What Are My Neighbor’s Rights Against Our HOA?

Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.

I have a neighbor who has a very large oak tree about 10 feet from her house with a large double trunk. A certified arborist looked at the tree and wrote a report that said the tree is at moderate risk of falling due to weakness at the joint. The rules of the HOA say residents have to get permission from an Environmental Committee before they can cut down the large pre-existing trees in the neighborhood. Despite having this very large tree with an arborist report saying its at moderate risk of falling and a high probably it would hit at least part of her house if it does fall, the HOA committee denied her request. When she asked them “What about the risk to my house?” their answer was “all trees are risks.” Can an HOA force a resident to literally risk their property and their health like this? None of them are certified arborists yet they overrode the arborist report she had and essentially just told her to live with the risk. This is an area in the foothills above Sacramento in Northern California.

Homeowner associations (HOAs) generally give themselves pretty broad powers, and as a practical matter the courts are reluctant to overturn their decisions. However, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost.

First of all, you should review the HOA documents to see what, if any, dispute resolution procedures are available. You may be able to initiate an appeal from the committee to the HOA board, or a mediation
process, or some other mechanism.

If that fails – and you usually must try all other available means first – you may attempt to have a court overturn the decision.