Board Fines and Assesses Unit Owners for Improper Irrigation

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T.A. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I was called to defend myself in front of the board because they said I failed to irrigate my plants (not true) and that the association had to replace my plants several times. I had an emergency the day of the hearing and could not attend. The board decided to impose a special assessment to a few owners. I notice they replaced the landscape of some units (NOT Mine, my shrubs were only trimmed as usual). Can they do that? Can they assess only some owners? It is very hard to prove if every single owner is complying with their plant irrigation or not so they call in a hearing. The fact that they replace the plants or not it does not solely depend on irrigation and it’s under their duties to do it.

Mister Condo replies:

T.A., this is a most unfortunate situation for you and other owners who are being singled out and fined or assessed for not maintaining plants and greenery in your assigned area. I have more questions than answers here so let me give you some friendly advice that you can do with as you wish. Are the plants on common ground? My guess is that they are and are likely the responsibility of the association, not the individual unit owners. If that is true, then the Board is quite mistaken in their ability to fine or assess individual unit owners for the cost or maintenance of these items. The Board should either add an association-owned irrigation system (usually expensive), consider alternative landscaping (no flowers or items that require irrigation), or simply accept the fact that some greenery is going to die each year and will need to be replaced and adjust the budget accordingly. If the plants are located in an area that is owned by the unit owner (highly unlikely), then the Board may be pursuing a proper remedy if the by-laws give them the power to do so (again, highly unlikely). I would suggest that you review the by-laws of your association, especially with regards to landscaping maintenance and responsibility and then submit your findings to the Board, along with a request that you and your fellow unit owners have your money returned. Common element maintenance like landscaping is the responsibility of the association, not the individual unit owners. If the Board doesn’t agree, you may wish to file an action in Small Claims Court (I’m assuming this is a small claim). That would likely get the Board to rethink their strategy of singling out unit owners for maintaining common property. Good luck!

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