Sunrise couple clashing with association after $3,500 yard upgrade

Article Courtesy of Sun Sentinel

By Joe Kollin

Published March 7, 2007


Just because you live in a single-family house doesn't mean you are king or queen of your castle.

Just ask Malcolm and Helen Bernstein.

They live in a four-bedroom house in the Welleby community in Sunrise. Helen Bernstein, who didn't like the dull lawn in front of her house -- and every other house -- in her neighborhood, decided to spruce it up.


"I love pretty things. I want to make the yard as beautiful as possible," she said, and spent more than $3,500 for a landscaper, plants, planter, sprinklers and more.

But a homeowner association governs Welleby, a development with 4,511 units including houses and townhouses. And associations have rules that owners agree to obey when they buy.

Welleby's rules don't allow anything in front yards between the house and the sidewalk, according to Paul Callsen, president of the Welleby Management Association. So the association, which doesn't maintain property at individual homes, cited the couple for violating the rule.

The Bernsteins weren't ordered to dig up everything they planted. "The board voted to tell the manager to come up with a compromise," Callsen said.

The manager, Pat Straight, went to the house on Feb. 8 but Malcolm Bernstein said his wife would handle it.

So far, "she hasn't gotten back to us," said Callsen. The association's deadline for compliance is coming up soon. If there's no compromise, the homeowner could be required to appear before a committee that could allow a fine of $100 a day until the problem is corrected, up to $1,000.

Helen Bernstein, who promises to get with the manager, said she understands the need for enforcing rules to keep property values up.

Grass not greener
Malcom and Helen Bernstein landscaped their front yard in Sunrise to make it attractive and the homeowner association, the Welleby Managaement Association, says that violates the rules and wants it removed. If not removed, the Bernsteins could be fined. The Bernsteins say all they want to do is make their yard attractive.


"They say they want to keep up the aesthetics of the community but this is beautiful," she said of her front yard.

Besides, she said, the rules were probably written by the developer 30 years ago and never updated. She compared it to associations that years ago banned what were considered distasteful pickup trucks. Now some pickups and vehicles like the Hummer are more expensive than luxury cars.

"Things change," she said.

What do you think?


Q. Larry Feldman is an owner in the Pines of Delray West Association, an over-55 condo community with 288 units. He would like to form an exercise club supported by members willing to pay a monthly charge. But the clubhouse doesn't have exercise equipment. He'd like the association to lay out the money, with the club repaying it from the monthly dues. The association has the money available, he said. "Is it legal for us to do what I am suggesting?" he wants to know.

A. It probably isn't legal for a variety of reasons, says Matthew Zifrony, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who represents numerous condo and homeowner associations in South Florida. Associations collect maintenance for designated purposes, so the available money is probably designated for reserves. And unless approved in advance by a majority of owners at a duly called association meeting, reserves can only be used for authorized expenses, Zifrony said.

Without such approval, "lending all or portions of the reserve funds to the exercise club would be prohibited," he said.

Also, he said, reserving the portion of the clubhouse where the equipment is placed for club members might not be legal.

Finally, "associations' documents typically don't permit associations to lend any of their funds to exercise clubs or anyone else," he said.

Staff Writer Joe Kollin discusses condo and homeowner association issues in this space every other Wednesday. Please let us know those issues that concern you. E-mail us at or call 954-385-7913 in Broward or 561-243-6503 in Palm Beach County. See past articles at Kollin has covered condo and homeowner association issues in the Sun-Sentinel since 1986.