Monday, February 9, 2009
Help Me Howard: Kids Can't Play
Playing outside with your friends is one of the best parts about being a kid, but in one association it was game over when residents were told, children can no longer play in the common areas. Disobey and face fines, so upset parents exercised their right to turn to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- The sights and sounds of kids playing. It's one of the reasons Tonya Smith moved to Waterford Crossings in Sunrise.
Tonya Smith: "Safe, it was an ideal environment to raise a family."
The kids love to play in this parking lot that dead ends in the neighborhood, and usually the adults love to come out and watch. Well, most of the adults.
Tonya Smith: "Got home, got a letter in the door that basically said the kids were not allowed to play outside."
The Jan. 10 letter from the management company claimed a security camera taped a 4-year-old running in front of a car, that other children had damaged plants and trees, that there were negligent parents in the neighborhood, and from now on, children cannot play in the parking lot or ride their bikes on the roads.
Tonya Smith: "My daughter was crying, 'What am I going to do? I just got my Rip Stick for Christmas and now I can't even play outside.'"
Children were upset, parents were dumbfounded.
Tonya Smith: "There is so much literature now, exercise, exercise, get the kids out, don't let them sit home and watch TV, and they are telling us to do the opposite. I disagree with it."
Many parents disagreed, refused to lock their kids inside, and let them go out and play, so the management company did their Barney Fife imitation and started writing tickets.
Melanie Wright: "Yes, a $100 fine. I think it's terrible because I was out here with the children, and my children are 15 and 12."
If you thought they were upset at being told to lock up their kids, imagine the faces when they were slapped with fines for letting their kids play.
Michelle Zymet: "I'm out of a job, unfortunately, so I'm definitely not paying a $100 fine, and where they came up with $100 I have no idea."
Further infuriating the parents, when the kids are outside so are the parents.
Michelle Zymet: "We don't have kids out here unsupervised. There is at least one parent watching them at all times."
As far as the parents know, the association never approved this ban-kids-and-fine-parents plan. They tried to talk to the the association president, who also happens to be the property manager about it, but that was an exercise all right... in futility.
Tonya Smith: "She was not available, did not return my calls, and basically, I got nowhere with that."
All right, Howard, the parents want to know, can a property manager decide on her own to ban children from playing outside and then fine the parents who have the audacity to ignore her?
Howard Finkelstein: "I have looked at the association's documents, and they can stop children from playing in the common area without adult supervision, but they cannot ban children from playing outside if an adult resident is watching them."
When we asked the property manager, what gives them the right to ban kids from playing, she told us it's in the documents. They obviously interpret them differently than Howard. Howard says she is wrong and so are the fines.
Howard Finkelstein: "If you got a fine, don't pay it. Write them a letter, and tell them it's illegal. Then go get on the board because the association could vote to ban kids from playing even when supervised. That's why parents need to get on the board to block it."
The kids can now play outside, and their parents can watch without having to pay.
Tonya Smith: "We want to have our kids be allowed to play outside with no precautions, with no legal precautions."
Now the property manager realizes they cannot force the parents to pay the fines. She told us she was just trying to get their attention. Apparently, she acted on her own because the board did not vote to fine parents.
An association with a problem left you ready to swing a board? That's not fine, so contact us. What we do is not kid's play, cause we are too slow and out of shape for kid's play.
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