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Question: Some HOA websites and newsletters include a service directory which are recommendations of members. The board has been advised by our lawyer to refrain from posting such lists. I feel the service of these lists overpowers the possibility of legal risk.

Answer: The fact that the HOA posts member recommendations does not constitute an endorsement by the HOA. But to satisfy the lawyer, the board can simply add a disclaimer that the HOA does not endorse the list of service providers.

Question: Our governing documents have strict policies regarding tree cutting and clearing. The reason for the tree policy is to preserve the streetscape and prevent clear-cutting. The board gets requests from time to time asking permission to cut trees. We inspect and sometimes approve the cutting but if it’s a large tree and there is no disease or damage, we usually deny the request.

An attorney/resident is requesting to cut off two tall trees that are about fifteen feet from his house due to the potential of the trees falling. He is stating that the HOA will be liable if the tree falls. Is the HOA truly at risk?

Answer: Not all large tree cutting requests should be summarily dismissed. There are several good reasons for large trees to be removed:

  1. There is a fire hazard. Trees should generally be located at least 30 feet from the building, especially if they are more flammable like pine trees. This is especially true in areas that are prone to wild fires due to drought and windy conditions. Keeping trees 30 feet away helps create a defensible fire zone.
  2. Trees create leaf debris that clogs gutters and downspouts. Certain kinds of trees create year round leaf debris that substantially increases gutter cleaning and blockages. Removing such trees in close proximity to structures makes good sense.
  3. Trees that overshadow and inhibit the landscaping. Developers often plant many trees because they are small and more of them makes a better marketing impact. But when many small trees grow large, they can turn the common area into a dark and foreboding place where flowers, bushes and plants won’t grow. Thinning out selected trees is often recommended for the health of the landscaping and trees. Ornamental trees need room to flourish.
  4. Leaning Trees. Under windy and wet conditions, leaning trees are more likely to fall. It usually best to remove them before they do.
  5. Trees that are diseased. Certain species are subject to infestation that will eventually kill them. It’s best to remove them early to slow the spread of the blight.

When confronted with a specific request that goes against the grain (tree pun), it’s prudent to get a licensed arborist to review the trees in question. If the arborist believes they are a danger or should be removed, remove them. Otherwise, no. The board is not responsible for Acts of God, only for handling business in a prudent manner. Use experts to your advantage.

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