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Sly homeowner shares genius loophole to avoid fines from strict HOAs: 'The HOA literally can't do [anything] about it'

You can certify anything, from your backyard to the container garden on your porch, as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

Certified Wildlife Habitat loophole for avoding

Photo Credit: iStock

Homeowners' Associations (HOAs) are meant to ensure the upkeep of a community, but homeowners often find their rules overreaching. 

One of the rules homeowners hate most? Restrictions on lawn appearance. 

With this clever loophole, though, you just might be able to take control of your lawn.

A Redditor posted a link to the National Wildlife Federation's Certified Wildlife Habitat registration page, writing, "You can get your house certified as a wildlife refuge, and the HOA can't do [anything] about it."

It's true that you can certify anything, from your backyard to the container garden on your porch, as a Certified Wildlife Habitat, so long as it provides a few key elements for local wildlife. 

Certified Wildlife Habitats must provide food, water, shelter, and places for wildlife to raise their young. They also must be tended to with sustainable gardening practices, which include reducing lawn space, limiting water use, and eliminating pesticide use.

These sustainable practices often violate rules surrounding lawn appearance enforced by HOAs. Rules often include restrictions on what plants homeowners can grow, how often homeowners must mow their lawns, and how much yard space homeowners must maintain. 

These rules not only restrict homeowners' freedoms over what they do with their properties, but they also prioritize grass lawns, which are damaging to both your wallet and the environment.

Certifications for a Certified Wildlife Habitat cost between $20 and $119 and come with a sign and a subscription to National Wildlife Magazine. The certification fee supports the National Wildlife Federation's conservation programs.

Knowing whether or not this certification trumps HOA rules is tricky. As one commenter pointed out, "Once you pay to get certified … no one's going to come see if you actually meet any requirements." 

"Does registering your house as a wildlife refuge do anything legally that has any effect?" another wondered. "As far as I can tell, not really."

Other commenters shared stories of neighbors and relatives who'd pulled off similar tricks. 

"My parents turned their house into a bird sanctuary and the HOA literally can't do anything about it. It's amazing," one said.

Regardless of whether it will fully let you off the HOA's hook, registering a Certified Wildlife Habitat can't hurt. It encourages gardeners to adopt a sustainable approach, and the money goes to a good cause. 

And remember — even if you can't certify your whole lawn, you can always certify smaller gardens, like window boxes and container gardens.

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