Is your HOA fining you over your landscaping?
Landscaping is a common dispute between owners and there associations. Almost all associations have some rules or regulation about maintain your grass, trees and shrubs. Most are written something like this:
The Owner shall maintain and irrigate the trees, shrubbery, grass, and other landscaping on each Lot in a neat, orderly, attractive manner and consistent with the general appearance of the Properties as a whole. The minimum (though not sole) standard for the foregoing shall be the general appearance of the Properties as initially landscaped (such standard being subject to being raised by virtue of the natural and orderly grown and maturation of applicable landscaping as properly trimmed and maintained.)
But nowhere do the rules explain just exactly what all of that actually means in practice. In almost every case, the rules don’t say exactly how to comply.
Vagueness Knows No Bounds—Examples
Trying to figure out, i.e., interpret, just exactly what the rules mean, requires, or how compliance can be objectively measured inflicts an endless exercise in both futility and frustration. These are but a few examples of how and why:
- What does “consistent with the general appearance of the Properties as a whole” actually mean?
- How is “general appearance of the Properties as a whole” even determined? By what criteria is this judged?
- If that “standard” is “not [the] sole standard[,]” then what is some other undefined or ill-defined standard, and how does a home owner know which one applies?
- And just what was “the general appearance of the Properties as initially landscaped[,]” and what does that even mean?
- How is the “general appearance of the Properties as a whole” or the homeowners property, measured against what “the initial landscaping” looked like when the association began?
- And what does “initial landscaping” encompass? How is a homeowner or the present Association to know that with any degree of certainty?
- What does “virtue of the natural and order growth and maturation of applicable landscaping” mean? And how is a homeowner to know what that means and govern his own lawn maintenance so as to comply?
- And just what exactly does “applicable landscaping” encompass? Trees? Hedges? Flowers? Grass? What kind of trees? And again, how is anyone to know any of this so as to govern his own landscaping maintenance to comply?
- Finally, by what objective measure does your association judge compliance with such amorphous and vague standards?
The overarching point for all the above is this: The purported standards could mean anything, and that’s the problem. Contract law calls that problem vagueness, and solves that problem by refusing to enforce such hopelessly vague provisions.
If your association is trying to enforce vague landscaping rules call us to see if we can help.