Condo Garden Greens Causing the Blues!

A.V. from Florida writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My husband and I moved this townhouse community that has a HOA. We have a small garden with our unit that other units don’t have. I have a legal survey that shows these green areas. My husband has spent a lot of time and money keeping a nice yard and we have some garden ornaments and statues and some furniture. We have received compliments about our garden. The garden is surrounded with bushes. Since we moved, we have received letters that these green areas are common areas. I sent the survey and other documents to the HOA and they did not bother us for a while. However, about a week ago, we received a letter from the lawyers representing the HOA that we need to keep the aesthetics of our garden with the rest of the units and this means to keep the vegetation not so more than 5 foot (I agree with this) but we need to remove all the garden ornaments, pot plants and even furniture. I checked most units and they have pot plants and ornaments in their little green areas, including the President of the Board. We are very upset at this and we think is so unfair. If we are violating the aesthetics of where we live, then everybody is doing the same. I just learned that the President of the HOA removed 2 Royal Palms from a neighbor’s backyard without a proper permit from the City and she only notified this neighbor. Is this illegal? As owners, are we entitled to have notification in writing about what is happening where we live. They said we are not following guidelines but she is not following permits either. Is there a way we can use this as an argument versus our garden? Maybe the Board will back off. Let me know what you think. Thanks.

Mister Condo replies:

A.V., you would think the Board has bigger fish to fry than taking on garden ornamentation. However, the Board is well within its rights and has a responsibility to enforce the architectural guideline of the association, which include gardening regulations. However, they cannot selectively enforce these guidelines only against you without opening themselves up to a discrimination lawsuit, should you choose to file one. In other words, if your garden gnomes must go, all gnomes must go! My advice to you is keeping pushing back. Cite other instances where the rules are not being followed and threaten with a discrimination lawsuit if the Board persists in targeting only you for these rules violations. Also, consider running for the Board or electing Board members that are friendlier to the lifestyle choices of the community. Rules and guidelines are important but it is also important to know when to take action and when to let things lie. It sounds like you have made some nice improvements that the community is enjoying. No need to take a wrecking ball to a celebration. Good luck!

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