A Guide To Helping HOA Residents Upgrade Their Landscaping

Posted by Joseph Barnes on Jun 18, 2024 12:14:29 PM

Landscaping guidelines in your HOA community can be a touchy subject for residents who want to upgrade their home’s landscape. This is a huge challenge for HOA directors and property managers who are responsible for keeping community aesthetics top-notch while also managing environmental issues.

Luckily, residents also usually want what’s best for their property and the community as a whole because they want neighborhood property values to climb. All it takes is a tactful approach to ensure they stay on the same page as your HOA landscaping guidelines.

In this guide,we’ll provide action steps, an HOA landscaping checklist, and a landscape plan submission template for residents who are uncertain about how to submit landscape plans to the HOA.

The bonus benefit of this guide is planting tips unrelated to flowers, grass, or trees.

Understanding The Basics Of HOA Landscaping Rules

For a detailed look at common HOA landscaping policies, see this linked article. Below is an overview of the policies:

  1. Require an approved plant palette
  2. Limitations on lawn furniture or sculptures
  3. Limit or restrict personal gardens
  4. Tree removal rules
  5. Hardscaping and fencing approval process

These rules have nuances, of course, so details need to be spelled out for community members. Clear communication is as critical as the specifics for irrigation requirements or hardscape materials. We’ll provide insights for improving HOA communications in a moment, but let’s look at the plant palette aspect first.

A plant palette simplifies your life because it puts reasonable limits on landscaping choices. You won’t have to discuss a hundred flower varieties with twenty different residents. Yet, this limitation shouldn’t dishearten residents. 

Help them by planting this idea: Choosing a landscape company with extensive experience and creativity enables them to upgrade their property within guidelines without sacrificing aesthetics.

Now, let’s see how to create a plant palette.

Developing And Implementing Approved Plant Palettes

These steps keep the neighborhood’s landscaping consistent and attractive, avoiding property designs that clash with one another.

1. Understand Community Goals: Review the community plan and vision statement to understand goals for patterns, character areas, and policies. Identify specific goals for landscaping, urban forestry, native plants, sustainability, etc.

2. Develop Plant Palette Criteria: Establish criteria based on goals, then create a preliminary list of plants. Consider growing requirements (sunlight, soil, water), climate zones, and ongoing maintenance.

3. Refine and Categorize: Remove species that don’t align with community goals and categorize plants into palettes based on plant community, function (shade, screening), and neighborhood sections.

4. Get Community Input: Asking for input too early might overwhelm you with resident feedback. At this stage, you’ve avoided that concern. Your preliminary plant list actually helps residents not be overwhelmed with choices themselves. Think of it as a restaurant menu where it limits choices to what’s possible, not what someone might want on a whim (i.e., a salad doesn’t belong on a Five Guys Burgers menu).

5. Formalize and Adopt: Once agreements are reached, finalize the plant list and officially adopt the plant palette. It should be clearly written (using easy-to-understand language) into HOA policies. 

Pushback from homeowners is common for HOA boards, directors, and property management leaders. So, remember to put as much effort into asking residents to get involved in finalizing a plant palette as you put into choosing those ideal plants—strategies for achieving engagement and compliance are below.


Encouraging Compliance: Strategies For HOAs 

Four questions to ask yourself so that community members get real chances to give input on HOA plant lists and receive policy updates:

  1. Are HOA guidelines easy to find?
  2. Do policy updates get posted immediately?
  3. Where do your residents look for information, generally?
  4. Are the “whys” provided - for rules most likely to cause pushback?

The number one issue for most HOA residents? They didn’t know about the policy in question.

Sure, it’s the homeowners’ responsibility to know. However, extra effort toward getting information to residents makes your life easier - guaranteed!

HOA guidelines will be seen by more homeowners if posted in multiple places:

  • HOA website
  • Printed and posted in common areas
  • Neighborhood email newsletters 
  • Facebook Groups
  • The Nextdoor platform
  • Text alerts (for urgent updates only)

Automate those communications with tech tools to post on various outlets simultaneously.https://www.hoalife.com/blog/the-best-hoa-communication-tools-of-2022

Taking Action

A simple acknowledgement of an attractive landscape rewards residents who work within guidelines and can nudge others to follow suit. Also, try gamifying compliance with “Yard of the Month” contest prizes like restaurant gift cards.

What about non-compliance? Violations should decrease by continuously improving community communications, especially informing new residents about HOA landscaping rules. 

When problems do arise, it’s critical to get out in front of them. Otherwise, a stressful situation might drag on for months. 

Be able to show:

  • How their violation is legitimate
  • When and where guidelines were posted

And be empathetic with the homeowner while protecting the investments of other homeowners who are sticking to HOA landscaping requirements.

The following advice further reduces non-compliance.


Collaborating With Contractors For Community-Wide Upgrades

When residents work with well-respected landscape contractors, this should keep most residents in compliance. So, make choosing trusted providers easy for residents.

As with plant palettes, limiting contractor options is actually a benefit. Get familiar with the top landscaping companies in your area and create a list of highly-rated ones. This helps homeowners avoid choosing contractors with zero HOA landscaping experience.

A proven system for choosing the right provider:

  • Review outdoor project rules.
  • Note restrictions on plant types, hardscaping materials, structures like pergolas, fencing, etc.
  • Learn the process for getting landscaping plans approved by HOA (coming up).
  • List each landscaping service needed (lawn care, planting, etc.).
  • Create a detailed request outlining the work, HOA requirements, and timeline.
  • Send requests to multiple licensed and insured landscaping companies - preferably on HOA's top-rated list.
  • Review each proposal for compliance. Check contractor references, credentials, and insurance.
  • Interview top candidates to assess professionalism, communication skills, and HOA experience.
  • Select a contractor with strong HOA project experience who respects community regulations.
  • Set up clear communication for HOA submission, approvals, and addressing issues.
  • Review contract terms, scope of work, warranties, etc.
  • Monitor contractor's work to verify compliance throughout the project.

Guiding Residents in Personal Landscaping Upgrades

Continuous efforts are a must for reminding residents that it’s mandatory to submit landscaping plans for approval prior to implementing plans (even if they do the work themselves). 

Unfortunately, residents are busy with work and family, so reading HOA rules isn’t high on their to-do list. That means repetition is your ally. Repetition is one of the least used but most effective communication tools for keeping homeowners informed. Regularly remind them of landscaping rules and encourage them to attend HOA meetings often (before problems arise).

Three more communication tips:

  1. Keep sentences and paragraphs concise
  2. Use bulleted lists, headings, and white space for scannability
  3. Avoid covering too many topics at once in verbal discussions

Let’s move on to the exact steps residents need to submit landscape plans to HOAs.


Steps For Submitting Landscape Plans To The HOA

At the end of this article is a template you can share with residents for submitting landscape plans for approval. The important steps:

Understand HOA Requirements: Review governing documents, architectural guidelines, and landscaping rules. Identify required components like site plans, plant lists, and material specifications.

Develop Landscape Plans: Hire a landscape designer to prepare detailed plans that meet HOA criteria. This increases the chances of approval. Plans should include a property survey or site plan, layout of proposed landscaping elements, plant species, sizes, and quantities from the HOA plant palette, construction details for structures, and any grading or drainage plans.

Submit for Approval: Complete the required HOA forms. Compile required documents (plans, plant lists, material samples). Submit the application package to the HOA review committee or management company. Be prepared to pay review fees if applicable.

Review and Approval Process: The HOA board will review the submitted plans. Residents may need to provide clarification on the design. The board will provide feedback on any required revisions to meet compliance. Once approved, residents can proceed with installation exactly as the approved plans state. The HOA may conduct inspections during and after installation to verify compliance. That process could overwhelm some homeowners, so plant a couple more ideas.

Use the following facts to encourage homeowners to follow HOA landscaping rules exactly—because it benefits them.

The landscaping companies that will make their property look the best are in big demand due to their high-quality work. Their schedules fill up fast, so delayed plan approval due to efforts to sidestep HOA guidelines can cause residents to miss out on hiring their preferred company.

Also, approval delays during the busy season might cause homeowners to overpay for landscape services. The few providers with openings may be charging a premium because demand is high and the supply of contractor availability is low.

Guiding HOA Residents’ Landscaping Upgrades Conclusion

When HOA boards and homeowners work together on the attractiveness and sustainability of their neighborhood, everyone wins. Neighborhood desirability rises alongside individual property values. Plus, the benefits of living life in visually pleasing and stylistically connected surroundings are endless.

Mix in the expertise of the best landscaping contractors available, and balancing individual creativity with community guidelines becomes easier and improves HOA leadership and member relations. A “we attitude” and enhanced communication go a long way toward neighborhood harmony and beautification.

Get in touch with Yellowstone Landscape for help with designing and implementing plant palettes. We can also offer deeper insights on getting HOA member buy-in for landscaping initiatives you’re considering.

Free resources to provide to HOA residents:

Landscape Plan Submission Template

HOA Landscape Compliance Checklist   

Common plants in approved plant palettes for various climate zones (note that approved plant lists vary significantly between HOAs and regions):

Arid/Desert Zones:

  • Trees: Mesquite, Palo Verde, Desert Willow
  • Shrubs: Brittlebush, Creosote Bush, Ocotillo
  • Groundcovers: Red Yucca, Damianita

Mediterranean/Coastal Zones:

  • Trees: Coast Live Oak, Catalina Ironwood
  • Shrubs: Toyon, Lemonade Berry, Ceanothus
  • Groundcovers: Coastal Penstemon, Dwarf Coyote Brush

Prairie/Grassland Zones:

  • Ornamental Grasses: Little Bluestem, Switchgrass
  • Wildflowers: Purple Coneflower, Blanket Flower
  • Shrubs: Fragrant Sumac, New Jersey Tea

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Joseph Barnes

About The Author

Joseph Barnes

Joseph Barnes has served as Marketing Manager of Yellowstone Landscape since 2013. He writes on a variety of topics related to the commercial landscaping industry.