Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Las Vegas’s HOA Scandal: Bringing Out The Best In HOA Crooks

August 10, 2012

I have argued before, and often, that we need more laws in Idaho for homeowner associations and condominiums: Just a few guidelines to keep boards, accountants, and managers on the straight and narrow.  So, when the hokey pokey that is known as the Las Vegas HOA Scandal (it looks better in neon) came along, I thought I’d found a gift that would keep on giving.  Fake elections with straw buyers and counterfeit ballots, millions stolen, suicidal lawyers, all this needed was a some official cover-up, and you’d have a world-class headline.

It made my job easy.  Throw up the latest development, and “jackpot!” Arguments for reform don’t come much easier.

The problem is that Nevada already has HOA legislation.  A lot of it.  If anything, Nevada’s law only drove the sheisters to new levels of creativity.

Here in Idaho, we don’t get big HOA scandal headlines, because our scammers are low-profile and uncreative.  All you have to do to skim a little off the top is write some checks, take some vacations and spend as you go.  If the board is not paying attention, you can get away with it for years.  When you get caught, it is barely news, because who hasn’t heard of a treasurer or manager running off with association funds before?

In the Gem State, you are on your own.  But don’t pack for Idaho yet, potential scammers.  That can cut both ways.  We also love our guns.

Imagining HOAs’ Future

August 7, 2012

A while back, I enjoyed author Neal Stephenson’s imagining of a United States where neighborhoods exercised virtual national sovereignty, with extreme border security and visa requirements restricting even the movements of a high-speed katana-wielding pizza deliveryman.  While this would certainly be an unexpected evolution of today’s covenant-based associations, there has been some evolution of HOAs over the years.  I sometimes wonder how HOAs will evolve in the near future.

First, I think we can all agree that homeowner associations are inherently conservative organizations.  They are based on covenants conditions and restrictions that are recorded on real property and that often remain unchanged for decades.  Usually CC&Rs can only be amended by a supermajority of the owners: an action that takes coordination, participation, and consensus.

It is no surprise then,  that HOAs are not weather vanes of social change.  Instead, we see conservative covenants challenged by owners with particular agendas, be they environmental responsibility, political activism, or the like.  Those who challenge covenants no doubt see precedent set in federal legislation that has retroactively outlawed covenants creating racially segregated housing communities, age-specific restrictions (except in retirement communities) and other fair housing issues, in addition to less-obvious federal rules regarding satellite dishes.

It would be interesting to see if HOAs could play a leading role in even more politically-charged social areas.  For instance:

  • Could an HOA ban undocumented residents?
  • Could an HOA ban guns of any kind?
  • Could an HOA require smart meters, solar panels, or laundry lines?
  • Could an HOA dive into the marriage debate?

Of course, we always advise our clients to avoid issues that might lead to litigation.  But that doesn’t mean attorneys can’t enjoy imagining legal problems yet to arise.

Update: These Colorado HOA attorneys just blogged about another social topic:  smoking bans.