By: Tim Stebbins
Several months ago The Vegas Voice ran a series about the board of directors at a home owners association (HOA) called Crossroads III. The HOA was being manipulated by their community manager and association lawyer, who controlled half of the board; refusing to hand over documents. Basically they were in control of the association.
Every attempt to get help from the Nevada Real Estate Division, the first stop for a homeowner seeking help, had failed. And as was reported in the paper, everywhere help was sought also failed – including county commissioners, the district's assemblywoman, the Senior Law Project, and most importantly, the government agency charged to assist homeowners.
Nevada has only one real estate division office (known as NRED) to serve all residents living in HOAs. Conservatively speaking, just in Las Vegas and Henderson there are approximately 1.5 million people.
Yet when problems arise, a homeowner, by law, cannot seek judicial relief without first going through the procedures at NRED and/or its so-call ombudsman. The obvious answer would seem to be that one should never purchase a home in an HOA community, but if you look around, most attractive neighborhoods are built these days as a planned HOA.
Now this might seem like a minor inconvenience to someone who has never run afoul of one, but would it surprise you to learn that the paperwork at NRED is, in some cases, three years behind?
Would it surprise you to learn that an attorney representing an HOA board can zealously file complaint after complaint in court against a resident, (and of course billing the HOA board for such legal services) while the NRED complaints sit in a stack waiting for a hearing.
In the Crossroads III case, the attorney filed for arbitration and lost when the arbitrator stated that the defendant did not mislead the HOA with malice. Since the defendant had offered several times to step down and run again for election, she, and her board were to be a “do nothing board” and hold the election as already planned within the next two months.
Unhappy with the ruling, and not willing to run the risk that an election might return the defendant to the board, the attorney went into district court to challenge the ruling. This time he prevailed removing the lady from the board.
Since the election was two months away, he next filed a new action, (yet to be heard) to amend the bylaws so the election would not be held for another year. Do you hear the association cash register ringing as his bills get paid?
The biggest tragedy is that Crossroads III is not a country club or plush community. It consists of working class people trapped by a bureaucratic system of rules that have no wiggle room and an unscrupulous manager and lawyer that are breaking the bank just because “they can” and no one will bother to stop them.
Another resident contacted us regarding a fine of $2,000 for parking an RV at her home a year ago. She has had no hearing, no photographs, (both required by law) but is contesting such unilateral actions against one of the largest management companies in the State.
As you can imagine, the fine and interest keeps mounting.
My question is, why do our legislators seem to feel the topic of HOAs is something to duck rather than correct?
Tim Stebbins is on the Board of Directors of the Nevada Homeowner Alliance and is well versed in the Nevada Statutes (NRS116) governing HOAs. He welcomes your questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org.