Florida Landscaping Laws – Is it Friendly or Not?

Florida Landscaping Laws – Is it Friendly or Not?

By Christopher M. Cobb October 25, 2019 Posted in Business and Real Estate Litigation

In 2009, the Florida Legislature changed an existing law that was aimed to encourage “Florida-Friendly” landscaping in communities governed by homeowner associations. Under the State Water Resource Plan each water management district is required to design and implement an incentive program to encourage all local governments to adopt new ordinances requiring Florida-Friendly landscaping.  The State of Florida has deemed water conservation as a compelling public interest and stated so in the language of Section 373.185:

(3)(a) The Legislature finds that the use of Florida-friendly landscaping and other water use and pollution prevention measures to conserve or protect the state’s water resources serves a compelling public interest and that the participation of homeowners’ associations and local governments is essential to the state’s efforts in water conservation and water quality protection and restoration.

Florida-Friendly landscaping is defined Section 373.185, Florida Statutes, as “quality landscapes that conserve water, protect the environment, are adaptable to local conditions, and are drought tolerant.” Such landscaping is also sometimes called xeriscaping—the use of gardening and landscaping to naturally reduce the reliance of irrigation water.  

The statute states that Florida-Friendly landscaping abides by essentially nine governing principles:

    1. Planting the right plant in the right place. 
    2. Efficient watering.
    3. Appropriate fertilization.
    4. Mulching.
    5. Attraction of wildlife.
    6. Responsible management of yard pests.
    7. Recycling yard waste.
    8. Reduction of storm water runoff.
    9. Waterfront protection.

The Florida-Friendly landscaping law is then “planted” (pun intended) directly into the Homeowners Association Act (Chapter 720), which provides that homeowners’ association documents may not prohibit or be enforced so as to prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida-Friendly landscaping as defined in s. 373.185, on his or her land.  See Section 720.3075 (4), Florida Statutes.

This law does not require that homeowner association or their residents must only use Florida-Friendly landscaping in their plantings; nor does it mandate that homeowner associations Florida Landscaping Laws - Is it Friendly or Not?remove or force owners to remove their own traditional, non-native plants. All the Florida-Friendly landscaping law does is: (1) encourage water management districts to create programs that promote and incentivize appropriate natural plants and landscaping plans; and, (2) prohibit homeowner associations from enforcing covenants that would prevent its residents from installing Florida-Friendly landscaping, if they so choose.

For more information on Florida-Friendly landscaping, see the link to The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Handbook.

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