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)
After 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?
- Have 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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