I'm reading some of the responses on the first page and I don't know if some people don't own houses and are just guessing at what it takes to just mow a lawn or what. I don't care if people own or not, but "taking care" of a front or back yard isn't that much effort. We never fertilize, kill weeds, edge, plant sod etc. My DH cuts the lawn. (Now, all of our acre with a push mower, because our riding mower broke and we can't afford a new one.) That's it, cuts the lawn and once or twice a year we get out the hedge trimmers (person powered, not electric or gas) and cut dead branches and some hedges that have gotten out of line. It's just part of owning or living in a freestanding house. Not doing it to me would be like owning a bed and never washing or changing the sheets.... only that wouldn't bring down your neighbor's property values.
You don't have to "control weeds" if you mow often. My DH has a saying "as long as it's green." It if's clover, it's clover, if it's grass, it's grass, if it's crab grass, it's crab grass. It is at least all green. He does seed little patches in our side yard once a year because we get bare patches because of lack of sun. But, if nice pretty moss grows there, we just leave it. We don't use chemicals at all, EVER and our lawn is never watered (it would be wasteful with an acre of land, not to mention I can't see the point. Grass is made to withstand some drought, unless you fertilize and add chemicals, then your lawn will turn brown if you go a couple of days without watering.) or fertilized. It's just mowed and it's green and presents nicely.
We live in unincorporated, so I'm not asking for much. Just clean and short so that rats and other vermin don't hide out in it. It really does effect property value, in some cases curb appeal can add or take away 20% of the price of your house. I don't think that's fair to cause someone else to lose 20% of the value of your house. There is usually a nice boy in the neighborhood or town who is willing to make some money to mow the grass or worse comes to worse, a landscaping company can come out every 7-10 days in the summer and never in the winter (at least where we live.) Home ownership has responsibility. I'm NOT a neat freak, but I don't want to lose thousands of dollars and have a hard time selling my house when the time comes because some neighbors have every excuse in the book to not follow simple rules of etiquette and respect for the other people who care about how their neighborhood looks. I don't think many people need a lawn edged and perfect, but at least short and not strewn with garbage. Rats are nearly impossible to get rid of once you have them. It's best to not invite them with tall weeds and places for them to hide. It is a problem that effects one's neighbors.
We did look into growing a prairie (as we live in what was once long grass prairie land) but that would have taken a lot of weed control and hand pulling of non-native invasive species, planting many plants by hand ALL over the entire acre, careful weeding out of any seed that fell onto our lawn by accident, etc. It was easier to grow grass, moss and flowers in containers. A friend of ours told everybody at once point he was "growing a prairie" but he didn't do any research and thought all you had to do was let the stuff go. No, he got nothing but thistle and stick plants and bare spots and when I brought up a question (because at first I thought he was serious and was interested) about how he was controlling non-native invasive species and whether he was going long grass or short grass prairie he just looked at me as if he didn't know what I was talking about.. Growing a prairie is a lot of work. MORE work than a lawn. It turned out he just didn't like mowing the lawn or paying someone to do it. He "developed" an allergy to grass to try to get out of mowing, but the village told him it didn't qualify as a prairie (because in our area you can get a permit to have prairie, but you have to do the research and do the work) and they said they could cut it for him.... at $200.00 a mow, once a week. He finally just paid someone to mow it.
A friend of mine grew a prairie on his parent's lawn and it took he and all his 7 brothers and sisters to take care of it properly. So, it's not a solution for people who don't have the time or inclination to mow the regular grass.
As for the people to our East, they now have what looks like an open roof in a few spots. They had some guy come by a few years ago and slap some shingles on it, but animals or... something rebroke through the hole. I have no idea what's living in there, but heaven help me if I see a rat. My DD said she sees "things" going into and out of the hole" at night, so who knows what's living in there. So help me if I see a rat. I've lived in Chicago and had to deal with rats in our alley, terrified that they would get into our apartment. I cannot abide rats! They are horrid creatures, they urinate constantly, are filthy, will eat anything and they bite and carry disease. I just want to know how our neighbors can live with.... things living and running around right above their heads. It's a one story house.
My husband and I have decided that if we can no longer maintain a freestanding house with property, we'll move to a townhouse. There the work will be done for us when it gets to the point where we can't manage it anymore. Until then, I think we have a responsibility to both ourselves and to our neighborhood. I'm into Community and I think this is one of the bases of Community: caring about your neighbor's safety and home values.
Rant over, Boy, I really didn't know I felt so passionately about this. I guess losing a third of the value of our home five years ago effected me more than I thought.