Verify: Can an HOA require you to keep your grass green?

First Coast News look into the rules that Home Owners Associations can enforce when it comes to keeping your grass green.

Here in Jacksonville, we have a lot of subdivisions. Most of those have a Homeowner's Association that makes rules to help keep home values intact. Those rules can range from making sure your trash cans aren't left on the street for a week to not allowing palm trees to be planted in the front yard. So can an HOA make you keep your grass green and watered?

We spoke with Charles McBurney who is an expert in HOA laws in Jacksonville. Burney says, "If there is something in your declaration that puts restrictions on your property, It might be the height or condition of the grass, so if you have a bunch of brown spots it may violate the rules of the homeowners association."

So the claim that there's a law negating HOA requirements about keeping your lawn watered is False. You must keep your lawn watered if your HOA requires it. But what about in a drought? McBurney says that "The laws of your community, your city, your state are always going to overrule whatever’s within the declaration of covenants and restrictions.”  So, if there is a severe water shortage restrictions can be put in place regardless of what the HOA documents say.

Ok so if there's a drought then the local or state standards take precedence over the HOA.

We found some articles online that talked about HOA fights over Florida-friendly landscaping. We wanted to know, can an HOA keep homeowners from making their landscaping Florida-friendly? 

It's a little-known law that was enacted in 2009. It states, "Florida-friendly landscaping" means quality landscapes that conserve water, protect the environment, are adaptable to local conditions and are drought tolerant.

"The principles of such landscaping include planting the right plant in the right place, efficient watering, appropriate fertilization, mulching, the attraction of wildlife, responsible management of yard pests, recycling yard waste, reduction of stormwater runoff, and waterfront protection."

To learn more about this we spoke with Chuck Hubbuch, who is a horticulturist and the assistant director of Physical Facilities at the University of North Florida. We also spoke with Charles McBurney again who is an expert in HOA law in Jacksonville.    

Looking at that first principle, we asked what planting the right plant in the right place really meant. Hubbuck explained that “A Florida-friendly plant could be a plant from a swamp if it's going into an area that's very moist or it could be a plant from a very dry place if it's growing in a sandy dryer situation. It's very situation based, it all depends on what the conditions are. Maybe a bald cypress will go into a low wet area, a long leaf pine or a live oak would go into a higher dyer place.”

IF you mix up the conditions, Hubbuck says the plant could die and look bad for a long time.
           
Hubbuck says this kind of planting can help conserve water because of the shade. “Plants help your home environment by providing shade on the ground. That reduces the sunlight that hits the ground, reduces the evaporation. Canopy trees give off moisture during the day as they go through their metabolic processes, moisture is released into the air and that can actually cool down the atmosphere by about 5 degrees.”

So if I wanted to install landscaping like this in my subdivision, could I just do it? There's a section of the law that says that deed and covenant restrictions can't keep people from putting in Florida-friendly landscaping, however, McBurney says that “the owner doesn't have unfettered discretion on how they're going to have Florida-Friendly Landscaping.” The association can still put reasonable restrictions on how it's used, where it's located, the height of the plants and they can require a plan before you start digging up your yard.

McBurney says to make sure you look over your declaration of covenants and restrictions because you are bound to follow those. “It can solve a lot of potential heartaches and pocketbook problems down the line.”
           
If there is something you would like us to verify, send an email to verify@firstcoastnews.com.

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