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Opinions/advice regarding HOA conflict
Old 07-19-2016, 04:00 PM   #1
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Opinions/advice regarding HOA conflict

We're having an issue with the HOA in our townhouse development. We own the townhouse, but rent it to DD and family. So we're in town for a month or two helping out with the new baby while SiL is deployed, and DW, who is an avid gardener (and retired certified landscape designer) decides to rip out the old nasty looking plants out front and put in some that might actually thrive and look nice. The old ones were typical townhouse plants - Golden Euonymus right under the windows, with white azaleas in front of them.

The euonymous were healthy enough, but they had 5 of them planted in a 15' area, and they had overgrown the space. Plus, they're just not very attractive, as evidenced by this article from Southern Living - Five Awful Plants for the Front of Your House | Southern Living Blog. We actually like azaleas, but the location was just not right for them. Dry clay soil in full sunlight. They had lacebugs and were mostly dead.

We are replacing them with a few Soft Touch Hollies in the back and drift roses up front, and adding a few day lilies. Nice, simple to maintain, and appropriate for the microclimate.

Anyway, the HOA has decided that we can only replace dead plants with the exact same plant. It does say so in the covenants. They also say we needed to get approval before doing anything.

However, it also says earlier in the covenants that
Quote:
There are a number of exceptions to this otherwise inclusive review requirement."... "Minor landscape improvements will also not require an application. This includes foundation plantings, or single specimen plantings. In general landscape improvements of a small scale which do not materially alter the appearance of the Lot, involve a change in topography or ground and which are not of sufficient scale to constitute a natural structure will be exempt from the design review process.
Reading that part of the covenants makes it very clear that the review/approval process is for making changes to the lay of the land, the actual building, or things like building a patio, or putting in a tree or low voltage lighting. The exceptions to the review process above makes it clear to me that landscape plants are not part of it.

So basically there are conflicting rules within the covenants, and when reading them you come to the part giving permission first. To me that means we can do it, and they can't stop us. DW is fighting with them trying to get permission. She put in a professionally drawn and designed (by her) plan, for review, and they denied it saying things like "removing healthy and successful plantings" and "replacing them with unattractive and unaesthetic plants". How dwarf hollies and drift roses (which stay fairly small and produce lots of flowers) can be unattractive and unaesthetic they don't explain. Anyway, my thought is to put the plants in and let them try to fine us. If they do we can turn it over to a lawyer and they can explain why they can choose which part of the covenants to enforce and why we should be able to read their mind about it.

I'm curious what y'all think about this. By the way, here are some pictures of the "healthy and successful" plants we replaced.
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Old 07-19-2016, 04:05 PM   #2
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Hey if you want to throw away money go ahead and put in the plants and fight it with a lawyer.
The HOA will fight you with your own money, raising the fees and special assessments as the costs mount to cover their legal bills, and no expense need be spared on their part.
You should instead run for the board, change the rules , and see what its like being a board member with dozens of folks wanting to do their own thing all the time.
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Old 07-19-2016, 04:08 PM   #3
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I wouldn't go there. If they rejected the request, the best option is to capitulate, IMO.
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Old 07-19-2016, 04:11 PM   #4
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Old 07-19-2016, 04:20 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Big_Hitter View Post
I wouldn't go there. If they rejected the request, the best option is to capitulate, IMO.
The problem with that is that the old plants have been removed and disposed of. The new ones are sitting in place (still in their pots) waiting to go in. So we'd end up disposing of a bunch of not cheap plants and buying new ones to match the old ones.

Also, there shouldn't have even been a request based on the covenants. DW just put it in after the fact to be politically correct. IMO that was a mistake.
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Old 07-19-2016, 04:21 PM   #6
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The problem with that is that the old plants have been removed and disposed of. The new ones are sitting in place (still in their pots) waiting to go in. So we'd end up disposing of a bunch of not cheap plants and buying new ones to match the old ones.

Also, there shouldn't have even been a request based on the covenants. DW just put it in after the fact to be politically correct. IMO that was a mistake.
my bad, I misread the covenant - GO FOR IT and make sure you plant them in good dirt!

those poor azaleas look terrible, definitely not happy
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Old 07-19-2016, 04:26 PM   #7
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My experience with HOA boards is they delight in the petty exercise of power over their neighbors and love to engage in battle.

My suggestion would be to grovel a little raise the white flag. Write a nice letter, apologize profusely for acting without their explicit authorization, say you thought you were within the rules based on this " "Minor landscape improvements will also not require an application". Acknowledge their supreme authority and cosmic greatness, and then humbly ask if you can plant some "whatevers", affirming that you shouldn't replace with the previous "whatevers' because there isn't enough space. Look around the neighborhood, see who else has some landscaping similar to what you want. If you see some, point out that your proposal is compatible with the other landscapes, especially xxx and yyy. If no one else has anything different, prepare to throw in the towel.
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Old 07-19-2016, 04:31 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by harley View Post
The problem with that is that the old plants have been removed and disposed of. The new ones are sitting in place (still in their pots) waiting to go in. So we'd end up disposing of a bunch of not cheap plants and buying new ones to match the old ones.

Also, there shouldn't have even been a request based on the covenants. DW just put it in after the fact to be politically correct. IMO that was a mistake.
The plants are cheaper than 3 hours of a lawyer, and that would just be the starting point.

Even though the covenants do seem to be somewhat on your side, that still does not mean the board won't fight you.

Example, the covenant talks of foundation plantings, but the ones you are doing are far from the foundation, what is the distance until its not a foundation planting ? , if planted at the middle of the lawn is that still foundation planting ? , how about at the street curb ?
Too bad the rule didn't say plantings within 5 feet of the foundation cement wall.
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Old 07-19-2016, 04:34 PM   #9
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My suggestion would be to grovel a little raise the white flag. Write a nice letter, apologize profusely for acting without their explicit authorization, say you thought you were within the rules based on this " "Minor landscape improvements will also not require an application". Acknowledge their supreme authority and cosmic greatness, and then humbly ask if you can plant some "whatevers", affirming that you shouldn't replace with the previous "whatevers' because there isn't enough space. Look around the neighborhood, see who else has some landscaping similar to what you want. If you see some, point out that your proposal is compatible with the other landscapes, especially xxx and yyy. If no one else has anything different, prepare to throw in the towel.
This.

Imagine if everyone wanted to do their own thing. Not everyone has your DW's talents. Pretty soon there could be old rusty wheelbarrows and plaster statues. The HOA bylaws are there for a reason.
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Old 07-19-2016, 04:36 PM   #10
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MichaelB's response is spot on IMHO. We moved into a condo last year. It was the third time for me so I knew what to expect. Since DW loves her plants and had lots of ideas for improvement, I allowed them to put me on the HOA board when the first vacancy arose. It worked like a charm. Board members can pretty much do what they like!
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Old 07-19-2016, 04:47 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelB View Post
My experience with HOA boards is they delight in the petty exercise of power over their neighbors and love to engage in battle.

My suggestion would be to grovel a little raise the white flag. Write a nice letter, apologize profusely for acting without their explicit authorization, say you thought you were within the rules based on this " "Minor landscape improvements will also not require an application". Acknowledge their supreme authority and cosmic greatness, and then humbly ask if you can plant some "whatevers", affirming that you shouldn't replace with the previous "whatevers' because there isn't enough space. Look around the neighborhood, see who else has some landscaping similar to what you want. If you see some, point out that your proposal is compatible with the other landscapes, especially xxx and yyy. If no one else has anything different, prepare to throw in the towel.
We already tried that, with the approval process, which they denied. So no luck there. And yes, we did make sure to pick plants that are used in other parts of the development. No joy.

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This.

Imagine if everyone wanted to do their own thing. Not everyone has your DW's talents. Pretty soon there could be old rusty wheelbarrows and plaster statues. The HOA bylaws are there for a reason.
There are specific rules disallowing things like that. And there is a specific rule allowing what we are doing.


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Originally Posted by Sunset View Post
The plants are cheaper than 3 hours of a lawyer, and that would just be the starting point.

Even though the covenants do seem to be somewhat on your side, that still does not mean the board won't fight you.

Example, the covenant talks of foundation plantings, but the ones you are doing are far from the foundation, what is the distance until its not a foundation planting ? , if planted at the middle of the lawn is that still foundation planting ? , how about at the street curb ?
Too bad the rule didn't say plantings within 5 feet of the foundation cement wall.
We are planting in the same bed, right up next to the foundation. There's a very specific definition of foundation plantings
Quote:
a group of plants used in landscape design to blend a building with its setting and obscure any undesirable features of the foundation
(from Webster's Dictionary)
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Old 07-19-2016, 05:01 PM   #12
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Hey if you want to throw away money go ahead and put in the plants and fight it with a lawyer.
The HOA will fight you with your own money, raising the fees and special assessments as the costs mount to cover their legal bills, and no expense need be spared on their part.
You should instead run for the board, change the rules , and see what its like being a board member with dozens of folks wanting to do their own thing all the time.
You are right! I was on the board of my HOA for 25 years (and still retained my sanity). My Dad in FL tried to fight the HOA, and it cost a lot of money, and when my Mom died, it cost $35 K to have the lien removed when they sold the condo!
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Old 07-19-2016, 05:01 PM   #13
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Imagine if everyone wanted to do their own thing. Not everyone has your DW's talents. Pretty soon there could be old rusty wheelbarrows and plaster statues. The HOA bylaws are there for a reason.
Not all bylaws of Homeowners Associations are written in such narrow terms. Specialized attorneys write such documents, and they're not all created equal.

And don't take up for a bunch of power hungry HOA board members that cause their members trouble--even if unintentionally. HOA's will constantly remind you that they're there to keep up your property values. That's not always the outcome.

At our last HOA, any change of trim paint had to be approved, and their list of approved colors was short. Until they let the guy across the street from me paint his trim bright purple. HOA's can often be so inconsistent.

We had 400 homes in the neighborhood, and relatively few played tennis on the 4 first class lighted courts. Re-doing the tennis courts for so few people every 4 years just about bankrupted the HOA.

No thank you to any more HOA's.
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Old 07-19-2016, 05:30 PM   #14
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I spent 10 years in our last neighborhood HOA. It's a thankless, ugly volunteer job and when I quit, not a single person in the community would take my place. Some owners just do there own thing, never thinking to seek approval (after they sign all of the covenant docs), then they get the dreaded letter, and come to meetings and scream. If the HOA lets them do whatever it was they did, then everybody gets to do whatever they want and the HOA board gets sued.

Best doing (undoing) whatever the docs say and be done with it. We had to lien several properties during my tenure and it's not pretty for anyone.
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Old 07-19-2016, 05:41 PM   #15
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Since they already denied your initial appeal, I'd find a local school or women's shelter or church and donate the waiting-to-be-planted new plants, and go to home depot, pick up a few replacement azaleas and Euonymus and be done with it.
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Old 07-19-2016, 05:48 PM   #16
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I would state, in writing, that if a violation occurred it was unintentional, and that the previous plantings have been discarded. How does the HOA want me to proceed? I would be more than willing to accept their guidance and move on. If lucky....they'll just agree to the planting of what you already purchased.


Some fights just aren't worth my time....and this would be one.
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Old 07-19-2016, 06:01 PM   #17
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I would state, in writing, that if a violation occurred it was unintentional, and that the previous plantings have been discarded. How does the HOA want me to proceed? I would be more than willing to accept their guidance and move on. If lucky....they'll just agree to the planting of what you already purchased.


Some fights just aren't worth my time....and this would be one.
+1. What MichaelB suggested should have worked. Since it didn't, I appears you've insulted the exalted HOA, so you will not win. The approach above puts the ball back in their court, preventing further a dispute. Not worth the trouble. "No good deed goes unpunished..."
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Old 07-19-2016, 06:05 PM   #18
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Sell and move. Bad HOAs just ruin things.
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Opinions/advice regarding HOA conflict
Old 07-19-2016, 06:24 PM   #19
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Opinions/advice regarding HOA conflict

The HOA's position is most likely this - they don't want everyone in the development ripping out plants and replacing them with their own. If you do this, others may follow, creating a hodgepodge of plantings.

The language of the covenants is subjective. If you lawyer up, the HOA board will hold fast, probably assess fines, and possibly lien your property. I would take MichaelB and Silver's advice and try to work with them.

I'm on the review committee in our HOA and we run into this a lot. The problems are only resolved when both parties agree to work together to create the best solution.

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Old 07-19-2016, 06:55 PM   #20
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The HOA bylaws are there for a reason.
This has not been my experience. Some HOA bylaws are sensible, but many are just for aggrandizement of the enforcers. Not to mention the selective enforcement which is all too common.
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