Kimberly Bois has lived in her condominium in Portsmouth, N.H., since April 2008. While she was excited then to buy a home and plant her own garden, it hasn't been all roses. Her condominium association is suing to force her to remove the flowers she planted in her front yard, fining her $50 a day, and demanding over $13,800 in fees and attorney costs.
She started planting in the late summer of 2008. She said she got permission from the developer, who was considered the "declarant" at the time, to plant in the 8-foot by 5-foot garden before she moved into the newly built home. But when the newly elected condo association board took over landscaping responsibility in October 2010, they said otherwise.
The board placed a lien on Bois' condominium unit for "unpaid condominium fees" last month, with cumulative assessments now over $5,800 for those lilies, tulips, daisies, and other flowers. The board is also demanding more than $8,000 in attorney fees.
"I honestly don't know what their reasons were other than I think they wanted to control the property," Bois, a marketing manager, said.
Bois said she is defending her garden because of the time and emotion invested in it. She transplanted heirloom flowers from her deceased mother's garden, who passed away in early October. Bois estimates she spent about $2,000 on gardening.
Bois said the Atlantic Pointe Condominium Association has a policy aiming to maintain the homes' uniformity and the five-person board has mailed her one certified letter a month for the past year since June 2011, asking her to cease the "development" of the property.
Beginning on Oct. 24, the fine was $25 a day for 30 days. Then on Nov. 23, the fine increased to $50 a day through Feb. 3, according to a memorandum signed by the association president, Jeff Woods, on Feb. 23 in the Rockingham County.
Jeff Woods could not be reached for comment. Sanford Roberts, attorney for the association, declined to comment.
Bois said she was "absolutely amazed" that her story has attracted so much national media attention after the local newspaper, the Portsmouth Herald, reported her story on Sunday.
"I'm sitting here and asking, 'Why is this such a human interest story?' People are tired of homeowner association boards being unreasonable," she said. "My other guess is we're in an environment of people losing homes and jobs. Everybody's losing their home, but maybe someone can hold on to one and make it more beautiful."
Bois said the dispute has affected her to the point to which she has thought about moving out of the home.
"I drive to my mailbox," Bois said, instead of walking to it. "It's just not fun to live here anymore."
Before she planted the flowers, the developer left a mulch bed with two bushes under a bay window, much like the other 23 units in the community.
"So I didn't change the size or shape of anything the builder put in place. I just planted flowers around what he had done," she said. "My unit looks the same as everybody else, but I have flowers dispersed amongst the bushes."
A neighbor is also defending a backyard garden which the board also asked be removed, according to Bois.
Bois said she is upset that the association's board, "my neighbors," have only communicated through the same monthly letters. She said she was only acquainted with a few of the board members, two of whom attended her mother's funeral and one of whom who once helped her dig holes in the garden.
"I find it disappointing that they don't communicate face-to-face," she said.