Across the country more than 68 million Americans now live in subdivisions controlled by restrictive covenants. Subdivisions subject to Covenants and Restrictions have grown out of the need to maintain property values. One way to maintain property values in your community is through uniformity. Covenants and Restrictions give homeowners uniformity in the rules affecting the aesthetics and feel of your community.
Most homeowners are satisfied with the job that their association does to maintain their home’s value. However, you do not have to look far to find a disgruntled neighbor complaining about line items in the association’s budget.
Any guesses about the topic most likely to be at the center of that argument?
If you guessed “landscaping”, you’re 100% correct.
Landscape is the single most expensive line item in the budget of most homeowners associations.
Homeowner opinion’s vary greatly on whether the costs associated with landscape maintenance and improvement projects are reasonable and necessary.
Landscape, done right or done wrong, is the most obvious project for homeowners to focus on. Homeowners question the cost, plant choices, the amount of annual changes and even color choices. That is exactly why it’s important that your HOA has an effective Landscape Committee in place.
Regardless of the size of your community’s common areas, or the dollar amount of your HOA’s landscape maintenance budget, a committee formed with the sole purpose of watching over your landscape (and your commercial landscape contractor) is a huge asset to your association.
There are generally two different types of committees: standing or ad hoc.
Standing committees are those formed to last throughout the year. They meet regularly and handle ongoing tasks. Examples of standing committees include: drainage and ditching, streets, landscape, social and welcoming committees. While members may change from year to year this type of committee remains in place to address topics relevant to the HOA year after year.
Ad hoc committees are formed to address a specific project or issue and only exist for the duration of the project. When an HOA is in need of a full landscape overhaul, forming an ad hoc committee to address this project is appropriate.
Landscape committees aren’t required to include a member of board of directors. Including a Board Member will help the committee stay within its defined responsibilities, and keep it from being pulled off task by other volunteer members coming to the group with their own agendas.
The size of the committee can vary widely, but for even the largest communities there is rarely a need for more than 5 members in a landscape maintenance committee. Members of the committee are free to contribute as much time as their schedules allow, but the most effective committees will hold formal meetings where they discuss their findings, outside of the monthly HOA Board meeting. If volunteers can’t commit the time that will be needed, it’s best to keep the group smaller and filled with only the most engaged members.
A landscape committee is appointed by the Board of Directors with an explicit purpose to execute a specific set of duties. History has shown that committees operate best when given a defined set of tasks for which they are responsible each month. While they do not have the authority to act without the Board’s approval, they are still very important to the association, especially when you consider that for most community associations, landscaping and grounds maintenance is the largest annually budgeted expense.
Some of the responsibilities often assigned to Landscape Committees include:
- Creating recommendations for the Board on landscaping improvements within the community.
- Communicating with representatives from the community’s landscape maintenance provider.
- Inspecting the work performed by the community’s landscape maintenance provider.
- Suggesting additions and amendments to the community’s landscape maintenance program.
- Evaluating RFP responses, checking references, and conducting contractor interviews when selecting a new commercial landscape maintenance provider for the community.
- Providing monthly summary updates to the Board on landscaping and grounds maintenance issues.
While a landscape maintenance committee doesn’t remove the ultimate responsibility for the appearance of the community’s landscape from the Board, an effective landscape committee can certainly make the Board’s job much easier.
If your Association is ready for a fresh, friendly approach to association management, contact the leader in Homeowner Association Management in our area – Gulf South Property Management. We are happy to help your Association develop committees to maintain your community in its best form.