Homeowner Association Can Be A Blessed Curse.
First things first, take a deep, deep, deep breath. Do not threaten to sue. You are only suing yourself. Next, you will have to make a decision. Do you want to comply or do you want to challenge the decision?
Do understand, if your governing document specifically state that something is not allowed–chances are direct confrontation will find little success. Your only option is to organize your whole community and have the governing documents amended. That could be an uphill battle.
However, if there are extenuating circumstance based on real hardship, it might be worth the effort. Things such as medical disabilities or privacy issues.
What I have often found is ARC sometime like to play by their own rules and enforce by opinion. When that occurs, it is in your best interest to challenge a rejection. That can simply be done by resubmitting the ARC with a new cover letter. Before that occurs, consider the following:
- Locate specific language within your governing documents that state otherwise.
- Find out if the ARC meeting notice was properly posted 24 hours prior.
- Gather a list of other homes which have the same improvement you seek.
- Letters of support from the immediate neighbors.
- Mobilize your neighbors. Go toRatemyHOA.org and register your HOA. Chances are your HOA is already registered. There you can rate your Homeowner Association and get other members of your HOA to join your cause. There are private and exclusive forums where discussions can take place. What you will find out is if it’s happening to you it’s happing to others.
- Request that the matter be decided by the Board of Directors and not the ARC.
- Outline any misconduct by the ARC.
- Outline any hardship. If it’s medical, there are plenty of non-profit organizations who will advocate on your behalf.
- Seek legal advice. Two great lawyers who represent the homeowner arePeter McGrath and Brent Spain.
From there, write a new cover letter outline the above and resubmit the ARC.
So what does the acronym CC&Rs mean. It’s simple: Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions. These terms are the foundation from which a Homeowner Association is created, a Board of Directors established, General Restrictions adopted, and regulations enforced. CC&Rs also outline the roles, rights and responsibilities of the individual homeowner.
CC&Rs possess the ability to regulate the type of shingle, paint color, fence, wall, hedge, or window that may be used when altering your newly purchased home. These terms also have the ability to be very tedious: no parking on the street, no basketball hoops, no pets, no work vehicles with lettering, and no pools. So when purchasing a home within a HOA, it’s important that you requests a copy of the CC&R’s prior to closing. Understand, each Member within the HOA is expected to abide by these Covenants, Conditions, and restrictions.
If you cannot obtain a copy of the CC&Rs from your real estate agent, try searching your local municipality comptroller’s website for these documents. Simply, do a record search and then type in the name of the Homeowner Association.
Make it a point to retrieve these documents prior to purchasing your home. Failure to do so will only set you up for disappointment.
The Architectural Review Committee (ARC or ARB) is generally established to preserve, protect, and promote the value of properties within the homeowner association by review all improvement and making sure those improvements comply with the restrictions set forth in the covenants, conditions, guidelines, and restrictions.
Architectural Review Committee generally meet on a monthly basis and review applications (ARB Forms) submitted by homeowners who plan to alter the exterior of their property. Depending on the governing documents, state and local laws, ARC generally have 30 days to respond to an individual homeowners request. Failure to respond may result in ARC and HOA ability to regulate the improvement.
Other functions of the ARC may include reviewing and discussing issues related to the Architectural Guidelines and providing the recommendations on potential amendments to the Architectural Guidelines and Standards.
Depending on the HOA’s governing documents, the ARC is generally comprised of 3-7 seven members; and some governing documents require complete separation from the Board of Directors.
Each ARC varies from HOA to HOA. It always best you consult your governing documents for a detail description of the ARC or ARB role and power. A great place to start is around Article 7 in your bylaws or Article V5 of the Covenants .
Remember, when making a change the exterior of your home,
We all have seen and heard the stories on the news: Abusive boards, contracts awarded to friends and family, kickbacks and bribes, harassment, double standards, and worst of all–board member stealing community funds. The stories are endless. The question is what can we as members do about it.
In a recent interview with the Founder and President of Property First, Beth Palmer, who has specialized in HOA and Condo management for the past 30 years, there are eight things members can do to rein in that out of control board:
- Make sure your own house in order. It is important that your home is compliant with the CC&Rs and your dues are paid. As the old saying goes, “Don’t throw stones in a glass house.”
- Request a copy of the last meeting’s minutes and budgets. If they are not available online, request a copy via email or by mail. You are entitled to the minutes of each meeting. Get involved.
- Attend all meetings. You don’t have to talk, just listen. Take notes or record the meeting. By law, you have a legal right to record; but inform the board of your intent prior to the meeting.
- Keep track of the motions made during the meetings. Motions are decisions. They are the actions of the board. Make sure each motion is seconded and discussion called for prior to final any final vote.
- Volunteer and be pro-active. Protect your investment and become part of the decision making process in the community. Become a board member. If you don’t have time, volunteer for committee such as the Architecture Review Committee and the Covenant Committee.
- Take the time read your governing documents: Bylaws and CC&Rs. These lay the ground work of what can or can be done.
- Get other Members involved with your cause. Rate your HOA and encourage other Members of your HOA to join, as well.
- Last resort, recall the Board. If your Board Members are out of control, you can start a recall petition to remove them from office. Petition forms are available through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation in the state of Florida or whatever state you live in.
So if you believe there is a problem, follow the tips above and see if you can discover the nature of the problem. Don’t forget, the more Members involved the better chance you have of resolving the issue. From there, take each step with grace and dignity. Learn and respect what you discover, because sometimes the decisions made by the Board are not nefarious. Instead, those decisions may be mandated by the CC&Rs or, in some cases, a Board Member practicing common sense.
By Kip HudaKoz
Staff Writer RatemyHOA.org