Inevitably, there will be times when homeowners association residents want to make changes to their homes. And when living in a homeowners association, it is a bigger decision than choosing which paint is the best. There are guidelines about what can and can’t be done, which all homeowners need to follow. But sometimes their choices may skirt the rules or even violate them. The board may have to decide what to allow and what to deny. It can make an already complicated process more complex. So how can board members help homeowners renovate and keep everyone happy? We’ll go over some suggestions, as well as the issues that most often come up.
Homeowners Association Guidelines
The association’s governing documents will have guidelines that are relevant for any renovations. Changes need to follow what is outlined in these governing documents. And as a board member, you can help owners stay within your association’s guidelines while they make changes to their home.
Before any work is done, the homeowner will need approval from a governing body. This means applying for the consent or making things even easier; you can usually get a modification request form your homeowner’s association.
Usually, there is a process for any changes already written into the governing documents. This process starts with modifications needing to be approved by the architectural committee and the board. Approval is often needed if the renovations include elements visible from the exterior of the home. Maintaining a certain aesthetic appeal is a key part of a homeowners’ association.
Approval is also generally required if the renovations involve moving or adding plumbing or electrical services. This makes sense since the work involving these elements could impact others. Moving load-bearing walls is another reason for prior approval being needed. If you live in a condo or townhome, the walls could be structural, and changes will affect the neighbors, approval will be required.
The steps for approval usually include:
- Submitting a project form to the association;
- Hiring quality contractors (making sure they have insurance and are licensed);
- Ensure the contractors also review the association’s governing documents to make sure the project stays in compliance;
- Submit detailed project plans from the contractor.
After The Approval Process
Even after approval for the project itself has been granted, there are more regulations to consider. The association will likely have guidelines for implementing the project, which is usually related to:
- Types of material that can be used in the renovation
- Hours during which work can take place
- Keeping the work area contained in common areas.
Again, each association will have its own regulations (in addition to local laws that might impact some of these elements of the project). The board can help homeowners understand and be aware of all of these regulations, which apply while the renovations are being done. For example, the governing documents might limit the number and location of trash bins, or restrict construction times and noise levels.
Other standard rules restrict such things, such as the use of trailers, portable toilets, or work vehicles on the property, or set maximum time periods for completion of construction.
Even More Approvals
Another question your board will have to decide is whether to let neighbors have approval over the changes a homeowner wants to make. Usually, there is some requirement for neighbor approval in the governing documents. They might call for approval or even give veto authority to neighbors who could be impacted by the changes. For instance, one homeowners’ association allows residents within a certain radius of the revisions to vote not to have the work go forward.
Or some associations have the board or architectural review committee decide if the neighbors will be able to weigh in. The neighbor’s opinion will have an influence on the deciding organization, but not necessarily be the final say.
Even if it isn’t in the governing documents, it can effectively be the same; if the alteration could have an impact on a neighbor, then the approving committee will check in with that neighbor to see if they have a problem with it. Or the homeowner may need to find out from the neighbors if they have issues and report back to the homeowners association board. For example, will the new deck extension cut back on the light that reaches another unit? Or impact the view?
If your community doesn’t have guidelines regarding neighbor approval, it’s not a bad idea to create some, so that everyone has something to follow. Keep in mind that when the board makes decisions on whether to allow neighbor input, they are setting precedents for future homeowners, so they should be decided with care.
Some of the usual restrictions when considering renovations include color, appearance, and style. Many developments require that modifications and additions coordinate with the current home’s style, possibly requiring you to use the same color scheme or building materials, for example.
Also common are rules regarding the landscaping. Depending on the size of the renovation, the landscaping could be impacted and may need to be adapted. The association could have regulations regarding the type of landscaping, trees, or vegetation allowed, and might require finishing the landscaping within a specific time after the completion of construction.
A homeowners association board can be beneficial to homeowners when they want to make changes to their residence. Completing renovations while living in a homeowners association community can involve much regulation, both before and during the project. Guiding residents through the entire process can make everything run more smoothly for everyone.