What it means to really be ‘neighborly’

Glenn Haege
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Unless you live on 10 acres in the country, you probably live in a neighborhood. A neighborhood where the things you do in, to, or around your home can impact your neighbors.

Being a good neighbor starts with a face-to-face introduction. I know it’s old-school, but your kids probably do it all the time. Sharing emails and cellphone numbers is also a good idea.

Some things we do that could negatively impact our neighbors just require some common sense to make sure you are being neighborly. Keeping the smoke from your outdoor grill or fire pit from blowing into your neighbor’s windows, not blasting your music or using power tools late at night when people are sleeping.

But beyond that, you also have to abide by the rules your city or neighborhoods have set. While city ordinances cover basic things like needing a permit to hold a garage sale, they also provide rules for other things that could impact the neighborhood. Things like the type and size of fence you can have, whether you can have a fire pit in your yard, how long you can park that boat or RV on the street or your driveway, or even the upkeep of your property.

Neighborhood associations often have rules or bylaws that dictate the types of things you can do to the outside of your home or property. Often these types of association rules are spelled out in your property deed restrictions (also known as restrictive covenant).

While understanding these city or association rules, you also need to look at the legal description of your property lines before you have a sprinkler system or fence installed to make sure you don’t accidentally encroach on your neighbor’s property. Encroachment can even include the branches from your tree touching your neighbor’s roof.

Often things you want to do to your home are not going to upset the neighborhood apple cart. But if you own a condominium, those rules are often more strict. Joe Black, a resident at the Country Club Village of Northville Phase II and a vice president on the board of directors, said the board bases its decisions regarding home improvements on the development’s bylaws.

“If someone wants to do something to the exterior of their condo, they have to follow the bylaws and file with the board for approval,” Black said.

Black said those rules can include things like the color of the stain or paint you can use on your deck or regulations on hanging holiday lights. However, some areas are strictly off limits for condo owners to change.

“People have to remember that the outside property doesn’t belong to them but is instead a common area, so if someone wanted to plant a tree on the property behind their condo, that isn’t allowed,” he said. “But the board works hard to treat residents fairly and be consistent with our rulings to make sure we keep up our property values.”

When it comes to the legality of rules for condominium associations, the guy who wrote a book on the topic is Bob Meisner of the Meisner Law Group, (248) 644-4433, meisner-law.com. His latest book, “Condo Living 2,” provides information about condo living, including what your rights are and aren’t.

Permanent stand-by generators are one item that often requires approval. Mike Bratcher of Bratcher Electric, (734) 722-0037, bratcherelectric.com, said that condominium developments generally have restrictions regarding where he can install these generators and the residents usually need the approval of the board.

“I make a lot of presentations to condo boards regarding these generators, but they are starting to understand the need for these units, especially with senior citizens that have health issues and need to ensure they have power for their medical devices,” Bratcher said.

So before you do anything around your home this summer, ask yourself one question: “Am I being a good neighbor and following the rules?” If you can answer “yes”, then move to the front of the home improvement class.

If you would like to suggest a question for this column, email askglenn@masterhandyman.com. If you want to talk to Glenn Haege, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can be heard on more than 130 radio stations.

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