Q&A: Replacing Shrubs

We are an 11-unit condo. association. In May 2006 two board members decided to  remove our 19-year-old mature beautiful shrubs (azaleas & rhododendrons) from in front of our units. They promised to replace them by September 2006. It has not been done, so we  have had weeds since then. They have devalued our property. Should I contact an  attorney? Can I replace them myself and deduct from my monthly maintenance  fees?  

 —Stuck in the Weeds

 “There are several places the unit owner must look in order to determine the  answer to this question. First, the unit owner should look to the minutes of  the board meeting of May 2006, to determine the board acted with a proper vote  to remove the bushes,” says Geoffrey Mazel, Esq. of the law firm of Hankin, Handwerker & Mazel, PLLC in New York. “The question states that ‘two board members’ decided to remove the bushes, the issue is how many board members are there? If  there are only three, it would seem the board had a proper vote.  

 “Next issue, is to determine the nature of the land where the bushes existed. If  the land is part of the common elements, the New York State Condominium Act and  most likely the bylaws and declarations of the condominium will clearly state  that the board has full authority to determine how the land is used, including  landscaping. However, if the unit has a written alteration agreement with the  board to plant the bushes, they may have a course of action.  

 “This is a small condominium, my best advice to the questioner is to run for the  board and have the bushes replanted or meet with the board and plead your case.  A lawsuit is not an option in this situation.  

 “Finally, the unit owner has no right to deduct any of his/her alleged damages  from their monthly common charges. To do so may result in a condominium lien  being placed on the property and may result in liability for the condominium’s legal fees and administrative fees.”  


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