Homeowner threatened with fines if he doesn't plant trees

Homeowner threatened with fines if he doesn't plant trees

By Loni Blandford. CREATED Jul 22, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Many believe homeowners associations help keep communities visually appealing. But how far is too far? One Southern Highlands homeowner says it comes down to counting trees.

They're a setting for romance, a sign to come home and the stuff of songs and stories. But for Louis Washington, trees are a very sore subject.

"If I had the money, I'd sell and get out of here. That's how mad I was," explained Louis.

It isn't what the HOA wants Louis to plant that has him so furious.

"They said you need a tree," said Louis.

It's the timing of their demand.

"2002, that's when I picked up the keys to this location," said Louis.

It was a brand-new home that  came complete with a fully-planted front yard put in by builder Pulte Homes.

As the first and only owner, Louis says his landscaping hasn't changed in the last eleven years. But if Southern Highlands Community Association has its way, it will.

Despite the plentiful greenery, the association sent Louis not one or two but three letters in the past two months saying his yard is missing trees.

The HOA wants him to put one tree in the middle of the lawn and another on a narrow side yard. Doing so they write will bring Louis' home up to community standards. He says they told him they were just getting around to checking all the houses for compliance.

"They said 11 years to get around to everything, I said 11 years? I said that's a long time I can understand a year, but 11 years," said Louis. 

Louis went to the HOA office in person to tell them his front yard has never had trees.

His backyard does and plenty of them. The HOA's trees, a couple which look dead or dying, line the common area on the side of his house, dropping leaves onto his lawn. Some roots have even started to buckle under the concrete curbing.

A huge lakefront building serves as headquarters for the Southern Highlands HOA. Nobody would go on camera, they refused our requests. The one question we've all got --  why is this an issue after so long? They wouldn't answer. All they would say is that Louis has to come to a hearing in mid-August. 

Though he could face fines of $50 a week until the trees are planted, they agreed to hold off until after that August hearing.

That's where he's hoping for a variance so he won't have to make a trip to the nursery after all. But if they force the issue, it could cost him hundreds of dollars, block the view from his front window and put a snag in his gardener's routine.

"If you put a tree there, how's he going to get a lawnmower though to your backyard," asked Chief Investigator Darcy Spears.

"He won't," said Louis.

Louis wonders if anyone at the Southern Highlands HOA has any common sense and despite the cost, he's ready to dig in for the principle.

"If I have to get a lawyer to fight this that's what I'll do," said Louis.

He's really just hoping the HOA will make like a tree and leave.

We're going to keep in touch with Louis about the outcome of that August hearing. This is the third time a homeowner in Southern Highlands has nominated the association for our HOA Hall of Shame. We'd like to know if your HOA has come after you for something like this. If so, send an email to 13investigates@ktnv.com and be sure to include your phone number.