By Down To Earth Landscape & Irrigation / Published April 2022
Many Florida communities are managed under Florida Statute 720 as homeowners associations (HOAs). HOAs make rules for planned communities and enforce them. When you buy a property within an HOA’s jurisdiction, you automatically become a member of the HOA and are required to pay the HOA fees. The members of these homeowners associations are the residents of that community; this includes the board members who run the HOA.
Homeowners associations are responsible for maintaining a cohesive atmosphere within the community, keeping a uniform and well-kept look to the properties in order to maintain the property values of the community. The monthly or annual fees collected by the HOAs go toward this effort.
One of the responsibilities of HOAs includes landscaping. The landscape of a property is known to have a direct impact on its value. A well-maintained landscape increases the curb appeal; therefore, most HOAs go to great lengths to maintain an aesthetically pleasing landscape across the entire community to attract potential homeowners. Due to the importance of landscaping with many HOAs, there is usually a landscape committee that focuses on the property’s clean and cohesive appearance.
Considering the value that well-maintained landscapes bring to the community—both aesthetic value and market value—it is understandable why landscaping can be one of the more expensive sectors in an HOA’s budget.
However, this budget also depends on the areas being maintained by the HOA. Some homeowners associations maintain only the common areas of a community like the playgrounds, parks, entrances to the community, pools, community pathways, etc. Other HOAs are fully planned communities where the HOA is responsible for the landscapes of all the properties in the community. This means construction, maintenance, and enhancement of the landscapes.
The landscaping budget for the second type of HOA will be more expensive than the first one because the pricing for landscape maintenance increases when the amount of area that needs to be maintained increases and/or the number of services provided increases.
The right landscaping company will offer full services that include site analysis. This will help identify the specific requirements of the community landscape, and a reasonable budget can be planned accordingly. Consider the landscape contractor who offers complimentary design services for clients having maintenance contracts.
After finalizing the landscaping requirements of the community and deciding on a budget, the homeowners association will send out requests for proposals (RFP) to various landscaping companies. This will include the expectations of the HOA from the landscaping company and the budget of the entire project. The HOA will also ask for references and pictures of the landscaping company’s previous projects to evaluate the candidates.
Landscaping companies will respond to the RFPs with bids and all the details that the HOAs had requested. Based on this, the landscaping committee will screen the landscaping company candidates’ responses and create a short list to recommend to the board.
One point to consider here is that the homeowners association will generally not choose the cheapest bid (as tempting as it might be) because the quality of service provided is important. Companies with a proven track record of high-quality landscaping services are generally found to be more desirable (and not the cheapest).
A landscaping committee’s responsibilities are not limited to maintaining the existing landscapes; they extend to enhancing and improving them. These suggestions could include repaving driveways or walkways, adding a water feature like a fountain or a waterfall in a common area, or planting flowers to add color if the landscape is predominantly green or to simply refresh the appearance.
HOA landscaping rules vary as the needs of every community are different. There are some common landscaping guidelines that most homeowners associations put in place because of the very common goal of an HOA to keep the community looking cohesive and aesthetically pleasing. Whether your HOA runs a fully planned community or maintains only the common areas, the following are some guidelines that may have been put into place:
Having a pre-approved plant palette is one of the most common HOA landscaping policies. While homeowners might want to plant various plants and shrubs in their landscape according to their aesthetic sensibilities, there are some plants that the residents are not allowed to plant in their lawns according to this guideline.
While this might feel restrictive to some residents, this is for the benefit of the community as well as the health of their landscape. Not all residents have the knowledge required to use the right plants in their lawns and thus can end up planting an invasive species that will drain the water and nutrients from their landscape. To prevent this and maintain the uniformity of the community, the HOA creates a list of plants suitable for use in the community.
Many HOAs put restrictions on the addition of lawn sculptures. While small lawn ornaments like a birdbath might be allowed, this still requires the HOA’s permission. Certain HOAs also impose restrictions on the type of lawn furniture that can be used in the front yard.
Once again the reason for this comes down to the aesthetic requirements of the community. For example, a large sculpture in the middle of the front yard or eclectic furniture pieces scattered across the lawn will not suit the standards of the whole community.
Like the pre-approved plant list, most HOAs will have a list of trees that can be planted on the property. The list will be made while considering the trees that will be best suited to the climate and location of the property and will not cause a burden on the land. Even after selecting a tree from the list, you may need permission to plant it, as not all yards will be able to accommodate trees.
If you have a tree you want to remove, you may need your HOA’s permission again. If permission is needed, the landscape committee will assess your reasons for removing the tree, check the value of the tree, and then grant permission accordingly.
Major changes to the landscape like adding a patio, deck, pergola, outdoor kitchen, fireplaces, etc. are restricted by most HOAs. This is to keep all the landscapes in the community looking similar overall.
Additionally, some HOAs require the homeowner to maintain a certain ratio of hardscape to softscape. This is to prevent landscapes from becoming more pavement than grass.
Fencing regulations are very common among HOA guidelines. Some HOAs permit fencing and others don’t. The homeowners associations that do permit it set limits on the type and height of the fencing. This is to make sure that the fencing does not stand out or impede the view.
The homeowners association board and the landscaping committee are responsible for making sure that all the residents are aware of these rules and understand them. This includes understanding who is responsible for what. This understanding will prevent any disputes that could arise or any difference in expectations.
While some landscape restrictions may be put into place, the HOA makes decisions in the community’s best interest to continue to drive value and increase the overall experience within the property.
Down To Earth Landscape & Irrigation
Down To Earth Landscape & Irrigation is a premier, full-service landscape maintenance, irrigation and construction company proudly serving multiple markets across Florida. Our mission is to “bring natural joy to our customers”, and our vision is to be the “service provider of choice in the green industry”. Our company culture revolves around core values, known as ICARE: Integrity, Community, Accountability, Relentlessness, Excellence. For additional information, please call us at (321) 263-2700 or visit dtelandscape.com.