriots!

  19. P.S.: If anyone reading this actually knows an HONEST Real Estate Agent that works with an HONEST Broker, that can get a V.A. Loan done by an HONEST Bank - in a community that is NOT run by Communists or Nazis - this mostly moderate, combat disabled veterans would love to hear from you?

    WANTED: Single Story, 3 Bedroom, 2 Bath home with attached Garage in decent, middle-class/upper-middle-class neighborhood (diversity is desired)!

    C.C. & R's and HOA Rules must recognize the home owners Constitutional Rights fully, to include the right to defend my self, my loved ones, my home, and my belongings with deadly force if necessary!

    P.P.S.: School District doesn't matter (as it's sadly obvious no one in power really cares about education in Nevada)!

  20. My last house was in an HOA dominated subdivision. One day on our door we got a flyer for a painting company. The same day everyone was told they had to paint their house. The HOA said it was just a coincidence and the painter told me he was painting the majority of the houses in a HUGE subdivision. More work than he had all the last year.

    Corrupt? By any circumstance it appears to be so.

    Meanwhile boats and derelict cars sat outside some houses for months and were ignored by the HOA. Guess they couldn't find a towing company that would kick back some of it's towing fees.

  21. I hate my HOA...and RMI management co. They lack transparency, and act arbitrarily.

  22. Can anyone explain why when a prospective, pre-approved buyer asks to see a copy of the C.C. & R's and HOA Rules you get some non-answer and the run-around? Everytime I've been out and looking to buy and made this simple routine request I've been b.s.'d (as if it's one of those "don't ask" type questions)?

    It's also curiously interesting how critically important it is to hurry up and sign an offer - but, there's no sense of urgency on closing the deal anytime within months of making an offer?

    Gee, could it be those ever so trusted Realtors are just trying to make a buck - and the longer they jerk you around the better their odds of making even higher commissions if they can find some sucker willing to offer more?

    Oh, and then, even when the basic offer gets "accepted" - suddenly there are all these "fees" and "costs" that are added on - and "explained" as "normal" in Nevada!

    It's just sad, when I know just a generation ago you could get a decent loan from an HONEST Banker and buy a car in an hour or two, and a new home in just a couple of days and be moving in next week!

    The truth is the entire Great American Market-Place has been taken over by liars, cheats and thieves - and that includes your local grocery store, sadly!

    Hey, I'm a peaceful law-abiding citizen that fully understands and accepts and supports basic decency and common-sense standards! We're NOT talking about the people that put junk in their front yards or can't/won't keep oil from leaking out of their vehicles!

    I just want to live peacefully occupying a decent home that I'm maintaining and buying for less than the $850 a month I've been throwing away in rent - and it seems nearly impossible to do in NevaDUH!

    Frankly, with the water concerns we have here (on top of so many other problems) - perhaps the people leaving in droves are the smart ones?

  23. Jonathan Abbinett - It is not that difficult to find an home in Las Vegas with no HOA. Just look for an older home. There are some very nice ones in stable, older neighborhoods. Buying a home without an HOA will save you a lot of money and aggravation.

    You can forget about buying a newer home without an HOA, though. I don't think they exist. The HOA industry has gamed the system so now all new developments must have an HOA. What a neat trick they played on us, didn't they? How did they do that? Let's talk about it in a future discussion...

  24. As a board member for the past three or so years, I find that almost without exception, new home buyers do not read or attempt to understand everything they should regarding the home purchase. Sure, I agree some homeowners' association boards can, and do, exceed their duties and responsibilities. I read the horror stories; I see the TV reports; I know there is wrongdoing. Like other commenters, I too lived in "regular" neighborhoods that always had two or three eyesores, so about 18 years ago my wife and I decided a community with an HOA was better. So far, our decision has proven right for us. Being on the board has given me great insight into the how an HOA is REALLY supposed to work. I encourage each homeowner in an HOA to attend the regular board meetings to do two things: first, figure out how your community is being handled and second, when you have a legitimate issue, raise that issue in a positive way and request a follow up notice to your concern. Vague complaints about your dues, your neighbor or the poor job the board is doing will not make your community any better.

  25. A complete waste of money and time. Never again.