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HOA forces homeowner to rip out xeriscaping

HOA forces homeowner to rip out drought tolerant landscaping
Stephen Bender talks to News 8's David Schechter

Landscaping meant to help save water, called xeriscaping, is costing one north Texas homeowner thousands of dollars.

"As big as this property is, right here, my sprinklers never ran. Ever," said Stephen Bender who lives in the Riverchase HOA in Coppell.

Communities across North Texas, including Coppell, encourage residents to xeriscape by planting drought-resistant plants that need little to no irrigation.

But Stephen Bender's homeowners association was not as impressed with his selection of gravel, river cobble and yucca plants and told him it had to go. This past weekend, he says at a cost of $5,000, Bender, who is a landscaper, had it all ripped out and trucked in water-hogging grass.

"I'm very upset about it. That's why I called you," Bender said.

State law limits an HOA's ability to reject a homeowner's xeriscaping plans. However, a representative for the HOA tells News 8 that Bender did not submit plans and what he installed is not consistent with the neighborhood's design.

But Bender says, in 13 years of living at Riverchase, he's replaced his walkway, added stone columns and a metal roof and been hired to do major landscaping changes to 20 properties in the community. Not once did he submit plans for review.

"I'm very upset by the fact that our HOA could be so capricious that they would just single out an individual. Bully us. This has been going on for over a year," Bender said.

Capricious is a big word, but he says it's on point. It means a sudden or unaccountable change in behavior. There might be a reason for what feels like an about face.

This HOA says, unlike most HOA's it does not proactively search for violations it just responds to complaints and that's what happened here.

For his part, Bender just thought he was doing the right thing by being green.

"And look what it got me. Look what it got me," he said.