Can HOA’s stop criminals?

Q: I’ll try to keep this short. Our homeowners association uses a management company. At a recent HOA board meeting, I was belittled by the community manager, not a board member (and I am not sensitive ). I was told since I am the “only” homeowner at the meeting that my requests for the common good of the community are “selfish.”

This manager told me, after I waited a year from my first request about a simple safety issue, that I had no right to contact the community’s handyman or landscaping company about personal matters. I had asked the management company for some minor lighting in a pitch-black walking area between buildings. I have hired these companies to do some private work for my unit.

Barbara, I thought that the board has a primary responsibility to provide for the safety, health and welfare of the community. During the past year, our community has had more than two dozen auto thefts; an armed robbery home invasion; and two pit bulls who have attacked people and killed a cat on the communities grounds. Most recently, the unit adjacent to mine was broken into. It appears a squatter was setting up house in the unit. Animal Control and the Las Vegas police were contacted and reports taken privately.

This management company has directed this board, which has two members who are absentee owners, to spend more than $40,000 on landscaping and a community trail. If we hired a private patrol service at about $1,000 per month.

Also, the management company does not place any of these serious crime problems in the monthly community newsletter and when even suggested that “priorities” should be reconsidered as they insist any crime is a matter for the police department and not a concern for the community!

Barbara, I don’t know where to turn because my neighbors, both owners and renters, have thrown up their arms in defeat. Should I survey the owners privately to show the HOA board and the management company how disappointed and angry we are or go directly to the state Ombudsman for a more stern response?

A: Homeowner associations are not the police department. There is only so much that the board and management company can do in helping to deter crime. I don’t believe that spending $ 1,000 a month will have any major impact to achieve your goal. Organizing a true and strong neighborhood watch would probably have a significant impact for this community. You are very correct that additional lighting is one of the positive steps that the board can implement.

It appears from reading your letter that part of the real issue is that neither the board nor management company want to acknowledge the problem. Until there is a recognition by the board and management, no proactive steps will be taken. You may want to consider running for the board of directors and encouraging other homeowners to consider placing their names in the hat to make a change.

This association could communicate positive steps that homeowners could initiate, from obtaining criminal reports before leasing their homes to informing homeowners that they should be installing alarm systems in their homes and locking their doors of their vehicles. A meeting with the police department can be scheduled to discuss how homeowners and the association can work together with the police to reduce crime. A good idea is a security inspection of their community to spot problems. Besides lighting, is there any area where security could be enhanced, such as installing shepherd hooks on the perimeter walls or closing off certain pedestrian areas that leave the community vulnerable.

The state Ombudsman office can sympathize with the homeowners, but this kind of problem is not within their jurisdiction. It appears that the homeowners must take action within their association and pressure their board to begin to fight back against the crime at their community.

Barbara Holland, certified property manager, broker and supervisory certified association manager. Questions may be sent

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