Q. I am a fairly new resident in a 55-and-up community. My board—mainly the president, who has re-elected herself for the past 18+ years—has a history of abuse of power, intimidation of residents, overreach, and possibly financial improprieties. I researched enough to find out that these boards are protected, and the associated management companies, which we believe are in cahoots, are also protected.
Who is willing to protect the residents in these cases? These seniors are being abused, and doesn’t anyone care? I have put together a group of residents, some of whom have been abused for years, to find a way to upset the power chain that needs to be disrupted. What can we do when condo or HOA residents ring the Help Us bell?
A. Says attorney Sheila Van Duyne of the Las Vegas-based Van Duyne Law Group: “I understand that you feel unrepresented and unprotected in your community. That being said, you do have a lot more power to effectuate change than you think! This will be an ongoing process that you and any concerned neighbors will need to undertake, but there is no reason that it will not succeed.
“1. When you receive a notice of an upcoming association board meeting, put the meeting on your calendar and make plans to attend. If you do not wish to attend alone, bring some of your concerned neighbors. Every owner has the right to attend the meetings of the board and learn about things going on in their community.
“2. During the ‘owners’ section—here in Nevada, right at the beginning of the meeting—any owner may stand up and express their concerns about any item on the agenda. Try to keep your remarks to a minute or two.
“3. As an owner you will also have the right to stand up and express your concerns about anything—even if not on the agenda—at the end of the meeting at the second ‘owners’ section. Again, keep your comments to a minute or two. Always try to include something positive—‘I am new here and looking forward to getting to know all my neighbors…’
“4. Contact your association’s management company and introduce yourself. Then ask when the next election will be.
“5. When the pre-election call for volunteers to run for the board [comes]—fill out that application and send it in!
“6. Run for the board. Campaign. Talk to your neighbors about things that are important so that if you are elected you can better represent them.
“7. Locate your escrow package and read through any documents relating to your new community—i.e., Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), Rules & Regulations, any policies—learn about how things are run where you live.
“8. If you continue to have problems, or believe that the owners are somehow being prevented from fairly participating in the running of their association, take a look at the Nevada Real Estate Division’s website. They have a lot of resources there for getting help.
“I would hope that simply getting some new people elected onto the board will remedy most of your concerns, but you can also look at how to file a complaint if that becomes necessary. The board representatives all ‘work for free,’ so I’m sure they will appreciate your help and participation.
“Oftentimes, simply getting more of a voice is all you will need to feel welcomed into a community. It is up to you to become an active participant in your association. The current board and the management company will more than likely appreciate your help.”
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