Q: I recently purchased a home with a large homeowners association in Henderson, and have a pool in my backyard. There are three 30-toot to 40-foot pine trees on the HOA common area within five feet of my backyard. There is a 6-foot brick/stucco fence to protect my backyard. Debris from the trees, especially when the wind is blowing from the southwest to northwest which are the prevailing winds, are filling my pool to the point it is severely hindering the filter system from properly operating. My pool maintenance company has asked me to try and do something to help the situation. The HOA is reluctant to remove trees, and has not done anything to help eliminate the problem after my repeated request for assistance. There are relatively few pools in the HOA, so I do have somewhat of a unique situation. Does the HOA have any liability when this happens? The trees have been there about 15 years and the pool was built by the previous owner about five years ago. There was no mention of this issue by anyone when I purchased and closed on the home in the fall of 2014.
A: The removal of trees is becoming more and more of a problem for both homeowners and association boards. Developers who controlled the original boards and their architectural review committees allowed trees to be installed in backyards that were way too close to the perimeter walls. As associations become older, so do the trees, which grow and eventually, over time, begin to damage walls, underground plumbing and water lines and uplift sidewalks, which causes potential liability suits from slips and falls. Too often trees were not properly planted or the irrigation system was not adjusted to move the emitters to correspond with the growth of the tree, consequently the roots of the trees follow the water from the lawns’ sprinkler systems. (roots breaking through the lawns).
It is an economic and an emotional issue for association boards and their members. Not too many homeowners want to see trees removed from their common grounds and parks nor do they want to remove their own three-story or higher mature tree from their front or backyards. If the association is forced to remove its trees, it would not be very long before the association would require other homeowners to remove their trees that were in similar situations.
The association has the same responsibility as a homeowner whose landscaping may be damaging another homeowner’s backyard. Either it has its landscape company stay on top of the trimming of the trees, cutting intruding branches or the last-case scenario, consider the removal the trees and hopefully be able to plant some other type of plant or tree that could still blend with the community. You do have the ability to file a small claims action against the association if you had to spend money to repair or replace the filtering system. Do not expect the association to start removing trees as you will see an uphill battle within the community.
Barbara Holland, certified property manager, broker and supervisory certified association manager, is president and owner of H&L Realty and Management Co. Questions may be sent to the Association Q&A, P.O. Box 80360, Las Vegas, NV 89180. Fax is 702-385-3759, email is firstname.lastname@example.org.