Hey, buddy, what's that in your backyard?

EDITOR'S NOTE: For the next few weeks, this column will address new bills affecting homeowners associations that are to be proposed before the 2009 Legislature.

Two HOA bills will be consider by state lawmakers this week. One addresses property owner's rights to install energy-saving solar and windmill systems, and the other looks at who owns the security walls in a community. Both bills will are proposed by Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas.

Senate bill 114 has been sent to the Committee on Energy, Infrastructure and Transportation. This proposed regulation, which addresses energy-saving solar or wind systems, would amend NRS 111.239.

The new law would state that "... any covenant, restriction or condition contained in a deed, contract or other legal instrument which affects the transfer, sale or any other interest in real property, and which prohibits or unreasonably restricts, or has the effect of prohibiting or unreasonably restricting the owner of the property from using a system for obtaining solar or wind energy on his property is void and unenforceable."

That's some bold language, there guys.

The proposed amendment to this existing law would define what constitutes "unreasonable restrictions."

That's fine but the proposed law takes things too far. For instance, an association would not be able to "unreasonably restrict" a solar energy system that uses water tanks or other components painted with black solar glazing.

So what exactly are we looking at here?

The way the law is currently written, you could be on your patio looking at a water tank painted with black solar glazing or some windmill.

This is a proposed bill that supports the "greening" of Nevada. For many homeowners and association boards, it will be a source of concern.

Unless you are in the solar and wind energy business (most of us, including senators and assemblymen are not), you will have absolutely no idea how large a system could be under this proposed bill.

What it states is that a homeowner could install a system if he or she can demonstrate to the board that no other alternative exists, and that any smaller system would decrease their home's energy efficiency by 10 percent.

The proposed bill also would amend NRS 278.0208, which would require any local governing body (city or county) to follow the same regulations.

The director of the Office of Energy would have 30 days in which to determine the request, or if needing additional information, an additional 15 days, to make a determination.

This is a bill that does not protect the association members at large.

Architectural regulations were placed into governing documents to prevent the devaluation of property by establishing certain basic standards and design harmony of the individual homes within a community.

Try selling your home with a black water tank sitting in your neighbor's backyard. I don't know, but I think some would walk away shaking their heads in disbelief.

In addition, this bill does not address the fact that in condominium associations, the common elements do not belong to any individual homeowner. These elements include the roofs of the buildings and the common area grounds.

In these cases, where would you install a windmill or water tank? If a solar system was installed on a condominium roof, who would pay to remove the system and re-install it during repairs? What happens if the solar system causes roof leakage into the units below?

The concept of allowing individuals to be more energy efficient and less dependent on costly energy sources is a noble one, yet there are too many problems this bill will create.

To address concerns, contact the Committee on Energy, Infrastructure and Transportation at 800-978-2878. For more information on this proposed bill, go to leg.state.nv, click on Session Info button, choose the 2009 Session bar and then the Bill Information selection and click on the Senate Bills button. You will be able to find SB 114 listed among the other bills up for this session.

Who owns the walls?

We addressed at length senate bill 68 in my Jan 31 column.Basically, it would establish the responsibility for the maintenance of security walls to the HOA.

The association would be responsible for the maintenance, repair and replacement of walls that abut the common area.

NRS 271.203 defines security walls as any wall composed of stone, brick, concrete, concrete blocks, masonry or similar building material together with footings, plasters, outriggers, grillwork, gates and other appurtenances constructed around the perimeter of a residential subdivision.

The proposed law also addresses how HOAs can lobby municipalities to assume the responsibility of the security walls.

At first blush, I can see at least four major problems with this bill.

First, many of the associations, especially single-family developments, by deed, establishes the ownership of the perimeter walls to the homeowners who have purchased their homes and their lots.

The homeowner owns the walls and not the association, consequently, the maintenance of the walls is the responsibility of the homeowner, not the association.

Now, the proposed law does not state that the association owns the walls, just that it must maintain the walls.

The second problem with this bill is that it will cost HOAs money in a time (the ongoing foreclosure crisis is sucking the life out of many association's reserve funds) they can least afford it.

Ultimately, HOAs will have to modify their reserve studies to include hundreds of linear footage of fencing they must now pay to maintain.

In the long run, that means higher HOA fees in a record-low economy.

The third problem is that the maintenance of these walls would require the association to enter onto private property, which is more than a bit of a problem.

Finally, the perimeter walls do not really protect the occupants from vandalism, as described in the proposed law. In fact, the association already deals with any graffiti on the walls.

This is a bill that the legislators should kill in committee.

I will continue to inform you about upcoming 2009 Legislation bills that affect your homeowners associations.

NOTE: In my Feb. 7 column I discussed a federal law that will affect pools and spas in Nevada communities. The Southern Nevada Health District will hold a public meeting Feb 26 at 8 a.m. The office is located at Ravenholt Public Health Center, 625 Shadow Lane. The meeting is a scheduled one, however, there could be some discussion on complying with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.

Barbara Holland, certified property manager, broker and supervisory certified association manager, is president and owner of H&L Realty and Management Co. Questions may be sent to Association Q.&A., P.O. Box 7440, Las Vegas, NV 89125. Her fax number is 385-3759, or she can be reached by e-mail at support@hlrealty.com.