Brigitte Porter was fined $3,110 by Heather Ridge Homeowners Association because the color of her driveway paint was a different shade from the previous color.
Doris Vescio of Sun City Anthem has been fined $100 a week since November for a fence that's more than 6 feet high, even though it was approved by the HOA architectural committee.
Joseph McCauley complained that the Mount Charleston Golf Estates board illegally approved a $2,500 special assessment without putting the item on a meeting agenda and under false pretenses to intimidate owners.
More than 50 homeowners fed up with community association "bully boards" gathered Monday at Sawyer Building to rally against what some perceive as abusive power, harassment and exorbitant fines.
They're calling on legislators in Carson City to introduce laws that would cap the amount of HOA fines and collection agency fees, eliminate "kangaroo courts" run by homeowners association boards and limit the mandatory arbitration requirement.
"You left your garage door open. Your garbage cans were left out. There's a brown spot in your lawn. You're guilty before you walk into the board hearing," said Jonathan Friedrich, an eight-year resident of Rancho Bel Air and rally organizer.
He spoke about the "wheel of horrors," or shortcomings of Nevada Revised Statute 116, the state law governing homeowners association boards. The state ombudsman doesn't protect homeowners; attorneys take retaliatory action against homeowners; and 85 percent of decisions in mandatory arbitration go against the homeowner, he said.
Nevada is struggling with its financial budget, educational system and unemployment rate, said Friedrich, who has volunteered to go to Carson City as an unpaid lobbyist on behalf of community association homeowners.
"If we attract people back to the state, where are they going to live? In an HOA with bully boards?" Friedrich said. "It's interesting that on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), Realtors are advertising, 'No HOA.' What does that tell you?"
The alternative dispute resolution process administered by the Nevada Real Estate Division is broken, said Bob Sullivan, a Las Vegas attorney who represented several homeowners in cases against their HOAs. It needs "transparency and honesty," he said.
HOA attorneys and arbitrators will always opt for arbitration because they're awarded tens of thousands of dollars in fees, Sullivan said. Homeowners are forced into mediation before they can file a lawsuit.
"You've got $25,000 to $40,000 in legal fees before you step into court. It's absolutely ridiculous," Sullivan said.
The movement toward reining in HOA abuse is getting larger and more organized each year, Sullivan said. He encouraged those at the rally to run for HOA boards in their communities, but to be "passionate and fair" should they get elected and not use their power for retaliation.
Bob Robey, a Sun City Summerlin resident and rally organizer, said he wants his civil rights returned. There's no separation of power with the HOA board of directors. They write the rules, enforce the rules and issue the fines, he said.
"I see a lack of consistency that if any city hall were run like this, it would be a shame," Robey said.
Lawmakers thought they were doing homeowners a favor by writing into law that HOAs can fine someone only $100 per violation, with repeat violations up to $1,000, but lawyers weren't making enough from those fees and now run them up to $8,000 to $10,000, Robey said.
Friedrich has set up a website, www.hoa1234.com, to draw support for the homeowners' cause and keep people abreast of happenings. He said there are about 15 bill drafts in the Legislature dealing with HOAs.
He said Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas, introduced a home- owners' "bill of rights" at the last Legislature and it got "trampled on" because it would hurt attorneys, collection companies and community association managers. Munford complained to his HOA when his stepdaughter's car was illegally towed from a gated community.
Patricia Taylor, president of Nevada's chapter of Community Associations Institute, said she can understand homeowners' frustrations and agrees that changes are necessary.
"We're going in the same direction, we just have different ways to attack the problem," she said.
Taylor said there's a difference between a one-time fine and continuing violations.
"Let's say the lawn is yellow. They can continue to fine you until it's corrected," she said. "If you do cap the fine, somebody will buy the fine. They'll pay the $2,000 cap and won't do the lawn."
Realtor Troy Kearns said he has to deal with HOAs every day and said "they're basically tyrannical and aggressive." The whole problem is putting people in power who don't understand the law, he said.
Contact reporter Hubble Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0491.