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HOA Architectural Requests: Keeping Track Of Them With An HOA Management Software

Homeowners associations are known for their positive impact on curb appeal and property values. One of the ways these communities achieve this is through the careful implementation of architectural rules. In HOAs, homeowners must first file HOA architectural requests before making any changes to their property.

 

What Are HOA Architectural Requests?

The primary function of a homeowners association is to maintain curb appeal and enhance property values in a community. To do this, HOAs collect dues from members to pay for various expenses as well as create and enforce strict policies. One of these policies typically has to do with how homeowners can alter the exterior (and, sometimes, even interior) appearance of their homes.

A common example of an architectural guideline is restricting certain colors. In many HOA communities, you will notice that the rows and rows of houses all somehow sport the same color or shade. This is to maintain the character of the neighborhood. After all, a single neon pink house in a row of muted browns can disrupt the aesthetic flow of the community.

While specific architectural guidelines can vary from one association to another, they all have the same goal — to maintain a uniform appearance. But, what if a homeowner wants to make a change to their home’s exterior? This is where HOA architectural requests come in.

To put it simply, an HOA architectural request is a request a homeowner puts in to change or modify their property. Homeowners need to seek approval from the HOA board or Architectural Review Committee (ARC) before going ahead with their plans. Otherwise, they risk violating their community’s rules and may even be ordered to reverse the changes already made.

 

What Your HOA Architectural Review Process Should Include

All homeowners associations should have a standard review process in place for architectural changes. If you are still creating yours, here are the steps you must not leave out.

 

1. Detail Your Procedures in Writing

The first thing you should do is write down your architectural procedures. Make sure to include your standards and procedures for HOA architectural requests in your governing documents. You should also educate homeowners on these procedures so that you won’t get as many requests that go against the guidelines.

Be specific with your architectural procedures. This means detailing what colors owners can use, how tall fences must be, what materials they can use, etc. You should also indicate criteria for the architectural style, whether that is modern, colonial, art deco, or otherwise. Then, you should go into specific criteria for different renovations. For example, if owners want to replace their windows, what kind of windows should they use? The same goes for door replacements, roof changes, and the like.

Apart from the standards themselves, your architectural guidelines must also explain how homeowners can apply for architectural change requests. While it is important to strictly abide by the rules, you must remember that rules can also change. Your board or committee must always remain open to the idea of changing your guidelines if necessary.

 

2. Set Deadlines (and Follow Them)

hoa architectural review request formAfter putting in a request for an architectural change, homeowners should not be left wondering when they will receive a reply. Thus, it is important to set a prompt deadline for review. The HOA board or ARC must get back to owners within X number of days with a response.

Of course, this does not mean you should rush the review process. But, by setting a deadline, owners can align their expectations and avoid pestering the board or committee every so often. The process does not have to take place within just a few days, but it should not last for months either.

 

3. Document Everything

For consistency and documentation, it is a good idea to have homeowners complete and submit an HOA architectural request form. This is so you can ask for all pertinent details in one form and avoid having owners just send a letter directly to the board. Additionally, you should inform residents that they must fill out the form correctly or risk having the request automatically rejected. This keeps the process fair for everyone involved.

At the very least, your HOA architectural review request form should include the following:

  • Name and unit number of the requesting owner
  • Requesting owner’s contact information
  • Nature of the architectural request
  • Target start and completion dates
  • Contractor details
  • Details of the project (what paint color or materials will be used in the project)

Make sure to have a board member or committee member document, in writing, every phase of the architectural review process. These documents will prove to be useful in the event of a disagreement or litigation down the line.

 

4. Be Transparent With Decisions

Keeping the architectural review process closed will only breed mistrust in the community. Thus, it is important to maintain transparency throughout.

After deliberating, the board or committee must send a written decision to the requesting homeowner. If the owner’s request is denied, the letter should include a reason or explanation for the denial. Homeowners should also have the option to appeal the decision, and the procedure for that must be included in the letter, too. In some states, such as California, these requirements are even mandatory.

 

5. Make Decisions in Good Faith

The HOA board and ARC must always base their decisions on sound judgment. Any decisions should be approved or disapproved strictly according to the rules. All decisions made must be fair, reasonable, and consistent. This is, in no way, a means for a board or committee member to retaliate against a neighbor or repay a favor.

 

The Importance of Keeping Track of HOA Architectural Requests

Homeowners associations must stay on top of architectural requests at all times. Failing to do so can cause these requests to pile up. Pretty soon, owners will grow impatient and angry at how long the decision is taking. Plus, if your architectural guidelines say that you have a certain number of days to make a decision, violating this may put the board’s credibility into question. In some cases, it could even be viewed as a breach of their fiduciary duty.

Architectural requests are also a way for an HOA to maintain curb appeal and enhance property values. If an owner has a worn or broken-down window, replacing it is necessary to keep the neighborhood’s aesthetics. Having even one request go unheard can have a negative influence on the entire community.

 

How HOA Management Software Can Help

Keeping track of your architectural requests can come as a challenge if you do it the old-fashioned way. You may have depended on pen and paper for a long time now, but an HOA management software is just as reliable — if not more so.

How can an HOA management software help you with your HOA architectural requests?

  • hoa architectural request formHave an HOA architectural review request form ready for download on your website.
  • Allows homeowners to upload or send their forms through the member portal.
  • Lets board or committee members review forms (in FIFO) directly from the software.
  • Allows board or committee members to approve or reject requests with ease.
  • Gives you the ability to automatically send (or print) a letter of approval or disapproval to the requesting homeowner, with a field to type in the reason for rejection if necessary.
  • Allows for comprehensive step-by-step documentation.
  • Stores all requests, including approvals and disapprovals, within the software or cloud for easy record-keeping and tracking.
  • Lets your search past requests, including their history, in case you need to go back and check something.

 

A Task Made Simpler

HOA architectural requests go a long way in ensuring the smooth operations of a homeowners association. But, they can be troublesome to track, especially if you live in a community with hundreds of members. Make your job as a board or committee member easier with the help of HOA management software.

Condo Manager provides expert management solutions for self-managed communities and HOA management companies. Call us today at (800) 626-1267 or contact us online for a free demo of our software.

 

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Self-Managed HOAs And HOA Management Companies: Why Use Software For HOA Management

Many are hesitant to use software for HOA management. But, the reality is that both self-managed communities and HOA management companies can benefit from the use of such software.

 

Why Should Self-Managed Communities Use Software for HOA Management?

A self-managed homeowners association relies solely on its HOA board to run the community. But, board members are only volunteers. More often than not, they lack the proper knowledge or skill needed to perform their various duties. On top of that, they usually lack enough time to devote to the association, especially with personal responsibilities in the balance as well.

If these problems sound all too familiar to you, then perhaps it is time to invest in HOA management software. Here are just a few ways such software can help with community management.

 

1. Easier Accounting

Accounting is often the most difficult aspect of HOA management since it requires more than just a passing familiarity with the subject matter. And there are a lot of tasks involved here. Managing an entire association’s finances means having to keep accurate books, tracking invoices, and staying on budget. It also means having to prepare monthly financial statements.

If you have no experience with these things, a software for HOA management can help. Most of these programs come equipped with full accounting systems that let you track your operating expenses, create special assessments, and adjust your budget. You can also keep separate accounts for your operating fund and your reserve fund.

Beyond that, many programs allow residents to pay their dues online. Besides being convenient for homeowners, this is also convenient for the board since the payments go directly to the HOA’s account. This also makes it easier to see which owners have paid and which ones are delinquent.

 

2. Track Maintenance Issues

Track Maintenance Issues | hoa softwareIt is the homeowners association’s job to maintain the common areas of a community. When you have a particularly large community, though, maintenance issues can quickly multiply.

With the help of HOA software, you can easily stay on top of maintenance issues. You can create service requests and oversee them every step of the way until work orders are fulfilled.

Maintenance modules also let you communicate with vendors directly via email so you can request a quotation or issue a work order. If a vendor’s insurance has reached its expiry, the system will also alert you. You can also schedule preventive maintenance so issues don’t snowball. Beyond that, many programs come with data analytics that help identify trends.

3. Manage Violations

An HOA management software can also help you track architectural requests and manage covenant violations. It comes with a built-in notification system that will alert you when it is time to inspect an owner’s property. You can also access the history of inspections and easily send violation letters once needed.

 

4. Grows With Your Community

Although expanding your community is good, it also means added work for your HOA board. The beauty of a software for HOA management, though, is that it can accommodate growing communities. You can simply add new members to the system and set them up with their own online accounts. The work largely remains the same, too, because the system is scalable and mostly automated.

 

5. Accessible from Anywhere

Thanks to technology, managing your homeowners association has never been easier. You can access the program from virtually anywhere with a connection, even using portable devices such as smartphones or tablets. This is perfect for board members who are always on the go and can’t find the time to stop by at the office.

 

Why Should HOA Management Companies Use HOA Software?

Self-managed homeowners associations are not the only ones that can benefit from HOA software. Companies that specialize in HOA management or provide it as a service can also make use of such programs. Here are just a few ways such software can help your HOA management company.

 

1. Faster Setup

When you sign a new community as a client, an HOA management software allows you to seamlessly set up their profiles. You can easily copy key information with the help of a user-friendly interface and straightforward menus.

 

2. Stay Competitive

Staying relevant and profitable is crucial in a highly competitive market. Because everything you need is already within the software, your company can look forward to time saved. This will allow your staff to become more efficient and give you time to focus on improving your profit margins.

 

3. Full Community Management Features

An HOA management software comes with all of the features you could possibly need to successfully manage communities. This includes communication tools, resident management, accounting, covenant enforcement tools, and request tracking. With fully integrated HOA software, you can run communities more efficiently and effectively.

 

4. Manage Multiple Communities

Manage Multiple Communities | hoa management softwareIt is nearly impossible to keep up with the demands of multiple communities at once when using manual processes.

There is so much time and resources wasted on flipping through physical documents, making copies for safekeeping, and storing mountains of paperwork in a very limited space. Add to that your obligation to maintain financial records for every community and you have got yourself a circus of probable errors.

With an HOA management software, though, all these problems just go away. You can manage multiple communities simultaneously and waste no time doing so. Search for documents easily in just a few seconds and copy key information with the press of a single button. Expandable storage also means you can store as much data as you want.

 

5. Client Retention

With the help of software for HOA management, you can look forward to reduced administrative work thanks to automated processes. Because staff members spend less time on such tasks, they can concentrate on keeping clients happy. This all goes toward client retention and possible referrals, thereby having a positive effect on your bottom line.

 

The Best Option in the Market

When it comes down to it, software for HOA management is simply essential. It is clear that both self-managed communities and HOA management companies have something to gain from it. But, finding the right one is not always easy.

If you need a fully integrated HOA management software, look no further than Condo Manager. Give us a call today at (800) 626-1267 or contact us online for a free demo of our product.

 

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Know Your Rights: Legal Rights For Condo Owners

Many condo owners feel like they are not in control. They must follow condo association rules to the letter or else, face steep fines and fees. While compliance is certainly a prerequisite for living in a residential community, that doesn’t mean that you have to endure injustices or incompetence from your association. Always keep in mind these legal rights for condo owners.

 

What Are the Legal Rights for Condo Owners?

When owners purchase a unit in a condo association, they agree to take on certain duties and responsibilities, such as paying association dues and complying with the governing documents. In exchange, they receive condominium ownership rights, which gives owners the authority to use their unit in a manner that affords them a high quality of life.

Here’s a brief recap of the different documents that govern a condo association:

 

Condo Bylaws vs Rules and Regulations vs Declarations

  • Condo bylaws outline the procedures for how the association is to be run, particularly by the board of directors. This governing document includes the number of board members, duties and responsibilities of the board, length of board member service terms, frequency of board meetings, and board election and quorum requirements.
  • Declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) establish the “ground rules” for the condo association. This governing document also establishes the obligations of condo owners to the association and vice versa.
  • Condo association rules and regulations refer to the “do’s and don’ts” in your community. The board of directors creates rules and regulations that are in line with the condo association’s CC&Rs. While CC&Rs are recorded with the county recorder’s office, the rules and regulations are not. Thus, rules and regulations have more flexibility and can be amended according to established procedures.

 

Condo Laws

  • Federal, state, and local laws will always prevail over a condo association’s governing documents. If there is a stipulation that goes against condo laws, they then become unenforceable HOA rules. Condo laws vary by state so it’s important to check your local laws when determining legal rights for condo owners.

 

7 Legal Rights for Condo Owners

Buying a condo affords you certain rights such as exclusive ownership of your unit, the authority to rent or lease the unit, and the freedom to use shared facilities without fees. To have a pleasant condo living experience, keep in mind these legal rights for condo owners.

 

1. The Right to Access Condo Documents

Condo owners can, at any time or for any purpose, request to see the association’s governing documents, as well as financial reports, annual budgets, board meeting minutes, vendor contracts, reserve account statements, and insurance policies.

The only exception would be for documents with confidential information such as delinquencies. Condo owners also have the right to inspect these documents and make personal copies. Following a written request, the board must provide the documents to the condo owner.

 

2. The Right to Equality and Non-Discrimination

Americans with Disabilities Act | condominium ownership rightsIt is against the law for condo associations to discriminate against their owners based on race or ethnicity, nationality, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, and disability.

Condo associations must abide by federal laws such as the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as state and local laws.

Condo owners with disabilities also have a right to reasonable accommodations such as ramps and handrails so that they can have full access to their unit and the condo’s facilities. Similarly, service animals and emotional support animals are allowed as reasonable accommodations even if the condo has a “no pet” policy.

 

3. The Right to Notice and Meetings

Condo owners have a right to receive adequate notice of upcoming board meetings. Notices must be placed on common areas, including the entrance and elevators, or announced through text, email, social media, or the association website.

Condo owners also have the right to requisition an association meeting and request items to be put on the board meeting agenda. While condo owners are free to attend board meetings (except for closed sessions), they are not allowed to comment — unless the board president has opened the floor for discussion.

 

4. The Right to Run and Vote During Elections

Condo owners have the right to run for board positions and vote during the annual board elections. You can vote in person or by proxy, as long as there is authentic authorization. The election process should proceed as outlined in the association’s bylaws. This includes adequate notice prior to the board elections, the date of the elections, quorum requirements, and candidate requirements.

 

5. The Right to Protest

Condo owners have a right to expect that their board will perform their fiduciary duties to the association. If not, you have the right to remove board members who abuse their authority or are unable to fulfill their duties. Condo owners also have the right to protest rules and regulations that are unfair, discriminatory, or onerous.

 

6. The Right to Disciplinary Hearings and Arbitration

As a condo owner, you have the right to a disciplinary hearing before a violation fine or punishment is imposed. Condo owners can appeal the violation or explain their situation during the disciplinary hearing. Meanwhile, if a condo owner is in conflict with the board or another owner, he or she also has the right to arbitration or mediation to resolve the dispute.

 

7. File Legal Action Against the Association

legal action against COA | condominium owner rightsCondo owners have the right to take legal action against the association or other condo owners.  They can file for damages or injunctive relief on board members or owners who fail to comply with the governing documents and condo laws.

 

Legal Rights for Condo Owners: Fighting For Your Rights

Going against your association can be scary, especially since the board has the power to impose fines and other punishments. However, it’s important to fight for your legal rights as a condo owner. If you see that something is not right, speak your mind. In turn, though, condo owners must also fulfill their duties to the association. When both condo owners and board members work together, the entire condo community can live peacefully and harmoniously.

If you want more transparency for your condo association management, feel free to contact the Condo Manager team today! Call us at  (800) 626-1267, email us at sales@condomanagerusa.com, or contact us online to learn more about our HOA software solutions.

 

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