Q&A: Board Neglecting Maintenance Obligations

Q We live in a small tract called Mayfield, which consists of 51 houses, each of them being approximately 1,200 square feet to around 1,500 square feet. We originally bought our home in 1992; it was the first lot in the development. We have an extra-large lot with a cement fence separating our home from the main road. On each side of our drive, there is a large retention pond; both sides are always dry as we sit on a hill. Both sides are owned/shared by the adjacent four landowners. We pay the taxes on our part of the pond but cannot build or plant anything on our share.

We have no back fence and, for a large lot to give the impression of serenity—especially in the summer months, it needs a good monthly mowing. All drainage pipes go into the pond, and I feel that the HOA should, as a courtesy, mow the pond at least four times a year as it is visible from the main road. Sadly, the only people who mow the pond are us. The other three neighbors just ignore it entirely. We try to keep it beautiful but we're 77 and 85 years old, respectively. It's just become too much work, and we cannot afford to have it professionally maintained. Once it grows weeds, it will invite an accumulation of trash and other debris, followed then by rats and even snakes. The other side of the retention pond is completely fenced off, but unfortunately, it too is an eyesore. It has large trees and is filled with trash, and is crawling with snakes. The brush is overgrown to the point where it's impossible to mow. We pay $190 annually in fees, yet we have no pool, no clubhouse, no anything, and the HOA always has a surplus. When they do spend money, it's on stupid, unnecessary whims.

I have been on the board for 23 years but the HOA refuses to allow anyone to speak at meetings unless they're an officer of the association. How can we get the HOA to spring for the pond to be maintained during the summer? If you have a complaint, they ask that you write them a letter, which they just ignore. They have a terrible rapport with residents, and set up rules arbitrarily with little-to-no input. What is our move here to get the board to deal with its maintenance obligations?

—Bothered in Brandon

A “My best advice is to hire an attorney to read the governing documents to determine what the association legally is required to maintain,” according to attorney Rachel E. Frydman, a managing member of The Frydman Law Group, PLLC, in Coral Springs.

“If it turns out they are obligated to maintain that area by the pond, then you can utilize the remedies given to owners in Florida law and in the governing documents to force the association to complete its obligations. Alternatively, you could complete a recall of the board members that are failing to do their job and appoint new board members in their place who will take on the necessary work to maintain the association.”

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