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HOA bill’s death urged

CARSON CITY — Gov. Jim Gibbons is being bombarded with phone calls and e-mails from people asking him to veto a homeowners association bill that they contend would give too much power to the associations’ boards.

Among their objections is a section in Assembly Bill 396 that would let association boards boost monthly assessment fees without seeking approval of members.

But Las Vegas lawyer Michael Schulman wants the bill vetoed because he maintains it goes too far in restricting what the associations and their boards can do to ensure the beauty and safety of their communities.

He complained that the bill would prevent the associations from using radar guns to enforce speeding laws and allow "rolling shutters" to be installed in common areas.

Shutters can be unsightly when installed on the outside wall of a large condominium complex, he said.

Schulman said Donald Trump and other famous developers are not going to construct large condominium complexes in Las Vegas if "Mrs. Smith" can put a shutter on the outside of her unit and spoil the look for 100 others in the same building.

He said it "seems stupid" that the Legislature would not allow the use of radar detectors on homeowners association roads, particularly when some have children wandering around.

"What the Legislature is saying is don’t use radar guns and don’t regulate speeding at all," Schulman said.

He said a survey found 92 percent of owners are happy with their homeowners associations and do not want a lot of interference from the Legislature.

State Sen. Mike Schneider, long the key legislator handling bills dealing with homeowners associations, said he is aware of the opposition to the bill and visited with Gibbons in his office Wednesday.

"He indicated to me he would not veto the bill," said Schneider, D-Las Vegas.

Brent Boynton, Gibbons’ communication director, said Gibbons has received "literally hundreds" of e-mails, letters and calls from people who want him to veto the bill.

The governor has until midnight Friday to make a decision.

Boynton said the letters and e-mails have widely different views, some supporting homeowners associations and others criticizing them.

One of those who supports the bill is Kevin Janison, an author and former broadcaster who successfully battled the Summerlin North Community Association for the right to have a basketball hoop on the street in front of his home. After he and his wife fought a four-year battle, a judge allowed him to keep the basket up eight months of the year.

Janison said AB396 outlaws "delegate voting." Under the concept, homeowners association boards cast ballots from people who do not vote in board elections as voting for the current members. As many as 98 percent of homeowners do not vote in board elections, he said.

"They get to cast the votes for themselves," Janison said. "They become lifetime board members. I call it the Saddam form of democracy."

Janison said he appreciates legislators approving the bill because they know what homeowners are thinking. He said legislators walk their districts, and the No. 1 concern they hear from people is, "Do something about my HOA. It is too overreaching."

Schneider, responding to criticism that AB396 would allow homeowners associations to set assessments without approval of unit owners, said that clause only clarifies existing law and is needed to ensure proper upkeep.

"People (in homeowners associations) vote on fees like they are taxes," said Schneider, meaning they will not support higher assessment fees. "If you don’t fund needed fees, you are hurting other people because the property cannot be properly maintained."

Schneider cited an association that had monthly fees of only $56, but the development needed $1.5 million in repairs to roads and common areas.

Under the bill, boards of homeowners associations could impose assessments on owners to cover five years worth of major repair costs "without seeking or obtaining approval of the units’ owners" if a study shows the need to accumulate reserves for future repairs.

The senator said much of the opposition has been organized by Schulman, whom he called a "construction defect lawyer" looking for more business.

"They lost in the Legislature, so now they are trying to win with a veto," he added.

Schulman said he sent a five-page letter to Gibbons in which he blasted a provision in the bill allowing "rolling shutters" to be installed in common areas.

"I believe the drafting of this section was at the behest of one or more special-interest groups who sell rolling shutters," Schulman said.

A source said Schneider is friendly with representatives from Rolladen Shutters.

"To say I did it to help a friend is pretty ridiculous," Schneider responded. "It was done to help consumers."

He said the shutters can cut electricity costs by 50 percent in Las Vegas summers and provide security. But Schulman said ways exist to install shutters inside the home.

Schneider said the bill blocks homeowners associations from assessing "transfer fees" of as much as 1 percent when a member sells a home to another person.

"That is highway robbery," he said.

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