'Can my HOA do that?': Love them or hate them, they hold the power
More than 69 million Americans —about 20% of the country— live in an area governed by a homeowners association. In Nevada, the percent is higher —about one-third of the housing units, some 500,000 homes, are part of HOAs.
Some people love them, some hate them; for some, it's love-hate, but almost everyone has an opinion. HOAs are the focus of so much attention that in 1997, Nevada created the Ombudsman's Office for Owners in CICCH/HOAs to help resolve disputes.
Barbara Holland is a property manager who writes a question-and-answer column about HOAs for Las Vegas Review-Journal. She joined State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann with Shanta Patton-Golar, the director of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers; Stephanie Grant, the vice president of Las Vegas Realtors; and Chris Guinchigliani, former Clark County commissioner.
What are some areas HOAs have control over?
HOLLAND: We have an obligation to maintain common area. If you're in a condominium or townhouse, we have certain controls over what you do if you have patios. If you're in a single family house, I can't paint my home purple and gray. So there are architectural guidelines. Most associations have an architectural guideline that tells an individual owner what you can do to the outside of your house, I can't put a swimming pool on the frontline. And if we're going to think about our relationship with the owners, if you are doing major work in your backyard of landscaping, and you're doing it in such a manner that you now have affected your neighbor, and that's always a big problem for us. Your tree is over my swimming pool and your leaves are dropping into my swimming pool. You didn't do the irrigation right, so it floods my landscape. That's one of the examples where an association board can get involved, which pertains to your individual use for as nuisance.
We've all heard about the party homes in terms of Airbnbs. We're actually having a problem to some extent in terms of marijuana, where people are saying that when they walk by individual people's homes assumes that they can smell the marijuana outside.
When people buy their homes, they know if there's an HOA involved. They're also given the laws and bylaws of an HOA, so they know the rules. So when they complain, do they have much of a leg to stand on?
GUINCHIGLIANI: To some extent. Now, they have a responsibility as an owner to do their homework, read the documents. And if you don't agree, then you shouldn't be buying a product in an HOA. I still remember when we created the Office of the Ombudsman. So should the homeowner be aware or choose not to live in HOA? You know, that's where government code enforcement comes in. And in standard neighborhoods, the more frustrating part was, as an elected, there's nothing I could do on an HOA. I had to refer them either to the ombudsperson, or to go through ADR, or to contact the state because there's a local elected, you have no say-so over HOAs. It's all governed by the state of Nevada.
What to do about nosy or racist neighbors?
GRANT: Just being able to communicate, get to know each other. It can be an advantage for you, as well. I mean, if for say you have to go out of town for a couple of days, and you will know your neighbor, and you've exchanged numbers, they can watch out if anything is going on in your home, or if they if you need a package picked up or whatever, just keep an eye on for you. It's all about building that relationship.
PATTON-GOLAR: I know we we laugh at these things. And it can be kind of crazy. But we're talking about racial profiling. So if you are dealing with something like that, that's not something to take lightly. We understand that people lose their lives every day because of these things. You need to document, you need to get the authorities involved every single time. Use them, that's what they are there for, because you could potentially be building a case for the next person of color who was shot in your neighborhood because of nosy neighbors or racist neighbors. So definitely take that seriously.