At 12:30 a.m. on July 28, 2014, police were summoned to Ironwood Estates, a high-end neighborhood in the northwest Las Vegas Valley. At the scene, officers found 19-year-old Morland Richeyelder unresponsive, and pronounced him dead at the scene. Richeyelder had been shot multiple times at a house party, held in the Ironwood Estates community, which had been attended by around 70 people. Now, three months after the shooting, homeowners in the area are claiming that HOA laws are restricting their ability to create and enforce a safe neighborhood.
Letters to the Las Vegas Review Journal report that the neighborhood has hosted four brothels, a counterfeiting ring, a drug ring, a meth lab, unlicensed pit bull breeders, and a chop shop. Some homes have even been rented out as boarding homes, an unusual fixture in a community where the tax-appraised homes average $500,000. In some cases, the letter writers say that homes are even rented out as short-term party houses. For this reason, the HOA’s vice president, Larry Fuss, says that the problem is not local homeowners, but tenants who feel no sense of responsibility for the neighborhood.
Despite these problems, however, Fuss and other residents say that the Las Vegas City Legislature has passed a number of regulations which prevent Ironwood Estate’s HOA from handling the issues. As a result, the community is unable to limit the number of rental properties within the community. It als has a reduced ability to enforce governing documents or issue citations for community infractions. Additionally, residents report that the Las Vegas police have not been able to cut down on traffic violations and other problems in the neighborhood.
Interestingly, most of the crimes that have taken place in Ironwood Estates seem to take place at a single residence: over the past six months, the five crime reports the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has received have all taken place at the same house as the July 28 homicide. This seven-bedroom, 6,000 square foot house was part of the Housing Choice Voucher program, which helps low-income, elderly and disabled residents access safe and affordable housing. But while the program includes stipulations for residents, including a zero-tolerance policy for violence and crime, one case of disturbing the peace, one case of destruction of property, and two home burglaries have reported in the residence, in addition to Richeyelder’s murder. The homeowner’s voucher has accordingly been revoked, but the house is regarded as a problem house by officers who have been called to the area.
In response to the difficulties at Ironwood Estates, HOA experts have pointed out that Nevada’s housing statutes are constantly changing and can be difficult to manage. Many have suggested that community residents document their claims and research the correct method of filing complaints with the HOA board. In some cases, it may even be possible to foreclose on the problem house if there is a proven threat to the neighborhood.
Other sources familiar with the workings of Nevada’s HOAs have suggested that Ironwood Estate’s community board may simply need help.
Meanwhile, State Senator Scott Hammond has said that he is aware of the area’s problem and is discussing the problem with the residents. Although some HOAs have abused power in past years, he said, the current situation seems to restrict both law enforcement and community boards from achieving their goals. Whether this will result in relaxed restrictions on HOA boards, however, remains to be seen.