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Everything’s Coming Up Sunflowers

, , , , | Legal | CREDIT: MeowSchwitzInThere | June 29, 2021

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains content of a legal nature. It is not intended as legal advice.


A client walks into the office and asks us for a contract review. He then hands over a Homeowner’s Association contract. Before slogging through a whole HOA contract, I ask him what he is hoping to accomplish.

Client: “They want me to dig up my sunflowers.”

Me: “Your… sunflowers?”

Client: “Yes, I planted a row of sunflowers outside my house. They pranced by and said that sunflowers are not allowed per the contract I signed. So, I want you to tell me if that is true or not.”

Me: “Sir, before anything else, I need to tell you that this will likely be an hourly fee bill. HOAs are notorious for dragging things out. These could quickly become expensive sunflowers.”

Client: “I don’t care. This is America and I should be able to plant sunflowers, God d*** it.”

Still thinking he isn’t THAT serious about sunflowers, I ask for a three-hour retainer. He immediately pulls out a checkbook and pays for four hours. So, I buckle down to review the alleged anti-sunflower clause.

The sunflowers he has planted are really big and are all along the front of the house. It is a very substantial number of sunflowers.

The contract does indeed contain a clause, with a VERY thorough list, regarding which plants are not allowed to be planted. The list has just about every plant I can think of, in alphabetical order — think, “Apple, banana, cauliflower, dill…” — sunflowers included. Corn is not included, which becomes very important later.

Quick legal point: if you write, “no dogs allowed,” it is normally assumed that you are talking about all dogs generally. If you write, “no labs, golden retrievers, or poodles allowed,” it is normally assumed that all other dogs are allowed. Sometimes a not-so-great attorney will write a super long list to pad hours — read: charge more — instead of just writing, “no plants without prior approval,” or something.

I call the client back in for the bad news. In explaining the above legal point, I let him know that the HOA got a raw deal from whoever drafted the contract.

Me: “No can do on the sunflowers. But if it makes you feel any better, they were probably over-billed by whoever wrote this contract. Pretty shoddy work, too. They even forgot to write down ‘corn,’ but they included nonsense like ‘dragonfruit.'”

Client: “So yes to corn, no to sunflowers?”

Me: “I didn’t really check the contract for corn. But it’s not prohibited in the plant section, so probably?”

Client: “Excellent. That’ll work.”

I thought he was oddly happy with bad news. Then, two or three weeks later, he came in with a picture of his house, surrounded by huge sunflowers.

What happened? This guy drove out to the country and bought obnoxiously large and ugly cornstalks. He promptly planted them where the sunflowers had been. When confronted by the HOA, he told them, basically, “Suck it. The contract lets me plant corn.” Then, after some negotiation, he agreed to take the corn down in exchange for permission to plant sunflowers.

Now we are friends, he is still a great client, and he lives surrounded by a ridiculous moat of sunflowers.

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