In response to California’s current severe drought, a new law recently enacted by the California legislature and signed by Governor Brown places new restrictions on the otherwise expansive powers of homeowners’ associations (“HOAs”) by barring them from prohibiting and fining residents for replacing existing landscaping with drought-resistant plants. The new law also prevents HOAs from imposing fines on residents who stop or limit watering their lawns during declared droughts.
New drought rules
The relevant section of the California Civil Code previously stated that any provision of an HOA’s governing documents was void and unenforceable to the extent that it “prohibits, or includes conditions that have the effect of prohibiting, the use of law-water using plants as a group.”
Expands the language
The new law expands this language by also voiding any such prohibition contained in an HOA’s architectural or landscaping guidelines as well as its governing documents. In addition, the new law voids any such restriction on the use of such plants “as a replacement for existing turf”, beyond the initial installation of landscaping.
It should be noted that the law still does not specifically require HOAs to allow the use of artificial turf as a means of water conservation. As artificial turf is not considered to be a “plant,” HOAs can still prohibit artificial turf.