Saturday, April 30, 2005

An official warning

As I've mentioned, I live in a 'Master Planned Community'. I used to own a home, now I am renting one in the same neighborhood because I needed a yard for my now deceased and best friend, my dog Copa a Basenji.

Copa died last year at the age of almost 11 of cancer. I still live in the home, but probably not for long.

A few weeks ago, I was away from home and while I was away, I received a 'friendly reminder' to get rid of the weeds in the 'enclosed area' of my property. I assumed they meant my backyard. Ironically, I do go out in the backyard and had pull the weeds, of which they never seem to go away, because its like playing a game of 'Whack A Mole'. Every other day or so, I fill up a grocery bag of weeds. Sometimes its worth letting a few grow a little bit, because they become easier to pull and the roots come up with them.

Thinking they meant my back yard, I went out, as I usually do and pulled up more weeds. It's pretty clean now, although there are more sprouting and weed killer doesn't work.

Thursday night, I went out and pulled up a few weeds on the side of my house that is covered by bushes. You can't see them unless you specifically go looking for them. On Friday, I received an 'official warning' about the weeds in the 'enclosed area'. Who knows which 'enclosed area' they are talking about. In it, it said return the 'enclosed form' (there was none) indicating compliance and I have 10 days before I get find $100.

Meanwhile, homeowners have to pay $35 a month in association dues. This money is to go the upkeep of the 'common areas' and on my walk to Starbucks, guess what I notice - weeds.

Seventy percent of all homes in Las Vegas are under the control of some form of 'Master Planned Community'. Unfortunately, many members of these Boards are frustrated Barney Fife's. Either they are retirees, who were once managers and miss the fun of bossing people around, or they never got their chance so now they are pushing their 'authority' to a level of 'irrational exuberance'.

My particular HOA, Summerlin North Homeowners Association has been in the news a few times since I've lived here. There was the veteran who tried to put a flagpole on his property, but it was rejected due to the heigh restrictions. Read the fine print before you join one. I didn't until after I bought. Did you know that flags are not to be displayed at anytime, except for the week leading up to Memorial Day or the Fourth. How would you feel, if you were a veteran who fought for this country's freedom and then told by a bunch of bureaucrats that you could not fly the flag on your own property?

Other fine print articles include: Your garage door can only be left open for entrance and exiting. So, if I am working in there, I should keep the door closed, or if I keep it open while I go for a dump, I am technically in violation of the CC&Rs. You can't leave your car in the driveway either - that's what garages are for. But there is a safety issue involved here as well. A burgler is less likely to target your home if there is a car in the driveway. No car in the driveway, he could think no one is home.

One of the most notorious acts of power going to one's head also involved Summerlin North.

We here in the West have been enduring a several year drought and the water department has threatened to cut our balls off if we waste water. Golf courses and casinos and other profit centers are exempt, of course, and the Water Authority that most of the water that gets wasted is due to watering our lawns. Summerlin wants its homeowners to have 'golf course green' lawns.

One homeowner hit on a good idea. He replaced his lawn with Astro Turf. He had to clue in his neighbors that the lawn wasn't real, but you couldn't tell. The HOA clamped down on him real hard, saying that wasn't in the CC&R's, despite the effort he was maintaining in saving water.
Two members of the board visited his home and said his lawn looked great, but only two. The homeowner was still fined after paying $2000 for the lawn. A Fox Poll should that 95% of the people supported the homeowner. He said he waould appeal to the City Council, but ultimately, he ended up moving. I could come up with other stories, but you get the picture.

I read in Parade Magazine several months ago, the HOAs are increasing at the rate of 60 per month. They argue that strict (and ridiculous) rules are needed to keep homeprices up. But one look at the red hot Real Estate market can tell you that prices will continue to go up without these 'overlords'.

We already have State Government, County Government, City Government with all their rules and regulations, do we need another level of slaveocracy? Isn't owning a house in a "Master Planned Community' just another form of condominium? Might as well move to a condominium, where you'll have plenty of 'dos and don't) but at least someone else cuts the grass.

Something more evil is happening. With all the talk of Bush's 'Ownership Society', what's really going on is the definition of 'homeowner' is being re-written and there is nothing anyone can do about it. The HOA justifies their actions by claiming that they are protecting my 'investment'. Well, I don't live in an 'investment' I live in a home. I am tired of being made to feel that I am a realcitrant child, or I am under the employ of the HOA.

I will be going out later to pull any weeds I find. I do it, to keep my property neat, besides, I don't want to get sent to bed without supper.

Hey HOA - Bite Me.


At 12:32 AM, Anonymous SecpolI said...

Aren't these people holding elected positions? And if not, why not? I am the type that would get together with my neighbors and under a class-action act I would get a lawyer to present the various ways that your rights are being violated. Yes, failure to make a payment would make them take action against you, but, tie the whole thing up in Court. What they seemingly are 'attempting' to do is develop a community. Well, communities are 'towns' or 'townships' and they should be required to provide police and fire services, for instance. Again, I would get together in force and take the high road to defiance.

The larger army usually wins!

At 6:34 PM, Blogger Pig said...

When I first moved into the HOA when it was being developed and the area was all desert, homeowners had one vote and all unoccupied houses belonged to the Developer who had 2 votes. It was assumed that the Developers would side with the HOA. So, from the get go, you were outnumbered.

As a community gets built out, each homeowner gets one vote until they become the majority. There is certainly an argument for 'getting involved'. While I was living in Boston, I obviously didn't and I tried to attend one of the meetings, but missed the meeting place. I figured as long as they weren't bothering me, might as well leave well enough alone.

I have only seen the residents get riled over one issue. We have about 100 parks in Summerlin, by the HOA began to cite homeowners who allowed their children to leave their toys like bikes and rolling basketball courts out on the street. That's the only time I saw homeowners get so upset. They were out there in front of the meeting with burning torches. "How dare you tell us to tell our children to clean up their room." Ironically, I sided with the HOA on this one.

As far as 'protection' is concerned. HOA's are not responsible for police and fire protection, the city is. Ironically, Summerlin had a roving patrol, whose function I was unsure, other than spying on homeowners. They even went to great lengths to let you know "If you see a crime, call Metro, not us".

The media does a good job of noting problems with HOA but is lax on the follow-up. This is due in part to the fact that some of the cases get litigated and can go on for quite awhile. By the time you do find out, you've forgotten the original issue. HOAs know they have deep pockets and will simply wait you out until you give in.

As a result of growing complaints against HOA's, the Assembly has given more power to the Ombudsman's office, formerly a paper tiger with no teeth. But if you go that route, they are likely to tell you go back and read the fine print, unless it involves mismanagement of association funds or the like. Another example of the powerful squishing the powerless.


Post a Comment

<< Home