Residents Of NY Town Face $1,000 Fines If They Fail To Mow Lawns

Most suburban neighborhoods have at least a handful of residents who just can’t be bothered to roll out the lawnmower and opt for the “natural” look on their yards. The problem has gotten worse in some areas hit hard by foreclosures. Now one town on New York’s Long Island has decided that folks who can’t maintain their lawns are deserving of thousands of dollars in fines.

According to 880-AM out of New York City, the village board of Massapequa Park village board passed a law yesterday that first-time offenders could be hit with $1,000 fines. If they continue to let their yards be overgrown, those fines could get as high as $10,000.

Town officials say this law was passed to keep property values from sinking in the area.

It’s not unusual for local municipalities to enact laws that fine homeowners for allowing homes to fall into disrepair, but penalties for lack of lawn maintenance are often left to homeowners associations and the like. And the $1,000 amount for a first offense is high even by many HOA standards.

One resident tells the radio station he’s not thrilled with the idea.

“I live here because people help each other out, not because they report each other,” he said. “If it’s an elderly couple that’s having problems maintaining their property, I think we should help them out. I don’t think we should fine them $1,000.”

Massapequa Park Passes New Law On Lawn Maintenance [WCBS 880]

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  1. shepd says:

    My father-in-law fought the law and won on this issue. He argued in court that his lawn was, in fact, a natural work, and that mowing it would harm the environment. Being that the city he lived in was super-duper green thumb, they bought the argument hook line and sinker, and now there’s a few houses there that have natural lawns.

    • Costner says:

      I would be ok with natural lawns provided they weren’t full of weeds. If a homeowner controls the noxious weeds on their property, I don’t care if it is 10″ tall.

      Granted a better idea would be to plant the lawn to a creeping grass that never gets above 4″ tall or so. There are some varieties that don’t really need to be mowed and although they don’t look like the golf course lawns that so many desire… they do the job.

      • shepd says:

        Well, the weeds are the natural status quo here, at least it’s what I see whenever I go to the woods. :)

        However, I don’t think our city/province desires lawns to be weed free, considering they banned weed ‘n feed. Tell all the people with broken backs and other medical issues they gotta pull ‘em out by hand. Ha.

        Since they passed the ban, I’ve never seen so many dandelions. Many of the lawns here have so many you can’t even find the lawn itself. :D

  2. Schildkrote says:

    “According to 880-AM out of New York City, the village board of Massapequa Park village board passed a law yesterday that first-time offenders could be hit with $1,000 fines.”

    Quick, alert the Department of Redundancy Department!

    …Or some copy editors. This site has those, right?

    • Shadowfire says:

      I’m not seeing redundancy there. It is the Massapequa Park village, and they have a village board.

      • Schildkrote says:

        “village board of Massapequa Park village board”

        So the village board of the village board isn’t redundant?

        • Shadowfire says:

          Ahhhh… dyslexia strikes again.

          In that case “yea, they made a mistake… move on with your life.”

          • Mark702 says:

            …but it happens virtually every day…

            • Blueskylaw says:

              . . .but it virtually happens virtually every day.

            • Sudonum says:

              I’d cancel my subscription and ask for my money back.. wait…

              • Schildkrote says:

                Don’t get me wrong, after comical gaffes like the vote-stuffing debacle that was this year’s WCIA I don’t think anyone takes this site even remotely seriously anymore.

                Still, despite the lack of sourcing in almost every article and questionably relevant content, they portray themselves as serious journalists and should be held to the same standards as other serious journalists. This includes proofreading standards.

                • Sudonum says:

                  I’ve been here since 2006 and I’ve never viewed it as anything more than whimsical. And I think that the editors view it in the same way. If you want serious consumer reporting them subscribe to Consumer Reports and be done with it.

        • atthec44 says:

          Give this man a Large Farva.

  3. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    And so it begins. When municipalities can no longer get voter approval for increasing taxes, they’ll simply invent fines.

    Like this one:
    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/swearing-public-punishable-20-fine-middleborough-massachusetts-article-1.1094028

    I see a disturbing new world order where fines are simply handed out to random people for no good reason: “Ah, see there? You stepped on that crack in the sidewalk. That’s gonna cost ya $50.00. But since it’s your first offense, I’ll knock it down to $49.75.”

    • dcarrington01 says:

      Like the tax collector in Popeye The Movie……

    • spartan says:

      how would you prove that he stepped on the crack? Would they have to subpoena his mothers chiropractic X-rays?

      • Such an Interesting Monster says:

        Unfortunately they don’t have you, it’s your job to prove you DIDN’T step on a crack. You don’t really think you’re innocent until proven guilty, do you? How quaint.

    • Jawaka says:

      I’ve heard the term “and so it begins” like 100 times on this site already.

      I don’t know what “it” is but I’m pretty sure that it began a while ago

  4. Guppy06 says:

    “The problem has gotten worse in some areas hit hard by foreclosures.”

    In other words, the “homeowners” in question are actually banks.

    I think they can afford $1k here and there. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was quietly and selectively enforced.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      If it takes the banks 3 months to make a decision on a purchase offer for said forclosure how effective do you think sending these same assholes fine notices will be?

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I agree there might be alot of banks not maintaining their property but I wouldn’t be surprised if there alot of back tax foreclosures as well. And once a resident knows they are going bankrupt or have already declared bankruptcy they’ll be little help as well.

      • Kuri says:

        Heh, in many cases they even do as much damage to the property as they can, including letting the place go to pot.

    • Costner says:

      Selective enforcement leads to injustices, and make court challenges all but guaranteed.

      It is a stupid, stupid law. All they had to do was say if your lawn exceeds a specific height and you fail to act within 72 hours of receiving a written warning, a private contractor will be hired to mow the lawn and the homeowner will be assessed the fee. Problem solved.

      • Sudonum says:

        Bingo, that’s what they do here in south Louisiana where I live. And they only target lawns or lots in subdivisions. Notice goes out to the property owner listed on the tax rolls, and you have 5 days to cut it or they send out a crew and charge you for it.

    • voogru says:

      And where do banks get their money from?

      Right, customers.

    • varro says:

      Better yet, file liens on the property – if the bank or Fannie Mae wants to sell the house, the lien has to be paid off.

  5. speaky2k says:

    My township has something like this, but only for grass over 12 inches tall, and I think it is only $250. When it gets to that point, the township mows it and fines the owner as well as billing the owner for the mowing service. This is nothing new.

  6. daynight says:

    Greedy, heartless politicians! Will real estate values really fall by all that much even if a number of people go natural with their lawns? And if they are cutting back on lawn upkeep, do they really have the money to pay? Particularly if there are foreclosures involved? It can only be the fat cats who are trying to make a killing on other people’s hardships that would benefit from such a stupid plan as this.

    • Rachacha says:

      The lot next to me has been vacant for some time. It is home to a number of field mice, fox, raccoons, skunks, moles, ground hogs, and other creatures that normally not wanted in residential areas. To keep these creatures out of my home and property, i cut the 4 foot tall brush about 12 feet back from the property line. As there is no brush cover, the creatures generally stay clear for fear of getting caught. If you had a neighborhood with several vacant homes ( filled with old food) I can imagine the creature infestation would be greater.

      I am told by my neighbors that when they tore down the house next to me before I moved in, the mouse infestation was so great that almost everyone needed to hire an exterminator to get rid of the mice that were looking for a new home.

      Lawn maintenance rules are not simply to encourage nicely groomed laws, they are to minimize pest infestations and the spread of disease

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        that’s cute – your raccoons, foxes and groundhogs avoid the cleared areas. there’s so many of them in my heavily wooded neighborhood that they just wander across my lawn all night and day. the vacant lot next door has actually become a great hunting ground for my cats and they dispose of all kinds of vermin that are hiding in the 6 foot tall weeds.
        that kind of brush really can attract a lot of wildlife

    • Moniker Preferred says:

      Wrong. On so many levels. It has nothing whatsoever to do with “greedy politicians”. The relatively few homes that this would apply to would be ineffective in bringing in any significant money to the municipality. This is about city (or village) officials trying to maintain accepted civil standards in their own community.

      I can’t speak for others, but I don’t want the home values of my neighborhood (especially mine) dragged down by upkeep failures by neighbors. Some people might think it’s just fine to allow their lawn to go to seed, but most people don’t. Consequently, when prospective buyers look next door at an unmaintained P.O.S home, most of them are simply are not interested in buying. This is true whether it is an unmaintained lawn, unpainted siding or windows, cars up on concrete blocks, or whatever. Those who are arguing to “let the lawns grow” either do not own their own home, or have never considered the implications of a wacko neighbor, or they are one of the deranged folks who think it’s just fine to do such stuff.

    • Jawaka says:

      I disagree with fining people who may not have the ability to mow their lawns (like the elderly) but can we please stop calling it “letting your lawn go natural”. Its called not maintaining your property.

      How would everyone feel if I sat in the cubicle next to you in work and decided that I was no longer going to use deodorants or soaps and that I was in fact going to let my body go natural?

  7. Hartwig says:

    From the article this sounds like they are fining the banks not home owners. If not i can only imagine the run on gardeners must be great. I would much rather pay 25 bucks a week for someone to mow my lawn then 1000-10000 if i forget to.

    • Portlandia says:

      This was my immediate thought when I read the headline.

    • atthec44 says:

      How do you “forget” to mow your lawn?

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        easy – i work until after dark and i am always running out the door in a hurry in the mornings and don’t think about it. weeks can go by before i manage to pay attention to the outside of my house

      • Hartwig says:

        Maybe forget was the wrong word, put off may have been better. I live in oregon and if i skip mowing the lawn on a sunny day it can sometimes be a week before it dries out again. Same works for vacations and at this time of year the grass is growing so that it’s a twice a week job.

  8. mediaseth says:

    If I ever lived in suburbia, my neighbors would hate me. I won’t use chemicals. I’ll mow (occasionally), but I won’t treat for weeds. I also won’t water. I think it’s a good thing I have no plans to move to suburbia.

    I once lived in suburbia. It wasn’t always easy. I’m actually sensitive/allergic to some of the chemical crap people put on their lawns.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      Most chemicals are a waste & toxic and water is expensive and wastefull. Had a neighbor over chemical treat her lawn burning the grass and making our dog sick. She stopped the lawn turned green again and the dog stopped puking. She also cut down trees strictly for maintenance purposes although the cost of cutting down 3 trees would be years of trims.

      Unless you have a golf course lawn water it not only makes grass grow faster but weeds and other vegatation as well. We have trouble with certain flower beds spreadlng like a wild flower so we have to put drums and boards on the outer edges.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I don’t do any of that either, but if I don’t mow once a week or so, my backyard goes crazy. Since there are no trees back there, I like to set the mower as low as I can and scalp the hell out of it so the July and August heat fries it. Then I can skip a week. I hate mowing.

    • orion70 says:

      I’m with you. I finally broke down and bought a push mower that I’m sure my neighbors think I’m nuts for using. I don’t really get why people have to be out on their ride-on mowers every second day lest their grass grow 1/12th of an inch. I don’t hate dandelions either, in fact I think they’re kind of pretty.

      My parent’s live very closely next door to a couple who spray the hell out of their lawn with pesticides. You can actually smell the chemicals inside my parent’s place with all the doors and windows closed. And my father has breathing problems enough as it is, it pisses me off that people need to do this.

  9. dush says:

    Yeah let’s heavily fine the people who can’t keep up with their mortgage payments!

    • Astrid says:

      Hello folks that don’t know Long Island!

      Massapequa Park is a VERY rich area. Homes there start in the low 300k but easily go up to 2 million.
      If you’re a homeowner that doesn’t take care of your yard there, you can afford the fine. If your a bank that owns a foreclosed house out there the neighbors hate you for bringing down their property values by letting the houses sit empty.

  10. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    And you’d better not get too irate in public if you do get fined for not mowing your lawn:

    Mass. Town OKs Fines For Swearing In Public

  11. Blueskylaw says:

    Sounds like the Village Board wants to fine abandoned properties until they end up owning the property. It’s a great scam that might pay off if nobody challenges them in court on this.

  12. Portlandia says:

    I can’t wait until the lawn on the first Foreclosed house goes unmowed and BofA receives a fine for $1000 and subsequent $10,000 fines because they ignored the summons. hehehe

    See, some good could come from this law!!!

  13. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    Isn’t there anyone in this town who is out of work who would mow lawns for cash? That seems like a good solution. I agree with “dush”. If someone is in foreclosure, and can’t pay their mortgage, it’s just putting salt in the wound to fine them for not mowing the yard.

  14. ap0 says:

    If having “natural” lawns didn’t usually mean “leaving the place looking abandoned”, I might have some more sympathy, but the neighbors I have who don’t regularly (or ever) maintain their yards are truly an eyesore on my block. Just mow it. You don’t have to fertilize, weed, or water, but just keep the grass at a reasonable height. That’s all most people care about.

    • Kate says:

      When it’s wet, the lawn mower doesn’t work. We can’t mow our yard for up to a couple of months at a time in the winter and it gets tall. I’m not sure what they would want us to do – go out with hand shears?

  15. Upthewazzu says:

    Some people just aren’t meant to live in suburban neighborhoods. There are 2 or 3 people on my street that would have been much better off living in a condo or zero-lot-line property. Why on Earth do people by single family properties with large lawns when they have no intention of tending to said lawn?

    • Upthewazzu says:

      I should clarify that even though I take a lot of care in keeping my lawn looking nice, I have no such expectation of others. Simply mowing and occasionally watering is fine. But when the grass, or more likely, weeds are 2 feet high then that is unacceptable. It doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to cut the lawns in our neighborhood, they aren’t that big.

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        We have a similar neighbor who has his first single surburban house with a lawn. He went all in gung ho buying a 300 dollar self propelled bag/mulching mower. He tried bagging cutting the lawn once a month(at the lowest wheel setting possible hoping it lenghten the time in between cuts). It took him four hours. I tried telling him just mulch, set the wheels a little higher and just mulch. He wouldn’t listen and went through 3 mowers in two years(I stunned that Home Depot exchanged 3 mowers for him-he kept jamming it up cutting too low not emptying the bag enough). He got frustrated hiring an under the table landscaper. But he apparently has missed too many payments and now has a foot high lawn and growing.

  16. full.tang.halo says:

    /buy $50 bottle of Triox
    /apply
    ?????
    /no more lawn to mow!!!

  17. u1itn0w2day says:

    Foreclosures,banks and the economy are alot of the problem here but you still have politicians trying to legislate housing prices. Also keep in mind HOAs are loaded with political types or politician want to bes. Politicians and HOAs still the same creepy thing.

  18. Rhinoguy says:

    Big deal. Greensboro, North Carolina has had an ordinance in place since the early nineties that allows the city to hire a contractor to do whatever the enforcement person suggests. You can’t argue with the city because they wait until you are not home to do the work. They do NOT give advance warning of their intent. The arbitration board is appointed by city council. The courts routinely dismiss claims against the city. And almost twenty years ago the contractors were charging three hundred dollars an hour.
    Of course these people also re-evaluated all the property in town to increase taxes by FIFTY percent. Almost every piece of property in town has lost value over the last decade.

  19. sirwired says:

    Gee… in my city, you aren’t allowed to have your grass over 12 inches, but the penalty for violating it is a bill to have the city mow it for you, and I think a $50 fine. No where near $1000. And that’s after 30 days of warning.

  20. Kuri says:

    I wonder how many banks will be avoiding these fees, and how many of the properties making this necessary are banks owned.

  21. Lyn Torden says:

    As long as this law does allow for specific safe harbors for residents, like allowing higher grass levels like you might get when mowing just once a week, allowing one time offenses like the lawn boy never showed up while the home owner is on vacation, etc., then I’m all for it. The banks that own the houses they foreclosed on should be doing proper maintenance and repairs just like any home owner. If they don’t want to, then they should not have foreclosed.

    I’d also put in a provision in this law that if the lawn is not mowed for a 3 month period, the property can be seized by the city.

    Or another approach. Contract lawn care companies to allow them to come in and do the mowing in exchange for a lien on the property to pay the costs (probably has to be legislated at the state level).

  22. Jemaine says:

    I don’t think there’s an ordinance in my neighborhood, but anytime I move my yard, all my surrounding neighbors start mowing theirs. It’s kind of creepy.

  23. bsh0544 says:

    I don’t see what’s wrong with either mowing the lawn with town equipment or hiring a landscaper to do it and billing the homeowner for the service.

  24. longfeltwant says:

    “It’s not a lawn, it’s a pasture. You don’t mow pastures.”

  25. sgtyukon says:

    Massapequa Park is in an area almost completely built out between 1945 and 1965. Except for condos, there aren’t many HOA’s in the area. So there probably isn’t an HOA that could provide or insist on lawn maintenance. I’m aware of a nearby village that mows lawns and cleans up the lots of abandoned houses. I think they’ll also do an occupied house if the owner refuses to, but the grass has to get pretty high. They charge an arm and a leg too because they don’t want to do it, They want the property owner to hire a lawn service, which is much cheaper.

  26. BMR777 says:

    You can always replace the grass with something more user-friendly such as pavement or sand. Or you could just salt the earth so you never have to worry about cutting the grass ever again.