Beware the Subversive Flowers

Well, it’s happened again, this time in New Hampshire (you know, the Live Free or Die state?  Yeah, right–apparently not in condominium complexes).  A woman who had permission from the developer of her condominium project to plant perennials and shrubs that she brought from her late mother’s garden in and around her condominium unit has received no fewer than 13 “cease and desist” notices from her Homeowner’s Association for inappropriate “development of the property” according to this story in the Seacoastonline.

What sorts of perennials and shrubs are we discussing?  Is it something rangy and weedy like wildflowers?  (Not that it would matter if it were, mind you, just that those are less likely to be acceptable in a community where people live in close quarters).  Not at all.  She’s growing bearded iris, lavender, hydrangea, daisies (no variety specified) and tulips.

Unfortunately, she may lose her case because in common interest communities, like condominiums, when you buy a property you buy being aware of the restrictions involved.  And the developer did advise her that once the condominium board was established, her right to have those flowers might not continue.

I do think she has a good argument, however, for the law of being “grandfathered in.”  She should be able to maintain those plants, as is, as long as she lives there and is able to maintain them.  Once she sells her unit, however, it should revert to condominium board rules and regulations–unless the board comes to its senses and realizes that she is actually raising the property values of all the units with her plantings.

Darned fools!

4 thoughts on “Beware the Subversive Flowers

  1. planthoarder March 30, 2012 / 8:59 am

    I’d heard about this. The developer should have included her in the sales contract. I’m sure the board will argue that she only has control of her condo, not the land. The board argues that once she leaves the maintenance of a garden will be more expensive than lawn mowing, but can’t they just deal with that at the time? They’ve fined her thousands of dollars when all she needs to do is sign a contract that states she will incur the cost of plant removal and installation of grass. Their real fear is that more condo owners will want to garden because she has one.

  2. gardendaze March 30, 2012 / 9:22 am

    Yes, I agree about the fear that “once she has a garden everyone will want one.” But the grandfathering rule I mentioned would surely take care of that, as well as a provision requiring her to remove the plants once she sells (which she would probably want to do since they were her mother’s and “pass-along plants” with sentimental value often travel with their owners from home to home–or are given to other gardening relatives once the owner gets to old to garden).

    And yes, a nice little agreement requiring her to do the maintenance would solve this issue once and for all. The agreement could state that she’s been grandfathered in by the developer (solving the “she has one, so now I want one” problem), require her to do the maintenence or pay for the maintenence and require her to return the property to the board’s idea of what it should be (ie, grass, sod, whatever, but that should be clearly spelled out ahead of time becasue condo boards change every couple of years!)

    What a nightmare for this poor woman! This is why we’re negotiating for condo legislation and more protections for owners in CT!

  3. planthoarder March 30, 2012 / 10:27 am

    I always wondered why people would want a condo where you “own” it, but other people have a large say in what you can do. I figured they were people who did not want the bother of yard/snow maintenance, whether due to infirmity or just to be free of it. There are neighbors who fight what actual homeowners want to do with their yards, so I’m not sure which way the courts will sway on this one, since it seems she would have even less legal protection. Good luck with your legislation fight!

  4. gardendaze March 30, 2012 / 10:37 am

    Well, you know we’re all in trouble when we have to call in the government because “civilized” people can’t play nicely, right?

    I’m not sure what kind of condo this person lives in but a huge number of folks here are moving to these “active adult” communities in part for the reasons you suggest–not to ahve to deal with lawns and snow removal but also partially because they’re only responsible for “inside” maintenace issues as well and the housing stock here is fairly old. Why have a large, aging house why you can have a smaller, shiny new one?

    What I don’t think people bargain for is the power issues that some of these boards have. I lived in a condo–as a renter–when I first moved up here and it was a great experience. But I have heard some real nightmare stories, especially among smaller condos. I live in a place with a homeowners association now. It’s not terribly restrictive but even here folks can get a little squirrly about certain things.

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