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Man heads to trial in battle with HOA about wildlife habitat

Some homeowners associations in California are well known to micromanage property owners. The four-year legal battle between a man and a Virginia HOA illustrates this issue. His lawsuit is scheduled for trial as he defies the association's demand that he mow his meadow. He maintains that the 2 acres at the rear of his 5.6 acre parcel serve as habitat for native plants and animals. The HOA has repeatedly ordered him to mow the area.

The exterior maintenance covenant specifies that homeowners must maintain properties, which includes cutting all lawns and pruning trees and shrubs. In his defense, the man has pointed out that the meadow never was a lawn. The developer who built his home never disturbed the 2 acres. The National Audubon Society agreed in 2015 that the land was not touched when the house was built in 1989. As far as he knows, the land has been in a natural state since the 18th century.

A university program has declared the meadow an official waystation for monarch butterflies. Court filings from the HOA insist that the meadow never existed and the man knew nothing about it when he bought the property in 2005. The HOA has not offered any more comments as the lawsuit heads to trial.

An HOA dispute could be a costly problem, and the legal insights of an attorney could help someone understand a legal position. After examining the terms of an association's covenants, an attorney could recommend how to resolve problems. An attorney could gather evidence to support the client's view and strive to negotiate a settlement.

Source: Loudoun Now, "Special Habitat or Covenant Violation? Purcellville Homeowner Sues HOA to Keep 2-Acre Meadow", Patrick Szabo, July 26, 2018

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