HOA’s demanding green? Here are your rights

Homeowners associations aim to maintain neighborhood standards, but they can’t legally require you to water your brown lawn or replace it.

If you’re a homeowner in San Antonio, your community may be managed by a homeowners association or HOA.

HOAs are always looking to maintain neighborhood standards and working with them to make landscape changes can be a complicated process. But if you’re receiving letters from an HOA requesting that you replace your grass, take a deep breath: they cannot legally require you to install, re-sod or irrigate turf grass.

S.B. No. 198

Amendments to Section 202.007, Property Code Subsection (a)


(a) A property owner’s association may not include or enforce a provision in a dedicatory instrument that prohibits or restricts a property owner from (4) using drought resistant landscaping or water-conserving natural turf.

(d-1) A property owners’ association may not unreasonably deny or withhold approval of a proposed installation of drought-resistant landscaping or water-conserving natural turf under Subsection (d)(8) or unreasonably determine that the proposed installation is aesthetically incompatible with other landscaping in the subdivision.

City of San Antonio
Municipal Code Sec 34-275 (8)

Dedicatory Instruments.

a. A dedicatory instrument may not require the installation of an irrigation system.
b. A dedicatory instrument may not require turfgrass to be planted or irrigated.

Our landscapes have all taken a beating in the ongoing drought. These are historic low levels.

While the City of San Antonio remains in Stage 2 watering rules, its withdrawals from the Edwards Aquifer are reduced by 35% per the EAA’s Critical Period Management plan. Without a major rainfall event, we expect watering rules to intensify this summer.

According to State of Texas per State Bill 198, an HOA cannot prohibit or restrict a property owner from using drought resistant landscaping or water-conserving turf.

And city ordinance states that an HOA cannot require you to plant, replace or water your brown grass with thirsty new sod.

In addition, there are no irrigation variances available for re-landscaping during Stage 2 — meaning the new turf some HOAs are requesting would have to be watered in by hand. Gulp. It may take a long, LONG time before grass can be easily replanted.

If you’re being served with demands from your HOA to replace your grass, what can you do? Share the links above. Make sure they have updated their rules to reflect the state law, which was implemented in 2013. Inform your HOA that your turf grass is drought tolerant; approved turf grasses (including Bermuda grass, Zoysia grass and St. Augustine grass) can recover even after 60 days without water — even if their leaves are brown.

Maybe your HOA is open to other landscape improvements, like drought-resilient landscape beds or other forms of curb appeal. If your existing sod is still looking tired, remember it’s only April and warm-season turf grass is just beginning its growing season. There’s still time to prepare it for summer by adding some compost to improve your soil and its moisture-retaining capacity.

In the meantime, state law allows HOAs to require a detailed description for new landscape plans, and it allows them to ensure, to the extent practicable, aesthetic compatibility with other landscaping in the subdivision (for example, they can regulate the use of rock, gravel and cacti).

You’ll definitely want to keep the place tidy and find neighborly ways to work with your HOA. They’re your neighbors too, after all!


Picture of Brad Wier
Brad Wier
Brad Wier is a SAWS conservation planner. Years in South Texas landscaping and public horticulture gave him a lasting enthusiasm for native plants that don’t die when sprinklers -- and gardeners -- break down. He’d rather save time and water for kayaking and tubing. He is a former kilt model, and hears hummingbirds.
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