Understanding HOA Architectural Guidelines

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Homeowners should familiarize themselves with their HOA architectural guidelines. In doing so, they can adhere to the standards set by their association and avoid violations that could lead to financial penalties.

What Are HOA Architectural Guidelines?

Homeowners association architectural standards are guidelines that govern architectural improvements and modifications. These standards aim to maintain the aesthetic integrity and property values within the HOA community and regulate the design, construction, and alteration of properties within the HOA’s jurisdiction.

Who Enforces HOA Architectural Design Rules?

The HOA board is responsible for enforcing the association’s rules. However, many communities have their own HOA architectural committee. This is a separate committee with the sole purpose of overseeing all matters related to the architectural guidelines.

Typically, homeowners can volunteer to join the architectural control committee. While this committee handles architectural changes, its powers do not supersede the HOA board’s powers. Most of the time, the committee only makes recommendations to the board, with the latter ultimately making the final decision.

When a homeowner violates the architectural guidelines, the HOA usually asks them to remedy the violation. In some communities, owners receive a warning letter first. In others, owners receive a violation notice with a potential penalty after a disciplinary hearing. This penalty normally comes in the form of a fine.

HOA Architectural Control Committee Guidelines

The architectural committee’s exact responsibilities will depend on the association. Not all ARCs have the same scope of authority or set of duties. This is where HOA architectural committee guidelines come into play. These guidelines dictate the responsibilities of the committee.

Generally, HOA ARC guidelines include the following:

  • Overseeing the architectural approval process
  • Regularly inspecting homes to identify violations of the architectural standards
  • Reviewing the existing architectural standards and recommending positive changes to the HOA board
  • Enforcing the architectural rules in a fair and consistent manner
  • Performing progress inspections for continuing architectural changes
  • Educating members on the approval process, the architectural standards, and other related rules

Common Examples of HOA Architectural Standards

Architectural guidelines can vary from one community to another. However, some guidelines are more common than others.

  • Exterior Colors. The architectural guidelines may specify approved color palettes or shades for home exteriors. These include paint colors for doors, walls, trim, and siding.
  • Building Materials. The rules may dictate the building materials homeowners can use for exterior construction. These include materials for fences, roofing, siding, porches, rails, and walls.
  • Landscaping. While some HOAs have separate landscaping guidelines, they usually fall under architectural standards. Rules might cover landscaping requirements such as plant types, lawn maintenance, and tree removal.
  • Fences and Walls. The architectural guidelines could outline the regulations for the height, style, and materials of fences and walls.
  • Architectural Features. An HOA’s architectural rules may also dictate the design or style for elements like windows, roofs, doors, garages, and outdoor furniture. Basketball hoops, fountains, and other visible features may also fall under this umbrella.

It is important to be mindful when it comes to creating architectural rules. Some rules may conflict with federal, state, or local laws. For instance, an HOA can’t prohibit homeowners from installing satellite dishes in accordance with the Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule (OTARD). Similarly, several states, such as Texas, have laws protecting the rights of homeowners to install solar energy devices.

HOA Architectural Review Process

Many homeowners associations require members to go through an approval process before making any architectural changes or improvements. While the specifics of this process can vary depending on the association, they all generally follow the same pattern: application, review, decision, and inspection.

Let’s break the process down below.

1. Application

First, homeowners must complete an application form and submit it to the appropriate body (HOA board or architectural committee). This application form typically includes all the pertinent information related to the architectural change or addition. With readily available information, an HOA can streamline the process and eliminate unnecessary back-and-forths.

The application form usually asks for the following details:

  • The type of architectural improvement, modification, or alteration
  • The purpose of the architectural improvement, modification, or alteration
  • Building materials that will be used in the project, including paint colors and finishes
  • Contractor information, including licenses, permits, and insurance certifications
  • Project timeline, including anticipated start and end dates
  • Scheduled work hours
  • Sample blueprints or photos of the project

In some communities, the HOA requires owners to notify their neighbors of upcoming projects, especially if they might become nuisances.

2. Review

After submitting the application and all related documents, the HOA board or architectural committee will review the proposal. This review must be done in a procedurally correct manner. If information is lacking, the HOA board or committee should contact the applicant and request additional details.

3. Decision

Once the board or committee has thoroughly reviewed the application, they must reach a decision. They must make these decisions in good faith and with reasonableness. Additionally, they must document their decisions in writing and promptly send them to the requesting owner. Consistency is key in this process, as any hint of unfairness or selective enforcement can make the HOA vulnerable to liability.

If the committee denies a request, it should provide a clear reason in the letter. This allows the owner to make necessary adjustments to their proposal to seek approval. It is also wise to keep thorough documentation, including decision letters, for future reference. This practice helps prevent misunderstandings and can be invaluable in potential legal matters.

4. Inspection

The responsibilities of an architectural committee within an HOA extend beyond decision-making. Following the approval of a change, it is essential for the committee or a representative to visit the site periodically during the construction process. This ensures that both the owner and contractor adhere to the approved plans.

The committee or HOA board typically retains the authority to request the reversal of any unauthorized alterations. This applies even if the owner proceeds with a project without obtaining the association’s approval beforehand.

The Final Word

Understanding and adhering to HOA architectural guidelines is crucial for homeowners. Compliance helps maintain aesthetic integrity and property values within the community and prevents potential financial penalties associated with violations. 

88 Doors can help your HOA navigate architectural rules. Contact us online or call us today at (512) 348-8821 to get a quotation!