Real Restrictions: Know Your HOA’s Guidelines About Trees on Your Property
Many homeowners are shocked to discover that they do not have the final say over their landscaping. They are instead bound by the rules of their homeowner’s association, which may dictate the size and even the types of trees a resident can plant in their yard.
Before you go shopping for new trees, plan any new landscapes, or even hire a tree service to remove a tree you don’t like, be sure to consult your HOA. If you unknowingly go against the guidelines, you could end up paying to remove trees that aren’t permitted.
Here’s what homeowners need to know about HOA guidelines and how to choose the right trees for strict neighborhoods. You should also learn your HOA guidelines in the event you want to fight to keep trees in your neighborhood that are slated for cut down.
Common HOA Tree Guidelines
Every community is different, but many HOAs restrict tree types and sizes for these common reasons.
The tree could become too large for the neighborhood when it has fully grown. This is an especially common concern for front yards. It’s not uncommon for the HOA to require small-growth trees for front yards and prevent residents from planting trees that will tower over or obscure the house.
Trees can be safety concerns for homes and residents. Some tree types are more likely to snap or blow over in a storm. In Florida, high winds are expected, so HOAs may require tree types that are wind resistant.
Some trees require additional maintenance. If your HOA takes care of common maintenance like mowing, surface cleaning, and trimming, they may require trees that are low maintenance, without fruits or berries that drop and stain the sidewalk or gum up equipment.
Trees increase liability concerns. Trees with extensive root systems that are hydrophilic in nature (like the root systems of willow trees) have the potential to ruin community and private property. Tree statutes govern who is responsible for what damages, but litigation between residents can affect the community as a whole. Many HOAs want to reduce the risk of liability and property damage.
In addition, varied trees affect the visual continuity of a community. Some HOAs are very specific about tree types. They may require you to plant a tree in your yard even if you do not really want to. The tree type and size is often determined by the HOA, and such requirements can increase your expenses.
For example, a community might require a tree that is three inches in caliper measurement to be planted within the first year of your moving into your home. Since tree and installation costs increase with the size of tree you get (a two-inch tree costs less than a three- or four-inch tree), it’s vital you choose the right size from the beginning. You’ll have to replace a tree that is too small.
These are just a few of the reasons HOAs make strict rules about what kinds of trees you can plant and even where you can plant them. Contact a tree service to discuss your options and to review your contract. You might have more options available to you than you think, even if you can’t plant the large maple or weeping willow you’ve always wanted.
Once you have your tree chosen and planted, you will still be responsible for the health and growth of the tree, especially if the tree lies within the area of your property not cared for by your HOA. You will need to make sure your tree:
Is properly trimmed. Communities with high aesthetic standards will not allow for poor pruning. It’s best to leave growth control to a professional because pruning a tree actually requires a great deal of finesse. Without the right knowledge, you can cause lasting damage to your tree’s health and appearance.
Remains healthy. HOAs may ask you to remove and replace a tree if it becomes noticeably pest ridden or infected. This is especially true of trees that actually pose a danger to community structures, like trees that have been attacked by termites.
Receives proper care. This is especially important directly after transplant. The first year of a tree’s life in its new location is the most challenging. Remember to care for your new tree, because you’ll need to remove it and replace it if it dies.
Tree maintenance can be quite simple if you hire a service who is familiar with the guidelines of your HOA.
All this information may overwhelm you, but remember that as a member of your community, you have a voice to advocate for trees and variety. Don’t be afraid to fight against requirements that harm tree health. For example, an HOA may require topping or lion-tailing a tree for appearance purposes. These are damaging procedures that reduce the life of all trees.
Help to change policies that reduce tree variety in your neighborhood. A greater variety of trees makes communities more environmentally secure, especially if trees develop contagious diseases. For example, it would be expensive to replace hundreds of oak trees that all develop crown gall.
For more information on working with your HOA to find and care for your trees, contact us at Pete & Ron’s Tree Service, Inc.