Homeowners board adopts hands-off stance on snow removal | Inman News

Homeowners board adopts hands-off stance on snow removal

Sidewalk-clearing leeway may snowball into bigger problem

By Barry Stone, Monday, April 11, 2011.

Inman News™

Flickr image courtesy of <a href=Flickr image courtesy of Mash Down Babylon.

Dear Barry: The board of directors of my homeowners association has decided not to enforce snow removal on the sidewalks of homeowners’ properties. The CC&Rs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions) simply state that homeowners must maintain sidewalks on their property.

The original board of directors accepted complaints about homeowners not removing snow, and routinely sent out violation notices. But the new board members say they do not have the right to enforce snow removal because the CC&Rs only use the word "maintain."

How can I convince the board that they need to enforce snow removal for the good of residents and visitors? –Susan

Dear Susan: The board of directors has apparently abandoned common sense. We live in a litigious society. Everyone knows that a slip-and-fall accident on an icy sidewalk has the potential to become an expensive lawsuit.

Perhaps a letter from an attorney should be sent to the board to educate them about the risks they are assuming.

As for their understanding of the verb "to maintain," further education is recommended. The Merriam-Webster definition of "maintain" is to "keep in an existing state (as of repair, efficiency, or validity); to preserve from failure or decline."

A snow-covered sidewalk is not in a state of efficiency or validity because it cannot be used efficiently or possibly at all. If it fails in its intended function, then it clearly has not been maintained.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, "to maintain" means to "keep (a building, machine, or road) in good condition or in working order by checking or repairing it regularly."

A snow-covered sidewalk is definitely not "in working order." By either definition, keeping a sidewalk clear of snow is obviously part of normal maintenance. Anyone who is unable to see this may not be qualified to serve on a board of directors.

Dear Barry: We live on a 10-acre parcel and are concerned about the 10 acres next door. The property is listed for sale, and the listing agent is not disclosing that the property has major drainage problems and that a driveway variance is needed to provide year-round access. Some unsuspecting buyers will have to deal with these issues after they move in and discover how difficult it is to get a variance from the zoning commission in this county. Can you see any solution to this problem? –Karen

Dear Karen: Your concern for your future neighbors is commendable. Here is a creative approach that may convince the agent and broker to disclose the issues that affect the property.

A letter should be sent by certified mail to the agent and broker, and they should sign to receive those letters. The purpose of the letter would be threefold:

1. It would list the problems that need to be disclosed.

2. It would remind the agent and broker that they are required to disclose all known defects.

3. It would inform the agent and broker that a copy of the letter and the certified receipts that they signed would be provided to buyers of the property to be used as evidence of nondisclosure if problems should arise.

Hopefully, this would awaken their sense of professional and ethical responsibility.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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