I live in an HOA community in West Palm Beach. I have two tall shrubs (about six and a half feet tall) in the front of my home. They were planted by the previous owner in 2003. I purchased the home in 2004. The architectural standards at that time did not specify a maximum height for shrubs. In 2006, the board decided to impose a maximum shrub height of five feet. Because one of these shrubs is a topiary, I would have to chop off the top “globe” on the topiary—thereby destroying its beauty — in order to comply.
The previous owner did not leave me any approval documentation, probably because it was not required at that time. The board is now fining me $100 per day (maximum of $1,000).
I don’t want to pay them, nor do I want to destroy the two beautiful shrubs which have been in the ground for ten years now. — Signed, C.T.
In general, the board or architectural control committee’s power to govern your lot is no broader than is granted in the declaration of covenants. So your first step would be to evaluate your declaration, see exactly what the board may govern, and see if they have overstepped their bounds by regulating landscaping directly on your lot. You say that there previously were no hedge or shrub guidelines — it’s quite possible that your declaration doesn’t give the board the power to govern plants within an owner’s property.
However, in your situation you have a very solid defense; the plants have been there since 2003, the board passed the height regulation in 2006, and it is just now, nearly seven years later, that the association is pursuing you for the violation. As the statute of limitations on covenant enforcement is five years, we believe that the association has waived its right to enforce the height covenant against you as it pertains to these topiaries, assuming that they have been visible, out in the open, and taller than five feet for more than the five-years period.
I just left an HOA meeting wherein we discussed, among other things, whether someone who is on the nominating committee can run for office. Our newly appointed property manager seemed to think that there is a conflict of interest if a member of the committee runs for office.
The property manager was advised that there’s nothing in the deed restrictions or in the by-laws that would preclude someone on the committee from running for a position. She said that she would check the statute to see whether or not there’s any prohibition.
I would like your opinion on the matter. — Signed, E.A.
The question of “conflict of interest” is a tricky one. Some conflicts of interest are guided by statute, for example when a condominium board member is voting on a contract with his or her own company. Some are simply within the nature of being a volunteer board member in a community where you are also an owner. Board members, by nature, are not completely independent — they do have an interest in the community that is different than that of an independent manager. Not all conflicts are illegal — some are just conflicts that need to be worked around.
This is one of those instances. It certainly seems odd for a member of a nominating committee to nominate themselves for the board. However, the HOA Act says very specifically that “all members of the association are eligible to serve on the board of directors, and a member may nominate himself or herself as a candidate for the board …” We think this language would override any potential conflict from a prospective board member serving on the nominating committee, as that person is expressly allowed to nominate themselves, as is every single eligible owner within the community.