Monday, June 13, 2011
Help Me Howard: Palm Tree
Being told by a condo or homeowner association you have to do something is about as common as an afternoon thunderstorm. But did you know the associations only have a certain amount of time to get you? Or do they? Here is Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser with the answer.
WSVN -- Like many of us, Norma McNamee is proud of her yard.
Norma McNamee, Missing a Palm?: "I love landscaping, I love roses. I just love flowers. I will plant roses, I will plant flowers."
She loves planting things. Most of the time.
Norma McNamee: "But I don't want to plant a palm tree, because I think it's not necessary."
Norma's headache began six years ago when Hurricane Wilma knocked down one of her palm trees.
Norma McNamee: "It used to be right here. This is the diseased palm tree that the hurricane knocked over."
One palm tree was gone, but two remained. Norma was happy with two.
For six years, the Silver Shores Association was happy with two. Then...
Norma McNamee: "It took them six years to realize I was missing a palm tree."
And when they realized Norma only had two palm trees, they were not happy.
Norma McNamee: "They told me there is no argument, it has to be replaced, and they need a 12-foot foxtail palm, and those things are expensive."
In this letter, Norma was told she was required to have three palm trees. She also had to pay $100 and submit an application to the Architectural Review Board to replace the third palm.
Norma had a response to their demand.
Norma McNamee: "I think it's stupid. I think they nitpick."
Then, she found out how much the 12-foot palm the association wanted her to buy would cost.
Norma McNamee: "No, I don't have $600 to waste, and I think it's a waste of money. I don't have $600 to float around."
Norma is not alone. Silver Shores is going after many residents who don't have the required third palm tree in their front yard.
Norma McNamee: "Straight down the road, right there, they got two. The next one, they got two. Quite a few neighbors, they got two palms."
Norma says quite a few of her neighbors are as aggravated as she is about the board's decision, and when Norma describes the demand, that one word keeps popping up over and over.
Norma McNamee: "Your home is supposed to be where you are enjoyable, not supposed to be aggravated by nitpicking, and I think this is nitpicking."
Well Howard, Norma thinks it's nitpicking, but we need your legal opinion. Can a board wait six years to tell a homeowner, 'Oh, you need to replace the palm tree that Wilma knocked over?'"
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "No, they cannot wait six years. Appellate courts have ruled that homeowners associations have five years from when they knew or should have known that a violation occurred to take action, and in this case, a missing tree was obvious to anyone who looked."
When I spoke to Castle Management, which works for the association, they told me the association wanted the 1200 homes in the area to look nice.
When I told them Howard said the statute of limitations had expired, blocking them from forcing Norma to replace the palm, they told me their lawyer disagreed with Howard's opinion, that they would work with Norma to find a way to help her afford the palm, but she had to plant the 12-foot tree.
Norma can't afford that, and Howard says she doesn't have to.
Howard Finkelstein: "In most cases like this, the only way a condo or homeowners association can force you to do something after the five-year statute of limitations has expired is to take you to court. If they do, they will lose. It's that simple. And in many cases, they have to pay your attorney's fees."
Since the law is on her side, Norma hopes the association leaves her alone.
Norma McNamee: "I didn't do it. The hurricane did it. So I don't feel I should be responsible to replace a palm tree that cost hundreds of dollars."
Patrick Fraser: "Norma says the management group's local representative told her the City of Miramar required her to replace the tree, but that's not likely. Miramar's code clearly says the city doesn't get involved if a tree is knocked down by an Act of God, and hurricanes are Acts of God. We will keep an eye on this and see what the association does to Norma."
Someone planted a problem in your lap? Ready to uproot it? Contact us. We won't have to go out on a limb, and hopefully, our work will grow on you.
Engle v Acopian (requires Adobe PDF)
Fox v Madsen (requires Adobe PDF)
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com