C.U. from Middlesex County writes:
I am being fined by my condo association for planting roses in front of my unit. There is a small patch of garden that once grew some type of ugly ivy that died off a few years ago when my building was sided and the siding installers trampled all over the planting area. I was tired of looking at mud so I planted three small rose bushes. I got a letter telling me I can’t plant anything there and that I will be fined $25 per day if I don’t remove them. I want to fight this fine and keep my roses. What can I do?
Mister Condo replies:
C.U., I am sorry that your beautification efforts have come to this. I can see where you felt justified in planting roses in your trampled flower bed. I can also see where your association doesn’t want you (and all of your other neighbors) deciding on their own what type of flowers to plant in front of their units. This is not an uncommon problem in condos
We need to start at the beginning. The condo hired a company to install siding on your building. I am pretty sure that the contract didn’t ask for their workers to trample your flower bed but it sounds like the flower bed was damaged during the siding installation. Once the siding work was completed, the flower beds should have been replanted. It is possible that the association is planning on doing this work but hasn’t yet done so or it is possible that this work has been overlooked. Did you ever call your property manager to complain about the trampled flower bed? That should have been your first choice.
Almost all condos have rules about what unit owners can and can’t do regarding building exteriors. These rules cover everything from colors of front doors to regulations about wind chimes and everything in between. These rules also have enforcement procedures which is what gives the Board their teeth in enforcing these rules. Ultimately, enforcement of the rules is in all unit owners benefit so it is important that the Board have the ability to enforce the rules. Unfortunately, the nature of your offense hardly seems worthy of the fines they are threatening against you.
Sometimes, there is a common ground solution that makes sense to all parties. First off, I would remove the roses that you’ve planted. This is a sign that you are willing to work with the Board to fix the problem. Second, I would petition the Board to immediately repair your damaged flower bed. They may choose to simply plant ivy to replace what was originally there. If ivy is the choice for flower beds throughout your condo, so be it. However, the Board may be open to a suggestion from you that they consider roses or other colorful flowers to help beautify the common grounds. Beautification benefits all residents with increased curb appeal and a more pleasant living condition. You’ll never know if you don’t ask.
The lesson to be learned in this is that living in a condo is not as simple as living in your own home when it comes to making changes to your home, especially when it comes to building exteriors. Going it alone is a formula for disappointment. Maintaining a community’s architectural integrity and landscaping is one of the Board’s duties as outlined in your condo’s rules and regulations. It is one of the reasons so many people are drawn to the condo lifestyle. Work with your Board to bring about change. Volunteer to serve on a Beautification Committee or ask to create one if there isn’t one. Volunteer to serve on the Board if you want a first-hand look and say on how the property looks. You may just find everything come up roses!