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Law does not support HOA ‘holding water bill hostage’

Q: My homeowners association has taken over the water billing. I am behind in my HOA dues. The collection agency will not allow me to just pay my water bill alone. They are holding my water bill “hostage” for payment in full of the total bill, including past HOA dues. Is this legal? Aren’t we still in a pandemic? I’ve sent in a payment plan request to the company. I’m a disabled veteran, and I don’t believe this is fair. I have no money for a lawyer.

A: Under Nevada Revised Statute 116.345 section 4: “An association may not interrupt any utility service furnished to a unit’s owner or a tenant of a unit’s owner except for nonpayment of utility charges when due.”

It is my opinion the collection agency cannot hold hostage your water bill. The water bill is a separate and distinct expense and is not part of the association’s dues. Association dues consist of the common operating expenses and not the expense of a specific unit owner’s water usage.

Q: I am very desperate for help with a few problems. I don’t know who else to turn to. Our HOA is refusing to fix a clogged pipe on our balcony because they said we let our dog urinate on the balcony. I had major surgery and could not walk my dog by going downstairs. There is nothing in the rules that states this. The only thing that is stated is not to use the balcony as a kennel, which I would never do, anyways. I don’t even have a kennel. What can I do? I believe what is clogging the pipe is dirt and some bark, not dog feces or urine. I always hose this down and it’s not smelly at all.

My second question: Is it legal for the board president to have surveillance equipment all over the complex, including inside the gym so he can watch everything that goes on in the complex? I stopped going to the gym as I found it to be a bit creepy.

A: Although your specific rules and regulations may not state that it is a violation for an animal to urinate or allow feces to fall into a pipe on your balcony, it certainly would be a health issue. My suggestion is for you to contact a plumber and clean the clogged pipe. If the plumber finds dirt and bark and other building materials clogging the pipe, he/she should take photographs. With these photographs, you could send to your association along with a copy of the plumber’s invoice, asking for reimbursement from the association.

Unfortunately, for many associations, because of safety reasons, surveillance cameras do help in identifying individuals who are damaging property. The questions that I would ask is whether the full board agreed to the surveillance cameras and whether the full board agreed to allow the president access to the footage. You should ask these questions at the next association board meeting.

Q: I’m at odds with my HOA board and the property management company. I seek your opinion. My two questions are simple:

1. Is the property manager being difficult by not citing the specific rule or law that he’ll enforce if there’s proof?

2. Is there a specific law (Nevada or federal) that forbids me to point my camera toward other buildings? I have a camera pointing out the sidelight window of my front door so I can see people come and go from my place. My camera catches other homes as my front door faces other front doors.

A: There is no specific NRS 116 law pertaining to cameras but one can usually find a nuisance section in the covenants, conditions and restrictions, which can be used in sending a violation letter. In your case, the association may have written rules and regulations or architectural regulations that pertain to cameras. If this is the case then your community manager should have sent this information to you.

Association attorneys recommend that associations adopt rules that allow for cameras but that the cameras should not infringe on other people’s property. There have been complaints filed whereby a resident believes that his neighbor is harassing him by having motion sensor lights shining in his windows. Other complaints pertain to children being recorded.

Associations need to balance the need for security versus the need for privacy. Contacting your legal counsel should assist boards in finding that balanced regulation.

Barbara Holland is a certified property manager and holds the supervisory community manager certificate with the state of Nevada. She is an author and educator on real estate management. Questions may be sent to holland744o@gmail.com.

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