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Understanding HOA Design Guidelines 

Common HOA landscape design guidelines and rules?

HOA regulations vary from one community to the next, but tend to emphasize front yards, trees, fences, and architectural features that are visible from the street, as such elements that may impact the overall appearance of the community. When it comes to landscape design submittals, HOAs often require plants which are from an approved plant lists to ensure a cohesive theme and visual look throughout the community. HOA plant palettes are also used to ensure low-water or fire-resistant planting, though this is not common practice with all HOAs. Most HOAs typically require planting, mulch, driveways and other hardscape features, and sometimes restrict the use of front yard furnishings and certain plants. HOAs commonly favor yards with lawns, and some require homeowners to maintain front yard community standards. Lawn care and lawn maintenance regulations pertaining to mowing, fertilization, and irrigation systems are very common as well. HOAs – especially in the Southern CA region are replacing lawn requirements with more sustainable and drought friendly design recommendations, such as native plants.

Does Sean Landscape work with an HOA ?

Most property owners work with landscape contractors – either designers or design and build contractors – to develop a design. HOAs and their architectural teams will review the submitted landscape design prior to installation and upon completion of installation normally.

How do I follow HOA rules and regulations?

Homeowners typically purchase within HOA communities because they appreciate the style defined by community regulation but some homeowners want to add more personal style to their yards.

The stringency of an HOA’s rule and design regulations and the distance between your desired style and the regulated look of the community dictate whether it will be simple or more challenging to achieve your particular landscape ideas. This is mostly true when it comes to front yard landscaping, although HOA regulations do apply to backyards as well. Hiring a landscape designer is the best way to achieve a personal design style while navigating through the strict HOA rules and requirements. Homeowners should also educate themselves on the landscape design guidelines that apply to their community, so they can be engaged with their landscape designer throughout the entire process.

My home is still under construction. Can we prepare a landscape design for the HOA?

When the home is still under construction, we typically rely on a “Lot Map” which can be provided by the homebuilder or architectural drawings, site plans, surveys, and similar documentation to get a complete understanding of the site and scope of work. Progress photos of the property, when available, are also helpful but not required. In many cases I have people approved and ready to start work a month or more before they even close escrow on the home itself. Starting landscaping the day you get the keys to the home is being very proactive.

What does my HOA require for approval?

Most HOAs require design documentation indicating plant species, quantity, and placement, along with the size, material, and design of hardscape features, structures, and softscape features. HOAs may also request documents describing irrigation, lighting, drainage, or other aspects of a landscape design. There are no set standards – every HOA has its own unique landscape design documentation requirements. Depending on the features involved your HOA may require construction drawings signed by a Licensed Contractor. Signed drawings are most commonly required when walls, decks, patio covers, swimming pools other major components are a part of a landscape design.

Upon completion of work your HOA will normally require completion photos to ensure that all features were installed as described in the approved landscape plans.

How can I ensure that my HOA approves the design?

The best way to ensure HOA approval is to follow the landscape design guidelines outlined in your HOA documents. Feedback and open communication between the homeowner, the landscape designer, and the HOA creates the most successful project outcomes. An understanding of what can and cannot be done within HOA regulations allows the landscape designer to create designs with the best chances of getting HOA approval. If designs are not initially approved, they can always be revised. Sometimes the HOA only requires minor modifications to obtain approval.

Sean Landscape Design HOA experience

Most of our homeowners in southern CA live in an HOA regulated community, we have designed and installed many HOA-compliant designs and are on several recommended list by HOA communities for landscape designers. We have years of experience working with HOA’s and can design within the design requirements set forth in the HOA guidelines.

What documentation or paperwork you need from me to provide from my HOA?

HOA designs are best executed when homeowners educate themselves to the rules and regulations set forth in the governing documents before beginning the design process. Homeowners can help us design best by providing a brief outline of all HOA requirements, setbacks or restrictions that apply to their particular scope of work for example (no tress within 3’ of the property line walls, fountains must be 48" or less). Normally Homeowners can share HOA regulation summaries through written feedback during the project onboarding process. Homeowners should also provide an HOA-approved plant list, materials palette, or other supporting documents to reference during the process. Complete HOA documents and guidelines should be reviewed and short summarized by the homeowner to highlight what specifics the designer should do to obtain an approved landscape design prior to starting the design work.

What if my HOA declines the design, will you give me an additional free revision?

If your HOA does not approve initial design submittal, we will revise your 2D B&W plan drawings free of charge until your design is approved. If help is needed to resolve a design non-compliance issue, we will ensure your not paying any additional revision fees for HOA non-compliant plans.


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