Fran Paxson of San Ramon, Calif., is being fined by her homeowners association for planting a low-maintenance ground cover in place of her lawn — despite the fact that California is in a severe drought, the Mercury News reports.
California has been suffering from low rainfall and hot summers in the past several years. While recent storms have helped to refill reservoirs, there is still serious concern about the state’s water supply. To try to reduce water waste, the state has begun offering rebates to residents who replace grass lawns with drought-resistant landscaping.
Paxson’s landscaping plan qualified for the rebate, the Mercury News reveals. She removed all her grass and added native plants, which will grow to carpet the whole bare area. Since mint needs very little water compared to grass, Paxson installed drip irrigation to care for them instead of sprinklers to limit water loss through runoff and evaporation.
While the state may have approved of Paxson’s renovation, her HOA does not. According to the Mercury News, the association requested that Paxson leave 25% of her lawn intact, and has begun fining her $50 a month until she replants that area with grass. According to the HOA, “It would look better.”
The Mercury News points out that this action is against the spirit of a recent California law, written in response to the drought, which says HOAs cannot penalize homeowners for letting their grass die. Another law is in the works which would protect drought-resistant landscaping like Paxson’s, but it has not taken effect yet.
California is not the only state developing eco-friendly regulations that limit the powers of HOAs. Maryland recently adopted a law to protect homeowners with native plants instead of grass, thanks to the efforts of a couple who took their conflict with their HOA to the state government. Meanwhile, in Maine, the state constitution has been amended to give residents a “right to food” that allows them to grow gardens in spite of HOA rules to the contrary.
For California residents, the battle may be nearly over. But homeowners in other states face future legal challenges to wrestle control of their land from overbearing HOAs.
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