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Subject: Landscaping -- No Rules being Followed
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JenniferD8
(Michigan)

Posts:53


06/16/2020 9:04 AM  
I recently joined our association board in October and am responsible for the grounds of a 180 unit condo complex. These are one-story units on 40 acres. The buildings house 2 to up to 6 units. The landscaping on the end units and the courtyard areas of the interior units are deemed common areas. The complex was built in the late 80s and professionally landscaped at that time. Over the years, the board has taken an extremely lax attitude toward the shrubs and trees. They would cut trees down at the request of a co-owner and ask no questions. They would rip out healthy shrubs and tell residents to plant whatever. As you can imagine, the condo development has no symmetry. I've been reviewing the master deed and other documents. It states that the association is solely and exclusively responsible to maintain and replace all drives, walkways, lawns, yards, trees, shrubs and other plantings. It also states that no one shall damage any fence, seat, tree, shrub, flower, fire hydrant, lawn furniture on the common elements.

I proposed to the board that I wanted to start working toward the goals of 1) having the co-owner seek board approval and 2) using an approved plantings list. It contains over 30 varieties of shrubs, trees, ground cover, etc. I also want to limit the type of stones, woodchips, etc. Currently, co-owners put red, cedar, or brown mulch, white stones, natural stones, lava rocks, etc. It looks terrible. I would like to limit the choices to brown mulch or natural stone. If a shrub or tree is dead, then the association would replace it. If the co-owner wants to remove healthy bushes or trees then they would need to seek approval and present a plan which would include items off the approved plantings list. Anyone currently out of compliance would be grandfathered in until they wanted to make any changes or sold the unit. (The majority of the co-owners are very elderly, so there's a lot of turnover.)

Do you think this plan is unreasonable? How does your development handle the landscaping?

Thanks!
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:3307


06/16/2020 9:40 AM  
In my community, homeowners are responsible for flower beds in front of their homes, shrubs they or the previous owner planted, while the association is responsible for trees, grass, and shrubs it placed. As you imagine, there have been issues with people planting things without permission and/or not maintaining their shrubs and flower beds. There's nothing wrong with establishing an exterior change request process for landscaping, but remember, just because YOU think something looks tacky doesn't necessary reflect the majority.

Instead, approved plants and groundcover could be based on objective information. For example, lava rocks can't exceed a certain size and not be allowed to get into the grass because if they get in the lawn and a lawnmower comes by, it could damage the blade or send that rock through someone's window (or eye). Perhaps you might have to ban wood mulch - not because you think it "looks bad" but because it could attract termites.

You could ban trees considered invasive species or require trees not to exceed a certain height when grown or not planted too close to a building. People often forget tree roots are twice as long as the tree is tall, and if the tree is too close to the building, you may create an issue with sewer invasion (that's been a big issue in my community).

Start by sending a poll to homeowners asking for their input on what they'd like to see - maybe some colors are more attractive than others, others HATE lava rocks, and still others don't understand why they can't have that lovely oak tree (that's become a hazard to the roofs). While you're waiting for responses, do your homework and check with the local department of natural resources in your area and get some information on invasive species so you'll know what to avoid. Bring in an arborist who can walk around the community and let you know what's going on with the trees and which ones need to be pruned or cut down.

After you develop a policy, send that out to homeowners to get their take, adjust as needed and then the board can vote on accepting that as the policy. Don't forget to recheck your CCRs to see if there's something else you need to be aware of so the new policy doesn't cause any conflict. Have fun!
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:3307


06/16/2020 9:44 AM  
Almost forgot - if drought or flooding is an issue in your area, this may be a good time to consider things like allowing people to have rain barrels (there are some with planters on top, but homeowners need to ensure they're not providing a nursery for mosquitos, murder hornets or who knows what else is out there). Maybe some common areas don't really need grass but can make do with ground cover that looks attractive but doesn't require a lawnmower (and the bills that go along with that)
JenniferD8
(Michigan)

Posts:53


06/16/2020 12:54 PM  
Hi Sheila -- thanks for the feedback. Is your community comprised of standalone condos/homes?

In my community, the condo units are attached. One of the 6-unit buildings is likely to have 5 different landscape materials (lava rocks, white stone, natural stone, brown mulch, red mulch, etc.) just for one building. I don't see this when I drive through similar complexes. I'm wondering if other condo HOAs have this issue or recommendations on how to resolve it.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9577


06/16/2020 1:12 PM  
Jennifer

I assume the reason the BOD has been lax is the cost to the association to maintain a common landscaping look which it appears your docs might call for. Even if they agree to accept their responsibility it will cost extra to get the common look back so you will have two issues on your hands. The cost to get the common look back and the cost to maintain it.

It will be a money battle.
JenniferD8
(Michigan)

Posts:53


06/16/2020 1:35 PM  
You are correct, John. That's why I want to gradually have the board take back some of their responsibilities and inch closer to being in line with our governing documents. The fact that no one even seeks board approval is odd to me. The board has been lax in all aspects of running the development. It's frustrating to always hear the response of "that's how we've always done it" when the condo documents state it should be done differently.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:3307


06/16/2020 5:36 PM  
I'm in a townhouse community and it is a mixed bag. Some units have flower beds, some don't. Some flower beds are full of weeds, some aren't. a few people use rocks in their flower beds, at least one person planted some sort of in-ground flower thingy (didn't get permission, she's since passed away and the space is now empty - dirt, surrounded by worn-out edging). There's more of course, and as you said consistency is not the strong suit of some people. After a while, you don't notice it at all and then get mad when someone points out the yard is a hot mess.

Actually, that may be part of the hook you need to convince people there needs to be consistency. Not to start an argument, but maybe showing some photos of the attractive areas to give people an idea of what the entire community could look like if they would only do things like - make sure their flower beds consist of flowers and not dandelions.
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Forums > Homeowner Association > HOA Discussions > Landscaping -- No Rules being Followed



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