By Marty Platts, Esq. / Published September 2022
Have you ever asked yourself, why would anyone want to live in a community that could restrict your every move? The answer may surprise you: a change in lifestyle. What exactly draws individuals to homeowners and condominium communities? The various amenities and an impressive, well-manicured landscape, the likes only seen at five-star hotels.
However, that new lifestyle comes at a price. Amenities must be properly maintained, and the cost thereof is a common expense to all residents.
While providing various amenities may attract buyers, it is just as important for the board of directors of the community to properly manage, diligently maintain, and upgrade (when necessary) the amenities.
Let’s start with amenities such as swimming pools, spas, gyms, fully equipped kitchen/clubhouses, and many other attractions. These amenities may be excellent tools to draw individuals and families into restricted-living communities. However, like any other investment, the amenities should be under the watchful, vigilant eyes of licensed, reputable, and insured vendors experienced, for example, in pool maintenance, gym equipment repairs, etc.
It would also serve these boards well to inform residents about usage rules and proper safety procedures as well as to organize the days and times that vendors will be at the community so as to infringe on or interfere with the residents’ peaceful use of the amenities and surroundings as little as possible.
Next, maintaining that impressive, well-manicured landscape can be both time-consuming and cost prohibitive if the grounds are not well maintained by hired professionals. For example, while a tree may look sick to the naked eye of residents demanding its removal, a careful investigation by the board of directors of the community may reveal that the “sickly looking tree” was planted by the developer and, therefore, it is just showing its age. Perhaps pruning and fertilization by the community-retained landscaping vendor may save the tree from its demise. Inspections of the grounds on a contractual weekly basis can proactively prevent unnecessary costly replacement of landscaped grounds and plantings.
As a side note, although trees in common areas within HOA and condominium associations are unlikely to be affected by §163.045, Florida Statutes, addressing the removal of dangerous trees, it is important for the board of directors for the community to review the community’s covenants as most covenants that limit cutting down trees may, for now, still be enforceable.
Next up are those pesty pests. Unfortunately, even in communities with well-maintained amenities and landscaping, there will be times when those unwanted guests called “pests” come calling. Dealing with pest infestations can be costly, time-consuming, and damaging to property. Pro-actively preventing these infestations, to the extent possible, is the best solution. For example, in an HOA and/or condominium community, the governing documents can provide for monthly pest control service for all amenities, the grounds, and the interior of the units. While a single bed bug incident may not seem like an urgent health problem, the issue can quickly spiral out of control, especially in a condominium setting. A once-a-year overall inspection for termites should also be considered in condominium communities, assuming the governing documents include this preventive service.
Care should also be taken of the walking trails within the landscaping grounds, where mosquitos also find refuge. It is a good idea to have both the pest control and landscaping vendors check all areas (e.g., potted plants, gutters, garbage/recycle containers) for things such as standing water, which is a notorious breeding ground for mosquitos. Also, if the community is adjacent to or surrounded by a lake, make sure to engage a lake maintenance vendor to prevent these bodies of water from becoming breeding grounds for pests. Certain pests can pose serious health risks to the residents.
An influx of untreated pest infestations can cause a financial drain in HOA and condominium budgets. From a financial perspective, the quicker a pest infestation is addressed and treated, the less disruptive it will be to the residents.
While most modern pest control is undertaken with non-toxic chemicals, persistent problems may require something more. In those instances, the importance of a licensed pest control vendor that is up to date on regulations governing pesticide use both generally and in residential areas is key to minimize damage to landscaping as well as the residents and their pets.
Offering well-maintained amenities and landscaped grounds can be a unique experience for residents looking for a change in lifestyle. It can all be accomplished without investing excessive time or expending common expenses. Engaging the services of well-trained, highly qualified professionals is the perfect tool.
Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The value of proactively preventing pest attacks in the community, can be immeasurable.
Ms. Platts is an attorney in the Becker community association practice group where she represents condominium, homeowner, and cooperative associations, assisting board members with the day-to-day operations, budget, corporate governance, contracts, enforcement of association covenants, and management issues. Throughout her 16 years in the legal profession, Ms. Platts has also garnered experience in the areas of mass tort litigation, personal injury, wrongful death, international law, RICO, and criminal law at both the state and federal levels. For more information, call (561) 655-5444, email email@example.com, or visit www.beckerlawyers.com.