Real estate Q&A: Can my HOA charge me $1,000 to have a tree removed?

Q: I would like to remove a tree on our homeowner association’s property in front of my house. My association wants to charge me around $1,000 for removing the tree, stump grinding and replacing the sod. My question is, can I be charged for this procedure? —Rita

A: Landscaping on your community’s common property belongs to the community as a whole, not just the member whose home it is in front of. Your association must maintain the common areas for the entire community’s benefit, not just one member. Each homeowner pays regular maintenance dues to their association to cover the costs of running the community. In your case, you are asking to have a change made to the landscaping that only benefits your property. Your board has determined this change is acceptable for the neighborhood’s look and feel. Even so, the board does not want the cost of making your requested change shared among the entire community. When I received your email, I was a bit surprised that the board approved this, even with you paying for it. Most calls I get on similar issues involve the board flat out refusing this type of request.

Removing a tree is an expensive proposition that often involves getting a permit from your city’s building department. The removal, stump grinding, and sodding are necessary to keep your community looking nice and may even be required by your local building code. Fortunately, it seems that you are living in a community with a reasonable board willing to work with individual member’s requests. Now you need to decide if it is worth spending the money to have the tree removed.