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Petty HOA launches homeowners into 4-year legal battle over their lawn: 'I don't understand this'

"If you buy a house, how can someone else legally tell you how to keep it?"

HOA over their meadow lawn

Photo Credit: iStock

In 2018, a Virginia homeowners association (HOA) ended its four-year-long attempt to force Mike and Sian Pugh to mow their meadow, the Washington Post reported.

Many homeowners trying to garden or grow native plants have had to fight local HOAs in court. Legal battles can lead to updated laws, like those in Maine, Maryland, and California. Other homeowners try to work within HOA restrictions or even take control of the HOAs themselves.

The Pughs discovered just how petty an HOA can be after they brought in chickens, which are "explicitly barred under the HOA," as one Redditor recounted

"The Pughs admit they were in the wrong. They got rid of the chickens. But there were implied threats from neighbors about the meadow," the poster added.

The meadow in question is a two-acre field of wildflowers, which has been a feature of the property since they bought it in 2005, the Washington Post reported. In fact, according to a Fairfax County restoration ecologist that Pugh hired, the soil hadn't been disturbed since the neighborhood was established in the 80s and 90s. 

Just like previous inhabitants, the Pughs trimmed back the greenery once a year. They also planted native plants that attract butterflies, birds, and deer.

That meadow, which had never been a problem before, became a target after the chickens incident, according to the Reddit post. In 2014, the HOA delivered a notice that it would need to be cut down.

According to the HOA's rules, all lawns need to be mowed regularly. But the Pughs argued that a meadow is not a lawn. Even if it were, the Washington Post reported that it's barely visible to neighbors, and mowing it would destroy a beautiful and valuable feature of the property.

Ultimately, the Pughs were allowed to keep their meadow, according to the Washington Post. The day before the issue went to court, after four years and $90,000 in legal fees, the HOA backed down.

While conflicts like this are common in the U.S., commenters from other countries seem to find them baffling. 

On the Reddit post about the Pughs, one European user said, "I don't understand this … if you buy a house, how can someone else legally tell you how to keep it?" 

Another user replied, "To protect property values and provide services. It doesn't make sense to me either."

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