Ugly Sheds and Purple Houses (Architectural Controls)
Purchasing a home in a community association offers many advantages to the homeowner, but at the same time, it imposes some restrictions. These restrictions are not meant as an inconvenience or a restriction of freedom, but a means of maintaining harmony and property values within the community.
Architectural controls are all about property values. Whether it’s the same color front door, the same style and height fence or the size or location of a shed. When owners take it upon themselves to be “creative” whether out of ignorance or in flagrant defiance of a rule, it causes problems within the community.
Generally, boards have the right to adopt architectural control guidelines and to establish Architectural Review Committees. Even the most basic governing documents usually assign the right “to adopt, repeal or change Rules and Regulations” to the board. Almost all governing documents prohibit any exterior modifications without prior board approval.
In order to avoid future problems and be proactive, associations need to let owners know what the rules are clearly and often. Include architectural control guidelines in your welcome package to new homeowners. Highlight the guidelines in your association newsletter or other mailings. Post the guidelines on your association website. . Develop specifics rather than vague descriptions (such as “colonial colors’).
If your association lacks architectural control guidelines, you can still let people know that they must apply in advance for any exterior alteration they would like to make. The owner should complete and submit a form that details every aspect of the alteration. The board then has the opportunity to review and either approve or deny such request. Having guidelines set in advance will help remove the possibility that a denial is personality driven or retaliatory for some real or imagined misdeed.
Even if your association has adopted guidelines and published them, you may still wind up with construction or alterations outside the guidelines. North Carolina Statutes require a hearing (due process) for “errant” homeowners if they refuse to remove/change the offending item. After the hearing and a five day waiting period, the association can then fine the homeowner (maximum of $100 per day) until the item is removed/changed.
If the association has ignored the numerous fences, sheds, pools, etc. that have cropped up all over the neighborhood and the board suddenly decides that it would be nice to have them all the same size and color, be prepared to grandfather all the existing fences, sheds, pools, etc… Also expect to have unapproved sheds going up from time to time by owners who see the old ones and don’t know they are “grandfathered.”
In summary, every member of an association has certain responsibilities. In order to preserve property values, associations should adopt architectural guidelines and publish them and distribute them as often as possible to the owners. If an owner desires to make an exterior alteration to their property they should be required to submit an “architectural request” to the board for approval. Having the alteration approved in advance will avoid many problems and possibly fines in the future.
Written by Gail Pizetoski CPA, CMCA, AMSShare