California is one of the hardest hits states when it comes to recent drought conditions. In fact, drought conditions have become so severe over the past several years, that drastic measures have been taken by state legislators. Many neighborhoods are tight knit communities and have Home Owner Associations that help maintain a sense of balance between the residents who reside their. While HOA's have benefits, they also have rules and regulations that each home owner must abide by. One of the rules that is often broken during drought conditions is that lawns must be compromised of natural grass and sufficiently maintained to look its best at all times.
HOA's And What They Do
A Home Owner's Association is an organization comprised of residents who live in a specific neighborhood. The purpose of an HOA is to make sure everyone in the neighborhood does their part to not only protect the neighborhood, but also to keep the area looking its best. This keeps property values high, crime low and residents safe and free from worrying about who's lawn looks better and who is letting their home deteriorate.
The rules and regulations created by HOA's are designed to protect the homeowner as well as community they reside in. The problem is that many of the regulations that have been put in place are problematic when weather conditions prevent residents from sufficiently caring for their lawns. Many by-laws declare that lawns must be natural grass and well maintained. For a homeowner to meet their demands, they would have to violate state ordinances declaring water wasting to be illegal.
AB 349 was written by Lorena Gonzalez, an Assemblywoman from San Diego. She understood the dilemma of many homeowners who belonged to HOA's and were expected to maintain natural grass lawns at all times. This was virtually impossible without utilizing different landscaping tools and drought resistant plants. HOA's did not allow homeowners to install artificial turf because representatives believed it would look differently than lawns made of natural grass. With the drought conditions the state is experiencing, many HOA's have changed their thinking to allow homeowners to use drought tolerant plants as well as install synthetic turf, at least until the drought ends. AB 349 states that even if the drought ends, HOA's cannot force homeowners to convert their lawns back to natural grass unless it is their personal choice.
Protecting Home Owner's Rights
While HOA's have the best interest of their residents at heart. The inability to install drought tolerant plants or artificial grass can lead to painful consequences. AB 349 was written in an attempt to protect a home owner's rights and prevent them from being saddled with the extra expense of reversing their newly created, water efficient lawns, back to natural grass when the drought conditions end. In the past HOA's were allowed to enforce these regulations, sometimes at substantial financial cost to the homeowner.
AB 349 protects the home owner's rights and prevents HOA's from imposing stiff penalties on those who violate the organizations by-laws. HOA's have been forced to rewrite many of their by-laws to include stipulations concerning times when drought conditions prevent home owners from remaining in compliance. HOA's had included addendums that stated when the drought conditions were declared over, home owners would be required to revert back to the original by-laws. AB 349 eliminates that possibility and protects a home owner's right to choose how they want to maintain their lawn.
With the new legislation in place, home owners have the choice to choose between drought resistant landscaping options, artificial turf or even painting their lawn to keep it looking green and vibrant. As long as they remain in compliance with their HOA by-laws and sufficiently maintain their lawn, no fines or fees can be leveled against them.