What is an architectural control committee? If you are planning to join a homeowners association, it’s important to understand the purpose of architectural control and a designated committee that ensures compliance with these standards. For an in-depth explanation, here’s everything you need to know about an HOA architectural committee.
In this article:
HOA Architectural Committee: What Is Architectural Control?
Every homeowners association will have architectural standards outlined in its CC&Rs, bylaws, or governing documents. In HOAs with single-family homes, the purpose of architectural standards is to maintain the overall aesthetics of the community. For example, homeowners can only paint their home’s exterior in certain colors, or their fencing should be a certain, uniform height.
Meanwhile, in condominium associations, the purpose of architectural control is to maintain both the aesthetics and structural integrity of each unit. Condo owners may not be able to modify their interiors if the planned modification will alter the structural integrity of the unit. A community’s architectural standards may also impose certain types of tints and coverings for a condo unit’s windows.
HOA Architectural Committee Responsibilities: ARC vs ACC
An HOA architectural committee can go by many names including the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) and the Architectural Control Committee (ACC). Both ARC and ACC are tasked with maintaining the architectural standards of their community.
Here are their main responsibilities:
Review applications for home additions and/or modifications
The committee receives applications from homeowners for additions and/or modifications to their property. Apart from a written request, the HOA architectural committee may request additional documents such as plans for the proposed project, necessary building permits, materials to be used, and a proposed schedule for the project. The ARC or ACC will then review the application to see if it is consistent with the architectural guidelines of the community. They will pass the applications to the HOA board, who then makes the final decision.
Oversee changes to homeowners’ properties
If the board approves a homeowner’s request, the HOA architectural committee will then oversee the construction of the home addition/modification. The ARC or ACC will ensure that the project does not deviate from the architectural standards of the community.
Inspect community for violation of architectural standards
An HOA architectural committee also regularly inspects the homes within their community. Committee members determine whether homeowners are abiding by the HOA’s architectural standards. Those who do not comply with these standards may be written up or fined — depending on what is established in your governing documents.
Review architectural guidelines
The ARC or ACC is responsible for reviewing the association’s architectural guidelines. They can propose changes if certain architectural standards are outdated or they can propose new standards that are in line with the community’s aesthetics. However, the HOA board is still the one who decides whether to approve these changes or not.
Educate homeowners about architectural guidelines
In order to foster compliance, the HOA architectural committee educates homeowners about the community’s architectural guidelines. Sometimes, non-compliance with these standards is simply because homeowners did not know about them. It’s also important to educate new homeowners so that they are aware of the architectural guidelines from the start.
Who Makes Up the HOA Architectural Committee?
Architectural control is one of the responsibilities of the HOA board. However, because board members already have a lot on their plate, they can choose to form a separate architectural committee. Any homeowner can volunteer to join the ARC or ACC, but the board members should make it a point to choose those who already have expertise in architecture, design, construction, and other related fields. This is to ensure that your HOA architectural committee is qualified and objective.
HOAs should also note that ARC or ACC members are not building inspectors. It is not their responsibility to ensure that planned projects comply with local building codes and local laws. Their main responsibility is to protect the aesthetics of their community.
Despite having a separate architectural committee, the HOA board still makes the final decision when it comes to applications and other important matters. Although, in some cases, HOA architectural committees can operate independently from the board. Make sure to check governing documents, as well as state and federal laws, if this is feasible for your community.
HOA Architectural Committee Guidelines: What Are Architectural Guidelines?
Architectural standards or guidelines indicate which additions and/or modifications are allowed in your community. These guidelines also establish the proper process for making changes to homeowners’ properties. Since each HOA will have its own aesthetics, your community’s architectural guidelines may be different, as well. However, here are common architectural guidelines for HOA communities.
1. Architectural Standards
HOAs should establish architectural standards that are in line with their community’s aesthetics. Any changes made should be aesthetically pleasing and consistent with the overall appearance of the community. Architectural standards may include:
- Exterior paint colors
- Roof materials and finishes
- Fencing construction and/or height
- Window design, tint, and drapes
- Landscaping design or installation
- Balcony and patio flooring
- Electrical and plumbing fixtures
- Placement of satellite dishes, solar panels, and charging stations
2. Application and Approval Process
The HOA architectural committee will evaluate each application to determine whether the proposed project complies with the community’s architectural standards. The committee should have specific criteria for evaluation to ensure a fair and uniform process for each application.
Make sure to check your governing documents for deadlines. Some communities have to make a decision on an application within a specific time frame.
HOA architectural committees should keep in mind federal, state, and local laws when approving or denying applications. For instance, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act, homeowners with disabilities should be afforded reasonable accommodations — even if these accommodations are not consistent with your aesthetic standards.
Meanwhile, the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act states that HOAs cannot prohibit homeowners from displaying the U.S. flag. Similarly, the Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule states that HOAs must allow homeowners to install antennas or satellite dishes on their property. However, in both cases, the HOA can impose restrictions on where they can be placed.
3. Appeals Process
Homeowners should be able to appeal to the committee or board’s decision. Your governing documents may also have a specific time frame for appeals, such as 15-30 days after an application has been denied. Homeowners should submit a written appeal and the board will then schedule the appeal during the next board meeting.
4. Penalties for Non-Compliance
HOAs should also have a standard procedure for residents who make changes to their homes without the approval of the architectural committee or the board. Homeowners who violate the community’s architectural standards may be required to attend a hearing. Depending on the results of the hearing, homeowners may be subjected to fines or other penalties.
What Is the Importance of Architectural Control in an HOA Community?
Architectural control can be a somewhat sensitive issue for homeowners. Some are not happy about being told what they can or cannot do to their own property. In these cases, it’s important to remind homeowners of the purpose of these architectural standards.
Having a consistent appearance, especially one that is aesthetically pleasing, is one of the best ways to maintain and protect the community’s property values. By keeping property values high, HOA boards are performing their fiduciary duty to the community. They must act in the best interests of the entire community. If homeowners did whatever they wanted to their property, they could affect the property values of their neighbors. And so, architectural control is a must for HOA communities.
This is also why architectural standards should be clearly outlined in your governing documents. If homeowners want to join your community, they have to sign a contract, which requires them to abide by the governing documents. If they do not comply, they will be subject to fines or penalties.
A Clear Case for Having an HOA Architectural Committee in Your Community
HOA boards are always strapped for time so by establishing an HOA architectural committee, they are still able to maintain the property values of their community. Meanwhile, as a new homeowner, it’s important to understand the purpose and benefits of having architectural guidelines.
Buying a home is a major investment so you want to protect its value as much as possible. By abiding by the community’s architectural standards and following the correct procedure for home modifications, you are contributing to your community’s success.
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