Photos: Courtesy of Harold Leidner Landscape Architects

We’re big fans of artificial turf here at CandysDirt.com, as it’s a water-wise way to have a lawn without all of the seasonal maintenance of turfgrass. However, some homeowners associations have outlawed artificial turf despite its many benefits. One reader writes:

I am an interior designer who worked on a residential project for about three years, and was involved in every aspect of the the design of the home. The home is in a gated community called [redacted]. We submitted the plans to the architectural committee through the builder when we began the project and they were approved. Nowhere in the CCRs did it say that we had to submit further landscape plans for approval. When we got to the landscape design, we wanted a minimal look to coordinate with the home. We are empty nesters and wanted as little maintenance as possible. As a result, we decided to go with a combination of artificial grass, charcoal gravel, and minimal natural plants in both the front and back landscaping. The artificial grass is of a high-end quality that makes it very hard to tell if it is natural or artificial. 

Needless to say, our HOA sent us a denial notification giving us no reason. There is nothing in the CCRs that says you cannot have artificial grass. We’ve hired a lawyer to handle this and have had no success. We even offered to remove the artificial grass on  just the narrow crescent that aligns the sidewalk and they would not accept that. 

We would greatly appreciate any advice you have on this subject. With the new technology in artificial grass, there is no question that it is the way to go! With Texas heat and watering restrictions, this is a wonderful option. I really want to be the person that gets the board members, who are not keeping up with the times, to make a change! 

We asked our most-trusted landscaping expert, Harold Leidner of Harold Leidner Landscape Architects, to weigh in on this obviously contentious issue:
 

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Her book, Unhinged, is at the top of the New York Times best-seller list, and that is a good thing for Omarosa Manigault Newman and her husband, pastor John Newman. The former White House aide and spouse are being sued by The Jacksonville Golf and Country Club Property Owners Association, demanding that the couple make crucial fixes to their four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 3,048-square-foot home.

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By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Dear Diary,

OMG. My HOA is sooooo horrible. They’re, like, the worst ever. I mean, it’s like the mean girls of the school. I can’t even. They’re just trashing my entire experience. Like, totally! Turns out my condo isn’t warrantable. As if. And that rush fee they charged ate my swag money. Hashtag whatever.

Signed,

Throwin’ Shade Gal

Hey girl. I hear ya. But you might as well chillax, ’cause all HOAs (Home Owner Associations) are typically a hassle when you’re buying or selling a property. Seriously.

A property with mandatory HOA always adds another pile of paperwork to the transaction. And additional costs. Some more than others. You may be dealing with a Home Owners Association that governs the neighborhood where you live. Or you may be in a condominium under HOA management. These associations enforce restrictions, oversee common areas, supervise maintenance and repairs, … and generally ensure everyone follows the rules they’ve all agreed to.

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Morse Code “Good Morning”

A few weeks ago I wrote about the pitiful communication skills many HOAs and management companies use when communicating with residents.  Who knew I would get a second example so soon?

Imagine your Saturday tranquility shattered by jackhammers ripping through concrete minutes after sunrise at 7 a.m. Turns out that a building with ground-floor commercial space chose Saturday morning to allow a renovation to begin after the space recently changed hands.

Needless to say, residents were unhappy and loudly voiced their unhappiness over the din of the demolition.

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Grapevines are an effective, but famously inaccurate. form of communication

We’ve all heard (and likely employed) the old saying, “Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”  The inference is that while you were going to do something anyway, once it’s done, the resulting hassles are less than having to deal with the before-during-after trio of carping.  But that strategy doesn’t play well in multi-family dwellings that often operate as a Peyton Place of wagging tongues.

Of course the other issue here is that resident-representatives on HOA boards are generally untrained in the ways of communication. Management companies can be equally untrained. All seemingly unable to operate on even the most basic “what would I like” litmus test.

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Source: Coalition for Community Housing Policy in the Public Interest

Source: Coalition for Community Housing Policy in the Public Interest

Hiring outside professionals to assess the systems and structure of a condominium is often scoffed at by HOAs because of the expense.  It’s as shortsighted as complaining about the cost of toothpaste. Condominiums are larger and definitely more complex than single-family homes. It’s negligent not to have plans in place that understand the current condition of the overall building coupled with a plan for regular maintenance that stretches out as far as the longest-lived components.

It’s also critical that reserve studies are performed by outsiders.  HOAs and management companies may either lack the expertise required or want to soft-pedal the truth to avoid uncomfortable conversations with residents.  We are generally “shoot the messenger” kind of people.

Another reason for using an outsider can be managing companies that also have their own staff contracted to perform repairs.  If they’re the ones doing the capital reserve studies, isn’t that a whopping conflict of interest? Didn’t Fair Park teach us that competitive bidding is best?

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Ritz Unit 702 Terrace

Want to share a story about HOA shenanigans, or have a beautiful unit to show off? Jon Anderson wants to hear about it.

We at CandysDirt.com have been set atingle by the comments readers have posted in public and (scandalously!) in private. First of all, I wish to thank all of my readers. This is the first time I’ve had fans that haven’t been attached to the ceiling!

Share the HOA Luvin’

To expand the theme, we’ve created an email address for readers to contact me more directly. If you have a salacious real estate story or tales of HOA tomfoolery, let me know. If you have a positive story to tell, believe it or not, I’m interested in that too! It’s just as valuable and interesting to know who’s doing “it” well. Not to worry, you’ll be kept as anonymous as you want. As Jim Croce sang…”You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger, and you don’t mess around with… Candy!”

Share Your Crib Shots

Also, you know I’m big on renovations and I’d love to showcase your hard work. This is especially true of the high-rise variety. So send me your before and after pics along with your renovation yarn (or we can have a chat and I’ll take notes). Realtors, got a high-rise dump you’re trying to shift or a mega-renovated listing to crow about? We can talk, or if you’d rather, play show-and-tell. I’m game either way.

Share your story with me by shooting me a note at sharewithjon@candysdirt.com

CONDO VS HOUSE GRAPHIC

When it comes to deciding whether or not you want to invest in a condo or a single-family house, there’s a whole lot to mull over. Before stressing about homeowners associations and finding the perfect neighborhoods we decided to speak to Dallas City Center Realty’s Nancy Guerriero, who offered a wealth of sound advice.

“The biggest positive you have with a condo is the ability to lock and leave — go out with friends, travel, it’s so much easier than a house that needs to be watched over and maintained,” Guerriero says, “But at the same time you need to think about the neighborhood.”

She explains that there’s a basic checklist that most homebuyers go over before purchasing: What’s the school system like? Are there parks? Where’s the nearest shopping center? Grocery store? All of these components are essential, and as vital as exploring a condo’s homeowners association (HOA).

“The biggest issue is the governing power of the building, or HOA,” Guerriero emphasizes. “If you don’t have a good one, it’s bad news.”

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