Want to transform your water-guzzling landscape, but live in a community overseen by a homeowners association? Follow our five ways to work with your HOA. If you live in a community managed by a homeowners association, historical society, etc. and you want to make major landscape changes, it is not an impossible task. But it is a process that takes time, sometimes costs money, and more often than not, requires compromise. Creating a beautiful landscape is one of many ways to increase your property value and your HOA wants you to do that. However, their job is to make sure you are keeping with the integrity of the neighborhood and this means they must approve your landscape plans before you begin any work. Follow these tips to help avoid any unnecessary frustration. Be flexible and be prepared to revise your plan. Going back and forth with HOAs is part of the process — landscape companies have to do it, too. In fact, if your budget allows you may want to hire a landscape company to do the plan and submittals for you. Talk to a neighbor who has recently gone through the process successfully and do what they did. If they got approved and your plans are similar, you’ve just increased your chances of a smooth experience. HOAs outline specific requirements for submitting plans for landscape changes — follow them to the letter. When you submit your plans, ensure your package is complete and send it in with delivery confirmation/tracking so date of receipt is accurate. Get familiar with Senate Bill 198 (pdf), which basically prevents homeowners associations from prohibiting use of native grasses or xeriscapes in landscaping. Follow-up with a phone call or e-mail to make sure they received everything they need; also find out when the next meeting to consider landscape plan approvals is scheduled. Above all, think of your HOA as a team member — not the enemy. All of these things can go a long way toward saving you time and headaches later. And if the movement towards sustainable landscapes is moving to slow for you in your community, consider getting involved with your HOA. Be on the board and become a part of the process of changing what our landscapes look like.
Kelly Ann Cameron