I have lived in a +55 community of 100 homes (18 acres) for 3 years. I’m a retired horticulturist, having worked with Rutgers University for 23 years as a County Agricultural Agent. I have a BS in botany and MS horticulture. Also I’m licensed by the state as a tree expert. It was my job to educate landscape maintenance professionals, property owners, gardeners, and a few vegetable and fruit farmers.
The landscape where I live now is the worst I’ve ever seen, the landscape firm’s employees are polite and they work hard, but they don’t know how to care for plants that are common in NJ.
I’ve been told by the board to not speak to the landscaper about how to do things better, and I’ve been told I can’t see the vendor contract. They don’t want me as a board member.
There are 4 categories of problems:
* 49 hazardous trees overhanging patios, homes and driveways. They’ve never been pruned, and they are full of dead wood.
* an unhealthy, compacted, damaged soil and stressed landscape plants. Plants put where they won’t thrive, big vigorous plants put in small spaces. Poor quality plant material installed by the landscaper. They plant trees with mechanical damage on the trunk, they plant incorrectly, they choose the wrong trees to begin with, for example we have too many maples which are attacked by Asian long-horned beetles.
* totally wrong maintenance practices that cost lots of money. For example, July 27 drought stressed lawns were mowed, fertilized, and a pesticide was spread for 2 pests we haven’t had in 3 years, and probably will not have because they plants and soil conditions that attract those pests are not present here.
The landscaper said the pesticide was “preventative.” This is not the 1950s! Overuse of pesticides is the reason we have pests resistant to pesticides. Also residents walk their dogs on our lawns.
* Fourth, our landscape is not functional. For example, most patios or decks are not shaded from the hot afternoon sun.
I was very surprised when I purchased the original landscape plans for our community from the municipality. The plans show a landscape composed of plants, carefully chosen for specific sites like sun vs. shade, or a wet area, or a narrow planting strip in front of a living room window, that would have been beautiful when mature. One 50% slope that was supposed to be wildflowers, is now turf and mowed, sometimes even when it’s raining. It turns out the landscape plan approved by the municipal planning board in 2001 is a legal document. All the changes here were not supposed to be made, but since it’s a common situation the planning board will not take legal action against the HOA. However, they want to see a gradual return to a landscape that accomplishes basic environmental goals such as reducing erosion on steep slopes.
Over the past 3 years, I have emailed the board 5 or 6 times with detailed information, photos, factsheets, references, and there’s never a response, never even a question, or request for more information.
Plants can improve the quality of our lives, but it isn’t happening here. There are thousands of dollars being wasted; lots more examples of landscaper incompetence that I haven’t mentioned.
One thing I’m worried about is our big liability exposure. If a tree branch falls and injures or kills someone, and the family sues the HOA, does that include me? I can’t afford to be part of that lawsuit, and I’ve warned the HOA repeatedly anyway. When I was working HOAs would contact me for advice on landscape management; there were often some tense discussions, but when faced with overwhelming evidence for a certain course of action, they were willing to try a new way even if it was just an experiment on part of their landscape.
I really don’t know what to do.
If you wish to make a change in your community’s landscape, it may be worth considering running for a position on your HOA board. As for lawsuits against your HOA, homeowners typically are not part of the lawsuit itself. Homeowners associations usually have insurance coverage that can pay for such liability risks. However, if your HOA does not have sufficient insurance, it may turn to the homeowners in the form of special assessments or increased dues to pay for the lawsuit or any damages.
Disclaimer: We are not lawyers. The information provided on this website does not constitute legal advice.