Florida friendly landscaping

Florida friendly landscaping

  • Posted: Oct 08, 2015
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Florida friendly landscaping and your association Column by Ryan Poliakoff, Esq. – management information for associations.   The Florida Legislature dramatically modified an older law that was designed to encourage Florida-friendly landscaping in communities governed by homeowner associations.  Under Florida Statute section 373.185, “Florida-friendly landscaping” is defined as “quality landscapes that conserve water, protect the environment, are adaptable to local conditions, and are drought tolerant.”  Such landscaping is also sometimes called “xeriscaping”—the use of gardening and landscaping to naturally reduce the reliance of irrigation water.  As you can imagine, xeriscaping is an extremely active discipline in drought-laden areas of the country, such as Arizona, and our own repetitive winter drought conditions have increased interest in xeriscaping in Florida. The statute specifies that Florida-friendly landscaping abides by nine governing principles: planting the right plant in the right place, efficient watering, appropriate fertilization, mulching, attraction of wildlife, responsible management of yard pests, recycling yard waste, reduction of storm water runoff and waterfront protection.  The law directs water management districts to create their own plans for managing Florida-friendly landscaping in their communities and to provide incentive programs to encourage such plantings. The law also states “a deed restriction or covenant may not prohibit or be enforced so as to prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida-friendly landscaping on his or her land.”  This law is then supplemented directly by the HOA Act (FS 720), which provides that homeowners’ association documents may not prohibit or be enforced so as to prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida-friendly landscaping as defined in s. 373.185, on his or her land. Note, however, what these laws do not do.  They do not require that HOAs or their residents must only use Florida-friendly landscaping in their plantings.  Nor do they mandate that HOAs remove or force owners to remove their own traditional, non-native plants.  All the law does is encourage water management districts to create programs that endorse and incentivize appropriate natural plants and landscaping plans and prohibit HOAs from enforcing covenants that would keep residents from following Florida-friendly landscaping principles if they so choose. The law also does not establish an agency or mechanism for enforcing the law.  If your HOA is attempting to prevent you from installing Florida-friendly landscaping, you will unfortunately need to sue the association to enforce your rights under the Act. Rather than a mandate, the law encourages healthy landscaping practices such as using native, drought-resistant plants, reducing reliance on fertilizer, encouraging composting, providing natural places for wildlife and insects to live and breed, and limiting pesticides.  Would this law allow a homeowner to tear up their lawn and replace it with pebbles, or artificial turf, contrary to HOA covenants?  Probably not.  The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program, developed by the University of Florida, has guidelines that specifically provide for covenants that prohibit artificial turf and for covenants that require natural plantings at turf-alternatives.  And “Florida-friendly” does not mean “ugly.”  Plants native to Florida can be quite beautiful–full of exotic blooms, easy to care for and very resistant to changes in water. Visit the University of Florida’s IFAS website for tools and ideas on how to assist your HOA in enforcing landscaping rules and drafting new ones, and for ideas to help residents adopt a Florida friendly landscape that is both attractive and kind to Florida’s environment….

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