Los Angeles Homeowners Being Fined for Not Watering Grass During Drought

06-23-2015
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Homeowners in Los Angeles are complaining that homeowner associations are rejecting requests to plant drought resistant vegetation, and fining homeowners who don’t comply with outdated, ecologically dangerous maintenance policies. This is especially true in neighborhoods with luxury style homes, which have strict architectural and landscape rules to keep with a theme of luxury homes. In order to be mindful of California’s severe drought, one homeowner stopped watering their lawn and removed all flowers. As soon as the grass died, the local homeowner’s association sent them a notice and a fine, stating that they had violated covenants, conditions and restrictions, and would continue to be fined until they replanted the flowers and watered the lawn. In further notices, the homeowner’s association even threatened to place a lien on the home.

According to Civil Code section 4735(a), any architectural or landscaping guidelines and their governing documents will be void if they prohibit the use of low-water-using plants during a severe drought. Although associations are not prohibited from regulating aesthetics, they have to conform to the civil code, and a state emergency due to drought overrides any rules and regulations that don’t comply with executive order. The only governing body allowed to mandate water use restrictions is the California Governor’s Executive Order, making any notices containing fines, assessments and penalties in violation of the law. Homeowners associations are not allowed to place homeowners in a position to where they have to decide between violating architectural and landscape rules, or violating stated mandated emergency water control regulations. The law is clear: Conservation of water during a severe drought takes precedence over any aesthetic regulations, and any punishments enforced in direct opposition to that are subject to liability.

If you are being threatened with fines, and a lien on your home by your local homeowners association for adhering to water restrictions brought on by the state of emergency drought, know that their actions are unlawful and hold no power. The lawyers at Hodes Milman Liebeck are there for you in your time of need. Contact us today online at hmlm.com or call 866-730-1976 for a complimentary case evaluation.

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