As hated as they are by some, homeowners associations—or HOAs as they’re known—actually do serve a purpose. They allow neighborhoods to have amenities such as small parks and common landscaping that they often wouldn’t have if those communities relied on the local government.
However, HOAs in Las Vegas face a serious problem: Few people are interested in dealing with the aggravation that comes along with serving on their HOA board. “It’s like any volunteer situation. It could be church or the Girl Scouts or the Boy Scouts or any type of nonprofit organization,” says Barbara Holland, president of H&L Realty and Management Co. “You’re lucky if you get 10 percent of the membership that are actively involved in operating the association.”
Holland knows what she’s talking about. Her company manages homeowners associations, and she also volunteers for the HOA in her own community.
Of course, there’s no shortage of bad news about HOAs. At one point during this year’s legislative session, there were three bills regulating HOAs under consideration. Also, there’s a major corruption case in Las Vegas federal court involving HOAs. And of course, there are the perennial horror stories of HOAs that ban everything from kids playing basketball on the street to flying the U.S. flag in front of the house.
But it’s not just the negative news that limits HOA participation, Holland says. It’s also the time and the trouble of dealing with issues of a small community, in particular persistent homeowner complaints.
“This is a 24-7 town, so you have people who have kids and work and they can’t give that kind of time,” Holland says. “And No. 2, from a board member’s perspective, there is a sense of harassment and the feeling of being unappreciated by individual homeowners. A lot of board members simply resign.
“People who are the most vocal are the most abusive, so you have [board members]
saying, ‘I don’t need to deal with this.’”
Carol Weber is among of the few who believe the benefits of serving on an HOA outweigh the hassles. “I wanted be on the board—and this is my eighth year—because I want to have a say in our community,” says Weber, who is on the board of Southern Terrace, a community of 908 homes on the west side of town. “I really believe in HOAs, because I want to be surrounded by a beautiful community and I want everyone to be happy, and people are happy when they are surrounded by clean streets and well-maintained places.”
Weber’s neighbors undoubtedly share her desires, as do most homeowners who want to protect their biggest investment. What most of those homeowners don’t share, however, is Weber and Holland’s willingness to get involved and actually try to make a difference.
“My company probably manages 30 to 35 associations,” Holland says. “Close to 95 percent have had the same directors for years, because no one else has put their hat in the ring. In my association, we have had the same four people forever, and we have not had a full complement [of board members] in years.”