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What the end of California's drought emergency means

In early April, Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order that declared an end to California's drought emergency. This change has a potential impact on homeowners' associations and what they will be allowed to do.

During the drought emergency, HOAs were unable to enforce mandatory watering rules for the lawns of homes governed by them. They also could not force homeowners to powerwash their homes. HOAs were prohibited from forbidding homeowners from installing drought-tolerant landscaping such as artificial turf.

While HOAs may think that the end of the drought emergency means that they can force homeowners to remove the modifications, they cannot do so. Homeowners are also still allowed to install xeriscapes and drought-tolerant landscaping even though the drought emergency has officially ended. If another drought emergency is declared in the future, the inactive provisions will go back into effect, including those about lawn watering and power washing. HOAs may still have rules in place about the proper maintenance of artificial turf and xeriscape landscapes, but they cannot forbid them. Gov. Brown's order urged that Californians continue using water conservation methods because the state is not naturally rich in water resources.

When homeowners have HOA disputes over using water conservation measures, they might want to consult with real estate attorneys who have experience with HOA matters. Attorneys may be able to negotiate on their clients' behalf with the homeowners' associations. In many cases, they may be able to resolve the problems short of litigation. If the disputes cannot be resolved, the attorneys may find it advisable to argue the matter in court in order to obtain a resolution.

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