Residents at condo complex in Las Vegas feel powerless in disputes

Dennis Walston says he’s sick of living in limbo.

The Las Vegas man’s rent is supposed to cover his gas and water service. But in recent years, Walston says, service to his rented condo has been cut off without notice.

“You don’t know,” said Walston, 68, who gained fame decades ago for setting a world record in the limbo. “When I get up in the morning, am I going to be able to take a hot shower? Am I going to be able to cook breakfast?”

Unfortunately for Walston and others renting condos in a three-building complex on Silver Dollar Avenue, near Valley View Boulevard and Sahara Avenue, the fight between owners has resulted in unpaid bills, an AWOL homeowners association and neglect of the property. And the dispute looks like it could take awhile to resolve.

The condos are valued at about $40,000 each on Zillow online.

City taxpayers have a stake in the battle, too. The group that owns 19 of 24 units in the complex owes the city more than $600,000 and wants the City Council to reduce the amount.

City spokeswoman Diana Paul said the $623,543 in levies means the complex has more civil penalties against it than any other in the city.

Kimberly Reid, an aide to Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, who represents the area, described the property as “a thorn in Ward One’s side” for many years.

Malcolm Perez, who owns Walston’s unit, blames the owners with the majority of the units for the problem. For example, he blames the intermittent gas service on the fact that all the units in the building share one account that is supposed to be paid through the homeowners association.

But everyone suffered in the past when the homeowners association, which is controlled by whoever has a majority of units, didn’t pay the bill.

“When someone doesn’t pay the bill, everyone is kind of screwed,” Perez said. “I get upset because I don’t have the option of paying for it and resolving the problem for everyone.”

In addition to problems with gas, garbage and water service which, Perez and Walston admit, have waned lately, the property attracts graffiti, the laundry room is closed, mailboxes are busted and illegal drug deals are said to be commonplace.

Perez attended a recent meeting where the City Council was scheduled to consider reducing fines against Joseph and Michelle Randazzo and Lawrence DeMatteo, who took over ownership of a majority of the condos late last year.

It’s common for the council to cut some slack for owners who purchase properties against which previous owners have racked up fines, as long as any breaks include promises to clean up the property.

The item was postponed, so the council didn’t hear it. If it had, Perez said he would have told it to enforce the entire amount.

That’s because it’s not the first time Randazzo and DeMatteo have owned the condos. They have had a stake in the property for years.

Property records show that between 2003 and 2012 the units passed from Randazzo and DeMatteo to NorthStar Realty Group, back to Randazzo and DeMatteo, then to a company, RFH La Paz, which was controlled by former property manager Rex Henriott, and again to Randazzo and DeMatteo.

Perez says the owners’ history shows they were well aware of problems resulting in city sanctions and shouldn’t be treated as new owners.

“These are experienced people,” Perez said. “They have owned these properties before. They knew what the neighborhood was like.”

Joe Randazzo, however, says the characterization of his group as negligent owners is inaccurate.

The violations that led to the fines are several years old and happened under previous owners, he said.

The current group is trying to catch up on bills, deferred maintenance, and organization of the homeowners association, Randazzo said.

“We want good things for our real estate, or we never would have invested in it,” Randazzo said.

In addition to attempting to catch up on the old bills, Randazzo says his group has hired a company to revive the dormant homeowners association and collect back dues from other owners, including Perez.

He says much of the problem is due to mismanagement under Henriott, who didn’t return calls for comment from the Review-Journal.

A 2009 article in CityLife reported that under Henriott’s leadership the complex had racked up about $630,000 in levies with the city.

Council records show Henriott agreed in 2010 to a settlement with the city under which he would pay $27,194 at a rate of $500 per month.

Paul said Henriott paid less than $6,600.

Randazzo said when his group took the property back from Henriott, they got stuck with the problems, too.

“We didn’t have a choice; we carried the note when we sold it,” Randazzo said. “It was being signed back over whether we wanted it or not.”

He said homeowners dues of $100 per month barely cover the bills if all 24 units are paying, which they aren’t.

The city imposing the complete amount of fines will only make it more difficult to maintain the property, he said.

“The city didn’t hold the people accountable at the time it happened,” Randazzo said. “So why keep punishing people who are fixing the problem?”

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at
bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285 .

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