A homeowners association or HOA is no longer allowed to impose fines against members who reduce or even eliminate watering their lawns during a declared state of emergency due to drought, despite any provision in the association’s governing documents to the contrary. Recent bills have amended Civil Code Section 4735 of the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act, which originally prohibited an association’s regulation of low-water using plants as a group and water-efficient landscaping. The latest change is in a subsection (subsection (c)), which prohibits an association from imposing fines against members who reduce or eliminate watering of vegetation and lawns during any period for which the Governor or a local government has declared a state of emergency due to drought. Section 4735 can be found below, with the amended subsection in Bold. As this drought continues and we are under a declared state of emergency statewide, Boards of Directors and property managers should think twice before fining members who stop watering their lawns or landscaping.
Civil Code Section 4735:
(a) Notwithstanding any other law, a provision of the governing documents or architectural or landscaping guidelines or policies shall be void and unenforceable if it does any of the following:
(1) Prohibits, or includes conditions that have the effect of prohibiting, the use of low water-using plants as a group or as a replacement of existing turf.
(2) Has the effect of prohibiting or restricting compliance with either of the following:
(A) A water-efficient landscape ordinance adopted or in effect pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 65595 of the Government Code.
(B) Any regulation or restriction on the use of water adopted pursuant to Section 353 or 375 of the Water Code.
(b) This section shall not prohibit an association from applying landscaping rules established in the governing documents, to the extent the rules fully conform with subdivision (a).
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this part, an association, except an association that uses recycled water, as defined in Section 13050 of the Water Code, for landscaping irrigation, shall not impose a fine or assessment against an owner of a separate interest for reducing or eliminating the watering of vegetation or lawns during any period for which either of the following have occurred:
(1) The Governor has declared a state of emergency due to drought pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 8558 of the Government Code.
(2) A local government has declared a local emergency due to drought pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 8558 of the Government Code.
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