Association can demand improvements to backyard

Q. The subdivision where we live has a blatant disregard for our privacy. the homeowners association sends someone to look over everybody's 5-foot-tall backyard fences to find out if we have made landscape improvements.

If not, they tell us we must do so to ensure your community's appearance is always at its best.

Just exactly what is going on and why is this behavior even acceptable standards of an association? I fail to understand why my backyard is anyone's business and what does it have to do with community appearance when it has a 5-foot fence around the perimeter?

I think it should be up to the homeowners to landscape their backyards. The association has overstepped their boundaries and I would really like to file a complaint with a regulatory agency but do not know who to contact.

Please give me direction and guidance in this serious matter.

A. The reader did not send me a copy of his governing documents but they are probably similar to many associations.

There is a section in the covenants that require homeowners to improve their backyards within a certain time period. That time period may be six months or longer. In some cases, the homeowners have a year in which to make improvements to their backyards.

If the reader takes the time to review his covenants, he will probably see that the association has the right to require him to make improvements to his backyard.

When you agree to live in an association, you agree to not only be a member of the association; but you agree to abide by its governing documents. Whether you agree or disagree over any part of the governing documents, unless they are amended, they are the "law of the land."

The reader brings an important issue to the table, and that is the method by which the association is investigating to determine who has not improved their backyards.

In this case, either a person or group of people from the association is looking over the 5-foot fence into the reader's backyard.

He considers this act of monitoring hime to be an invasion of privacy. In this day and age when there are stalkers, the reader does have a legitimate concern.

Does the association have an alternative to peeking over the fence? Yes.

The board or the management company can review each homeowner's file folder to see if an architectural request for the backyard improvement has been sent and approved by the association.

Some associations have excellent records and can just review their architectural status report for that information.

Letters can then be sent to homeowners whose records indicate that they have not made improvements.

Homeowners would have a specific time line to respond to the association by either submitting an approved architectural request letter for the association's records or submitting an architectural request for approval for improvements which were made without approval.

In cases where no improvements were made, the homeowner would have to present plans to the association.

In many cases, these homeowners may need an extension of time, as improvements may need permits from the city or county.

And to address the reader's concerns, yes, the association very probably has the right to enforce its governing documents by requiring you to improve the quality of your own backyard.

If you fail to make any improvements, you would be eventually be fined.

If you filed a complaint with the ombudsman office (you can contact them at the Nevada Real Estate Division), you will probably find out that the association has the right to require the improvements.

As to the association's method of looking in the backyards, there is a safer way for all parties concerned even if it takes more time for the association to complete its research.

Barbara Holland, certified property manager, is president and owner of H&L Realty and Management Co. She is a member of the Institute of Real Estate Management. Questions may be sent to Association Q. & A., P.O. Box 7440, Las Vegas, NV 89125. Her fax number is 385-3759. Questions may be shortened and are subject to editing.