UPDATE: A commonwealth court finds that a Dunedin, Florida, homeowner should pay $30,000 in fines for overgrown grass, but he plans come appeal.

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Some world can’t wait to wake up top top a Saturday, fire up the lawnmower, and also take great pride in a beautifully cut lawn.

Alexander Gul of Bloomington, Indiana, isn’t one of those people.

A lover of freedom and fervent enemy of synthetic fertilizers, the disobeyed a city ordinance that borders grass elevation to 8 inches. In the process, he obtained an expensive and also ongoing lesson on what wake up if friend refuse come mow your lawn.

He said lifwynnfoundation.org he spent “at least $15,000” fighting the city’s escalating fines and also a sue that checked out the state’s appeals court, where he shed in a unanimous however sympathetic 3-0 ruling.

Gul also stood toe-to-blade in front of a running strength mower the city hired and also forced the mower to stand down. “Why would I it is in afraid?” the said.

Few of united state would go as far as Gul, however there space practical, financial and also legal aftermath if you nothing mow her lawn as forced by neighborhood ordinances or homeowner association covenants. You can be fined. A lien might be put on your property. In extreme cases, you can be foreclosed top top or also go to jail.

Wait, you may be saying. Nothing I deserve to do what i want through my own property? What provides anyone the right to pressure me to mow? The brief answers room “no,” and, “the law.” however here are the fuller answers to those questions about what can happen if you heed the call of the wild and also refuse — or just forget — come mow your grass.

Rules often say mow, or else

Many neighborhoods and also local jurisdictions approximately the country have laws in ar that can bring steep fines or worse because that homeowners who fail to save up with their lawns.

Nuisance ordinances room the main way cities or counties make sure occupants are maintaining their properties.

They administer anything that “amounts come an insignificant interference v the health, safety, morals or lull of the community,” write Trey Allen, assistant professor of public law and government the the university of north Carolina college of Government.

The many common, the explains, are ordinances the pertain to property upkeep, specifically “minimum maintenance needs on residential or advertisement lots.”

“A most times, particularly in court cases, the advantage to the ar is that it keeps things choose rodents and snakes from taking up dwellings in the neighborhood,” claimed Brian Burgess, planner for the city of Mills River, phibìc Carolina, who has worked at the county and also city level end the previous several years.

If you rest those laws, also unintentionally, you can be in peril.

A Dunedin, Florida, man found that out the hard way. Jim Ficken, 69, was out of city tending his late mother’s legacy in 2018. The handyman he hired to mow his lawn during his lack also died, and also the grass surpassed the city’s 8-inch elevation restriction.

Unknown to Finken, he was racking up fines that $500 per day. The fines got to $29,000 and the city as attempted to foreclose top top his house. In ~ the finish of April 2021, a federal judge ruled that Finken must pay the fines, yet he isn’t providing up and also plans to appeal.

“It’s simply ridiculous come be permitted to operation up fines because that such excessive quantities for something as minor as tall grass,” Finken said WFTS Tampa Bay.

Why ‘Mow It’ laws Are Legal

Individuals have tested governmental systems over the power to force you come mow. It generally hasn’t gone well because that the individuals. When there have been part lower-court victories, at higher levels, courts have actually consistently sided with the government’s appropriate to pressure you to mow your lawn. 

Court difficulties over the year have defined property rights as substantial, yet not absolute. Simply as girlfriend can’t cite very first Amendment defense for shouting “fire” in a crowded building, you can’t let her grass flourish to 9 inch in Elroy, Wisconsin. 

One court instance that make “mow it” regulations legal is the 1954 United states Supreme Court decision in Berman v. Parker. It created the legal principle of “eminent domain” — that governments can take exclusive property if it gives just compensation.

The judgment also noted some legal underpinning because that mowing regulations: “It is within the strength of the legislature to determine that the ar should it is in beautiful.” 

Governments may define “beautiful” together grass reduced short, the court has additionally found, if there is a connection between a cut lawn and also citizens’ health and also safety.

Lower court have continued to defer to government regulations in much more recent rulings.

Homeowners’ objections overruled

In 2015, the U.S. District sixth Court of Appeals sided with the city the Howell, Michigan, and also required homeowner David Shoemaker to mow a grassy strip near the roadway by his house.

Shoemaker likened compelled mowing come the actions of totalitarian governments, and argued the ordinance “makes the City look prefer North Korea quite than one American city.”

No, the court said, the city’s right to place reasonable aesthetic demands makes “the mowing burden inserted upon the constitutionally acceptable.”

Once the local federal government sends out its own crew to mow high grass, it have the right to be a really expensive haircut for the owner.

Grass too long? two cuts, experts say

So, speak you do require to reduced the front yard to stop that hefty fine native the city. If you bring out the lawnmower and cut it down to a few inches overall you may end up with an additional problem.

Experts say that mowing the lawn properly way cutting at most one-third of the grass’s elevation at a time to protect against doing extra damages to the tree itself.

As a guide from the college of Arkansas extension explains, never ever cut more than one-third of the leaf in a solitary mowing. If your mower is set at 3 inches, for example, cut the grass before it will a elevation of 4-1/2 inches.

Cutting it overall will an outcome in scalping, or cut the grass too low come the floor leaving only the stem, i beg your pardon not just damages the tree health, it also leaves a brown eyesore, follow to the Arkansas Extension’s guide.

Alternating mowing patterns and mowing an ext frequently at longer mowing heights can aid make certain you nothing scalp her lawn.

Going no-mow

A various option because that a low-maintenance lawn that can still satisfy HOA and nuisance ordinance accuse is a no-mow lawn, one the uses certain grass varieties to develop a flowing grass covering that has actually longer blades but still maintains a tidy appearance.

According come Prairie Nursery, which carries a specially draft No Mow Lawn seed Mix the blends different fescue grasses for those that live in the right climate, no mowing the lawn at every will an outcome in a turf v leaves that flourish to around 6 inch in height and also drape end one another.

That creates “a low-growing meadow effect,” according to a reality sheet native the company, v the lawn keeping a normal height of 5 come 6 inches.

You can even mow a no-mow lawn, in the spring and also fall, or even more regularly. Yet never reduced lower than about 3-1/2 inches.

Prairie Nursery, too, stresses come “never remove an ext than one-third that the total leaf material when mowing or the turf will be damaged.”

No-mow, no-grass legit battles rage on

The legal instances continue because that the appropriate to no mow, or come eschew grass entirely.

Roland expects a ruling in the Duffner allergy instance in Missouri any type of day. “If they just rule versus us across the board, then our next step is to walk to the supreme Court,” he said.

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Gul, having actually lost in ~ the appeals court level, tho fights the hit in his very own way. He has actually periodically trimmed his grass plants v a scythe or clippers and also brought it under to under the city’s 8-inch limit while law his best to prevent cutting any kind of other nongrass plants.

The conflict drove him come a brand-new extreme: though he loathes usual chemical lawn treatments, he’s trying one himself — Clethodim 2E. It death grass.

“People cannot explain to me wherein I am wrong, whereby my reasonable is counterproductive or against society,” the says.

“Sure, the government will tell friend that with mowing, greater prices of genuine estate will bring more taxes in our coffers. And also they’ll speak we require the money, and there never is enough money,” he adds. “We’ll end up v a planet complete of chemicals due to the fact that everything that is living will certainly disappear.”