J.O. from Hartford County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Recently, my condo association sent me a letter that I have to remove my garden that I had placed below my deck about 6 years ago. It was the length of the deck and about 6 feet deep. It was in the common area, but I had asked a board member (the president) at the time if I can have a garden there. I was told that I can, as long as I do the upkeep and do not plant shrubs or trees. The new board still decided that I have to remove it and replant grass there. I complied with that, even though there are few other unit owners that have gardens in the back of their units, and I was told that this rule will be applicable to all. Still waiting for a response from my management company as to which units were notified to remove their gardens besides mine. Over the years I have invested significant amount of money there, and I feel like I am being singled out. Can I sue them for my losses?
Now, I have received a letter from my association that stated that I am in violation of another rule. This time it is towels and my 3 year-old child’s cloths that are being dried on the deck. The deck is enclosed, and my child is allergic to wearing clothes that have been dried in the gas drier. I do not see anything in rules and regulations about the laundry. All is there “No hangings of an offensive nature shall be permitted to be hung from the exterior of any unit or in portions of the interior of any unit which shall be visible from the common elements”. Is there anything that I can do about this?
I have also heard from one of the unit owners, that I was also accused of speeding. All the accusations come from the same unit owner. I do not speed. I have a three year-old son who I have to watch very closely when he plays outside, so that he does not run on the road. I drive a standard shift Honda Civic, and from my unit to the stop sign there is a distance of about 20 yards, and another 30 I am guessing that I will be receiving another letter soon about that. Is there anything that can be done about this? Thanks for your advice.
Mister Condo replies:
J.O., miscommunication between condo boards and the residents that dwell inside the condominium is always a challenge. When a board member casually grants permission for a resident to disobey a rule, any rule, there is almost always consequences. I am sorry for your troubles but let’s talk about what can be done to rectify the situation.
With regards to your garden, the Board president who told you it was acceptable to plant under your deck truly did you no favor. While he may have been willing to look the other way while the community rule was broken, the new Board is not. Had he offered to bring it up for a vote at the next Board meeting, he may have been able to get the rule changed to allow you and other community members as well to create under deck planting areas. Since that didn’t happen, I don’t see where you have any grounds to contest the Board’s request that you remove the garden and restore the common area to its original condition. However, if this rule is not being applied unilaterally and you feel you are being discriminated against you should contact an attorney to bring a discrimination suit against your Board. Discrimination is illegal and the rules need to be applied fairly and evenly.
Drying of clothes on decks is generally forbidden at most condos. Even though it may seem petty to you, most of your neighbors would likely agree that they don’t want to see everyone else’s laundry being aired throughout the complex. There has been debate on this topic and federal level. To date, it is up to the condo association to make the call. It sounds like yours has decided against the practice. I think you will need to find another way to dry your laundry. Perhaps an electric dryer if the gas one is an allergy problem for your child.
As for speeding or any other rule infraction you are accused of, your Board needs to follow a simple process of notifying you that an infraction has been reported. You have the right to address the Board to say what you have told me and the Board has the right to discuss the matter and determine whether or not a violation has occurred. They then have the discretionary authority to levy a fine against you if they deem the offense occurred. My guess is once you present your case as you’ve done here, they’ll drop it.
It sounds like you have made an enemy in a unit owner who is reporting things about you to the Board. Neighbor versus neighbor issues are the most difficult to control in small condo associations. If you can’t make nice with this person, you will likely be cited for more infractions, real or imagined. My guess is that once you repair your garden, stop air drying your laundry on your deck, and make peace with your Board, these complaints will stop. If not, you might consider speaking with an attorney to discuss how best to get this neighbor to stop complaining against you. Not breaking the association rules is generally the best way to make it stop but sometimes it just takes a bit more. Best wishes!