Lawns in HOAs have always been a battle ground for boards and managers. There may be a new front line on the horizon — one over the use of chemical lawn treatments and gas-powered mowers.
Trend banning chemical and gas-powered mowers
Due to environmental concerns and potential impacts on health, there is a growing trend in municipalities banning the use of chemical lawn treatments and gas-powered mowers. Now, even where these bans are not mandated by law, boards may find themselves under pressure to consider environmental and health factors along with aesthetics when planning their landscape maintenance programs.
Homeowner associations may be faced with unit owners and residents demanding alternative methods for lawn care be found. For example, they may be asked to utilize organic lawn treatments, electric mowers, and to relax guidelines — include more native plants and less manicured lawns.
Cities and states with bans or limits so far
According to USA Today, Among cities and states with bans or limits: California; Burlington, Vermont; and Washington, D.C.” (see story here).
Depends on the state
According Sean A. O’Connor, an attorney with Finkel Law Firm LLC in North Charleston, South Carolina who works with numerous HOAs and condo associations, the legal aspects for boards could be challenging. “In most associations’ governing documents, it is fairly easy for boards to regulate use of common areas by enacting board-created rules and regulations. For those, an amendment to the declaration is not required. But in order to regulate how owners maintain their own properties, including their yards, normally an amendment to the declaration is required, which means the requisite percentage of owners must vote in favor – usually at least a majority but often two thirds or three quarters. I would surmise that in many communities it would be difficult to garner enough support for such an amendment. I could see some homeowners pushing back against these types of rules, not wanting to be forced to buy a new electric mower. At the same time, some owners might be opposed to environmentally-driven relaxed law care rules that might result in their neighbors’ lawns looking overgrown or not as well-kept. That said, I wouldn’t expect to see laws like this enacted in South Carolina anytime soon.”
Watch current trends
In the long run, reducing the impact on the environment can be healthier for people and also reduce the amount of water and other resources needed to maintain landscaping. This could result in cost savings for associations and their residents. Boards should keep an eye on this growing trend and consider researching options before their current methods are banned by their local governments.
– Raymond Dickey
Sean A. O’Connor
Finkel Law Firm LLC
4000 Faber Place Drive, Suite 450
North Charleston, South Carolina 29405