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Homeowner stuck in bureaucratic debacle after simple yard change: 'HOA lawyer sent me a letter saying my lawn isn't in compliance…'

"The officer told me he didn't know if this was against county rules."

"The officer told me he didn’t know if this was against county rules."

Photo Credit: iStock

One homeowner found themselves neck-deep in bureaucracy when they were just trying to make their yard a more affordable, eco-friendly place.

"One of my neighbors called code enforcement on me because I'm sheet mulching," complained the Redditor, who said they were from Palm Beach County, Florida. According to them, they live in an HOA.

"I … looked into whether I could sheet mulch and was advised by other members of the [r/NoLawns subreddit] that state law provides a public policy for doing Florida friendly landscaping," they explained. "So I started sheet mulching a few days ago."

r/NoLawns is full of homeowners who want to replace all or part of their lawns with water-saving, low-maintenance options. This has several benefits: It's cheaper, takes less effort for upkeep, and many options like native plants and flowers are good for the local ecosystem and pollinators.

Unfortunately, many HOAs are against this. Lawn alternatives — like many environmentally friendly and money-saving home upgrades — change the look of the neighborhood, and some HOAs will go to extreme lengths to prevent that from happening.

"HOA sent me a letter saying I was in violation and that I couldn't replace my lawn with mulch," said this Redditor. "There is nothing in the covenants that says that. … When I was outside yesterday mulching, county code enforcement rolls up and asks me to explain what I was doing. The officer told me he didn't know if this was against county rules and advised that I call landscaping department." According to the Redditor, several phone calls revealed that neither the landscaping department nor zoning knew if their project was allowed.

The experience left the homeowner deeply frustrated. "What is the deal with everyone being in love with ornamental lawns which don't benefit anyone?" they asked. "Obviously I know the answer and it boils down to people thinking it looks pretty - plus it allows boomers to control people."

Luckily, Florida law allows this Redditor and others to choose "Florida friendly" landscaping. "HOA lawyer sent me a letter saying my lawn isn't in compliance… I'm interested in seeing his interpretation of the intersectionality of the HOA and the Florida statute," the Redditor said.

If that doesn't work, they can start trying to change the HOA's rules.

Commenters also wanted to help. "One of the best suggestions I saw was to post a sign explaining what you are doing," said one user.

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