Q: HOA not allowing Fruit Trees in Backyards
We have just brought a house in a HOA governed community in Tampa, Florida. We have a 2000 sqf backyard and have planted some Florida approved fruit trees like mango , banana as we wanted home grown food and for religious practices. We got a letter from HOA that we are not allowed to plant fruit trees as it would attract rodents. We do not have this restriction stated in our community by-laws but it exists in HOA architecture review board documents/guidelines. More over we have some builder plans/trees which consists of Oak and Palm trees which the HOA supports. Also , the HOA supports vegetable and herb plants but only seem to be against fruit trees. Do we have any laws that protect our right to have fruit trees in our backyard? Can we argue with HOA on any legal grounds? Thank you
A: The ARB documents/guidelines are valid restrictions adopted by the HOA. Whether or not you can claim a reasonable accommodation for religious practices is a fact-based question that requires the review of a lot of factors, which go beyond the scope of this website and require a review of all of your HOA documents and any amendments to the same, as well as a review of your personal circumstances. As an avid gardener, I can tell you fruit trees and their sweet aroma do attract rodents, squirrels, raccoons and various other critters, while vegetables and herbs are less prone to attracting these animals.
You are also likely required to get permission from the HOA before changing the landscaping.
If you decide you want to dispute this you should know these cases are not done on a contingency (pay only if you win) basis. You would need an experienced HOA lawyer and the legal fees could range from $20,000 to $150,000 (or more) with the losing party having to pay the winning parties legal fees.
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