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A Landscape Contractor's Worst Nightmare
Home Owner's Associations Sue Over Landscaping


If you are a landscape contractor or landscape architect hired to work on a project for a homeowner, who is part of a homeowner's association, be aware of what you can and cannot do - as it could cost you.

The idea behind implementing a HOA is that it saves the local government money that would otherwise be spent on code regulations, while establishing unity and equality among homes within a community.

According to data from, there are over 351,000 HOAs that represent approximately 40 million households in the U.S.

Occasionally HOAs can implement strict or obscure rules that can severally limit what a homeowner can do with their landscapes. In extreme cases, violation of these rules can cost both the homeowner and the association thousands in legal fees.

Jim Hildenbrand of Olathe, Kansas recently won a yearlong legal battle with his HOA over landscaping improvements to his front yard. Back in 2012, Hildenbrand submitted a proposal to make changes to his home's landscaping. The proposal was accepted, however, reportedly Hildenbrand did not include plans for a small wall that would run the length of his house.

Once members of the HOA saw a landscaping company erecting the one-foot high wall in front of the residence, they sued stating that the wall was not in accordance to the original designs and violated the HOA's policies.

Hildenbrand stated he had to add the wall because the utility fixtures were placed too shallow in the ground around his house. In order to plant new plants, he had to add additional soil above the fixtures and a small wall to retain it.

Allegedly, this legal battle cost more than $300,000. The homeowner won the case but had to pay for his own legal fees.

Similarly, back in January 2017, a couple in California hired a landscaping company to replace their turf lawn with crushed rock to be more water friendly. Their HOA tried fining them $250 a month until they reverted to their original grass lawn. The family sued and won because California had recently implemented policies to protect homeowners who installed drought-tolerant landscapes.

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August 24, 2019, 5:24 am PDT

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