Woman Fights HOA Over Eco-Friendly Plants

Article and Video Courtesy of Channel 9, Orlando

By Berndt Petersen

Published December 9, 2010


A Tavares woman spent thousands on new landscaping featuring all environmentally-friendly plants that don't require any water, but her homeowners' association doesn't like it. So, WFTV researched what kind of rights homeowners have to fight their HOA.


Mo O'Connor's favorite place is a few steps from her front door.


"I have such a strong passion for them. And I'm not sure it's not genetic," she said.


Plants, trees, and shrubs cover nearly every inch of her Tavares lawn, much to the distress of some of her neighbors.


"They don't like my yard," she told WFTV.


They call it a jungle. Bill Herring is president of the Lake Frances Estates Property Owners Association.


"Do you like it?" WFTV reporter Berndt Petersen asked him.


"No, 445 homes in here, about 700 people, and I've got one person," Herring said.


That one person the association's attorney has threatened with a lawsuit unless she "governs herself accordingly." The HOA insists O'Connor's yard "violates" the deed restrictions and is a breeding ground for rats and snakes.


But O'Connor says state law protects her little jungle, the "Florida Friendly Landscaping Program," which states HOA rules may not prohibit any property owner from maintaining native Florida plants, which grow naturally in wooded areas across the state.


Some of O'Connor's neighbors say the HOA has gone too far.


"They're just determined to have it look like all the other cookie cutter yards out here," neighbor Joy Powell said.


And O'Connor's landscaper says this yard doesn't come cheap.


"You're looking between fifteen and twenty thousand dollars, maybe a little more," Mike Africano said.


And that's one of the reasons why O'Connor will stand her ground and fight for her yard.


"Because I'm right," she said.


O'Connor says every plant in her yard is approved by the University of Florida for the state landscaping program. The HOA said it will get an expert from UF to visit the yard.

HOA takes issue with homeowner's landscaping