Covenants play important role in neighborhood associations
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 1:00 PM
Covenants were the main topic of discussion Tuesday night during the quarterly meeting of the Madison Organization of Neighborhood Associations (MONA).
MONA's board of directors fielded a number of questions from Madison residents ranging from curb appeal to parking issues - most of which could be resolved through the covenants.
"Our covenants have been addressed," Steve Leslie, MONA director and president of Whisper Lake of Annandale, told the crowd inside Madison's Justice Complex. "Our covenants give us a lot of protection. But, there's no one at this table that has covenants that don't have holes in them somewhere."
Yard upkeep and parking dominated the conversation, with many MONA directors offering advice on how things are handled inside their neighborhoods.
The Sandalwood neighborhood board of directors raised the issue and asked for advice on how to handle the parking of trailers and boats on property.
"Curb appeal is the main issue confronting our neighborhood in Sandalwood," they wrote in a letter to MONA.
Paul Tankersley, MONA vice chairman past president of Northbay, said it boils down to what is written in their covenants.
"You have every right to enforce those covenants," he said. "Our residents expect us on the board to enforce those covenants and we routinely do."
He said they are currently in court with two homeowners over grass cutting, another big problem.
When asked what to do besides take a legal route - because of the monetary expense associated - Tankersley said an HOA has the right to assess a homeowner for covenant violations.
"What we will typically do on a case where (homeowners don't respond to us) is turn it over to our board attorney, who will write them a letter," he said. "Then, we send them a bill for the cost of that letter."
George Ellmore, director of neighborhood information for Madison the City, said they will not enforce neighborhood covenants when it comes to curb appeal.
"The city enforces the International Property Maintenance Code of 2006," he explained. "This covers all the grass and weeds and exterior of homes. The city cannot enforce covenants and we will not go in and cite your covenants."
He said they will help in cases where they can, especially if people fail to maintain their yard and allow it to be overgrown. In some instances, a $1,500 penalty is assessed on the property for failure to comply.
"If they still refuse to cooperate with you, then you can come to us," he said. "We'll take it from there."
Leslie said their neighborhood has a situation a few weeks back where a homeowner refused to clean up their yard.
"As a neighborhood association, we wrote letters," he said. "There was no action whatsoever. We called code enforcement. The city under that rule went and put a yellow card on the door and in a matter of days they had a landscaper out."
Another issue discussed involved commercial vehicles being parked in front of homes.
Mike MacInnis, an attorney for various neighborhoods, said operating a business out of a residence may violate some covenants so it's important to always start there. He said storing a commercial vehicle at a residence could be construed as a business operation since it's housing commercial property.
Ellmore said in order to run a business out of a home, a permit must be obtained from the city. And it first must be approved by the HOA.
Leslie added that a Madison County Sheriff's patrol vehicle is always parked on the Highway 463 fire station because it is not allowed to park in the neighborhood.
The MONA board shared various policies on campaign signage, real estate signage, and even dealing with unleashed dogs.
MONA Chairman Carl Crawford said last night's meeting was essentially why MONA was created and urged residents to continue to get involved with their associations.
"One of the principle goals is to share information among all 69 member neighborhoods, to improve the quality of the neighborhoods, the security and the property values," he said.