On January 21, 2014 California Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency. Climatologists report that the 2013-2014 rainfall season is well on its way to becoming California’s driest period in more than 400 years. 2014 is shaping up to be the third consecutive year of record low rainfall. In 2013, California received a statewide average of just four inches of rain. While California is no stranger to droughts, the severity of the current drought has provoked a legislative response potentially impacting Homeowners Associations.
Assembly Bill 2100 and Senate Bill 992 both attempt to prohibit HOA actions that might restrict water saving activities. Many HOA’s have governing documents requiring maintenance of a lot or landscape by an owner, including proper irrigation to maintain the health of the plants. Both of these bills would prohibit HOA’s from fining owners, or enforcing such provisions, if an owner severely reduces landscape irrigation during a drought emergency. Some water authorities have not yet imposed mandatory water rationing or restrictions. Therefore, some HOA’s may be tempted to force owners to continue landscape irrigation in the absence of direction from their local water utility. These bills will provide owners with the ability to use their discretion regarding water use for their individual landscape without fear of enforcement action by their HOA. Both bills have bi-partisan support, and the bills are supported by ECHO.
Assembly Bill 2104 takes a different approach to water conservation, by nullifying provisions in HOA governing documents, policies or guidelines that would: (a) prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting low water-using plants as a group or as a replacement of existing turf, (b) restrict compliance with local water conservation measures. The language of the bill would make such HOA restrictions void and unenforceable, with the intent of encouraging the use of low water-using plants and implementation of water conservation measures.