Homeowner wins tree battle against Southern Highlands HOA


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Homeowner wins tree battle against Southern Highlands HOA

By Darcy Spears. CREATED Sep 6, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- To plant or not to plant? That was the question. Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears has the answer is this HOA Hall of Shame update.

It's status quo for Louis Washington, and that's just the way he wants it.

"If it hadn't been for channel 13, I truly believe they would have made me put the trees in."

In the Spring, the Southern Highlands HOA began sending Louis letters saying he was in violation for not having trees in his front yard.

"My house has more greenery than any house you wanna go around and look at, and they're saying I still need a tree, which I do not agree with that."

They told him he had to put two trees in, despite the fact that he bought the home brand new from builder Pulte Homes, who installed the landscape in 2002.

"If they had came to us a year after we came, I would have probably had to give in, but 11 years?" Louis says incredulously.  "I don't see why I have to give in." 

Another issue wrapped up in all this is that by requiring homeowners to put in more trees, the HOA is requiring homeowners to use more water. 

And many say that's just plain irresponsible, considering the drought situation we're in here in Southern Nevada.

After Contact 13 aired Louis' story in our HOA Hall of Shame, he attended a hearing and was finally granted a variance to keep his yard as its been for the last 11 years.

But, there are strings attached. The variance is conditional.

Darcy: In the letter that they gave you, they still want you to admit and record that you're living in a condition of disobeying the HOA's rules.
Louis: Yes.

The HOA wants Louis to file a document with the Clark County Recorder's office that notices a "condition of non-compliance" and requires at least two trees to be added if the landscape changes or the home is sold.

"I feel if they're gonna give me clearance here, give me 100-percent.  Don't give me with stipulations."

Southern Highlands blames builder Pulte Homes for failing to plant the required two trees in Louis' front yard.

Darcy: Do you think your builder did wrong?
Louis: No, I do not.

Pulte doesn't understand why this is even an issue after all these years.

They say design criteria is subject to interpretation, and the HOA should grandfather anyone in Louis' situation.

Louis thinks the Southern Highlands HOA should spend more time worrying about its own trees, like the one at the entrance to the community, which is dead.  Louis says it's been like that for about two years.

His message to the HOA?  "Look in they're own backyard."

Louis' back and front yards border HOA common areas, which have several dead trees.

And as a retired carpet cleaner living on a fixed income, he wonders why his dues haven't paid to replace those trees, but have paid for the HOA to hassle him for not having any.

Since we first reported this story in July, we've learned Louis is not the only person fighting the HOA against a sudden requirement to plant trees after a dozen years. 

We're in touch with those homeowners and we'll be following their progress as well.

If you believe your HOA belongs in Contact 13's hall of shame, email us at 13investigates@ktnv.com and we'll look into it.

Darcy Spears

Darcy Spears

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Darcy Spears is currently the Chief Investigative Reporter for Action News.