Q: The landscaping in our condominium needs to be updated and the Board just started replacing some of the landscaping vegetation. Some of the vegetation is different in species, age, size, and color. The membership did not approve this, so how can the Board do this?
A: This question hints at the concept of a material alteration. Generally, if the condominium association wants to materially alter the common elements or association property, it must obtain the membership’s approval. A material alteration is essentially a palpable or perceptive change to the use, function or appearance of the common elements or association property. If the Board desired to change the paint color of the clubhouse, or add carports over parking spaces, these alterations require membership approval under the statute.
With landscaping, however, it is important to note that the relative arbitration decisions provide a significant amount of deference to the Board’s discretion on landscaping decisions. Largely, decisions on landscaping fall within the Board’s business judgment and the determination of whether particular species should be replaced generally falls in the Board’s discretion without membership approval. This would also probably apply to moving shrubs or changing the size of the vegetation.
This discretion is not without limits. If the landscaping alterations result in a significant change in landscape scheme, it may constitute a material alteration. For example, if the current landscaping is a Tuscan theme, and the proposed replacement is a desert cactus theme, that may require membership approval.
Q: My neighbors obtained approval from the homeowners association to install security cameras. I am worried that the neighbor is going to use these cameras to watch us or our children in our home. Can I prevent the neighbors from installing these cameras?
-TY, Vero Beach
A: This is an excellent question and a very fact specific question. In a homeowners association, lot owners are generally permitted to install security devices and cameras for security purposes. The documents may require the association to approve the installation, but it can be accomplished.
That is very different from the relative privacy interests. As you can imagine, if the cameras catch you walking your dog down a sidewalk in the middle of the day, that is very different from a camera pointed at your bedroom. In the first example, you have very little expectation of privacy because you voluntarily walked out into a public space, and in the second situation, you have a very high expectation of privacy for obvious reasons.
If the HOA approves the camera installation, and unless the governing documents specifically address this, your dispute with your neighbor may be a private dispute between neighbors over privacy rights. You may have recourse, but I would recommend consulting a licensed Florida attorney and reviewing a copy of the HOA approval to determine whether the HOA addressed the location and direction of the cameras.