New law strengthens Nevada homeowners' association ombudsman job

Courtesy of the Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

LAS VEGAS (AP) - As the state's ombudsman for common interest communities, Eldon Hardy relied on cajoling to settle disputes between homeowners and homeowners' association boards. 

He had to, because he didn't have the power to enforce state homeowners' association law. 

"I was raised to be a reasonable person," he said. "But I have been surprised how some people act. I tell lots of boards you can't be dictators. A lot of the time I say, 'Hey, guys, let's get together.' Most will." 

Next month, with the help of a new state law, Hardy is due to get some persuasive help. 

Hardy, whose office is funded by a $3 annual fee paid by each homeowners' association member, called it long overdue. 

He expects to double his staff to eight, which will let him assign investigators to check complaints, send staff members to monitor association board meetings and recommend resolutions. 

Hardy, 68, a former auto repair shop owner, learned to listen, make suggestions and nudge disputing parties into resolving their differences while arbitrating disputes between car dealers and buyers. 

Now a certified professional arbitrator, he's been Nevada common interest communities ombudsman since April 2001. 

Under the new law, if disputing parties can't agree, cases can go before a new five-member commission with the legal power to order settlements, fine board members or remove them from office. 

The law was sponsored by Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, the father of most laws governing homeowner associations in Nevada. 

"They are truly kitchen governments," Schneider said. "Some of these board members have become like Nazis." 

Michael Buckley, chairman of the new Common Interest Communities Commission, said most homeowners' associations operate without problems. 

A survey earlier this year found 92 percent of member homeowners in Las Vegas are pleased with their associations. 

"There is a real silent majority of people who live in homeowners associations where everything is OK," said Buckley, a lawyer who has worked on homeowners association laws since 1989. "The problem is all these associations are run by volunteers and there is incredible apathy. You can't push them too much or you won't get anyone to volunteer. Of course, there are some people who are running boards who shouldn't."