B.C. from Florida writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I have had a small flower garden with a small birdbath for 15 years in a courtyard shared by 3 other units. I maintain and keep the area neat. I just received a violation letter from the board, (which I am a member of) to remove the plants and birdbath. I am friendly with my neighbors and never heard a complaint. After 15 years can the board now require me to remove the plants and birdbath?
Mister Condo replies:
B.C., this is such an unfortunate situation and I am afraid you may not like my answer. Unless your condo documents state that unit owners are allowed to plant or decorate the association-owned common areas like your shared courtyard, then the association is quite probably correct to prohibit you and any other unit owner from planting or decorating any association-owned common area. That being said, they do need to enforce this provision unilaterally throughout the association. In other words, they cannot simply cite you for the violation while three or four other unit owners go about their business of maintaining another area of the common grounds. One possible solution is for you to acknowledge that you understand that the plants and birdbath are on association-owned property but you would like to offer to maintain the area free of charge to the association and open to any alterations of decoration and planting that the association desires. You might even offer to spearhead a Beautification Committee that would assist the Board in keeping the property nicely decorated. However, the Board is final authority on this matter and you will need to yield to their request, even after 15 years of maintaining the area as you like. When I have seen similar instances in the past, it is usually because a unit owner decides to get creative and install a garden gnome or LED light up lawn ornament or Pink Flamingo that another unit owner complains about. At that time, the Board needs to take uniform action to correct the problem. That may very well be what happened here. Good luck!