Homeowners have a love/hate relationship with their Homeowner Associations (HOAs). You rarely hear someone say, “I love my HOA Board.” The purpose of an HOA is to preserve, maintain and enhance the homes and property within the subdivision. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But not all HOAs are equal. An HOA that regulates that neighbor with a weed-ridden front yard or a broken-down Chevy in the driveway is a blessing. However, when that same HOA tells us that when and where we can put our trash cans out, we aren’t appreciative. I am not a fan of someone telling me what I can do with my property and land. But I do understand the utility of an HOA Board.
Community living comes with its own dynamics. Close quarters and shared spaces can—and often does—lead to conflict: a conflict between neighbors, the association board of directors, and members; and also between the board or members and management. Unlike other locales, Nevada requires that members of common interest communities go to the Office of the Ombudsman of the Nevada Real Estate Division for conflict resolution before filing a lawsuit.
Before any civil action can be taken regarding a dispute relating to governing documents of a common-interest community (homeowners association), the disputing parties must complete the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process under Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 38. Further, if a homeowner association provides a scheme of dispute resolution, that procedure must be exhausted before submitting an ADR claim to the Nevada Real Estate Division, Office of the Ombudsman.
The ADR programs include:
• The Referee Program
- The Referee Program – The referee program allows disputing parties to present their case to an independent referee. Both parties must agree to participate in the program to proceed. The referee can bring the parties together, listen to both sides of the dispute, review the evidence and governing documents and then make a non-binding decision on the matter. The referee is authorized to make monetary awards of up to $7,500. The referee may not award attorneys’ fees. The parties may then proceed to civil court if they wish to pursue the matter further.
- Mediation – As of October 1, 2013, NRS 38 mandates that mediation is the default method of resolution, should both parties not agree to participate in the referee program. The parties to the mediation provide the mediator a statement and relevant documents about the dispute, including a statement concerning an acceptable resolution. The mediator works with the parties to resolve the dispute with a written agreement.
- Non-Binding or Binding Arbitration –This option is available if mediation fails and both parties agree to proceed through either form of arbitration in place of initiating a claim through civil court. Each of the parties has an opportunity to present his or her case and witnesses if any. The arbitrator upon conclusion of the hearing renders a decision, after which either party may proceed to civil court.
For more information, please contact the Nevada Real Estate Division, Las Vegas,
firstname.lastname@example.org, P: (702) 486-4033.
Tanika M. Capers, Esq.