Richard White: Try conversation with unruly neighbor

Q. I live in a homeowner association. Recently, my neighbor decided he does not like us. They try to stop the kids from the neighborhood playing in our yard since the children talk and are loud when they play. He is extremely aggressive if either my child or dog steps over the property line. It makes living here very hard since our yards are next to each other. My question is, can I put a fence up on my property to prevent fights with my nasty neighbor even if the rules say we cannot? Are there any circumstances that allow us to go against the rules of the HOA? What steps can I take to separate this neighbor from my child? A.M. — Naples

A. My first advice is to keep calm. No good solution can come if you are as aggressive as your neighbor. No, I do not believe that you can install a fence if your documents do not allow fencing. You can talk to your board, but I believe the end will not be positive. I would ask the board if they would help set up a meeting with you and your neighbor to try to find out his problem and what you can do to correct or improve the situation. What would be wrong if you and a board member call him and ask him to a meeting over coffee and cake to talk about the problem? From time to time, you need to meet your neighbors in a friendly conversation and who can refuse apple pie? I would have the kids available at their best behavior to meet the neighbor as they seem to be part of the problem. As to the dog, keep him locked up as he can turn a conversation into a barking problem. If he refuses, invite the wife to talk over coffee and pie.

Q. I have been informed that changes have been made to Statute 718.111 effective Jan. 1, 2004. This has to do with condominium insurance changes. I live in a condominium and have had water damage that the condominium insists is not their responsibility. But, according to the statute, the master policy of the association should state that anything from the drywall in is covered by the condominium including plumbing inside interior walls where my leak originated. I not sure who to turn to make my point. I am only talking about $500. Making a legal matter out of this will probably cost me more.

A. As in past years, the association is not responsible for losses to personal property and each owner should have insurance to cover those losses. When it comes to utility lines, such as water pipes, you need to review your documents as to the point of responsibility by you and the association. Yes, the association would be responsible for repairs to drywall on common walls but the documents would determine interior wall responsibility. In most situations, the owner is responsible for the utility lines from the point that one unit is served and the association is responsible at the point where two or more units are served. Again, it would depend on your documents.

Q. In the past year or so, some occupants, both renters and owners, have turned out to have had felony criminal backgrounds and have caused trouble in the community. I think our bylaws state that background checks must be made before allowing anyone to buy or rent. I know this is not being done or is being ignored. Can our bylaws be amended to keep paroled felons, child molesters and all other identified risks from buying or renting here? C.F. — Miami

A. Do not confuse screening and background checks. Many documents require that new residents be screened. With the liberal concepts of screening and background checks, little can be done when checking backgrounds as you may violate their civil rights. In many cases, about the only thing an association can do is have the prospective resident fill out a simple form. I suggest that the board seek guidance from the association’s attorney in establishing a policy to screen and complete background checks. If you have the right to check backgrounds, a company like Renters Reference can help (800-432-0606). For a fee, they will check the criminal background and credit check. You can search other companies that can provide similar services by checking the Internet. I must caution you again that unless you have an approved policy and your documents allow such investigations, they may not be legal.

Q. I am having difficulty in finding out the regulations regarding condominiums concerning the use of temporary generators. We are a 150-unit complex. We would like to advise our owners as to what the guidelines are, if in fact they are even allowed. L.P. — Miami

A. One thing missing in your question is the type of building, a high-rise with inside halls or a low-rise building with outside catwalks. I do not believe the state has directly addressed condominiums and the restrictions on temporary use of generators because of the varying buildings. However, the local fire department or other county or city agencies may have restrictions. You must use common sense if you allow generators around a building. Gas and fuel have explosive and fire possibilities if improperly stored or used and many documents do not allow the storage of combustibles. Generators create toxic fumes that can kill if not properly ventilated. Improper wiring can cause shocks that can electrocute and kill people. They are noisy and can create situations of disturbing neighbors. I would recommend that boards be very careful about allowing generators without proper legal advice and strict usage of them. You should contact your insurance agent about possible exclusions in your insurance coverage. I would further suggest that a small generator would not provide the power required to support the needs to operate more than a few lights, a TV set, and maybe a refrigerator part-time. To get more power, you increase the cost of the unit. Is it worth the cost to operate these limited systems? Chances are that you will not be out of power for more than a few days. A generator is very expensive for just a few days use.

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Richard White is a licensed community association manager in Florida. Questions should be mailed to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd. # 201, Winter Haven, Fl. 33884-4415; e-mail To be considered, questions and comments should include the author’s name and city. Questions should be about association operations, not legal matters.

© 2006 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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