HOA Hall of Shame adds most shameful member yet
This Contact 13 investigation started out as a simple email from a homeowner who needed help fighting her HOA.
But it's turned into a bizarre attempt by an HOA board to kill our story.
And when you find out what Darcy Spears uncovered, you'll understand why the latest addition to the HOA Hall of Shame just might be the most shameful one yet.
"No comment! Talk to my attorney!" yelled Stan Simcizen as he slammed the door on Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears.
"Stan, Stan, Stan! Hello?" Spears called through the door. "I tried calling your attorney. Your attorney won't call me back. We're going to put you on TV for what you're doing to this homeowner."
Tara Villas is in the northwest valley near Cheyenne and Grand Canyon.
According to the Secretary of State, the HOA board has three members: President Stan Simcizen, Secretary Michael Degregorio and Treasurer Linda Vandermeer.
We're trying to get answers from Simcizen for what he and his fellow board members are doing to homeowner Deena Trueblood.
She's a single mom raising a teenage son on a substitute teacher's salary.
When it comes to money, she's got little.
When it comes to water... she's got none.
"That is the one thing you need more than anything else. You can live without TV, you can live without phones, you can live without even power if you have to, but you can't live without water," Trueblood says, shaking her head at her impossible situation.
Even prison inmates get water... but not Deena.
Her HOA board had their property manager send her a letter in early December saying they were turning off her water for non-payment of assessments.
"I entered into a fee agreement with my HOA and their collection company to pay off my past-due assessments," she explains.
Collection agency Nevada Association Services confirms she's current on her payment plan now.
But because she's been late in the past, the HOA is demanding the full amount--which she says is around $3,000 including fines and fees--before they'll turn her water back on.
She simply doesn't have the money to do more than keep up with her payment plan.
She appealed to Ideal Community Management for help.
"They told me they've taken my concerns to the board and the board doesn't care."
"So the silly thing is you've got to spend a ton of money buying water and you could be using that to continue paying them if they would just see reason?" Spears asked.
"Right," Trueblood answered.
The HOA shut off Deena's water out near the street right in front of her house.
They went into the utility box in the ground, removed a valve and soldered the pipe shut so she couldn't turn it back on herself.
"I think that's terrible to do that to another person, to a family, because we're really struggling as it is so to have the water off is just one more issue," says Bryson, Deena's 17-year-old son.
Perhaps the most ironic thing is Deena and her son are still using the community water... taking showers outdoors at the community pool and filling coolers and buckets to use at home for cooking, doing dishes, cleaning and flushing toilets.
"You're concerned about safety issues as well?" Spears asked her.
"Absolutely, because if a fire broke out in my home, I'd have no way to put the fire out," which she adds puts her neighbors at risk as well.
The Tara Villas board is basing it's decision on NRS 116 which governs homeowner associations.
"We all know what the intent of the law was in 2009, and that was to help associations obtain some money towards their operations. But this is not a good law. It wasn't a good law when it was introduced and it's not a good law now. Health, safety and sanitation are very much issues," explains Barbara Holland, an HOA expert who helped advise the legislature when that law was passed.
Holland is also past president of the GLVAR and a certified property manager who writes an HOA Q & A column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
She says what Tara Villas is doing is just plain crazy.
She calls the board a bunch of yahoos who are giving all homeowner associations a bad name.
"If we were managing an association like this, we would tell the board you need to stop otherwise we're giving you our notice. We would walk away."
Tara Villas believes the law allows them to turn off Deena's water because water service is part of the assessment she still owes.
"The law does not say pay all the assessment," says Holland.
And that's why Deena's case is now under investigation by the Real Estate Division Ombudsman's office.
They admit the law is unclear, but don't believe it allows for what Tara Villas is doing.
"It's against the law according to the State to deprive her of water," Spears tried to tell Stan Simcizen through his door. "Why are you doing this to a fellow homeowner?"
Board president Simcizen shut the blinds, called Metro, and hid inside his home until Metro came and informed him we were doing nothing wrong.
As for whether the board is doing something wrong, Ideal Community Management is standing by them.
In a written statement, they say "The Board of Directors makes the decisions and as long as they are not in violation of the laws we follow their direction. The association is making an effort to resolve the issue."
Deena tells us HOA attorney Roger Grant is demanding an initial payment of more than $700 and he wants her to drop her attempt to get this story on the news.
We called Grant about that and left a message at his office.
"We would really like to get some input other than a door being slammed in our face by the president of the board telling us to call you and you of course just refusing to return my phone calls," Spears said in the voicemail message. "Please give me a call back at your first opportunity and let me know what's going on with this attempt to kill our story."
During the course of our investigation, we left five messages for Grant.
He never called back.
"They just don't care and I don't know how it happened or how we gave them this much power but apparently at some point it just happened and there's--for most homeowners in most associations--there's really no remedy that's an emergency type of remedy and the HOAs know that they can wait you out," Deena says.
Contact 13 called the Fire Department, the Health District, City Building and Safety, the Water District, a State lawmaker and CAI--the industry group that represents HOAs.
Everyone agreed that Tara Villas has gone far beyond what the law intended.
Sen. Mike Schneider called their actions morally unconscionable and very foolish.
But amazingly, it seems there's nothing anyone can do to help.
Deena will have to try her luck and her patience with the Real Estate Division and the courts if she can't come to an agreement with her HOA board.
Please continue to send your nominations for the HOA hall of shame to email@example.com.