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Subject: Landscape removal in common areas/owner maintains
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LoriM15
(Florida)

Posts:36


09/15/2021 2:22 PM  
I am on the board of a large HOA in Florida. We have about 350 attached homes that pay for bulk landscaping services in addition to their monthly HOA fee. We have about 250 single-family homes that are responsible for their own landscaping.

The grassy strip between the road and the sidewalk shows on the plats as common property. Individual homeowner property lines run from the middle of the sidewalk. The HOA is responsible for maintenance and repair of the roads and the sidewalks. In addition, there are very large royal palm trees planted in the entire neighborhood in the grassy strip. Every home has at least one, and the HOA does tree trimming on those at least twice a year. So the attached homes have the mowing/trimming of any landscaping in the grassy strip as part of the bulk contract, but the single-family homes pay for their own mowing/trimming of that area.

The original developer planted bougainvillea bushes in in the grassy strip about 20 years ago. Many of the original bushes are gone and some were replaced (not by the HOA) with other plants. Also, some homeowners planted bushes around their mailboxes. It's a mixed bag, but the bougainvilleas are a real problem. The require frequent cutting or they become a hazard people walking on the sidewalk. When the landscaper does a hard cut they look like sticks and people complain. When they grow during rainy season and get too big people complain. The mailman has also been complaining if the bushes are close to the mailbox.

The board made a decision to remove all plant material from the grassy strip and replace with sod. This was for ease of maintenance and uniformity. This was at no cost to us in the attached homes because we negotiated with our landscaper over some issues and he agreed to do the work for free.

However, we are getting pushback from the single-family homes. We are agreeing to remove any original landscaping at our cost, but any plants that were done by the homeowner (non-bougainvillea) is their responsibility. To complicate things, some of the landscaping in those areas was done with the permission of prior architectural committees (all volunteers who didn't know how to ready a survey).

Can we enforce the removal of the landscaping in the single-family area? I would appreciate your thoughts.

Here's some language from our declaration:

The Master Association shall maintain all landscaping on Common Areas owned by it, as well as the street trees or avenue trees lining the road rights of way (as distinguished from landscape trees on a Parcel), as a Common Expense (1/820). The Board shall have the right to remove, alter, or replace such Common Area landscaping and street trees from time to time. The Condominium Associations shall maintain all other landscaping within the Condominium Properties.

7.3 Parcel Landscaping and Irrigation. The Owners of Parcels in the Single-Family Section shall be responsible for all of their own landscaping and shall also be responsible for any grass between the sidewalk and their yard.

SheilaJ1
(South Carolina)

Posts:274


09/15/2021 3:04 PM  
Who cares if the owner maintains it, if it’s common area that’s the associations obligation.

So is it common area or not?

And what were the approvals for? The HOA does not have the right to approve things for homeowners that is on common area. Those approvals are all null.
JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:768


09/15/2021 3:18 PM  
Posted By SheilaJ1 on 09/15/2021 3:04 PM
Who cares if the owner maintains it, if it’s common area that’s the associations obligation.

So is it common area or not?

And what were the approvals for? ,The HOA does not have the right to approve things for homeowners that is on common area. Those approvals are all null.




I'm not sure I understand this. The HOA has the right to approve everything for common areas. It's not the owners property. As for trees and shrubs we were advised by our lawyer that if we did approve someone planting something that it becomes HOA property and they would be responsible for all future associated costs.
SheilaJ1
(South Carolina)

Posts:274


09/15/2021 3:28 PM  
I see, when you say they, you mean the owners are responsible? Why would an owner maintain something on common area? The board can allow it but if the board now wants to remove it, the HOA pays. Overall, the HOA should have never allowed owners to plant things, seems like a good idea but not when a new board wants to change.




JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:768


09/15/2021 3:36 PM  
Posted By SheilaJ1 on 09/15/2021 3:28 PM
I see, when you say they, you mean the owners are responsible? Why would an owner maintain something on common area? The board can allow it but if the board now wants to remove it, the HOA pays. Overall, the HOA should have never allowed owners to plant things, seems like a good idea but not when a new board wants to change.








No, the HOA would be responsible. We allow certain types of slow growing shrubs to be planted in the mulched area in front of the condos. There is a list of approved shrubs and prior approval has to be obtained before the owner plants it. The landscape committee makes a recommendation to the board. Although some condo communities want each home to be a mirror image of each other we are OK with a mix of different flowers/shrubs. I realize this is personal opinion but some communities take the 'common look' to an extreme and I am not a fan of this. With that said, the only way it works for us is we have a very active landscape committee and they have done well with approving things that make sense and will not increase our landscape budget. I like the variety of colors it adds and it is a small way to make a condo unique.
SheilaJ1
(South Carolina)

Posts:274


09/15/2021 3:39 PM  
Okay, that’s fine but now the HOA wants to change it, it pays.
JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:768


09/15/2021 3:45 PM  
Posted By SheilaJ1 on 09/15/2021 3:39 PM
Okay, that’s fine but now the HOA wants to change it, it pays.




You are correct but there has not been a single instance where we have had to do this. What typically happens is a new owner moves in and wants to swap X for Y and they pay for it. Every community has a different personality and for us this works and many of the people that have bought here have commented that they liked the fact there was a variety of plant life in our neighborhood. Like I said earlier we have a pre-approved list and every request must get approval. For HOA's that don't have an active landscape committee our approach may not work but for us it makes sense.

Getting back to my main point, the HOA does have the right to approve anything in the common area.
SheilaJ1
(South Carolina)

Posts:274


09/15/2021 3:52 PM  
I agree it can approve whatever it wants on the common area subject to the restrictions but when another board wants to change that approval, it can. Getting back to the topic, the HOA should grow some teeth and enforce its rights.
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1789


09/15/2021 5:12 PM  
Lori,

Your HOA board should fund the removal of all landscape in common areas so that sod can be laid. Parsing out fees for individual plant removal is cumbersome and inefficient. This is easier than trying to demand homeowner payment to remove privately installed (but HOA-approved plants).

If your community generally supports the sod along the sidewalks, this is the easiest choice and no one will be harmed.

LoriM15
(Florida)

Posts:36


09/15/2021 5:38 PM  
I appreciate all the thoughts. For many years we had people on the board and on the architectural committee (that approves landscape changes) who had no clue that the sidewalks and the swales belonged to the master association. They allowed fences in easements, planting in common areas and a lot of other things. We are trying to tighten things up because as the community ages it was starting to look a little tired.

Our property manager jumped the gun and sent violation notices to single family homes with plantings in the swale. We didn't really have a plan in place for those houses. It would be impossible to know who got approval and who didn't - frankly most people in our HOA did things for years without approval and got away with it. But we just updated all our documents and implemented new rules and architectural controls, like having a color palette of approved house colors.

I agree that we probably need to go ahead and just pay for the removal of the swale landscaping at all homes. Now I just need to convince the rest of the board.
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