The complaints were many, but the theme was common: Homeowners associations in Nevada have become too powerful and it’s time to reel them in. At a rally in front of the Grant Sawyer Building on Feb. 7, more than 50 people protested the one-sidedness of the issue in an attempt to bring change to HOAs.
“The concept of an HOA is a wonderful idea,” says rally organizer Jonathan Friedrich, an eight-year resident of Rancho Bel Air in central Las Vegas. “The reality is a nightmare.”
Many of the protesters told stories of intimidation tactics, excessive fines—some surpassing $10,000—and massive legal fees. They seek relief against perceived injustices and the deficiencies of Nevada Revised Statute 116, the state law governing HOA boards, and are trying to gain public support for changing the law.
“We’re trying to send a very loud message to the legislators in Carson City,” Friedrich says. “We need to let the legislators know this homeowners association abuse must stop.”
The protestors want disputes to be handled by the Neighborhood Justice Center, a free mediation service established in 1991. Friedrich says there are just 13 professional arbitrators in Southern Nevada, creating an incestuous relationship with the HOAs that results in 85 percent of decisions going against homeowners, who often are stuck paying both parties’ attorney fees.
“The legislators tell us when we talk to them that we are ‘disgruntled,’” says rally organizer Bob Robey, a former Sun City Summerlin HOA board member. “That is the word that they use. We’re not ‘disgruntled.’ We bought our homes because we wanted to have a certain lifestyle. We did not buy into autocratic royal rule where you don’t know what the rules are from one day to the next. … We are trying to gather our forces so we can be more than just a few.”
They want to eliminate special assessments unless approved by the homeowners, disallow family members from serving on the same board, stop master and sub associations from fining homeowners for the same violation and ensure that HOA board members and inspectors are properly registered and trained.
Friedrich wants legislators to pass about 15 HOA-related bills this session, and for homeowners to run for their respective HOA boards. He has set up a website, HOA1234.com, to keep homeowners informed.
“The common denominator is that the laws don’t protect us,” Friedrich says. “The laws are inadequate; the laws favor the HOAs. You’ve got bully boards; you’ve got uneducated people sitting on these boards. … And what it all comes down to is abuse of the homeowner.”