I’m pretty sure this question and similar ones have been asked of many property managers and Homeowners Association Architectural Review Committee members. As a property manager at Key Community Management, I have processed over 2,070 HOA architectural approval requests, from reviewing them for the proper information before sending them to the committee to sending approval or denial letters when the review is complete.
It often gets difficult for owners to understand the importance of submitting requests for approval, especially when what they want to do is on their own property. They may feel that following a community’s standards restricts their freedom of expression. The reality is, property values are protected when homeowners follow standards which should have been carefully developed to create uniformity and a nice balance for the community.
Volunteers Are Needed To Serve On An Architectural Review Committee.
An Architectural Review Committee (ARC) is made up of volunteers who should have the personal and leadership skills necessary to manage the review and HOA architectural approval process of an architectural request in an unbiased manner. Committee members look out for the whole community. They do more than stop an owner from painting his house purple with red shutters and a green front door. They must make sure that the scale and style of the project and building materials mesh with the Homeowners Association design requirements.
The ARC is generally charged by a community’s CCRs, or covenants, conditions and restrictions and is tasked with formulating guidelines so that the integrity of the community is protected. Creating architectural guidelines provides a basis for treating all homeowners in a fair and reasonable manner. That same basis passes on to a future committee by taking all the guess work out of reviewing an HOA architectural approval request. A process should be in place for receiving, reviewing, and responding to requests in a timely manner. Depending on the language in the CCRs, failure to respond in a timely manner could be treated as an approval.
What Types Of Exterior Modifications Require HOA Architectural Approval?
This will vary by community. Any architectural change to the outside of the home or the property surrounding the home requires approval. Types of changes or exterior modifications might include such things as swimming pools, decks, sheds, new siding or shutters, paint color changes, windows and doors, patios or patio extensions, fences, landscaping with fire pits and retaining walls, playsets and basketball goals, mulch changes, and the removal of live trees.
What Happens If An Owner Is Unaware That Approval Is Needed?
Some owners simply ignore the process or fail to read their governing documents. An unapproved structure might have to be removed or altered. The ARC could require the homeowner to restore their property to its original condition. I have seen instances where fences had to be moved and brought into compliance because approval wasn’t given prior to installation. And there have been times when playsets had to be relocated to a different area in the rear yard so they weren’t in public view. One homeowner had to soften the color of her newly painted front door. Failing to get approval could result in violation letters being sent, even a hearing resulting in fines. However, the general process is to send a violation letter and request that the owner immediately submit for approval so that the owner, any future owner, and all committee members are protected by assuring that approval was given.
What Should Owners Submit For HOA Architectural Approval?
Most Homeowners Associations have their own architectural request form. Owners should submit the form along with a drawing or rendering of what the change will look like along with a copy of their property survey (which should be included with their closing paperwork). The project should be marked (with measurements) on the property survey. Written details along with pictures and samples of materials are also required.
Approvals and Denials
The majority of architectural requests are approved, even if slight modifications or conditions are necessary. If an application is denied, it’s important to provide specific details to the homeowner as to why the request was denied. An HOA’s documents may specify 4-foot fences, so a 6-foot fence would be denied. This should be communicated with the suggestion that the owner resubmit.
All HOAs appreciate the hard work and dedication that homeowners provide to make their homes beautiful. The ARC wants to keep the community looking its best and keep property values at their highest!