Enforcing Standards

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In a homeowners association, the enforcement of the architectural standards in the community is the primary function of the Architectural Control Committee (ACC) and the Board of Directors.  The governing documents for a homeowners association will dictate:

  • The requirement of the board to appoint a standing architectural committee,
  • The number of volunteers required to serve on the committee,
  • Their role and responsibility,
  • Procedure for submitting and approving/denying applications,
  • Architectural standards for the homes in the community, and oftentimes,
  • The requirement for the acc and board to draft “community or architectural standards” specific to their governing documents and community.

Annually the board should call for volunteers for their committees. For an architectural committee, the board should look for volunteers that have experience in construction, exterior and interior design, architecture and landscape. Volunteers with these types of backgrounds will be invaluable to preserving the architectural standards within a community.  In addition, the committee is charged annually with reviewing the existing architectural standards, changing and updating them to conform to new building styles/products, color schemes and landscape designs.   Requirements for architectural standards are found in both the association’s governing documents and specific state statutes.
The architectural standards found in the association’s documents and published guidelines must be specific or reasonably inferred in order to be enforced by the board of directors.  What exactly does this mean?  Architectural committees and boards may not approve or deny architectural applications unless either the governing documents or published guidelines specifically permit or deny the improvement(s) being applied for by the homeowner.  With this in mind, it is extremely important that these standards are specific and not in conflict with each other.
For instance, if an association’s documents permit only wood fences, your architectural standards may not allow for PVC style fences, but unless specific styles of wood fences are outlined in your documents your architectural standards may include the specific style of wood fences that your association will approve.  This rationale applies to the exterior color of homes within your community too.  Unless your paint color palette is specific as to the colors that homeowners may paint their home the ACC or board of directors may not arbitrarily approve of deny exterior color changes submitted by homeowners.
After the ACC has reviewed and made their recommendations to the board of directors with regard to changes to the association’s architectural standards, the board should schedule a series of workshops to obtain owner input on the proposed changes.  After the workshops have been completed the board shall provide the owners with a 14-day written notice of the board meeting in which they will formally adopt the revised architectural standards.  After the standards are adopted, the board shall mail them to the homeowners prior to enforcement.
Another important function of the ACC is the approval or denial of the applications within the timeframe stated in the association’s governing documents.  Most CCRs specifically state the number of days that a homeowner can expect to receive an answer on their application.  In addition, these documents sometimes indicate that if an approval or denial is not received within the stated timeframe that the application is automatically approved.  By not adhering to the deadline in your documents, your community may be subjected to exterior improvements that are very undesirable.
Review your CCRs to determine the role and responsibility of your ACC.  Many governing documents give autonomous control of these procedures to the Architectural Committee.  In other words, the committee does not report to the board of directors, and the board of directors may not approve or deny applications.  If this is the case, the board of directors only function with regard to the Architectural Control of the association is to act as an appeal board through which homeowners may challenge the decisions of the committee.
In a homeowners association, the Architectural Control Committee is one of the most important standing committees.  The volunteers on this committee will help to shape and direct the look, feel and value of your community.
Kelly A Moran, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
Vice President
Rampart Properties, Inc. AAMC
This article is provided by Associa Living.