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Distressed homeowners battle HOA over 'ridiculous' lawn requirements: 'I've had a worry about chemicals … for a long time'

"How ridiculous. This lawn doesn't want to grow here."

Distressed homeowners battle HOA over ‘ridiculous’ lawn requirements: ‘I've had a worry about chemicals … for a long time’

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One homeowner took advantage of an eco-friendly law in Florida that allows homeowners to save time and money by replacing their lawns — even against the wishes of their homeowners association (HOA), the St. Augustine Record reported.

HOAs often insist on green, regularly mowed grass. This creates a uniform, traditional look, but unfortunately, it also takes tons of water and chemicals to maintain, costing owners money and polluting the environment.

That's why Jennifer and John Zambrano approached their HOA's architectural review board with a plan to install Florida-friendly landscaping, the St. Augustine Record explained.

Florida-friendly landscaping is legally defined as "quality landscapes that conserve water, protect the environment, are adaptable to local conditions, and are drought tolerant." They may include plants native to Florida or other drought-resistant varieties and are designed to make the best use of the available water and space.

Also, as the Hideaway at Old Moultrie HOA found out, it is illegal for an HOA to prohibit it.

The Zambranos' first proposal was rejected by the architectural review board, the St. Augustine Record reported. However, Jennifer Zambrano resubmitted her application with the text of the law attached, and it was approved the second time around.

The design itself was created with the help of a local nursery, according to the St. Augustine Record. Instead of grass, it focused on low-maintenance shrubs and included creeping juniper, Indian Hawthorn, and firebush.

Zambrano told the St. Augustine Record that the idea initially came from struggles with her original lawn. According to Zambrano, she thought, "How ridiculous. This lawn doesn't want to grow here. It's Florida, it's not a good place for lawns."

She also said that she wanted to cut back on fertilizers and pesticides. "I've had a worry about chemicals in my yard for a long time," she said.

In an email to the St. Augustine Record, Zambrano lamented the fact that she'd had to fight so hard to exercise her legal rights on her own property. 

"Although many HOAs are ... encouraging home-owners to implement Florida-friendly practices, just as many choose to ignore Florida statutes and insist on green grass everywhere," Zambrano wrote. "This has resulted in homeowners being forced to enlist legal assistance and proceed with costly arbitration and mediation in order to force [associations] to abide by Florida statutes."

Other homeowners have looked for loopholes in HOA rules or leaned on Florida's protections for native and endangered species.

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