About Those Homeowners Associations…


There have been some rumblings on this blog before about the ability of homeowners associations to restrict what people plant in their gardens.  According to this CNN article, one in six Americans live in a neighborhood governed by a community or homeowners association. These associations can act as quasi-governmental agencies, imposing and enforcing rules with little regard to their fairness or even their legality.  Basically, it’s a grey area, and advocacy groups are forming to advocate for the rights of homeowners.

Where this gets interesting is when homeowners want to do more than express their individuality (GASP!) by painting their house a different color or planting something other than turf and shrubs in their front yard.  What about when homeowners want to take such eco-friendly steps as hanging their laundry out to dry or planting drought-tolerant natives in front?

The Southern Nevada Water Authority has something to say about that:

Most government jurisdictions in the Las Vegas Valley have laws that prevent a homeowners association (HOA) from restricting the installation of water-saving landscape. An HOA may require homeowners to submit landscape design plans for approval; however, the HOA cannot require a homeowner to install turf nor can it prohibit water-efficient landscapes.

Via: www.snwa.com.

What’s up with your homeowners association? In the tradition of The Smoking Gun, we’d like to compile a dossier of incriminating documents.  Scan your rules, notices, or pesky e-mails from the HOA and get ’em over here.


  1. No rules in my in-town neighborhood, which is one of the things I love about it. No front lawn? OK! Veggies in front yard? No problem. Questionable yard art? Bring it on!

  2. I have a problem with people who dictate what species and style of plants can or can not be planted. If you do a commercial landscape in this county, El Dorado, the requirement is 50% of the plants be natives. Not hybrids mind you, but the species! If you want to plant drought resistant Arctostaphylos (Manzanita) you can’t plant Arctostaphylos “Emerald carpet” which establishes well under landscape conditions. You must plant Arctostaphylos sp., the actual native, which does not establish well under typical landscape conditions.

    What happens is the species are often hard to propagate so most nurseries don’t grow them. They don’t live well after the soil has been stripped by machinery and all the beneficial micro-organisms which allow them to live in the wild have been destroyed. The land owner, in an attempt to pacify the county plants what they want, and within a year is pulling them out and replacing them with what they landowner wanted anyway. Why can’t we plant the hybrids, which are also drought resistant but establish better so the landscape will last?

  3. Trey, I’ve heard the same complaints from nursery and transportation folks around here regarding political requirements that only natives be planted in such nonnative sites as along our highways, with the same unhappy results. (Since the east coast is naturally a forest, our native plants do particularly poorly in such sunny and highly disturbed conditions. It’s politics. Legislators yield to the pressure groups who scream the loudest and in the past few years it’s been the native plant societies, often with no one else speaking up on the subject.

    But getting back to restrictions, it’s clear that the problem goes way beyond homeowner associations.

  4. I think Pam and I live in the same neighborhood, just 200 miles apart. We have a place called “The Beer Can House” (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/attract/TXHOUbeer.html) in our neighborhood. When the wind blows, it clanks. You can bet your booty nobody’s complaining about much of anything in our hood. Though they do get a little peeved about empty lots being overgrown.
    I’d meant to blog about a woman in Houston who had basically replaced her suburban lawn for the last 20 years with perennials and now her HOA is threatening to sue, but it was on the TV news and I can’t find anything more about it. Dang.

  5. No HOAs in this old neighborhood, either! I’m a few hundred miles from either Pam’s or Heather’s, but it sounds like the same deal. If you want a front-yard veggie garden, cool. If you want a front yard composed entirely of shrubbery, or grass, go for it. One of the coolest front yards I’ve seen is an herb garden that stretches across the front of 3 neighboring townhouses.

    I agree with Trey regarding natives vs. cultivars… I’ve been trying to incorporate some natives into my garden and have found that a lot of the hybrids seem to fare better than the species. Part of it is just because of the look I’m after, I’m sure–some of the natives I long for simply do not deal well with competition, and I like to have a more lush and full look in my yard.

  6. Oh the stories I could tell! Restrictions on what the neighbors can or can not do is one thing. A group of people with too much money, no patience and wanting what they want now is another. Throw in the fact that no two people can ever agree on much of anything and I have begun to think that the gate out front is keeping the wacko’s in, not the low life out.

    Group decisions from these associations tend to be the most inappropriate common annual (yes I said annuals) plants for locations with the exact wrong conditions for the chosen common annual.

    Just today I was told Phase One in the front entry makeover will be painting of the stone walls and staining of the concrete road surface. Phase two will be demolition of a third stone wall and construction of a fountain in a full sun, high wind desert climate and then replanting the center bed in the middle of the freshly stained concrete.

    They want theirs like the fancy hotels across the street. Oy!

  7. My HOA covenants have just one little clause about not allowing out buildings, which means no garden shed for me. I knew it when I bought the lot but I don’t like it.

    I also checked on fences before I bought the lot, they are allowed. However, that didn’t stop a busy-body neighbor from attempting to stop me from putting up my privacy fence even after I got all the appropriate approvals. She actually went door-to-door with a petition with her version of what my fence would be like, and people blindly signed it. I put up the fence as fast as I could, and after 7 years, it still comes up as “the kind of fence we wouldn’t approve now”. Who cares, I have my privacy fence and it makes my back yard more private for me to enjoy gardening without the neighbors all gawking out their windows at me (and it hides a few compost bins in the corner which I am sure they would disapprove of if they saw them).

  8. I’m surprised to hear the problems that some are having with natives..the species.

    Are you growing things that are native to your area, or native to an area far from you? Just curious.

    I have had great sucess growing plants native to my area, which is NE IL. Plants native to other parts of the country…not so much. April

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