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HOA HALL OF SHAME: Homeowner sues Rancho Bel Air

Posted at 10:45 PM, Sep 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-03 02:47:28-04

Most of us in Southern Nevada live under the rule of a homeowners association. 

That means paying dues every month. But what would you do to get out of having to pay up? 

In this edition of HOA Hall of Shame, Contact 13 spotlights one homeowner's fight for freedom.

In a David and Goliath battle, the homeowner won a big victory over his HOA, and he's literally screaming about it from the rooftops -- posting big, blown-up copies of the checks the court forced the HOA to pay him, for sandbagging and defying court orders.

It's almost unheard of for an HOA to pay the homeowner. 

But Jonathan Friedrich got $10,000 from the Rancho Bel Air board after filing a lawsuit, accusing them of fraud.

"They violated state, federal and municipal laws. And I've called them out on it."

The board was forced to pay sanctions for being evasive and disobeying court orders in Friedrich's ongoing case. 

He started the fight after discovering he's not part of an HOA -- even though he lives in a guard-gated HOA community.

Friedrich believes Rancho Bel Air belongs in the HOA Hall of Shame.

"You betcha, because they have lied, they have cheated, they have deceived people," he said. "They tried to take my home away from me. They tried to foreclose. They had no authority to do that."

To understand why the HOA had no authority to do that even after Friedrich stopped paying his monthly assessments, we need to talk donuts.

Friedrich and his home are like a doughnut hole, according to court documents. That makes the HOA the doughnut, and the hole simply isn't part of it.

Friedrich, who's currently running for state Senate, is a retired construction supervisor and outspoken advocate for homeowners rights. He's also a former member of the state commission that oversees HOAs.

Within Rancho Bel Air, there's a dividing line. One Friedrich literally painted down the middle of his street at his property line. 

The community is made up of two units, developed at different times.

"It took the state of Nevada many years to figure out there's something very wrong here."

Friedrich followed a decades-old paper trail and found proof that homeowners in unit one were never officially part of the HOA. 

A few have never paid the now $200 monthly assessments. Others opted to join the HOA. And then, there's Friedrich.

"I gladly paid it for 10 years. But I was lied to! That's what irks me."

Court records show the developer for unit two sent all homeowners a letter telling them they were part of the HOA. But it wasn't official. And the judge ruled, it's not valid.  

"We are not one of the Gestapo associations that you read about," said Barry Becker, the unit two developer and an HOA board member.

"And we don't enforce anything on anybody in unit one," said Becker, "with the exception of requesting that they pay the association dues."

The association collects what they call an "amenities assessment," which Friedrich refuses to pay. 

It covers the manned guard gate, street lights and maintenance and some flower pots out front.

"This board spent $9,000 on those three pots. They spent over $12,000 on the new signage."

As for the security of living in a guard-gated community, Friedrich says, "They cannot and have not provided security for us, even though they say it. Last year, there were six burglaries in this part of the community."

And one just two months ago at the home of a neighbor right across the street.

"Thousands of dollars of equipment and records were stolen from him."

Becker doesn't believe Rancho Bel Air belongs in the HOA Hall of Shame.

He says it's Friedrich whose behavior is shameful.

"He's trying to get something for nothing. He bought into a guard-protected community and now he wants someone else to pay for his share of that. I don't think that helps anybody."

The board's lawyer says they're appealing one of the $5,000 sanctions they had to pay Friedrich, who says he, too, isn't done fighting. 

The case is scheduled for trial where he's hoping to get back all the money he previously paid in HOA dues.