Homeowner seeks advice after HOA threatens them with penalty over contractor’s mistake: ‘It feels unfair’

Who is responsible for the cost of removing trees?

Such is the subject of a debate brewing in a Michigan living community, “where all exterior spaces are considered communal property.”

As shared in a Reddit post by the daughter of one of the homeowners caught up in the debate, their mother and her attached neighbor followed instructions to request permission from their homeowners association’s contracted company to plant backyard trees on their own dime.

Despite approvals granted, letters soon arrived from their HOA board instructing the trees’ removal, as plantings require direct board approval.

The neighbors appealed to the board, sharing the letters of approval from the contractor. The board denied the appeal, saying the approval should have never been granted without their consent.

“What recourse is there to this?” asked the OP. “It feels unfair for my mother and her neighbor to incur this cost when the HOA’s own subcontractor is at fault. Any advice would be great!”

The post brings attention to familiar homeowner issues like maintaining positive community relationships. More broadly, it speaks to the way HOA boards can either support or impede individual environmental responsibility.

The planting of trees is a net positive for the environment, as it contributes to biodiversity, air quality, and overall ecosystem health. Removing established trees can disrupt ecosystems and reduce environmental benefits.

Whether this dispute is resolved through compromise or an upheld policy, the core lesson remains one of clear communication. It’s common to meet resistance from an HOA when making changes or improvements to your property. It can be frustrating, but there are plenty of ways to enact change if you know where to start.

The Reddit post has sparked divided reactions. Some side with the board, reasoning that the backyard is not the neighbors’ property, and anything that goes in it becomes the responsibility of the HOA — including falling trees.

“I’d look to appeal to the board at the next meeting, maybe get them to remove them on the HOA dime to acknowledge the mistake made by the subcontractor, or get the subcontractor to pay for the removal,” one commenter suggested. “I doubt you did anything wrong, but that doesn’t make it right to have the trees there in the future.”

Others argue that since the HOA’s own subcontractor is at fault, the board or contractor should cover removal fees. A few even advised legal action in small claims court should the HOA fine the homeowners for refusal to remove the trees.

“If they refuse, pay for it yourself then file a complaint in Small Claims Court for reimbursement,” said one commenter.

Another commenter saw both sides: “Since it is community property, the board could remove the trees even though your mother had permission to plant them. However, they can’t force her to remove them.”

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