If everybody followed the rules, David Stone would be out of business.
The founder and president of Nevada Association Services makes his living collecting delinquent fees and fines assessed by his homeowners association clients.
Weeds in the yard? Fifty dollars. Trash can left on the street overnight? Twenty-five dollars.
It adds up quickly.
Then there's the rebel homeowner who refuses to comply with codes, covenants and regulations, commonly known as CC&Rs, and lets the fines go to collection.
That's where Stone comes in. He carries a badge.
Well, not really, but he carries out duties akin to the homeowners association police. Call him the enforcer.
"I see myself as helping those people that follow the rules," said Stone, an active lobbyist for HOA causes in the Nevada Legislature. "It's helping to maintain the quality of life for others who are following the rules. If that's perceived as being the bad guy, so be it."
After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in finance and real estate, Stone moved to Los Angeles and worked for a law firm that represented community associations. While in college, he had worked for an attorney who processed foreclosure sales.
He eventually decided to go into business on his own, opening Nevada Association Services in 1999 and moving to the master-planned Summerlin community, where he lives with his wife, Lara, and three children.
Question: How many homeowners associations are there in the Las Vegas Valley?
Answer: Probably more than 1,000.
Question: Could we live without them?
Answer: Not as comfortably. Community associations give us a great quality of life, cleanliness, parks with tennis courts. You drive by older parts of town without associations and you can see how they're becoming run down.
Question: How do you get paid?
Answer: My company makes money from the delinquent owner, so the HOA doesn't pay for my service and that's the way it should be. I have no percentage. There's a statutory limit on how much you collect on fines, but not assessments. We go after fees. We don't spend a lot of time going after fines because the statute doesn't allow us to collect enough to go after them. I advise the HOAs that if the homeowner complies with the rules, waive the fine.
Question: We hear a lot of horror stories about HOAs, that they're run like Nazi organizations. Why is there so much conflict between homeowners and their HOA boards?
Answer: There isn't that much conflict. You get one story and everybody in the media jumps on it. They did a survey of people living in associations and there was a 95 percent satisfaction rate, so there isn't this huge uproar. There's 15 people playing tennis here (at Tree Top Park in Summerlin) and if you asked them if they're happy with their HOA, I think everyone of them would say they are. There are other places in Nevada you can move to if you don't want to live in an HOA.
Question: Some people moved to Las Vegas from parts of the country where they'd never heard of an HOA. Why are there so many HOAs here? Are we the HOA capital?
Answer: Nevada is probably close to being the HOA capital. Every new housing community across the country these days, with few exceptions, have an HOA. The government promotes and encourages community associations.
It takes a huge financial burden off the local government. That's why I wonder why the state is trying to restrict the HOA in how it operates when the association really provides incredible savings to the government. It seems to be a conflict in reasoning.
Question: Some HOAs are foreclosing on homeowners who are delinquent with their fees. Does that punishment fit the offense? How much of a threat does that pose for homeowners?
Answer: Associations certainly have the ability to foreclose, but in this state, I believe there were about 15 in the entire state last year and we're talking tens of thousands of delinquencies that started up. Some of those are already in foreclosure with the bank, so you need to look much closer at what's going on.
Question: Should HOAs be allowed to file construction defect claims inside an individual's property or should the homeowner ultimately decide whether to file a claim?
Answer: Associations do have to have the interest of the association as a whole in mind, not just one homeowner. The board of directors looks at the HOA as a whole, not just one person, just as General Electric Co. looks at what's in the company's best interest, not just an individual shareholder.
Question: How are foreclosures and short sales affecting HOAs? Some of them are struggling with solvency.
Answer: Some of them are having a really hard time. Some of the newer associations are teetering on the abyss of financial devastation. If they're having financial problems, we will work with people. We want them to call us.
Short sales are forcing associations to be more flexible in their demands, being able to reduce the balance owed to facilitate the sale. I'm doing that in my office. I'm reducing fees, lowering fees to help associations get a homeowner in there who's going to be paying the assessments.
Contact reporter Hubble Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0491.