A Fine New Place to Meddle
By Vin Suprynowicz
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Election to the board of a private homeowners association seems
to bring out the worst in some folks. Given the chance, they'll
threaten to rain down the fury of the heavens on anyone who dares to
hang an unauthorized American flag, or redecorate in a color not
Ironically, the law can actually encourage these petty
potentates, by stipulating they can permanently lose their right to
enforce a deed restriction if they fail to promptly cite even the
most minor violation. And a certain measure of hypocrisy should
probably be acknowledged here, as well. The very homeowner who
protests it's "unreasonable" to limit her choice of roofing tiles,
would likely be the first to shriek for the association to ban her
neighbor from establishing a part-time auto-repair business in his
So much for "private property rights."
But, sensing widespread dissatisfaction with the excesses of
these petty tyrants, state Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, has
proposed a bill which would require Nevada homeowners associations to
be "run more like government operations."
Under Senate Bill 314, association boards would be required to
hold public meetings with fixed agendas. The attorney general's
office would be given authority to review complaints. And board
member would be given just six months to complete "a course" on
board responsibilities and the rights of association members. The
question that arises is where in the state Constitution the Nevada
Legislature (or any other legislature) might find authority to
regulate such private associations.
As long as Article 4 of the Nevada Constitution clearly states
that the powers of the Nevada Legislature are limited by the federal
Constitution, it may not be out of place to note that the earlier
document clearly protects "the right of the people peaceably to
assemble," a right generally held to include the right to join or
refrain from joining any private group we please.
Yes, even this privacy right has limits -- a group that met each
week to plan random murders, after the model of the cult of Thuggee,
might well expect some government intervention.
And some of the unsavory restrictions on "deeds and covenants"
that used to restrict how a homeowner could dispose of his property
-- like the ones that forbade homes being re-sold to various ethnic
minorities -- have long since been struck down. Good riddance.
But if the Legislature is going to mandate how and when the
homeowners associations shall meet, how they shall conduct their
business, and even that their private officers must "take courses"
... what's next?
Surely there are some members of the local Elks Lodge who wish
the fraternity conducted its business differently. How soon can we
expect their bylaws and procedures to be rewritten by Mr. Schneider
and his busybodies?
Some of our churches and temples aren't run in a very
"democratic" way, when you come right down to it. Why, hasn't there
been "widespread dissatisfaction" with their lack of flexibility on
such issues as divorce, abortion, and sex outside of marriage? So why
not require public meetings of all their councils, with their
doctrines and gospels freely amendable by a simple majority vote --
with the new, more popular changes to be enforced by the state
Folks contemplating the purchase of a home have a right to buy in
an "association" development, or not. If Mr. Schneider believes
home-buyers are being lured into such "associations" without being
fully informed of the restrictions to which they thus voluntarily
agree, he may indeed find a minor role there for government --
requiring that each potential home buyer be fully informed.
There is also the question of how homeowners' associations manage
to enforce any order which insults a homeowner's privacy rights. Are
county clerks and local courts cooperating in the enforcement of
liens against homeowners who fail to mow their lawns?
The Legislature does have some authority
over these government agencies; Sen. Schneider might want to review
the extent to which they facilitate such silliness.
But beyond that, it really doesn't matter whether Mr. Schneider
is unhappy with how the private homeowners' associations comport
themselves. Because they're private.
Allow that line to be erased, and we'll soon find the busybodies
knocking on our doors with court orders to "check" whether we're
associating in our homes with the "wrong" sorts of people.
After all, it's now national policy to "put the children first."
Many children "express widespread dissatisfaction" with their
parents. And there's no longer any limit to where government can
stick its nose ... is there?
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las
Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at
http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the
United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box
4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.