EDITORIAL: Last stand of the color police
Silly, inflexible homeowners associations
Editorial Courtesy of Las Vegas Review Journal 

Courtesy of the Las Vegas REVIEW-JOURNAL 
Friday, July 18, 2003

Burglaries are not uncommon in the Sunrise Villas IV subdivision. "Everyone here is retired and people probably think they have a few bucks," explains 71-year-old Mae Roy. 

Ms. Roy's own home was hit about two years ago. The thieves broke in, backed a truck into her garage, and hauled off TVs, video players, clothes -- even a 500-pound safe loaded with valuable coins and family heirlooms. 

Mae Roy decided to secure her home with roll-down metal shutters. 

That's where the homeowners association comes in. 

Some such associations had previously barred the roll-down shutters for aesthetic reasons. But Ms. Roy felt safe in proceeding with her plan, once she learned state Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, had succeeded in getting a bill through the Legislature this spring, barring such associations from prohibiting "shutters to improve the security of the unit or aid in reducing costs of energy for the unit." 

So the shutters were all installed. Ms. Roy was so pleased she even agreed to appear in a commercial for the manufacturer, declaring: "Now that I can have them, I'm going to get them." 

But because Sen. Schneider's bill also calls for creation of a state commission to oversee homeowners associations -- based on complaints that they can be unreasonable -- it's set to take effect Oct. 1, instead of immediately. 

So the homeowners association is demanding that Ms. Roy remove her shutters and leave herself open to burglaries for 11 more weeks, till the new law goes into effect. Otherwise, they're threatening to fine her up to $1,000. 

Why? Because the new law allows the association to establish standards regarding "aesthetics," and the Sunrise Villas IV Homeowners Association hasn't had a chance to consider what color schemes they might require, explains Lacey Casagrande, current president of the association. 

This is precisely why the new law -- and a board to arbitrate disputes -- was called for, Sen. Schneider sighs. 

"The Legislature had had enough of these types of stories and these types of actions by associations. There are two months before the new law is enacted and they're going to act like this? That's not even being neighborly." 

The right to private contract is an important principle. The government courts are supposed to enforce private contracts. It's hard to invest or plan if some government agency can come in and arbitrarily void such a private agreement, voluntarily entered into by willing adults, just because one party whines that it's "unfair." 

The real solution here is for homebuyers to refuse to buy in neighborhoods with associations whose bylaws allow this kind of excessive control over the decisions of property owners -- or else live with that decision, once they've made it. But in the end, it's the kind of silly inflexibility demonstrated here by the association that opened the door to yet another level of government regulation. 

Now: Is Mr. Schneider going to have to make you all go stand in the corner?The homeowners association is demanding that Ms. Roy remove her shutters and leave herself open to burglaries for 11 more weeks, till the new law actually goes into effect.