Owner vs. HOA: Large trees and small lots don’t mix

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities blog


A large tree can be a desirable addition to a landscape, but it needs plenty of room to grow. Christopher Bain of Chapman Groves Homeowners Association in Oviedo, FL, learned that lesson the hard way. Many of the homes in the community were constructed in the 1990s, and some of the trees planted two decades ago have now outgrown their modestly sized lots. Bain had to remove a large tree that was causing property damage. The HOA wants him to replace it with another large tree, even though the small lot, with its underground utility lines, does not provide sufficient space. That leaves the homeowner with quite a dilemma:

Fight the HOA or risk damaging your home… One man’s fight over tree in Oviedo


Having owned a property on a wooded lot, I have witnessed first hand the damage that can be caused by large tree roots or heavy tree limbs hanging over the roof and rain gutters. I have also witnessed mature trees ripped out by the roots in severe weather conditions. There was one very close call that nearly hit our house.

So I fully understand Bain’s decision to take down his tree, and his reluctance to replace it with another one that will quickly recreate the same hazards. Apparently several other owners in Chapman Groves HOA lack a large tree in the front yard, so there’s some question as to whether the same rules apply to everyone.

But the bottom line is, why does the rule exist in the first place, and why should a few neighbors on the HOA Board be able to tell you what you must plant on your own property? It’s not as if the HOA is going to rake leaves, remove them from the rain gutter, prune the tree, or repair damage to the foundation, driveway, or underground utility lines caused by tree roots.

Our house on the wooded lot was not in a homeowners association, so when a tree had to come down, it wasn’t an issue for me or my neighbors. In place of trees that were removed, we planted ornamental shrubs, flower beds, or simply made the area part of the lawn. We trusted our neighbors to use their own judgment. And even though we didn’t have an HOA Big Brother to watch over us, we did not have cars up on blocks, old tires in the yard, or an old sofa on the front porch.

Imagine that!

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