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Drought lifting prompts HOAs to issue brown lawn tickets

Property owners in California who allowed their grass to turn brown during the state's lengthy drought may soon be receiving notices from their homeowners associations. Water restrictions that had been imposed were lifted across most of the Golden State by Gov. Jerry Brown in April, and that means that rules preventing property owners from watering their lawns are no longer in effect. It has been observed that HOAs have wasted little time in letting their members know that brown lawns are no longer acceptable and violators are likely to face sanctions.

While California residents have generally welcomed the lifting of drought restrictions, some homeowners in the state have reacted to the news less enthusiastically. They have grown accustomed to lower water bills and less interference from their HOAs, but they are reluctantly turning their sprinklers back on to avoid possible citations and fines. While not state law, most HOAs give residents 30 days to make any required changes.

Some property owners may be able to frustrate their HOAs and keep their monthly expenses under control by leaving water-saving landscaping features in place. Many California residents have covered large areas of brown grass with similarly colored mulch that requires no watering, which can lower water bills by hundreds of dollars each month. HOAs can do little about this as state law prevents them from forcing residents to remove such features.

HOA rules are sometimes vague and often quite restrictive, and disputes with property owners over issues such as bylaws, assessments, pet policies and the use of common areas are not uncommon. Settling these matters through negotiation can save homeowners and their HOAs both time and money, and amicable resolutions may be especially beneficial when the disputing parties are neighbors. Attorneys may urge property owners involved in HOA disputes to consider their options carefully before pursuing civil litigation, but they could also advocate fiercely in court on their behalf when they are being treated unfairly.

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