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What Are HOA Architectural Guidelines?

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Every homeowners association has a set of HOA architectural guidelines. These guidelines help maintain the curb appeal and preserve property values in the community. As such, homeowners should follow them, and board members should enforce them consistently.


What Are HOA Architectural Guidelines?

Also known as HOA architectural standards, architectural guidelines are rules and regulations established by a homeowners association to govern the design, appearance, and maintenance of properties within the community. These guidelines are typically outlined in the HOA's governing documents, such as the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs).


The HOA architectural committee is in charge of enforcing these guidelines This committee, as authorized by the governing documents, consists of volunteer homeowners from the association. If an HOA is too small, it may not have an architectural committee. In that case, the responsibility of enforcing these rules falls on the HOA board.


Common Examples of HOA Architectural Design Rules

Architectural guidelines can vary from one association to another. The exact rules will ultimately depend on an HOA’s needs, aesthetics, and rules. Here are the most common examples of homeowners association architectural standards.


1. Approval and Compliance

An HOA will often require homeowners to submit a request before making any architectural changes to their property. The HOA board or architectural committee will then review this request and issue either an approval or denial of the request. 


The purpose of this review is to ensure that the changes coincide with the HOA's guidelines. It also allows the board or committee to determine any potential impact the change could have on neighboring properties.


2. Licensed Contractors

It is normal for an HOA to require homeowners to hire a licensed and insured contractor for any architectural changes. This helps protect both the homeowner and the association from potential liability. Additionally, it ensures that the work is completed on time and according to the agreed-upon changes.


3. Exterior Paint

Most HOA communities also highly regulate paint colors. Associations typically have a pre-approved color scheme that homeowners must adhere to. This color scheme or palette serves as a way to maintain the uniform appearance of the neighborhood. After all, a bright pink house would stick out like a sore thumb in a row of muted browns.


4. Landscaping

Homeowners associations also normally require members to maintain their landscaping. This could mean mowing their lawns regularly, keeping trees trimmed, and bushes well-maintained. Ornaments, design fixtures, and outdoor furniture may also be covered. If a homeowner wants to start a vegetable garden, they will likely also need approval from the HOA.


5. Specific Measurements, Materials, and Design

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An HOA typically has specific requirements regarding materials, design, and measurements. This applies to a wide range of things, including, but not limited to, fences, decks or patios, roofs, doors, windows, and even garages.

6. Holiday Decorations

An HOA community normally regulates holiday decorations as well. For example, an HOA may only allow homeowners to put up Halloween decorations two weeks in advance and have them remove the decorations a week later. It is also common for an HOA to prohibit offensive, noisy, or too-bright decorations.

7. Additions and Upgrades

If a homeowner wishes to install a new addition or feature, they will likely need to go through the HOA board or architectural committee. This includes additions such as a swimming pool, a shed, a detached garage, and even basketball hoops.

Be Wary of Federal, State, and Local Laws

Homeowners associations may have architectural rules but must ensure they don’t conflict with federal, state, and local laws. A good example is the OTARD Rule, the Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule. According to this federal law, HOAs must not prohibit homeowners from installing a satellite dish or antenna.

Additionally, an HOA must be careful regarding requests for reasonable modifications. To avoid violating the Fair Housing Act, an HOA must allow homeowners to make reasonable modifications to their properties to accommodate their disability, even if it may not align with the HOA’s architectural rules.

The HOA Architectural Review Process

An HOA will often require homeowners to seek approval before making any architectural changes or improvements. While the specifics of this process can vary from one association to another, it generally follows the steps below.

1. Application and Documents

First, a homeowner must submit a completed application or a written request for architectural change. The HOA will likely ask for information about the project, such as the nature of the change, the contractor involved, and the materials to be used. 

Homeowners may also need to provide a copy of the design plans and any additional documents, such as permits. The board or committee should provide homeowners with an HOA architectural review checklist to ensure they submit all the necessary requirements.

2. Review

The next part of the process is the review. According to most HOA ARC guidelines, the committee must review the application in good faith and with due diligence.

Here are the key considerations and actions involved in this step:

  • Review the proposed changes
  • Evaluate the effect of the changes on property values
  • Determine the quality of the proposed changes
  • Confirm all permits and approvals
  • Consider any ongoing projects that might conflict with the request
  • Assess the impact of the project on neighboring properties

3. Decision

Next comes the decision. The HOA board or architectural committee should always maintain consistency when deciding whether to approve or deny a request. The decision must align with the community's architectural guidelines.

If the board or committee denies the request, it must provide a reason. This way, the requesting homeowner can make the necessary changes or submit the additional documentation required for approval.

4. Monitoring

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Finally, if a request is approved, the HOA board or architectural committee should monitor the progress of the work. This is so the association can ensure that all changes conform with the approved designs and the architectural control guidelines. It also helps ensure that the project sticks to the intended timeline.


What Happens When Owners Don’t Get Approval?

When a homeowner fails to obtain approval prior to an architectural change, they risk a violation. A violation typically comes with a penalty, which is usually a dollar fine. In addition, the HOA may ask the homeowner to reverse the changes at their own expense. They must go through the proper approval process if they wish to pursue the changes again.


The Bottom Line

While they may seem too restrictive, HOA architectural guidelines serve a significant purpose. They help maintain a community's aesthetics, which, in turn, keeps property values up and the quality of living high. Potential homeowners would be wise to review an HOA’s rules, including the architectural standards, before buying into the community.

Vanguard Management Group offers HOA management services, including help with architectural guidelines. Call us today at 813-930-8036 or contact us online to learn more!


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