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May 31, 2018
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Susan Johnston Taylor

Options for HOAs When Owners Won’t Maintain Their Yards

When residents let their grass grow untamed, leave junk in their yard or fail to remove weeds, it creates an eyesore for neighbors and potentially impacts home values in the area. 

That’s why most HOAs have bylaws requiring residents to keep up their yards and imposing fines if they fail to comply. Here’s a look at what HOAs can do when owners let their lawns go.  

Know your bylaws. Recourse for unruly lawns depends on what’s in your HOA’s bylaws. Some require 14 days notice, no notice, while others indicate that the board has to give notice after meeting and making a specific finding about the property—like that self help can be done.

Consider the context.If the HOA isn’t uniformly enforcing covenants around landscaping, that can lead to allegations of discrimination. You don’t want to be selective or punitive in enforcement, especially if there may be extenuating circumstances temporarily preventing a resident from mowing their lawn or pulling weeds. If a homeowner is injured or away caring for a sick relative, perhaps a neighbor or a member of the board can step up to mow the lawn instead of fining a resident who otherwise follows the bylaws. That’s preferable to slapping that person with a fine. 

Follow state laws.States laws around how much oversight an HOA can have on owner’s landscape choices may vary. For instance, some HOAs have traditionally insisted on green, manicured lawns, but My San Antonio reports that Texas law now prevents HOAs from rejecting plans for drought-resistant landscaping. Disputes between residents with drought-tolerant grass and their HOAs have also played out in Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. If you’re unsure about the laws in your state, your management company can help ensure that you remain in compliance. 

In extreme cases, you may need to get a court order to perform landscape work or if the owner hasn’t paid repeated fines, the HOA might consider foreclosure. The latter isn’t a step all HOAs will want to take because legal fees can be costly and the owner loses their home, so hopefully following more intermediate steps will resolve the problem before it escalates to foreclosure. 

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