HOAs have a way of turning a good thing into a frustrating experience for the community. That was certainly the case for one North Carolina homeowner, who took to Reddit last month and asked for advice on how to respond to their HOA wanting to destroy everyone’s gardens. Here’s what went down!

What Is An HOA?

First off, let’s cover the basics. An HOA, short for Homeowner Association, is an organization that creates and enforces the rules for the housing community. According to HOA USA, there are more than 370,000 homeowner associations in the United States today.

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Most HOAs require residents to pay a monthly fee, but they usually get something in return. For example, I live in an HOA, and, while it costs around $300 per month, they take care of all the landscaping, roof maintenance, and siding of my home.

NC Homeowner Posts In Anti-HOA Subreddit

HOAs are good for a lot of things, but they can be a pain with their strict regulations and harsh rules. For one community in North Carolina, that means being told their gardens are no longer welcome – despite some of them being more than 15 years old.

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“My HOA has decided that they are going to destroy everyone’s gardens and build planters instead where ‘authorized’ plants may be added,” the homeowner wrote in a popular anti-HOA Subreddit – adding that homeowners are extremely attached to them after years of upkeep.

Homeowner Asks For Advice

While the homeowner didn’t confirm if the sudden rule was listed in the CC and Rs, they did state that the HOA said it was. CC and Rs (short for covenants, conditions, and restrictions) are the set of rules created and enforced by the HOA, which residents must follow to avoid fines.

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“Any [advice] would be greatly appreciated. A lot of owners in this community are elderly and get a lot of joy from their gardens, so this has caused quite a bit of distress for everyone,” the homeowner concluded. Let’s take a look at five of the most popular pieces of advice.

5. Go To A Board Meeting

“Go to a meeting en mass and tell the board you don’t like the new rules and that they need to change it,” said one Reddit user. This is one of the first things people should do if they have a complaint about their HOA – or, at the very least, write a letter with a petition.

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The user also suggested voting the board members out if they won’t acquiesce – though this is usually a process that takes time, energy, and effort. Of course, they also recommended not buying into an HOA to begin with, but that’s sometimes not possible.

4. Plant Native Wildflowers

One of the more interesting suggestions may or may not work, but it’s worth a try – especially since we’re talking about gardens. “Plant native wildflowers in the gardens and register them as bee sanctuaries,” the user wrote.

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According to the North Carolina Native Plant Society, the following plants are native to North Carolina: Carolina Jessamine, Highbush Blueberry, Tickseeds, Foam Flower, Green-and-gold, American Beautyberry, Purple Coneflower, Bee Balm, Goldenrod, and White Wood Aster.

3. Look Into State and Local Laws

“Look into your laws. Growing food and having gardens is protected by law in some states,” wrote another user. For example, the city of Raleigh, NC doesn’t regulate farming and gardening for personal use, so HOAs are allowed to set their own rules.

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On the other hand, two states – Illinois and Florida – have passed ‘right to garden’ laws at the state level, which allow residents to garden as they wish. In 2021, Maine passed an amendment to their state constitution giving citizens the right to ‘grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing.’

2. Always Read The CC and Rs

Once you have a better understanding of what’s allowed in your local area, you can start to break down what your HOA allows and/or disallows. Of course, this means reading your HOA’s CC and Rs and making sure they comply with state laws.

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If it does, you’ll have to convince the HOA to change its mind-which is more possible than you’d think! If the rules don’t follow state law, you have grounds for a lawsuit and/or leverage to use against them when you demand change.

1. Gather Your Community Members

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is gather your community members and conduct a poll to see who agrees with you and who doesn’t. The more people you can get on board, the better-but don’t turn it into a mob. Instead, stay friendly and approachable.

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“Do NOT approach the Board like villagers storming a castle. Approach them reasonably and respectfully as people who are working in what they think are the best interests of the community and will be open for persuasive reasons why the rule should be modified,” wrote one user.

Health Benefits Of Gardens For Homeowners

Having and maintaining a garden is a great way to stay healthy. Not only does it allow you to grow healthy foods, but it’s quite literally a form of exercise and helps you stay active on a daily and weekly basis. Of course, it’s also a form of stress management!

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“Gardening is an excellent activity for practicing mindfulness, which is beneficial to overall well-being,” said Miquela Smith, AgriLife Extension program specialist. “The ability to use our hands, coupled with being outside, makes it less likely to be distracted by phones or other technology.”

Environmental Benefits Of Gardens

In addition to human health, gardening plays an important role in environmental health! It cleans the air, cleans the soil, and (if growing food) decreases our reliance on grocery stores. It’ll help us reduce our carbon footprint, while also mitigating global warming and climate change.

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And let’s not forget how beautiful it makes our environment look. Whether it’s the curb appeal of your front home, the garden oasis in your backyard, or a community garden in the local park – gardens benefit the people, the land, and the air!

Texas HOA Mows Down Bluebonnet Flowers

Last year, a Texas homeowner shared a story about their elderly neighbor who had ‘a lovely patch of bluebonnets in his yard.’ Bluebonnets are the state flower in Texas and this elderly man’s patch of flowers was a big hit among community members.

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“Our HOA randomly took it upon themselves to mow them down after telling him that it violated the rules, citing excessive weeds. His entire yard was maintained, just the patch of bluebonnets was apparently enough to trigger them,” the homeowner added.

HOA President Threatens To Sue Grandmother

Unfortunately, stories like these are far too common. Several years ago, a Reddit user posted a story about their grandmother, who lived in a community with an HOA. Gardening was one of her biggest passions, but her HOA tried to ruin it for her.

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The HOA changed the rules so that no one was allowed to garden in the front yard – only the backyard. They threatened to sue the homeowner, even though she couldn’t grow a garden in her backyard because it didn’t get enough sun coverage.

HOAs Can Be Ruthless, But Don’t Be Afraid To Speak Up

It’s not uncommon for HOAs to abuse their power. It’s a harsh reality homeowners must come to grips with, but it shouldn’t discourage anyone from standing up for themselves and/or other community members who are being treated unfairly or unlawfully.

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What’s important is the community comes together to show the HOA that they won’t be pushed around. And, while it won’t always produce the results you’re hoping for, it’s better than allowing your HOA to walk over you – no one deserves that treatment!