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Can HOAs stop their members from planting meadows?

If you live in a planned community in Texas, you are subject to homeowners’ association rules and regulations. These organizations manage and maintain common areas and amenities. They also enforce appearance and upkeep standards of their members’ properties, which includes landscaping.

Many HOAs have strict landscaping requirements, like maintaining traditional green lawns, shrubs, etc. But, what if one of those members wants to plant a meadow instead of a traditional green lawn?

What is a meadow?

The term “meadow” usually refers to a native, natural landscape that only has native wildflowers and grasses that are designed to attract local pollinators and wildfire. Since these landscapes are native, they are low- or no-maintenance, drought-tolerant and environmentally friendly.

Not all HOAs allow meadows, either expressly or implicitly, and they may attempt to fine or place liens on the properties of their members who attempt to turn their lawn into a meadow.

Overriding the HOA’s governing documents

In Texas, HOAs derive their authority from their governing documents, but Texas law and regulations override these governing documents. These state laws include the Texas Property Code (Chapters 81, 82, 209 and 202), Texas Residential Property Owners Protection Act, the Texas Nonprofit Corporation Act, the Texas Fair Housing Act, etc.

State law supports transitioning from lawns

Texas Property Code, Section 202.007, limits an HOA’s ability to prohibit property owners from doing several things with their lawns. This includes composting (grass clippings, leaves, brush, etc.), installing rain harvesting systems (rain barrels, etc.), efficient irrigation systems (underground drip systems, etc.) and using drought-resistant landscaping, including natural turf because it conserves water.

Why? Because the state wants homeowners to conserve water and reduce landscaping waste, especially as many areas in our state struggle with water restrictions and the lack of water.

Does that mean meadows are mandated?

Not necessarily. HOAs can still restrict the height of the new drought-resistant vegetation, the location of compost and the type, size, etc. of rain harvesting systems. They can also mandate aesthetic considerations for the new allowable landscaping as well.

To be clear, the state statutes fail to define what is included as drought-resistant landscaping or water-conserving natural turf. As such, whether you can plant your meadow will depend on what your meadow will consist of, and your HOA rules.